Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 1:1-7  +  Luke 11:29-32
October 14, 2019

   Through Him we have received the grace of apostleship….   

Romans is the longest of St. Paul’s letters:  that’s one reason why you find it first among all the apostolic letters, immediately following Acts of the Apostles.  But Romans is also the most profound of St. Paul’s letters.  St. Paul explores for the Romans every important theme of the Gospel.  This week—perhaps in an hour of Adoration, or in your prayer corner at home—take your study bible and read the introduction to this great letter of St. Paul.

Given its importance, our First Reading at weekday Mass comes from Romans for the next four weeks.  Within today’s passage is a brief phrase that sounds innocent enough, but is full of matter for spiritual reflection.  Saint Paul points out to the Romans that they are “called to be holy”.  The same, of course, is true of each of us Christians.  One could say that the whole of Romans is an unpacking of this call.

The word “called” is used three times in today’s First Reading.  Reflect on how these three instances fit together.  The first is in the first sentence of Romans, where Paul describes himself as “called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God”.  The second is where Paul, fulfilling his own calling, describes the Roman Christians as “called to belong to Jesus Christ”.  The third is Paul’s concluding phrase in describing those to whom he’s writing:  “called to be holy”.  We can say that the last phrase describes all Christians, who through baptism begin to “belong to Jesus Christ”:  that is, His Mystical Body which is the Church.  Within this Church each member has his or her particular role, so that all the members of the body might work together.  For Paul, this particular vocation was apostleship.  For yourself, pray for an increase of grace today either to discern or to live out this vocation, so that through it you may grow in that holiness which is participation in Jesus Christ.

OT 28-1 Year I

The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
II Kgs 5:14-17  +  2 Tim 2:8-13  +  Lk 17:11-19
October 13, 2019

   … if we persevere we shall also reign with him.   

“This saying is trustworthy:  If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him….”  Saint Paul, in saying this, is not subscribing to the belief that some Christians hold:  namely, that Jesus suffered and died so that you don’t have to.  In fact, Jesus suffered and died so that your suffering and death would not be meaningless:  so that your suffering and death would not be a brick wall, but a doorway.

Living with Jesus is our goal.  Dying with Jesus is our means.  Dying with Jesus is the way by which we enter into Jesus’ life.  But the choice is ours.

The first way that we might die with Jesus is baptism.  Now, you might say to yourself, “I was baptized as an infant, so I don’t remember anything about my baptism, and besides, that was a long time ago.  A lot of sins have passed under the bridge since then.”  Nonetheless, it’s important to look back at what happened at your baptism.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul asks:  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” [Rom 6:3-4].

One of the important truths that St. Paul is setting down is that the effects of Baptism don’t completely vanish once you commit your first mortal sin.  On the contrary, dying and being buried with Jesus in baptism changes a person’s life forever.  The Sacrament of Baptism marks your soul with an indelible mark or seal that cannot erased even by the worst of sins.

But what exactly is this mark or seal that Baptism imprints upon your soul?  You’ve probably seen individuals who have towels in their bathrooms with their initials on them.  It’s something like that with your soul, except it’s not your name, but God’s divine Name, that’s imprinted on your soul.  This mark or seal is God’s way of saying, “This person belongs to me.  This person is my child, and is destined for Heaven.”

Clearly we need never to presume upon this great gift, but there is a flip side to this coin.  The other side reminds us that with every gift comes a responsibility.

The chief responsibility that comes with every gift is gratitude.  This truth is illustrated in today’s Gospel Reading.  “Where are the other nine?”, Jesus asks.  “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  This “foreigner” was a Samaritan, a group of Jewish people not only looked down upon by most other Jews, but people who refused to worship as God had asked in the Old Testament.  But in spite of all this, Jesus praises this Samaritan because he does know the first responsibility of being given a gift:  that is, to give thanks in return.

