St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin
Wisdom 6:1-11  +  Luke 17:11-19
November 13, 2019

   “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”   

We may not feel inclined to think of ourselves as lepers.  It’s not an appealing image.  But that’s the plain meaning of these ten persons in today’s Gospel passage.  The ten lepers represent us.

In fact, we’re much worse off than lepers.  Leprosy ends with earthly death.  But the effects of sin—alienation and estrangement from God and neighbor—are unending, ever-lasting, without end if we die in mortal sin.  Without a Redeemer to save us from sin, our suffering will not end with earthly death, but only begin in earnest.

Jesus saves the ten from leprosy with little more than a few words, such is His divine power.  But Jesus saves all of mankind from the far greater penalty of eternal death.  Jesus offers salvation to you not by speaking a few words, but by sacrificing up His complete self—Body, Blood, soul and divinity—to a Passion and Death on the Cross that He suffered out of love:  not out of compulsion, or to get something back in return, or to impress anyone, but simply and completely out of love for us.  If this doesn’t inspire gratitude in each of us, it’s hard to imagine what might.

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St. Josaphat, Bishop & Martyr

St. Josaphat, Bishop & Martyr
Wisdom 2:23—3:9  +  Luke 17:7-10
November 12, 2019

   God formed man to be imperishable; the image of His own nature He made him.   

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Wisdom explicitly proclaims a belief central to Judaeo-Christian thought.  The first sentence of this passage instructs us that “God formed man to be imperishable; the image of His own nature He made him.”

Today’s First Reading is eleven verses long.  The last nine make up a passage often proclaimed at funerals, meditating as it does on human suffering.  But the first two verses offer a frame in which to situate those last nine.

The theme of suffering is a continual theme throughout the seven books of the Old Testament’s “Wisdom Literature”.  Suffering is, for many, what makes or breaks them spiritually.  Many turn away from God because of their experiences of suffering.  Others profoundly deepen their living in God through their experiences of human suffering.  None of the Bible’s “Wisdom Literature” gives an “answer” to human suffering.  Wisdom is not found in answers.  Wisdom is found in resting in the Image of God.

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St. Martin of Tours, Bishop

St. Martin of Tours, Bishop
Wisdom 1:1-7  +  Luke 17:1-6
November 11, 2019

   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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The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
2 Macc 7:1-2,9-14  +  2 Thes 2:16—3:5  +  Lk 20:27-38
November 10, 2019

   “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”   

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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 Sunday (3:33)

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 (23:43)

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

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s Nov. 12, 2008 General Audience about the Second Coming

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

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Many Christians aren’t sure how to go about the practice of meditation.  One difficulty arises from the fact that meditation always requires something to meditate upon:  an idea or image of a person, event or truth.  But how, then, can the individual Christian decide what to fix his attention upon during daily meditation?

The simplest answer is found among the Scripture verses proclaimed at the current day’s Mass.  The persons, events and truths spoken about in a given Scripture verse can serve as the focus of Christian meditation.

Of course, even on a weekday there are three different passages of Scripture to choose from if you include the Responsorial Psalm.  There are also the Entrance Antiphon and Communion Antiphon for the day’s Mass, which almost always are taken from Sacred Scripture.  So in the midst of this wealth of Scripture passages at a simple weekday Mass, where does a Christian begin to meditate?

Tradition offers two suggestions.  The first and perhaps most obvious is the Gospel Reading from that day’s Mass.  In the four Gospel accounts, the Word made Flesh speaks directly to us through both words and works.

The other suggestion comes from the day’s Responsorial Psalm.  The reason that the day’s Psalm is often suggested is that the psalms are poetry.  They were originally composed to be sung.  But even if we only read them, they’re lyric and are often easier to “break open”, as it were, than a Gospel passage that requires more background knowledge to comprehend it.

So if you decide to use the Psalms from Holy Mass to nurture your daily meditation, the most obvious place to start is the refrain of the day’s Responsorial Psalm.  This refrain guides you through the course of the entire psalm, and presents a single theme that you can focus upon in meditation.  As an illustration, consider the Responsorial Psalm’s refrain from this Sunday’s Mass.

“Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”  Why does the Church put this verse from Psalm 17 on our lips today, the next-to-last Sunday of the Church year?  This last month of the Church year means to alert you to what she calls the “last things”:  Heaven and hell, death and judgment.  For you who are a pilgrim on earth, all four of these lie in your future.  They’re not past events, like the creation of Adam and Eve, the birth of Jesus, or the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Heaven and hell, death and judgment lie squarely before you in your future, either as inevitable or possible.

However, one of the difficulties in meditating on the “last things” is that they’re somewhat abstract.  It’s easier to meditate upon them by relating each of them to the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time.

Likewise, the Second Coming of Jesus can help us focus concretely on the refrain of Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm:  “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”  The Second Coming is often pictured in religious art as apocalyptic and frightening.  It’s certainly natural to fear the reality of death and the possibility of eternal damnation.

Today’s Psalm, however, presents a future full of hope.  With the Psalmist, we Christians hope for the Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus isn’t just some ancient guru about whom we read in dusty books, and whose example and teachings we strive to follow.  Jesus is the eternal Son of God.

He is as alive now as He was two thousand years ago.  Further, through the virtue of hope, we know that the joy open to us here and now as Christians is destined to be surpassed.  The Psalmist speaks to the Lord of a future time:  “when your glory appears”.  Christians know that this verse refers to the glory of Jesus’ Second Coming.  We not only wait for this second coming, but long for it, since when He comes, our “joy will be full”.  That phrase—“my joy will be full”—speaks to man’s vocation in Christ:  that is, to the fulfillment of human life as an adopted child of God the Father, called into the fullness of joy that is His Heavenly Liturgy.

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The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Ezk 47:1-2,8-9,12  +  1 Cor 3:9-11,16-17  +  Jn 2:13-22
November 9, 2019

   … you are the temple of God….   

Today’s Gospel passage shows us God’s passion for His temple, and His passion for the sacrifice offered there.  In the confessional, priests often hear people confess anger.  A priest might find it necessary to ask questions when someone confesses “getting angry”.  In light of Jesus’ action in this passage, it’s important to remember not only that merely “getting angry” is not necessarily a sin.  Also, even acting in anger is not necessarily a sin.

Acting in anger, or fostering anger in oneself or others, certainly can be a sin.  But Jesus acts in anger in today’s Gospel passage, and with good reason.  When reflecting on a state of anger, and actions that flow from it, it’s important to ask what the object of one’s anger is.  This object can make all the difference in the morality of such an act.

While experiencing the passion of anger, Jesus purifies the Temple.  In the passion of love, He purifies the temple of the human body of sin on Calvary, by offering up His own body in sacrifice.  St. John the Evangelist makes this point clearly.  When Jesus challenges His opponents, saying, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”, the evangelist explains that Jesus “was speaking about the temple of His Body.”  The Church’s belief in the great goodness of the human body is based in large measure on this Gospel truth.  The Church’s challenging ethic of purity of body stems not from a belief that the human body is bad, but that the human body’s purity ought to concern us as much as the purity of the Temple concerned Jesus.  Both temples ultimately belong to God, for His purposes and for His glory.  The temple of the human body is meant for the offering of sacrifices, small and large.

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Click HERE to take a virtual tour of the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome

Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 15:14-21  +  Luke 16:1-8
November 8, 2019

…because of the grace… in performing the priestly service of the Gospel of God….

There are differences among Christians, and then there are disagreements.  Differences can be of various types, including those willed by God Himself for the sake of the Church.  Saint Paul has preached about “diversity for the sake of unity” in the First Readings of recent days.  Differences can come about through human sin, contrary to the will of God.  But disagreements often point to something more difficult to reconcile:  beliefs that are contrary to the mind of God.

There are disagreements among Christians about Christians serving others as priests.  A priest, of course, is a mediator:  in more common parlance, a “middle man”.  He stands between God and another human person in order to serve that person:  in order to bridge the gap between God and the other.  Is there such a thing as an authentic Christian priesthood?  If so, what form or forms does it take?

