Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary
Malachi 3:13-20  +  Luke 11:5-13
October 7, 2021

“… how much more will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit …?”

As Saint Luke the Evangelist continues to set before us Jesus’ teachings about prayer, we hear a lot about the prayer of petition.  Petition is one of the four chief types of prayer that human beings voice to God.  The four types are easily remembered by the acronym “P-A-C-T”:  this word reminds each of us of the pact, or covenant, that each of us entered at the moment of baptism.

The acronym “P-A-C-T” stands for:  petition, adoration, contrition, and thanksgiving.  Far more important than what we say to God, though, is what God says to us.  Still, what we say in prayer is important for many reasons, one of which is that our vocal prayers reveal to us the state of our own selves.

One way in which to reflect on the differences among these four types of vocal prayer is to consider their use in the three states of the Church.  The Church lives on earth as the Church Militant, in Purgatory as the Church Suffering, and in Heaven as the Church Triumphant.  Ask yourself, then:  which of these four types of prayer exist—or have meaning—in each of the three states of the Church?  All four are meaningful on earth, but only two have meaning in Heaven.

There is no need for prayers of petition in Heaven.  Petition is the prayer of a pilgrim, on his way to a better place.  What we ask for in petition reveals our own heart:  where we believe we are, and where we believe we’re headed, or at least where we want to go.  Our petitions are a gauge of our fidelity to the pilgrimage to which God has called us.

OT 27-4

Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Jonah 4:1-11  +  Luke 11:1-4
October 6, 2021

“Father, hallowed be your Name, your Kingdom come.”

Every Christian knows by heart the ‘Our Father’:  the only prayer that Jesus taught to His followers.  But the ‘Our Father’ that we know in our hearts—which we pray at every Mass before receiving Holy Communion, and which we pray several times throughout the course of a rosary—is not exactly the ‘Our Father’ that we hear Jesus teach in today’s Gospel passage.

The version of the ‘Our Father’ that Luke records for us is shorter than the version that we know by heart. Maybe this shorter version is the first version that Jesus taught to his followers, much the same way that a teacher introduces just the key points of a lesson first, and then later fleshes it out some more.

In this shorter version of the ‘Our Father’, there are three petitions that Jesus teaches us to pray.  In the silence following Holy Communion, or after Mass, or in your home, read and pray this shorter version, and see what the three petitions are.  What are the three things that Jesus teaches us to ask for from our Heavenly Father?

OT 27-3

Tuesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Jonah 3:1-10  +  Luke 10:38-42
October 5, 2021

“There is need of only one thing.”

Today’s Gospel passage is one of the more famous stories about Jesus’ life.  It’s such a very simple story, but it’s one of the most important lessons in the whole Bible about being a Christian:  about following Jesus.

If you could go back in time to visit Martha and Mary in their home, and ask both of them about showing hospitality to Jesus, surely Martha would say that she was being hospitable, while Mary would say that she was being hospitable.  Martha was tending to all the details of hospitality—the cleaning, the cooking, and so on—while Mary was tending to Jesus Himself.  What does Jesus think about these two different ways of showing hospitality?  Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Of course, this Mary in today’s Gospel passage—Martha’s sister—is not Jesus’ mother.  There are a lot of women in the Gospel named Mary.  But this Mary in today’s Gospel passage seems a lot like Jesus’ mother, because she has chosen the better part:  her life is focused on Jesus.  Mary stops everything that she is doing, and sits at Jesus’ feet, to listen to what He has to say to her, as each of us should do each day.

OT 27-2.jpg

St. Francis of Assisi, Deacon

St. Francis of Assisi, Deacon
Jonah 1:1—2:2,11  +  Luke 10:25-37
October 4, 2021

“The one who treated him with mercy.”

The Parable of the Good Samaritan ought profoundly to shape our spiritual and moral lives.  That order of things is important, however:  spiritual and then moral.

Although in a deeper sense there ought not be a distinction between our spiritual and moral lives, on the practical level, differences do mark the two.  We might say that the two are most sharply distinguished by sin.  The “scholar of the law” who “wished to justify himself” wants to be moral, but not spiritual.  Jesus demands that he be both, and that he be moral by being spiritual.

Mercy is the means by which the moral life is wedded to the spiritual life.  Or rather, mercy is the means by which the spiritual life begets authentic moral choices.  Were we not all children of Adam and Eve, fallen creatures, our moral choices would not demand mercy.  But in this world of sin and corruption, mercy is divine charity’s common currency.