The second way to die with Jesus is through our moral life.  When we decide whom to vote for in November, and when we decide whether or not to participate in gossip that someone else in the room initiated, and when we decide whether to spend money for luxuries, or for necessities, or for others, we are making moral choices.

Some moral choices are easy to make, but others demand a difficult dying-to-oneself.  It’s not difficult for a mother to love her infant and take care of him, although it might be more difficult at 2:00 a.m.  Nonetheless, the bond of love between mother and infant moves her to care for the child even when that requires self-sacrifice.  But other forms of dying-to-oneself are far more difficult, such as choosing to love someone who is not lovable, as an infant so naturally is.  This is akin to Christ’s love for you on the Cross.  His crucified love, in turn, has the power to lead you into the heavenly love who is the Most Holy Trinity, and even to let you dwell within this love during your earthly days.

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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this liturgical Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this liturgical Sunday (4:23)

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

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

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1992 message for the First Annual World Day of the Sick

John Henry Cardinal Newman

Saint John Henry Newman [1801-1890]
was canonized on October 13, 2019

click HERE to learn more about his works

Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Joel 4:12-21  +  Luke 11:27-28
October 12, 2019

   The heavens and the earth quake, but the Lord is a refuge to His people….   

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Joel is taken from its final chapter.  The second half of Joel concerns the judgment of the Lord at some unspecified future time.  This “day of the Lord” is described in apocalyptic terms that are much more sweeping than the prophecies Joel makes in the first half of the book.

Eschatology is the branch of theology that concerns “the last things”.  The Greek word “eschaton” means “end” in the sense of “goal” or “fulfillment”.  In both the Old and New Testaments, the “end times” includes the Lord’s judgment.  But with the coming of the Gospel, this judgment was revealed in a new light.  That light, of course, is “the light of the world” [John 8:12]:  Jesus Christ.

Old Testament eschatology, however, is not without hope even if it is without saving knowledge of the One who will fulfill that hope.  Today’s First Reading uses language that can seem dramatic and frightening, but which is finally reassuring for those who are truly the Lord’s people.  For example, we hear today that the “heavens and the earth quake, but the Lord is a refuge to His people”.  For us Christians, we can reflect on this First Reading in light of the Church being the People of God, and how our sharing in the life of the Church reflects our closeness to the Lord Himself.

OT 27-6 Year I

Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Joel 1:13-15;2:1-2  +  Luke 11:15-26
October 11, 2019

   Gird yourselves and weep, O priests!   

For just two weekdays our First Reading at Holy Mass comes from the Old Testament Book of Joel.  Joel is one of the twelve minor prophets.  These twelve can be divided into three historical groups:  those serving before the fall of the Kingdom of Israel, those serving between the fall of Israel and the Babylonian exile, and finally those serving after the return from the Babylonian exile.  Joel falls into the last of these three groups.

The Book of Joel is only four chapters long.  Today’s First Reading is from the first two chapters, and is a warning of the Lord’s judgment.  The setting for this warning was natural:  a lack of rain and a plague of locusts had decimated the crops necessary for survival.  Joel’s warning is that this is only a sign of even worse suffering to come from the Lord.  His people seem unprepared for His judgment, and Joel’s prophecy is meant to rouse them.

We can reflect on today’s First Reading in two ways:  from a natural and then from a supernatural perspective.  From the natural point of view, although few of us live directly off the land, all of us directly suffer to some extent when a local or national economy is weak.  Temporal needs, when pressing, can either distract our attention from God, or turn us closer to Him for His providential care and guidance.  From the supernatural point of view, the judgment that Joel threatened in terms of earthly suffering is only a foreshadowing of the eternal suffering that awaits us if we exclude God from our lives, and live as if this is the only world in which we’re meant to live.

OT 27-5 Year I

Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Malachi 3:13-20  +  Luke 11:5-13
October 10, 2019

   “…how much more will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit…?”   

As Saint Luke the Evangelist continues to set before us Jesus’ teachings about prayer, we hear a lot about the prayer of petition.  Petition is one of the four chief types of prayer that human beings voice to God.  The four types are easily remembered by the acronym “P-A-C-T”:  this word reminds each of us of the pact, or covenant, that each of us entered at the moment of baptism.

