Thursday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]
II Samuel 7:18-19,24-29  +  Mark 4:21-25
January 30, 2020

“The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you ….”

Jesus proclaims two truths for reflection today.  Both might at first hearing seem to discourage the virtue of humility.  But each prepares us for greater service to our Lord.

When Jesus in today’s Gospel passage notes that a lamp is meant to be “placed on a lampstand”, He does not specifically refer to His disciples here as “the light of the world”, as He does in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.  Nonetheless, Mark’s text makes the inference clear.  Disciples are not meant to hide themselves, their belief, or Christ from others in the world.  On the contrary, they are called to share the Good News!  This clearly stands in conflict with a culture dominated by moral and religious relativism.

When Jesus in today’s Gospel passage notes that to “the one who has, more will be given” and “from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away”, some might accuse Jesus of sounding like Wall Street tycoons.  Jesus just doesn’t sound fair.  But what God gives, He gives for others:  if He gives me a grace or charism, it is for others.  Only in being faithful to serving others with what I have may I hope someday to reach Heaven.  So in someone being given more, he is commanded to greater service of God and His people.

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Wednesday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Wednesday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]
II Samuel 7:4-17  +  Mark 4:1-20
January 29, 2020

“But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit….”

Given that Saint Mark’s Gospel account—the shortest of the four—focuses more on Jesus’ actions than His preaching, we ought to take special note of the preaching that Mark does choose for inclusion in his Gospel account.  We might consider the parables Mark includes as a “best of…” list.

Today’s Gospel passage has three parts.  The first and the last are Jesus’ proclamation of a parable, and the parable’s explanation.  In between, Jesus briefly explains His general purpose in preaching through parables.  Most of the fourth chapter of Mark consists of parables, and today’s Gospel passage consists of the first twenty verses of Mark 4, so today’s parable is of primary importance.

The Parable of the Sower, Mark’s telling of which is a mere six verses, has inspired dissertations hundreds of pages long.  Like the mustard seed (to allude to a different parable), its size belies its potential.  To choose one simple facet of today’s parable:  who is the sower?  There are at least two answers.  The parable can be thought of in terms of the sower being either God the Father, or you as an individual.  Here consider the former scenario.

The sower is God the Father.  He sows His Word (God the Son) prodigally.  What seems like foolishness or imprudence in His manner of sowing is in fact a measure of His love’s depth.  He offers His Word even to those of us whose souls are rocky or otherwise inhospitable.  The challenge here is for each individual to till the soil of the soul, or otherwise clear and tend it as needed to allow the word to take root there.

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St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church

St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church
II Samuel 6:12-15,17-19  +  Mark 3:31-35
January 28, 2020

“For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

The heart of today’s Gospel passage is “the will of God”.  Jesus explains that doing the will of God is what forms the bonds of kinship within God’s family.  In doing so, Jesus is not downplaying the significance of His Blessed Mother or any other blood- or legal relatives.

Consider the distinctions that Jesus is and is not making here.  Ask yourself why God the Father chose the young Mary to be the Mother of God.  Wasn’t it because her response at the Annunciation—“Let it be done unto me according to thy word”—is the perfect embodiment of understanding and carrying out the will of God?

When you pray the rosary today and meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries, ask Our Lady for an outpouring of grace from her Son.  Ask her that you might use this strength not for your own desires, but only to accomplish what the Lord deems necessary in your life to draw you and those you love closer to Him.

Fra Angelico Virgin Mary with Aquinas CROPPED

Today is the obligatory memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas.  Click HERE to learn more about his sacra doctrina.

Monday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Monday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]
II Samuel 5:1-7,10  +  Mark 3:22-30
January 27, 2020

“And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Jesus’ parables most often describe the Kingdom of God.  But today He preaches about the Kingdom by what in theology is called a “via negativa”:  that is, describing someone or something by what he, she or it is not, rather than what he, she or it is.  Jesus today describes what the Kingdom of God is not in rebutting the claims of the scribes.

The chief point of the parables we hear Jesus preach today is that Satan can have no place in the Kingdom of God.  He begins by debunking the scribes’ claim with simple logic.  But Jesus moves by the end of today’s passage to a “via positiva”, in which He points out why Satan can have no place within the Kingdom:  because the Kingdom is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, the new creation in which the Holy Spirit hovers over the face of the Kingdom [see Genesis 1:2].

Still, in our own day we have to put Jesus’ parables in context.  We cannot help but realize that the Kingdom of God which Jesus so often preaches about is not strictly identical with the Church that Jesus founded when He walked this earth.  Would that it were so!  How clearly we can see the sins of members of the Church.  Through these sins, the absence of the Holy Spirit makes itself known.  Our sins can be forgiven, and our charity can point to the Kingdom of God, but both are possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 8:23—9:3  +  1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17  +  Matthew 4:12-23 [or 4:12-17]
January 26, 2020

… so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

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click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (6:27)

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

click HERE to watch the homily for this Sunday from the cathedral in Phoenix (12:07)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 Angelus address for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2008 Angelus address for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1999 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution “Dei Verbum” on Divine Revelation

click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2010 apostolic exhortation “Verbum Domini” on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church

FOR CLERGY:  click HERE for the Vatican’s 2014 Homiletic Directory

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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 551765: the call of the Twelve

CCC 541-543: Reign of God calls and gathers Jews and Gentiles

CCC 813-822: unity of the Church

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The Word of God became Flesh and dwelt among us.  Yet He dwelt among us so that He could die for us.  On Calvary on Good Friday, the Word sacrificed Himself—Flesh and Blood, soul and divinity—to God the Father.  The meaning of this singular act of self-sacrifice is two-fold:  that sinners might be reconciled to God, so that God might make them His children.

