Friday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Ruth 1:1,3-6,14-16,22  +  Matthew 22:34-40
August 23, 2019

   “The whole law and the prophets depends on these two commandments.”   

When we were little we were expected to memorize the basic truths of our Faith.  At the top of the list were the Ten Commandments, which are difficult for a child to memorize.  Today’s Gospel passage offers a clue to help us to remember—or to teach—the Ten Commandments more easily.

If not pointed out, we may never have noticed that in many pictures of Moses bringing down the two tablets from Mt. Sinai, the Ten Commandments are not divided five and five.  Rather, the first tablet has the first three commandments, and the other tablet the remaining seven.  This illustrates Jesus’ teaching today:  that there are, in fact, simply “two commandments”.

On the Cross most especially, in His very Person, Jesus embodies the unity of these “two commandments”.  True God and true man, Jesus’ teaching today merely foreshadows what He teaches us on Calvary.  Some people teach a piety that promotes complete devotion to God, but ignores or even disdains the corrupted human race.  Others teach an ethic that promotes an apotheosis of human nature, but disdains or even altogether denies God.  But neither of God’s “two commandments” can stand or be understood thoroughly without the other.  Jesus reveals the meaning of each of these commandments in His divine Person, and in His Self-sacrifice on Calvary.

The Ten Commandments

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Judges 11:29-39  +  Matthew 22:1-14
August 22, 2019

   “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”   

Today’s feast of Mary’s Queenship falls one week after the feast of her Assumption.  Seven days ago, we celebrated the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, and today we celebrate the Fifth (Mary being crowned as the Queen of Heaven and earth).  These two feasts of Mary are connected, and teach us about who Mary our Mother is.  The Assumption and the Queenship of Mary also teach us what being a Christian is about.

When we think back on salvation history, there are many “marvelous deeds” to reflect upon.  We might consider the marvel of God parting the Red Sea, or the marvel of the walls of Jericho falling, or indeed the marvelous deeds of Creation that God wrought “in the beginning”.

However, our Christian faith declares that even more marvelous than any of the deeds that God worked in the Old Testament are the marvelous “deeds” who are saints.  We might think it a bit odd to consider any human persons as “deeds” of God, but that is what they are:  not only because they were created by God, but also because of the redemption and sanctification wrought by God through the Paschal Mystery, and offered through the Church to “all the nations”.

Among all of “God’s marvelous deeds” in all of creation, then, the most marvelous is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We can say of Our Lady what the Church prays in the first Preface of Saints:  “Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God… you are praised in the company of your Saints / and, in crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.”

When we teach little ones about the twenty mysteries of the Rosary, do we teach them that these twenty mysteries are chapters in a single story, and that the Crowning of Our Blessed Mother is the final chapter of this marvelous story?  Certainly, all of the “marvelous deeds” of salvation history are ultimately for the Glory of God.  At the same time, these marvelous deeds were done for us poor sinners, and this includes the deed of creating, redeeming, and sanctifying so glorious a mother.

Coronation of Mary - Rubens

The Coronation of the Virgin by Peter Paul Rubens [1577-1640]

for the optional Scripture readings for the Queenship of Mary click HERE

Pope St. Pius X

Pope St. Pius X
Judges 9:6-15  +  Matthew 20:1-16
August 21, 2019

   “…the last will be first, and the first will be last.”   

Clarity emerges from Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel.  He teaches us who we are to live our lives for, and how we may serve them.

Jesus’ parable, of course, is not about economics, but about merciful love.  At the end of the parable, when the landowner rhetorically asks, “am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?”, we understand that Jesus is, so to speak, putting words in the mouth of God the Father.  When faced with us human sinners, God the Father asks, “am I not free to do as I wish with my own merciful love?”

You and I gripe and complain as we walk through life.  We’re just like the laborers in this parable.  We cannot understand why others should receive blessings in their lives when they don’t deserve them.  We notice, in fact, not only that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust”, and that “the Lord makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good.”   God actually shows mercy to those who do not deserve it.  In our pride, this gets to us, because it seems unjust.