The acronym “P-A-C-T” stands for:  petition, adoration, contrition, and thanksgiving.  Far more important than what we say to God, though, is what God says to us.  Still, what we say in prayer is important for many reasons, one of which is that our vocal prayers reveal to us the state of our own selves.

One way in which to reflect on the differences among these four types of vocal prayer is to consider their use in the three states of the Church.  The Church lives on earth as the Church Militant, in Purgatory as the Church Suffering, and in Heaven as the Church Triumphant.  Ask yourself, then:  which of these four types of prayer exist—or have meaning—in each of the three states of the Church?  All four are meaningful on earth, but only two have meaning in Heaven.

There is no need for prayers of petition in Heaven.  Petition is the prayer of a pilgrim, on his way to a better place.  What we ask for in petition reveals our own heart:  where we believe we are, and where we believe we’re headed, or at least where we want to go.  Our petitions are a gauge of our fidelity to the pilgrimage to which God has called us.

OT 27-4

Wednesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Jonah 4:1-11  +  Luke 11:1-4
October 9, 2019

   “Father, hallowed be your Name, your Kingdom come.”   

Every Christian knows by heart the ‘Our Father’:  the only prayer that Jesus taught to His followers.  But the ‘Our Father’ that we know in our hearts—which we pray at every Mass before receiving Holy Communion, and which we pray several times throughout the course of a rosary—is not exactly the ‘Our Father’ that we hear Jesus teach in today’s Gospel passage.

The version of the ‘Our Father’ that Luke records for us is shorter than the version that we know by heart. Maybe this shorter version is the first version that Jesus taught to his followers, much the same way that a teacher introduces just the key points of a lesson first, and then later fleshes it out some more.

In this shorter version of the ‘Our Father’, there are three petitions that Jesus teaches us to pray.  In the silence following Holy Communion, or after Mass, or in your home, read and pray this shorter version, and see what the three petitions are.  What are the three things that Jesus teaches us to ask for from our Heavenly Father?

OT 27-3

Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Jonah 3:1-10  +  Luke 10:38-42
October 8, 2019

“There is need of only one thing.”

Today’s Gospel passage is one of the more famous stories about Jesus’ life.  It’s such a very simple story, but it’s one of the most important lessons in the whole Bible about being a Christian:  about following Jesus.

If you could go back in time to visit Martha and Mary in their home, and ask both of them about showing hospitality to Jesus, surely Martha would say that she was being hospitable, while Mary would say that she was being hospitable.  Martha was tending to all the details of hospitality—the cleaning, the cooking, and so on—while Mary was tending to Jesus Himself.  What does Jesus think about these two different ways of showing hospitality?  Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Of course, this Mary in today’s Gospel passage—Martha’s sister—is not Jesus’ mother.  There are a lot of women in the Gospel named Mary.  But this Mary in today’s Gospel passage seems a lot like Jesus’ mother, because she has chosen the better part:  her life is focused on Jesus.  Mary stops everything that she is doing, and sits at Jesus’ feet, to listen to what He has to say to her, as each of us should do each day.

OT 27-2.jpg

Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary
Jonah 1:1—2:2,11  +  Luke 10:25-37
October 7, 2019

   “The one who treated him with mercy.”   

The Parable of the Good Samaritan ought profoundly to shape our spiritual and moral lives.  That order of things is important, however:  spiritual and then moral.

Although in a deeper sense there ought not be a distinction between our spiritual and moral lives, on the practical level, differences do mark the two.  We might say that the two are most sharply distinguished by sin.  The “scholar of the law” who “wished to justify himself” wants to be moral, but not spiritual.  Jesus demands that he be both, and that he be moral by being spiritual.