The Word of God is a Person.  This truth is often obscured in regard to preaching.  Preaching, of course, is essential to the Word of God’s ministry.  Nonetheless, the preaching of the Word of God is a means to a far greater end, just as the divine Son in all things leads us to the divine Father.

The ultimate end of all preaching is communion with God the Father, through God the Son, in God the Holy Spirit.  Yet in His divine Providence, God chose to accomplish this communion through the cross of Christ.  All of Jesus’ words and works on earth lead to Calvary.  The cross of Christ is the earthly end—the proximate end—of our discipleship.

This Sunday’s Scripture passages focus our attention upon the Word of God.  The Gospel Reading is from only the fourth of the 28 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel account.  The first two chapters, of course, focus on the advent and infancy of Jesus.  So today’s Gospel Reading takes place early in Jesus’ public ministry, and focuses on the basics.

That’s fitting for this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The beginning of the Church year, of course, focused on the advent and infancy of Jesus.  So today’s Gospel Reading during the early part of Ordinary Time focuses on the basics of following Jesus.

After Jesus calls two sets of brothers to become “fishers of men”, He labors at three works of public ministry amidst “all of Galilee”.  Jesus teaches, preaches and cures the sick.  Yet the fact that the short form of today’s Gospel Reading ends by focusing upon Jesus’ preaching suggests how central preaching is to His public ministry.

In fact, the only words that we hear Jesus preaching in today’s Gospel Reading are:  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Repentance is the first word of Jesus’ preaching the Word of God.  From the perspective of those who hear the Word of God, repentance is the first word of following Jesus.  When Jesus later commands His disciples to take up their crosses each day [Lk 9:23], this command includes the embrace of daily repentance.

Likewise, Saint Paul in today’s Second Reading draws our attention to the link between preaching and the cross of Christ.  It’s telling that the larger point of this passage is divisions among the Corinthians.  Paul’s remedy for divisions within the Church is the cross of Christ.  He even speaks to one of the pitfalls that he, as a preacher, has to work to avoid.  This pitfall is the “human eloquence” that captivates in the short term but can bear no lasting fruit, and in fact does lasting harm by creating an expectation and desire within Christians for what is shallow.

The depth of the Word of God is only found finally in the cross of Christ.  Every word of the Old Testament is fulfilled in the cross of Christ on Calvary on Good Friday, just as each word and work during Jesus’ public ministry was so fulfilled.  Every word and work of Jesus after His Resurrection, as every word in the New Testament books that follow the four Gospel accounts, as every work of the Church in her holy sacraments, flows from the power of the Cross of Christ.  Of no sacrament is this more true than the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, where the Word made Flesh offers Himself in sacrifice, so that we can join sacramentally in His singular act of salvation.

By embracing Jesus’ cross, we can come to communion with the divine Person of Jesus Christ Himself.  Only through this Cross can the Christian enter the life of the Son, and through the Son the embrace of the Father.  In the order of salvation, this is the setting where we hear the providential role of the Word of God.

Trinity with Crucifixion

The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
Acts 22:3-16 [or Acts 9:1-22]  +  Mark 16:15-18
January 25, 2020

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

The Conversion of St. Paul might seem difficult for us to relate to, especially if we are cradle Catholics.  St. Paul’s conversion was from a strict Pharisaical form of Judaism to a living faith in Jesus Christ.  But we could expand on this by saying that Paul’s conversion was from one understanding of sacrifice to another.  Saul was not a Levite:  a member of Israel’s priestly line.  But his concept of sacrifice as a faithful Jew would have been based on temple sacrifices.

Christian sacrifice, however, is not of exterior things, but of what is most interior and personal.  It’s a sacrifice not of animals, but of one’s very self, and of one’s whole self:  body, soul and spirit.  We might say that when you convert to Christ, your life is over.  You live no more, but Christ lives in you [see Galatians 2:20].  This is exemplified impressively in the Order of Saint Benedict, which at religious professions has those new members lay prostrate in the sanctuary of the abbey church.  Then they are covered by a large funeral pall.

What all three readings today (including the Responsorial Psalm) profess is the link between conversion and mission.  “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”  One of the worst afflictions within the Church today is a privatization of the Faith:  that is, believing that one’s faith should only be a personal matter, something best kept to oneself, and which is merely for the sake of getting oneself to Heaven.  There are countless forms in which a baptized Christian might evangelize others, but every baptized Christian is called to evangelize those without faith.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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