When we find ourselves torn between what seems just, and what God chooses to offer, we need to reflect again on the answer that the Father gave us when He sent His eternal Son to become flesh and blood, in order to offer that flesh and blood on Calvary, and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  You might spend some time in prayer during this next week simply gazing at a crucifix, reflecting on this mystery of how Jesus on the Cross bound together the love of God and the love of neighbor.  God asks us to prefer His form of mercy to our own sense of justice.

St. Pius X

Pope St. Pius X
click HERE to learn more about his papacy

St. Bernard, Abbot & Doctor of the Church

St. Bernard, Abbot & Doctor of the Church
Judges 6:11-24  +  Matthew 19:23-30
August 20, 2019

   “What will there be for us?”   

Peter often comes across as a less than stellar candidate for the college of apostles, much less the leader of the apostles.  Consider that after Jesus has declared that salvation is impossible for man to accomplish, but that “for God all things are possible”, what does Peter reply?  He replies, “We have given up everything and followed you.  What will there be for us?”  Obviously Peter is not embarrassed by his self-interest.  We might admire his honesty in expressing himself, even if he himself isn’t so admirable on this occasion.  Can you imagine a brand new postulant arriving at the convent and asking where she can find the hot tub and the coffee bar?

But Jesus answers Peter’s question with a forbearance that might leave us scratching our heads.  Perhaps we need to reflect on whether, and how, Jesus is acting pedagogically here.  Jesus offers Peter an impressive response, assuring us that great gifts are in store in Heaven for those who are saved by God.

But this begs the question:  how does God save us?  For man it is impossible to save himself, but for God it is possible to save man.  But how does God save man?  This question seems to pass over Peter’s head, and perhaps at times over ours as well.  The answer, simply, is the Way of the Cross.  Peter in time will walk there.  God invites you to do so today.

St. Bernard 2

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot & Doctor of the Church

Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Judges 2:11-19  +  Matthew 19:16-22
August 19, 2019

   “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”   

The young man in today’s Gospel Reading knows that something more is needed.  He’s very confident that he has observed the commandments, but knows that he still lacks something for the gaining of eternal life.  Jesus’ response aims for Heaven:  “to be perfect”, the young man must sell what he has in order to give to the poor, and then he must follow Jesus.

It would not be accurate to take today’s passage as a proof that every Christian must abandon all his or her possessions.  Jesus was speaking on this occasion to an individual.  Individual members of the Body of Christ have different vocations, and are called in different ways.

What every Christian vocation does have in common with every other is to seek “to be perfect”.  In fact, Jesus commands us elsewhere to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  That might seem an impossibly lofty goal, were we not to understand the meaning of the word “perfect”.  From the Latin, it could be loosely translated as “to become what one is”, or in other words, “to become what one is meant to be”.  God “designed” each human person, and calls each human person, to spend himself in love for others, and above all, for God Himself as the ineffable Other.  However God may ask you to accomplish this, give thanks for His call.

OT 20-1

The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Jer 38:4-6,8-10  +  Heb 12:1-4  +  Lk 12:49-53
August 18, 2019

   “No, I tell you, but rather division.”   

The family is the chief earthly example of the “cloud of witnesses” described in today’s Second Reading.  Another term for this “cloud of witnesses” is the “communion of saints”.  One of the great truths about human families is that we tend over time to resemble those we are close to, for good or ill.  It’s in the domestic church—the family—that we witness the Faith, and learn to practice the Faith.

Each person has her own portrait of God in her mind:  one’s own personal idea of what God “looks like”.  Each Christian paints such a “portrait of God” from one’s spiritual experiences growing up, from personal devotions, and from one’s relationships in the Communion of Saints.

Parents, in the eyes of a child, are the first images of God.  Often, it’s from a mother that a child has his first glimpse of God’s tenderness and gentleness.  Likewise, it’s often from a father that a child has his first glimpse of God’s steadfastness through adversity.

