St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
I Samuel 24:3-21  +  Mark 3:13-19
January 24, 2020

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom He wanted….

The Gospel account of Saint Mark the Evangelist is by far the shortest of the four Gospel accounts.  The brevity of Mark’s account is complemented by its fervor.  Jesus in this account appears as a man of action.  Consider today’s Gospel passage in this context.

From the third of Mark’s 16 chapters, we hear today of Jesus calling His Twelve.  They are meant to be men of action.  Jesus names them “Apostles, that they might be with Him and He might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”

There are two points one might note in this sentence.  Given that the word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”, the evangelist describes the type of mission these twelve will have.  But more primary than this being sent forth is the One who sends them.  Their “apostleship” is rooted not only in the person of Christ, but in their being “with Him”.  In our own manner, each of us as a baptized member of the Church is called to serve, but is called first to be “with Him” each day.

OT 02-5

Thursday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 18:6-9;19:1-7  +  Mark 3:7-12
January 23, 2020

A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.

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 He commands others—both friend and foe—not to reveal.  This warning or command comes from the nature of Jesus’ mission on earth.

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 seeming folly of the Cross caused many whom Jesus came to save to turn away from Him.

Whenever Jesus revealed His identity, it was to advance His mission.  If Jesus was to advance His mission, He needed to 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 He wished to save.  The purpose of the “Messianic Secret”, then, is the prudential progression of His self-revelation:  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.

OT 02-4

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
I Samuel 17:32-33,37,40-51  +  Mark 3:1-6
January 22, 2020

PLEASE NOTE:  In the United States, there are many other Scripture options for this day.  Please consult the local ordo.

They watched Jesus closely to see if He would cure him on the Sabbath….

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.  But we need to be clear that the Cross was Jesus’ vocation.

OT 02-3

Saint Agnes, Virgin Martyr

Saint Agnes, Virgin Martyr
I Samuel 16:1-13  +  Mark 2:23-28
January 21, 2020

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

Today’s Gospel passage focuses on “‘the Son of Man [who] is lord even of the Sabbath.’ ”  To say that this Son of Man is lord “even” of the Sabbath is to point out that the meaning of this lordship stretches back to God’s creation of the universe.  The origin of the Sabbath is not the Third Commandment, but the events described in the first chapters of Genesis.  Jesus as the Son of Man is a lord who is divine and human.

But today’s First Reading and Responsorial speak of the human lord, King David.  David, like all the rightful kings of God’s People, ruled through the anointing that came from the Lord God.  Both the First Reading and the Responsorial speak of this anointing.  The First Reading links this anointing to the Power of the Holy Spirit:  the scriptural author notes that “from that day [of David’s anointing] on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.”

In the ministry of the Old Testament kings, it was through the Holy Spirit that they acted as lords.  In the Nicene Creed we profess belief in the Holy Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets.”  We might well also profess that this Holy Spirit has acted through the kings.  So also does He act in our own day:  ruling the Church through her ordained ministers, and ruling throughout the world in the daily lives of the lay faithful through their fidelity to their baptismal promises.

St. Agnes Virgin Martyr

Monday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 15:16-23  +  Mark 2:18-22
January 20, 2020

“…the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from 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 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 be Good Friday, when Jesus offered His life to death.

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.  It’s true that through Baptism and the other sacraments which we worthily receive, Christ dwells in our souls.  Through these sacraments He conforms us as members of His Mystical Body.  Yet 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.

OT 02-1

The 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 49:3,5-6  +  1 Corinthians 1:1-3  +  John 1:29-34
January 19, 2020

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

+     +     +

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

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (5:30)

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

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday (26:43)

+     +     +

click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2007 Angelus address about St. John the Baptist

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2001 Angelus address for this Sunday

+     +     +

Our Scriptures this Sunday help us set our own lives within the grander scheme of things.  That grander scheme is called “Divine Providence”.  One way to describe Divine Providence is to say that it’s what God chooses to do, when He does it, and why He does it.

Divine Providence is at the heart of the Scriptures of Holy Mass during the first several weeks in Ordinary Time.  Following the Season of Christmas, which ended last week with the Baptism of Jesus, we turn to consider our own baptism.

When you were baptized, the promises that were made started a relationship where God is your Lord, and you are His servant.  Or at least, that’s what it’s supposed to be like.  We hear several different examples of this servant-Lord relationship in today’s Scriptures.  Each is a model for us, and the last is also something more.

First, Isaiah was called to serve the Lord as His prophet.  “The Lord said to [Isaiah]:  ‘You are my servant.  …  I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’”  Among all the Old Testament prophets who proclaimed the coming of God’s justice, Isaiah had a unique place.  His calling was to prepare for the coming of a Messiah who offers loving mercy that knows no bounds and that would “reach to the ends of the earth.”  Although none of us has been called to be a prophet like Isaiah, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations:  namely, loving mercy that knows no bounds.

Second, Paul was called to serve the Lord as His apostle.  Today’s Second Reading is simply the first three verses of a letter written by Saint Paul:  it’s not the longest of his letters, but it’s one of the more profound.  His self-introduction focuses upon his calling as an “apostle”, which literally means “one who is sent”.  He describes himself this way:  “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”.

Paul was sent “by the will of God” to spread the Messiah’s Gospel to the Gentiles, the very people that Isaiah had served by preparing them for the Messiah.  Although none of us has been called to be an apostle like Paul, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations:  namely, serving as “one who is sent”.