In our spiritual lives we look on each of our fellow human creatures through the eyes of God the Father.  We love each sinner, beaten and wounded by the sins of himself and others, with the mercy through which the Father sent His innocent Son to be slain for us.  Through this love, we can choose to serve the broken, tend to the wounded, and know that in this service we serve God Himself.

Eugène Delacroix - http://artsviewer.com/

The Holy Guardian Angels

The Holy Guardian Angels
Baruch 4:5-12,27-29  +  Matthew 18:1-5,10
October 2, 2021

“… their angels in Heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Our Guardian Angels shed light upon the path that we must walk.  When our struggles each day seem too great, they extend a ray of hope down upon us from God.  They allow us to see the face of Our Crucified and Risen Lord, who having shared in our suffering helps us share in His Resurrection, even in the midst of suffering.

Our Guardian Angels guard us from the snares of our enemies.  As the Devil tries time and again to convince us that his way—easier and broader than God’s—is the way that will bring us happiness, our guardians remind us that the Way of the Cross is the only path to the Father.

Our Guardian Angels rule us as we slip from the narrow path.  As we fall prey to the temptations of the Devil, our guardians do not abandon us.  Sharing in the boundless love of our Savior, they do not fail to stand by us even then.  They convince us, as they nurse our consciences back to health, that the Cross is the only true remedy for our constant falling away from God.

Our Guardian Angels guide us by bidding us to share in the sacraments of the Church.  For all their power, our guardians entrust us to the care of Holy Mother Church, since in her care we most truly belong.  For the Church is their Mother, too.  All the angels are fellow members of the Church, and as the Church’s children we imitate the words of Jesus when like little children we recognize and thank those who are our guardians.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church
Baruch 1:15-22  +  Luke 10:13-16
October 1, 2021

“Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!”

Jesus never says, “Woe is me!”  Not once in the four accounts of the Gospel does Jesus ever say such a thing.  However, more than a few times Jesus expresses woe.  He expresses these woes regarding those who do not listen, and do not follow, the Word of God.

We might wonder what emotions Jesus experienced as He pronounced the woes in today’s Gospel passage.  He had just reasons to be angry, as well as frustrated.  Nonetheless, regardless of which emotions might have been running through His mind and heart, we know that Jesus had compassion for those He was preaching against.

In fact, to say that Jesus in pronouncing these woes was preaching against the people of these cities would call for a qualification.  In preaching woes against the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida, Jesus was preaching for them.  Does that sound like a contradiction?  It’s no more of a contradiction than is a father who disciplines his child.  Everything that Jesus did during His earthly life, including the overturning of the money changers’ tables, and the preaching of woes against the unfaithful, was for the sake of those in spiritual danger, to bring them back from a precipice into the arms of a loving Father.

The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Genesis 2:18-24  +  Hebrews 2:9-11  +  Mark 10:2-16
October 3, 2021

The Lord God said:  “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

The foundation of marriage is Christ’s marriage.  The foundation of married love is the love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart for His Bride, the Church.  The love of Christ is given to spouses when they receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  This is the only thing strong enough to save marriage:  not just marriage in general, but also each particular marriage.

The goal of any particular marriage is to mirror the love that Christ and His Church have for each other.  Of course, this goal is demanding even when a marriage is at its best.  At its worst, a marriage can only be saved by Christ’s love.

So when is a marriage at its worst?  A marriage is at its worst not when life throws poverty, or sickness, or any other serious blow against a couple, but when the blow comes from within:  when a marriage is torn by infidelity.  When the unity that God brings into being on the wedding day is violated, the husband and wife—each of them—become alone as was the man was “in the beginning”.

“Fidelity”—“faithfulness”—is one of the four essential qualities of a sacramental marriage.  A marriage which mirrors Christ’s love for His Church is a love that has those four qualities that we see in Jesus on the Cross:  a love that is free, full, faithful, and fruitful.  Of these four, living out faithfulness is the greatest struggle for many couples.

However, there are many different types of infidelity.  There are unfaithful thoughts, unfaithful words, and unfaithful actions.  Of course, some types of infidelity are worse than others.  But there is no marriage that is not affected by one form of infidelity or another.  Even when infidelity occurs only in a spouse’s thoughts, and even if those thoughts are kept to oneself, the married love of that couple is truly weakened, which makes daily self-sacrifice—the bread and butter of marriage—more difficult.

But at its worst, infidelity tears married love completely inside out.  It’s then that a spouse has to answer again the question that the priest asked at the beginning of the wedding ritual on the day the spouses got married:  “have you come here to enter into Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”  That word “wholeheartedly” reflects the Church’s clear statement—founded on Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel Reading—that a marriage in which love is not given “wholeheartedly” is not a Christian marriage at all.