For example, there are those who have a great personal devotion to the Stations of the Cross.  Some Catholics pray the Stations not just on Fridays of Lent, but 52 Fridays a year.  They do this to express their thanks to God the Father for giving up His Son, and to Christ for handing over His life for us poor sinners.  For the Christian with a deep devotion like this, her portrait of God the Father is one where she can see how much mercy the Father has for her:  that the Father sacrificed His Son as if for her alone.

But Jesus talks in the Gospel passage today about what happens when a family is divided.  For example, when parents divorce, and a child sees his father running away from adversity instead of standing steadfast, or when a child sees his mother acting viciously towards his father, it’s not surprising that a child’s belief in God is shattered.  The percentage of children from broken homes who grow up and choose not to practice any sort of faith shows how important the roles of mother and father are, and how big an influence parents have on their children’s practice of the Faith.

Today’s Second Reading and Gospel passage can seem to be talking about two opposite things.  The Letter to the Hebrews encourages us that, “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, [we should] rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us, and persevere in running the race that lies before us….”  This “great cloud of witnesses” doesn’t just mean the saints who are already in heaven.  It includes also those who share our Faith here on earth.  After our participation in the Mass, and devotions of our Faith, and after the example of our parents, it is through other fellow Christians within this “great cloud of witnesses” that we are either strengthened in our Faith, or grow weaker.

This is part of the responsibility that each one of us has as a baptized Christian; that is, as a member of the communion of saints.  Each of us has a responsibility to be there for others, and to be an example for others.  This is where our Gospel passage comes in.  Although our Second Reading talks about the importance of the communion of saints, Jesus in our Gospel passage says that He came into this world to bring division.  He did not come to establish peace on this earth.

Now maybe this isn’t a picture of God that we like.  Maybe we want to think about God as a teddy bear.  But either Jesus is lying in today’s Gospel passage, or we have to accept the fact that following Jesus sometimes means causing division.  If we are not willing to stand for our Catholic Faith, and recognize it as a treasure from God to be shared with others because it has the power to give eternal life, then there’s not much reason to be Catholic.

What is our Faith worth?  Jesus answered this question in a very clear way.  To see His answer, all we have to do is look at the Crucifix.  But consider that which we see as an example for us on the crucifix:  this mere example is, in the Eucharist, the true presence of Jesus’ Body and Blood, soul and divinity.  Jesus offers us His sacrificial Self, so that we might have the strength to live for others within and for the sake of that “great cloud of witnesses” that is His Church.

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click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this liturgical Sunday (7:02)

click HERE to read the homily for this Sunday from Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland

click HERE to read the homily of Msgr. Charles Pope for this Sunday

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 Angelus address for this Sunday

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

click HERE to read from a General Audience of St. John Paul II on God the Holy Spirit

OT 20-0C

Coronation of the Virgin by Fra Angelico [ca. 1395-1455]

Saturday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Saturday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Joshua 24:14-29  +  Matthew 19:13-15
August 17, 2019

   “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them….”   

Our spiritual need for humility is like our body’s need for water:  it is foundational, in an on-going manner, and in a manner that we constantly have to attend to.  Some people think that humility is only for children.  This sort of thinking says, “Of course you should be humble when you’re small.  You should be humble, for example, when you’re applying for a job, and when you’re going to confession, and when you’re at the bank applying for a loan.  But… once you’re older, and you’ve made something of your life, and have money in the bank, and people who work for you… well, then, the time for humility is past.  At this point, you should take pride in yourself.”

But Jesus says just the opposite.  Jesus, as divine and the only-begotten Son of God, declared from Heaven at the moment of the Annunciation:  “I am willing to become even less than a tiny baby.  I will become a single-celled human being inside the womb of this 14-year-old girl, in order to grow up and die to take away the sins of all mankind.”

We can reflect on the example of the Annunciation as a concrete example of Jesus’ counsel today.  Both Mary and Jesus in the scene of the Annunciation show us to whom “the Kingdom of Heaven belongs”.  Both Mary and Jesus demonstrate humility, but from opposite ends of a spectrum.  Mary—a poor, weak girl—submits her self to God the Father, accepting from Him a vocation that she cannot possibly understand.  Jesus—God’s own divine Son—submits His self to God the Father, accepting from Him a vocation that we cannot understand.  Our Blessed Mother and Our Lord show us that humility is needed at every step of our lives:  from the beginning of our life on this earth, to the end of our life in Heaven.  We never outgrow the need for humility.