That Messiah whose coming Isaiah proclaimed, and whom Paul was sent forth to preach about, is of course Jesus.  Jesus, like Isaiah and Paul, was called by God to serve.  Yet Jesus is not only an example for us, as are Isaiah and Paul.

Jesus was called by God the Father to serve as the Savior of mankind.  We hear about this call within today’s Gospel Reading.  This call connects to today’s Responsorial Psalm, and especially its refrain.  The refrain can help you rest in God’s Divine Providence, instead of wrestling against it.

“Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”  Although the word “I” appears twice in this single verse, it’s not the focus of the verse.  The focus is God’s Providential Will and one’s submission to it:  that is, one’s willingness to be His servant.  Most of us, when we pray, actually speak to God as if He’s our servant:  in effect saying, “Here I am, Lord; now come and do my will.”

One of the chief ways that Christians experience God’s Providential Will is unanswered prayers.  In fact, these are often God’s gifts to us, whether we acknowledge them as such or not.  Tragically, some Christians stop following Jesus because their prayers aren’t answered as they want.  But silence on God’s part can be His way of demanding patience and perseverance.  This silence clarifies what’s important to God for the unfolding of His Providential Will.

Yet whether in accepting God’s silence or in moving forward to carry out His Will, we need to recognize a distinction.  Not only are we to imitate Jesus in His example of doing His Father’s Will in all things.  As Christians, we are meant to live in Christ.

We are not meant to live “in Isaiah” or “in Paul”, as much as we ought to follow their respective examples.  But each of us is meant to live “in Christ”.  This is not something that the Christian can accomplish through human effort or good works.  Only God can accomplish this.  His chief means for doing so are the Sacraments and grace given within personal prayer.  For our part, we need to work at disposing ourselves for reception of these divine gifts.  God’s gifts allow Christ to live in us, and allow Christ to say through us:  “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”

St. John the Baptist - Behold 04

Saturday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 9:1-4,17-19; 10:1  +  Mark 2:13-17
January 18, 2020

All the crowd came to Him and He taught them.

In today’s Gospel passage from the second chapter of Mark, Jesus lays part of the foundation for his public ministry.  The events of today’s Gospel passage took place not long after Jesus’ Baptism, which inaugurated His public ministry.  The last sentence of the passage holds several clues for us about Jesus’ earthly mission.

“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”   If we took these words at face value, we might consider “the righteous” to be the Pharisaic scribes who provoked these words from Jesus.  Obviously the scribes considered themselves righteous.  But like Jesus’ parables and so much else in His preaching, there is a paradox at work.  Jesus turns the popular notions of who is righteous and who is a sinner on their heads.

We could certainly not say that the tax collectors and other “sinners” were made righteous simply by the act of physically dining with Jesus.  But the physical proximity, and the closeness it suggests, symbolize that neither Jesus nor the “sinner” shuns the other’s company.  We cannot receive spiritual and moral righteousness from Jesus if we don’t spend time with Him, especially in the banquet of the Eucharist.  To shun him there would be to stand like the scribes, aloof and self-righteous.

OT 01-6

St. Anthony, Abbot

St. Anthony, Abbot
I Samuel 8:4-7,10-22  +  Mark 2:1-12
January 17, 2020

Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them….

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus has many followers.  “Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them”.  This might seem to make Jesus a popular person, successful in ministry.  But within today’s Gospel passage there is a confusion of aims.  The aim of the friends of the paralytic was his physical healing.  Jesus does not dismiss their effort, but he sub-ordinates it to a higher aim:  the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus could have spent His three years of public ministry only working physical cures and raising people from the dead.  Had he stuck to these aims alone, He would have remained popular.  There’s no telling how successful He might have become in the eyes of the world!

But it was not for fifteen minutes of fame that Jesus came into our world of sin and death.  It was to die that He dwelt among us.  Give thanks that Jesus shows us how to put our mission above popularity, and how to put the aim of death before that of earthly life.

The paralytic lowered from the roof, Jesus and an apostle. Mosaic (6th)

Thursday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 4:1-11  +  Mark 1:40-45
January 16, 2020

[Jesus] remained outside in deserted places….

In today’s Gospel passage, we hear that Jesus “remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.”  Jesus’ “retreat” is not that of a hermit.  Jesus’ frequent journeys to deserted places was a prudential distancing himself from those He came into this world to serve.  Jesus wanted at times simply to be in prayerful communion with His Father.

At the same time, perhaps Jesus knew that the people He was sent to serve needed a “breather”.  It’s hard for us to imagine what it was like to hear the Word of God preach the Good News, or work stupendous miracles.  We may imagine that because we’ve seen movies portraying such events, that we have an idea what it was like for those first-century folk.  If so, we underestimate the power of the Word of God made Flesh, and overestimate the power of cinema.

Often implicitly, and sometimes directly, Jesus says that the crowds are misunderstanding Him, even praising Him for the wrong reasons.  Some distance between Him and them, then, was prudent so that the crowds might reflect in their minds and hearts on the mysteries of Christ.  Of course, in the end, the crowds called for His death:  “Crucify him!  crucify him!”  So also have we ourselves cried by our sins.  But within the desert of Calvary Christ offered His life, so that throughout all ages to come, people might keep coming to Him from everywhere.

OT 01-4