Please note: two reflections are given below, each based on the First Reading or Responsorial Psalm of the day. The Year I readings apply to years ending in an odd number (for example, 2023), while the Year II readings apply to years ending in an even number, such as 2024. The Gospel Reading is the same in both years.
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Monday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time [Year I]
Wisdom 1:1-7 + Luke 17:1-6
Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart ….
At weekday Mass during this second-to-last week in Ordinary Time, the Church’s First Reading is taken from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom. Not surprisingly, the Book of Wisdom is part of the Old Testament group of books called the “Wisdom Literature” (the other three groups of Old Testament books being the Pentateuch, the Historical Literature, and the Prophetical Literature). There are seven books that make up the “Wisdom Literature”.
This book is fitting for us to listen to as we draw near to the end of the Church year. Towards the end of the Church year, the Sacred Liturgy draws our attention to the Last Things: Heaven, hell, death and judgment. You and I need wisdom to think rightly about these four last things.
Today’s First Reading consists of the first seven verses of Wisdom. It might surprise some just how “earth-bound” this passage is. It is not “pie in the sky”, meditating abstractly on ideas and theories about God’s wisdom. The passage is very concrete.
The first two words of the book are “Love justice”. A good retreat master could develop an entire week-long retreat exploring just these two words, so profound are they. Love and justice are both virtues: the former the greatest of the theological virtues, and the latter one of the moral (or “cardinal”) virtues. To love justice is to devote one’s self to a right ordering of one’s thoughts, words and actions: giving to God what is His due, and recognizing God in our neighbors, whom He created for us to love. In attending to the simple matters of daily life with divine love, we cannot fail to grow in wisdom.
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Monday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time [Year II]
Titus 1:1-9 + Luke 17:1-6
Such is the race that seeks for Him, that seeks the Face of the God of Jacob.
The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm is a good one to memorize and use throughout the day for repeated recitation and reflection. “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your Face.” This refrain has many words that one might focus upon in meditation. But consider just the final phrase: “… that longs to see your Face.” There are two verbs here, and one noun.
What type of seeing is the Psalmist referring to, and exactly what Face is he referring to? He’s referring to the Face of the Lord, clearly, but how can one see His Face? Since God is purely spiritual, how can He have a Face? Throughout the Old Testament, especially in regard to Moses, we hear that man cannot bear a “face-to-face” encounter with God. In some sense, the term “Face” must be metaphorical when speaking of God. At least, this is so in regard to the Old Testament.
With the Incarnation, the holy Face of Jesus becomes our means of gazing upon the Face of God. St. Thérèse the Little Flower helps us to do so. Not only can man bear this gaze, but this gaze invites us into a relationship with Him that offers salvation. We experience this salvation even upon earth, in the midst of living as members of the Church Militant. This salvation comes to fulfillment in Heaven, with what theologians call the “beatific vision”. Seeing the Lord on earth comes through faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Living in relationship with Him unto death leads to an everlasting vision of the Lord’s glory, which is to say, His Face.