OT 19-6





Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Joshua 24:1-13  +  Matthew 19:3-12
August 16, 2019

   “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”   

In raising the institution of marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, Christ transformed it into a covenant reflecting His own love for His Church.  This transformation was symbolized at the wedding at Cana by Jesus transforming water into wine.  In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the natural is transformed by the supernatural into some third thing that is both.

Certainly there is a stark contrast between marriage during the Old Testament and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  We might say something similar of the contrast between Christian marriage and what many today—including the federal government, and in collusion with them, state governments—are labeling “marriage”.  The former contrast can be easily seen through the example of Moses, who more than 1200 years before Christ  permitted the Israelites to divorce [Deuteronomy 24:1-4].  Moses’ concession to human sinfulness, however, is repudiated by Jesus in today’s Gospel passage, and the original will of the Creator is reaffirmed against that concession.

The indissolubility of marriage is due not only to the fact that it’s God Himself who is marriage’s origin, but also the One whose divine love marriage points to.  Thirdly, He is its mirror in the present, as spouses vow to help each other and their children each day to strive for Heaven.

OT 19-5.png

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
VIGIL MASS:  I Chr 15:3-4,15-16;16:1-2  +  1 Cor 15:54-57  +  Lk 11:27-28
MASS OF THE DAY:  Rev 11:19;12:1-6,10  +  1 Cor 15:20-27  +  Lk 1:39-56
August 15, 2019

   “…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….”   

We Catholics believe that when a person dies, if he is in a state of perfect grace, his soul goes directly to Heaven.  To use another word, we believe that his soul is “assumed” into Heaven.  We may know people in our own families who, we’re sure, had their souls taken by God directly into Heaven.  This may happen with many people who had time to prepare for a holy death.  The main difference between the end of these persons’ lives and the end of Mary’s life is that both Mary’s soul and her body were assumed into Heaven.

Why was Mary’s body taken into Heaven along with her soul?  It’s because Mary is the type of person that all of us were originally supposed to be, but didn’t become because of Original Sin.  If Adam and Eve, and all of us in turn, had never sinned, then every one of us would rise body and soul into Heaven at the end of our lives.  Death as we know it (including the separation of body and soul) only exists because of human sin.

Yet Mary was given a special gift by God, since God knew from eternity that she would accept His calling to be the Mother of Christ.  This gift was the privilege given at the first moment of Mary’s existence:  the privilege of her Immaculate Conception.  The fact that she was conceived by her mother, St. Anne, without Original Sin meant that her whole life was uniquely holy among all God’s creatures.  Her life was still filled with struggles and pain, but at the end of her life on this earth, Mary became a sign of hope for us.

Because Mary was never touched by the effects of Original Sin, and because she never chose to sin, she didn’t suffer the corruption of her body.  Her soul and her body remained united at the end of her earthly life, and both were taken up into Heaven.

Mary is the perfect example of what it means to take the gifts given by God and use them completely for good.  Because Mary faithfully accepted the great gift of being the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, and because she always stood faithful to Christ, even as he was dying on the Cross, she was protected by God from one of the effects of Original Sin:  that body and soul should be separated at the time of death.

So when the end of Mary’s life came, she became the sign that shows all of us our own destiny as disciples of Christ.  When we die, our souls and bodies will be separated for quite some time:  until the end of time, in fact.  Nonetheless, if you and I follow Christ even when it means embracing the Cross—if we are always willing to use the gifts God has given us for good and not evil—then when Christ comes a second time, our bodies will be raised by Christ and rejoined to our souls.  With our Blessed Mother in Heaven we will all thank God for the gift of life.  We shouldn’t forget that we proclaim this hope in our Creed when we pray, “We believe in the resurrection of the body.”  Mary experienced this gift in a unique way immediately at the end of her earthly life.

Assumption of the Virgin - Peter Paul Rubens

Assumption of the Virgin by Peter Paul Rubens [1577-1640]