Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
II Samuel 1:1-4,11-12,19,23-27  +  Mark 3:20-21
January 22, 2022

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

“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.  Being related by blood to Jesus clearly was no guarantee of understanding His identity.

Then again, most of those whom Jesus chose to be His Apostles abandoned Jesus in disbelief during Holy Week, after 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 the failures of even those closest to Him.

St. Agnes, Virgin Martyr

St. Agnes, Virgin Martyr
I Samuel 24:3-21  +  Mark 3:13-19
January 21, 2022

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

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Nehemiah 8:2-4,5-6,8-10  +  1 Corinthians 12:12-30 [or 12:12-14,27]  +  Luke 1:1-4;4:14-21
January 23, 2022

Now the body is not a single part, but many.

Today’s Gospel passage begins with the first four verses of Luke.   It’s from St. Luke’s prologue, in which he gives his rationale for you to listen to his Gospel account.

In this prologue, Luke mentions many members of the early Church.  But he only mentions one by name:  Theophilus, for whom St. Luke compiled his Gospel account.  Why does he mention these persons?  He mentions them in order to put his account of the Gospel within the context of the Church.

Sometimes you’ll hear of Christians—especially our separated brethren—calling Christianity a “religion of the book”, the “book” in question being the Bible.  However, while the Bible lies at the heart of our Christian Faith, Christianity does have a more primary foundation on this earth, and that is the Church.  Christianity is more truly a “religion of the Church” than it is a “religion of the Book”.  To be clear:  it’s not that the Bible is not at the heart of the Faith, but rather that we need to put the horse before the cart.

Jesus founded the Church, but He did not write the New Testament.  He left that job to the apostles.  The writing of the New Testament was part of the mission that began on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus founded His Church such that it’s marked by four essential qualities.  The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.  It’s because the Church is apostolic that it could create the New Testament.

Of the 27 New Testament books, tradition considers 25 to have been authored by apostles.  The two books not authored by apostles are the Gospel accounts of Mark and Luke.  Yet even these two books have apostolic origins, for St. Mark was a disciple of St. Peter, and St. Luke was a disciple of St. Paul.

The Bible came from the Church, rather than the Church growing from the Bible.  Fifty-two days before Pentecost, at the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the ordained Priesthood.  All the fundamentals of our Catholic Church were already in existence decades before the first book of the New Testament was written.

It’s in light of this that St. Luke the Evangelist points out in his prologue that “just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed [the events of Jesus] down” by word of mouth, so Luke himself in turn decided to write his Gospel account “down in an orderly sequence”.  Why does St. Luke do this?  He tells us:  “so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.”

The Bible did not fall out of the sky, bound in leather.  The Holy Spirit, who is the primary author of Sacred Scripture, chose ordinary Christians in those first decades of the Church to pass on by word of mouth the words and works of Jesus.  In the twenty-first century, we’re blessed to have free access to Scripture, general literacy, and study guides written by faithful Catholic Scripture teachers.

Nonetheless, we should not forget that the original means of handing on the Good News was Christians sharing the Gospel by means of sharing their experiences of being disciples.  This process of oral tradition occurred many times before the first word of the New Testament was ever written down.

This process of the Word of God taking shape in the New Testament by means of tradition teaches us an important lesson about the Church.  Being a Christian is not just about “me and Jesus”.  Being a Christian means recognizing that our own lives are bound up with the other members of the Mystical Body of Christ.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, more often than not, flows into your life through the Communion of Saints:  that is, through your fellow members within the Body of Christ.  This is by God’s design.

God promises to give us always the grace we need to face any situation.  Unfortunately, sometimes we refuse His grace because we refuse the means by which He wills to give us that grace.  Within the body of the Church, God strengthens us through each other.  How many members of your parish family do you not yet know?  How many of them does God want to use as your brothers and sisters in Christ in order to bear His grace to you, and vice versa?

Thursday of the Second 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 20, 2022

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

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 17:32-33,37,40-51  +  Mark 3:1-6
January 19, 2022

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

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 16:1-13  +  Mark 2:23-28
January 18, 2022

“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. Anthony, Abbot

St. Anthony, Abbot
I Samuel 15:16-23  +  Mark 2:18-22
January 17, 2022

“… 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

Saturday of the First 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 15, 2022

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

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 8:4-7,10-22  +  Mark 2:1-12
January 14, 2022

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)