Mercy is the means by which the moral life is wedded to the spiritual life.  Or rather, mercy is the means by which the spiritual life begets authentic moral choices.  Were we not all children of Adam and Eve, fallen creatures, our moral choices would not demand mercy.  But in this world of sin and corruption, mercy is divine charity’s common currency.

In our spiritual lives we look on each of our fellow human creatures through the eyes of God the Father.  We love each sinner, beaten and wounded by the sins of himself and others, with the mercy through which the Father sent His innocent Son to be slain for us.  Through this love, we can choose to serve the broken, tend to the wounded, and know that in this service we serve God Himself.

Eugène Delacroix -

The 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Habakkuk 1:2-3;2:2-4  +  2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14  +  Luke 17:5-10
October 6, 2019

   …bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.   

Today’s Gospel reading consists of two connected passages.  The first, briefer passage is Jesus’ response to a petition from His apostles:  “Increase our faith.”  To the apostles’ asking for faith, Jesus answers by discussing works.

In this first passage Jesus shows how the works of an authentic Christian are rooted in the divine virtue of faith.  The passage also reveals the power of faith:  this power is shown by the disproportion between “faith the size of a mustard seed” and the great work of a mulberry tree being uprooted and planted in the sea.

Often Catholics can find themselves in debates with separated Christian brethren over the relationship between faith and good works.  Perhaps one problem in understanding the connection between these two is that our faith is so meager that we’re content to carry out merely “good works”.

In fact, Christ calls His disciples not only to carry out good works that can be accomplished by natural human abilities alone, such as the corporal works of mercy, which can be carried out by persons who do not believe in God.  In addition to good works, Christ calls His disciples to strive to carry out great works.  If we Christians carried out great works, we’d have less reason to ascribe such works solely to our own human efforts, since we’d be forced by common sense to realize that such great works are only possible by means of faith.

However, the Gospel Reading’s second passage offers another way to reflect upon the connection between faith and works.  It’s not quite a parable.  We might instead call it a guided reflection.  Through it, Jesus illustrates one of the necessary motives of those whose works are animated by faith.  This motive is certainly not the only one that a Christian needs in order to produce authentic works.  But its absence in a Christian’s soul inevitably leads to the chief vice of the Christian spiritual life.

Servanthood is the focus of Jesus’ guided reflection.  Servanthood, or servantship, is similar to stewardship.  Servanthood and stewardship are both demanded by those who follow Jesus.  They have much in common, but each has its own unique characteristics.

The image of servanthood sharply focuses our attention upon the relationship between the master and the servant.  It focuses upon the radical dependence of the servant upon the master, and in particular, upon the master’s will.

By contrast, the concept of stewardship implies a distance between the steward and his lord.  The steward is independent, at least for whatever period of time the lord chooses to be away.  The steward acts in the name of the lord during his absence, whether that lasts for days or years.  In J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings, the stewards of Gondor reigned for centuries while the heirs to the king’s throne lived in exile.  In the case of the steward Denethor, such lengthy independence resulted in consuming, self-destructive pride.

Pride is the target of Jesus’ preaching in today’s Gospel Reading.  The humility that Jesus calls for is reflected in His final words:  “So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”  Of course, humility is a virtue that both stewards and servants are called to exhibit.  What particular quality, then, does Jesus’ image of a servant demand, and how does that quality work against pride?

Given that servanthood focuses on the radical dependence of the servant upon the master’s will, servanthood demands the virtue of obedience.  Obedience motivates and directs one’s works in accord with God’s providential will.

Many Christians might be surprised to learn that the word “obedience” is derived from the Latin infinitive “obedire”, which can be translated as “to listen”.  Naturally, a servant can’t obey his master unless he first listens to his master’s command.  This demands being ready for the master to issue his command, which in turn demands attentive listening:  not to stand at attention, but to listen at attention, humbly waiting not for the master’s return, but for his word; not at the end of time or even at the hour of my death, but here and now and at every moment that I live.

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click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this liturgical Sunday (3:58)

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

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P. for this Sunday

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1998 homily for this Sunday

OT 27-0C