When a priest prepares a couple for marriage, he asks each of them the question, “Do you intend to accept the obligation to be faithful to your spouse?”  How many young engaged persons understand that this “obligation to be faithful” entails the obligation to offer forgiveness to the spouse who has been unfaithful?

In other words, a spouse who says, “If you’re ever unfaithful to me, I’m out the door,” is saying that there are limits to his or her married love.  But Christ on the Cross says that that’s a lie, because that sort of “limited love” doesn’t mirror the wholehearted love of Christ that poured forth from His Sacred Heart on Calvary.  If Jesus said to you, “I’ll continue to love you as long as you’re faithful to me,” you would have no hope whatsoever of getting to Heaven.

Take this statement, and imagine one spouse saying it to the other:  “I will love you, as long as you do not … BLANK.”  Fill in the blank.  If there’s anything that a spouse can fill in that blank with to make that statement true, then that spouse needs to look at Jesus on the Cross.

Consider the moment at a wedding when the priest asks, “have you come here to enter into Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”  If the man or the woman says “Yes” out loud, but in his or her mind finishes that sentence by saying, “Yes… as long as my spouse is faithful to me first,” then no marriage comes into existence in God’s eyes.  Nonetheless, as difficult as it is to give one’s whole heart to another sinful human being, through God’s grace, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony not only comes into existence, but can endure in the face of human infidelity.  Upon the Cross, Christ shows us that with God, all forgiveness is possible.

St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church

St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church
Nehemiah 8:1-4,5-6,7-12  +  Luke 10:1-12
September 30, 2021

“I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

The Church often quotes verses from today’s Gospel passage in her promotion of vocations.  However, these seventy-two to whom Jesus speaks are appointed and sent for a specific reason.  They are sent “ahead of” Jesus, not in His name or in His person.  They are sent “in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit.”  They are “advance teams”, if you will.  In the general sense in which they are sent ahead of Jesus, we can consider these 72 as symbolizing all baptized Christians.  What Jesus says to them speaks today to each of us Christians.

Jesus offers many brief sayings in today’s Gospel passage.  All are loosely joined together.  Many can be singled out and meditated upon for a long period of time.  Take this proclamation of the Lord:  “behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”  It’s not difficult for a Christian disciple to use these words as a justification for self-righteousness in the face of any opposition, justified or not.  Nonetheless, that possibility doesn’t nullify the meaning of Jesus’ words.  At our best, we disciples are “lambs among wolves”.  We might wonder, if that’s our best, then what’s the worst?

While each Christian might be tempted to turn away from the “vocation” to be a lamb, perhaps we can take solace in two simple Gospel truths.  Our Lord and Savior is the Good Shepherd [John 10:11] as well as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world [John 1:29].

OT 26-4

Sts. Michael, Gabriel & Raphael, Archangels

Sts. Michael, Gabriel & Raphael, Archangels
Daniel 7:9-10,13-14 [or Revelation 12:7-12]  +  John 1:47-51
September 29, 2021

“… you will see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

About a month from now, the Church will celebrate All Saints’ Day, when we spend time thinking about the “lives of the saints”.  But it’s difficult to read and learn about the lives of today’s saints since they haven’t led “lives” in our normal sense of the word.  Furthermore, their lives are still going on as always.  Still, these three saints—the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael—are a very important part of our Catholic prayer and belief.

These archangels—among the most important of all the angels—are messengers who carry the most important messages from God to human beings like us.

St. Michael, in the beginning, was the one who had to fight against the devil, and force him out of Heaven as punishment for turning against God.  At the end of time, it will be St. Michael who will lead all the good angels in battle against the fallen angels in league with the devil.  But in between the beginning and end of time, Michael protects all those who call upon him, to defend them in the day of battle, which is any day when we face temptation, and are tempted not to love God completely, or tempted not to love our neighbor as our self.

St. Gabriel, by contrast , goes to the heart and center of history, with the most important message that God ever wanted delivered.  It was Gabriel whom God chose to deliver the message to Mary that she should be our Blessed Mother, because God’s own Son should be born from her, that Son destined to be the Savior of all mankind.

In these archangels, we honor three models for the vocation to which God has called all of us through the Sacrament of Baptism.  In word and action, we—like the angels—serve God, and bear His messages to others, all of which are about the sort of love with which God loves us.

Even when we have sinned, God continues to love us, and wants us to draw closer to Him through Jesus.  But when we pray and realize how great God’s mercy towards us is, we are called to take that same message to others, and let others know of God’s love for them.  Even more, we are called to offer forgiveness to others:  to be God’s messenger of love and mercy by forgiving others in the same way that God has forgiven us.