Saint Paul in today’s First Reading shows us that the answer to the first of these questions is “Yes”.  Speaking to the Romans about himself, St. Paul speaks of his “priestly service of the Gospel… so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable”.

Among Christians who speak regularly against Catholic teaching and practice about the priesthood, you will often hear that there is only one mediator, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, there ought to be no human mediators between “me and Jesus”, as they might put it.  But St. Paul’s words today—inspired as they are by the Holy Spirit—clearly show such an idea to be contrary to the mind of God.  This is only the first principle by which to understand Christian priesthood, but it’s good for us to reflect on it today.

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Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 14:7-12  +  Luke 15:1-10
November 7, 2019

   “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”   

Jesus’ first parable in today’s Gospel is heartfelt, offering us hope of God’s compassion for the wayward.  Jesus offers a “moral” to the parable in explaining that “there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

Although Jesus’ “moral” seems straightforward enough, there is something about it that seems paradoxical.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the “righteous” to rank higher in Heaven than the repentant?  Why isn’t there such rejoicing in Heaven over the righteous?  There are at least two responses that might be offered.

First, the “righteous” of whom Jesus is here speaking are defined by the righteous themselves.  Yet such self-righteousness is a false righteousness.  Only God can make a human person righteous.

Second, those who are righteous in the true sense of the word are so only through their repentance.  A saint is a sinner who knows he’s a sinner.  In this sense, all human beings in Heaven (excepting, of course, Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother) are righteous through their self-repentance.  You and I as sinners rejoice that the Lord has not left us in our sins, but has offered us His grace, which is the means to righteousness in God’s sight.

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Wednesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 13:8-10  +  Luke 14:25-33
November 6, 2019

   …love is the fulfillment of the law.   

In today’s First Reading, Saint Paul speaks about the second of Jesus’ two great commandments.  As you know, Jesus taught His disciples that the Law of God could be simply expressed in two great commandments.  Before Jesus, with the Ten Commandments that God had given Moses, and the hundreds of moral prescriptions developed by rabbis to explain them, Jewish morality had become complex, and to many, overwhelming.  Jesus profoundly simplifies matters for His disciples.

Love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus teaches us that these two sum up the entire law of God.  St. Paul in our First Reading explains that “love is the fulfillment of the law.”  Love is not simply the summary of the Law, but its fulfillment.

When we are young, our parents make sure that we memorize the Ten Commandments.  It’s important to memorize these ten, as each of the ten touches on a key manner in which we must love God and our neighbor.  But we should not lose sight that all of them are about love.  Today’s First Reading helps us focus on what it means to love our neighbor as our self.  Pray for the grace to bring your love for your neighbor into focus through your love for God.

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Tuesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 12:5-16  +  Luke 14:15-24
November 5, 2019

   … persevere in prayer.   

Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans touches on nearly every theme of the Christian life.  Today’s passage from Romans proclaims the mystery of the Church as Christ’s Body.  The diversity of the Church’s members serves her unity.  The Church’s diversity is willed by God for the sake of her unity, to foster that unity.

From this consideration of the Church as one body with many members, St. Paul moves to a rapid-fire consideration of many virtues that mark the Christian life.

Many of the virtues that ought to mark a Christian’s life come through simple fidelity to one’s calling from the Lord.  Yet we know that each person is called in many different ways.  Whether one reflects on a calling that takes the form of a vocation such as marriage or consecrated life, or a more specific and perhaps temporary calling based upon work, such as teaching or works of mercy, these varied callings are “near occasions of grace”, so to speak.  They all and always find their proper measure within the setting of the Church.

Other virtues that ought to mark a Christian’s life come from struggles and challenges common to all Christians.  Many of these struggles are due to sin.  St. Paul addresses these also in today’s First Reading.  “Endure in affliction.”  “Persevere in prayer.”  “Bless those who persecute you.”  Through these common challenges, we are called to have compassion on our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are called to recognize our common struggles as sinners:  children of Adam and Eve.  Thanks be to God for the New Adam, Jesus Christ, into whose life He calls us.

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