Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fourth Sunday, C: "They will fight against you but not prevail over you"

Jeremiah 1. 4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71. 1-6, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 12:31--13:13; St. Luke 4. 21-30

In the town of Nazareth, where so many knew the Lord well, saw him grow, visited his home, a sin had taken root; familiarity had bred a prideful sense of entitlement. Those who knew the Lord well, "Is not this Joseph's son?" (Lk 4, 22) assumed that he would grant them the signs and miracles of which they had heard so much in other cities and towns. This pride left them receptive to the Lord and his teaching at a merely superficial level, and their pleasure and approval quickly turned to murderous hatred when he reproved them for their sin, "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong." (Lk 4, 28-29) Their pride, a sin against love, had grown into a monstrous hatred.

One can sin against God's love in various ways:
--hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and afflicts punishments.
(CCC 2094)

In their hatred for Christ, the Nazarenes committed grave sin. In their overweening pride, hatred became a deliberate attack against Jesus, for they intended to kill him.

Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Mt 5: 44-45)(CCC 2303)

The Lord majestically frees himself from their grasp, "But passing through the midst of them he went away." (Lk 4, 30) Christ is the peacemaker, and our model as bearers of peace. We must pray for peace and, through active charity, extend the gift of peace and forgiveness to all. Some, in pursuing Christian perfection, may even choose to renounce violent resistance and, instead "make use of those means of defense available to the weakest" (CCC 2306) when confronting their enemies. Christ embraced solidarity with the weakest, for he merely fled from his persecutors, rather than summoning his manly or divine strength in his own defense.

Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death. (Cf. GS 78, 5.) (CCC 2306)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Saturday, 3rd Week, C: “he took the poor man’s ewe lamb ”

David grew very angry with that man and said to him:
“As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death!
He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold
because he has done this and has had no pity.”

The tenth commandment requires that envy be banished from the human heart. When the prophet Nathan wanted to spur King David to repentance, he told him the story about the poor man who had only one ewe lamb that he treated like his own daughter and the rich man who, despite the great number of his flocks, envied the poor man and ended by stealing his lamb. Envy can lead to the worst crimes. "Through the devil's envy death entered the world":

We fight one another, and envy arms us against one another. . . . If everyone strives to unsettle the Body of Christ, where shall we end up? We are engaged in making Christ's Body a corpse. . . . We declare ourselves members of one and the same organism, yet we devour one another like beasts.
-- CCC 253
Art: Pieter Lastman, ca. 1583 – 1633, David hands the letter to Uriah. Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday, 3rd Week, C: “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God"

... or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. "This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ" (LG 5). The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter.
-- CCC 567

Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to "know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven". For those who stay "outside", everything remains enigmatic.
-- CCC 546

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday, 3rd Week, C: "The sower sows the word."

... those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.

Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations. To enter it, one must first accept Jesus' word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.
-- CCC 543

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Third Sunday, C: Christ, Eternal High Priest, opens the book of the Law before the assembly - He opens His saving Heart on the Cross

His law is love!

Nehemiah
8, 2-4, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19, 8.9.10.15; 1 Corinthians 12, 12-30; St. Luke 1, 1-4; 4, 14-21

Nehemiah reads out the law and the people fall down in worship before these "ten words" of the Divine Lawgiver. The Lord proclaims the words of Isaiah and reveals that they point to Him, the Word Incarnate. Do we rejoice that the day of the Lord has arrived? How do we worship the One who is now truly present among us?

The Lord knows who he is, not simply because as a good Jew he reads Isaiah, but with every fiber of his divine Personhood: he is the God-man, the divine Messiah foretold and exalted by the holy prophets. The Lord reads the words of Isaiah to the assembly in the synagogue with the purpose of declaring the truth of his divinity to the whole world: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Lk 4: 21)

The Messiah's characteristics are revealed above all in the "Servant songs." (Cf. Isa 42: 1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49: 1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52: 13- 53: 12.) These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus' Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our "form as slave." (Phil 2:7) Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life. (CCC 713)

This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah: (Isa 61: 1-2; cf. Lk 4: 18-19)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

(CCC 714)

The anointing by which Christ brings "good tidings", binds up the "brokenhearted", and frees those imprisoned is carried out in our midst, at this moment, only in the Holy Spirit, poured out upon us by the Lord-Messiah according to the heavenly Father's loving plan for our redemption. Only in that Spirit of love can we call out to Christ as Lord in faith. Only in that Spirit do we receive and give authentic love.

The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of "love and fidelity." (Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36: 25-28; 37: 1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3: 1-5.) St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. (Cf. Acts 2: 17-21) According to these promises, at the "end time" the Lord's Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace. (CCC 715)

We live out our love for the Lord when we confidently declare that he is Lord and God to all we meet. Others will know we love them if we declare the divinity of the Savior, he who alone can forgive our sins, heal us and raise us up to holiness and joy.

Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 436, 544, 695, 714, 1168, 1286, 2443 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Art: Illuminated Gospel, Unknown, Anglo-Saxon, possibly Canterbury, about 1000.

Saturday, 2d Wk: "Jesus came with his disciples into the house"

Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity's rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.
-- CCC 386

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday, 2d Wk: "He appointed Twelve"

... whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons

Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his mission and authority. Raised to the Father's right hand, he has not forsaken his flock but he keeps it under his constant protection through the apostles, and guides it still through these same pastors who continue his work today. Thus, it is Christ whose gift it is that some be apostles, others pastors. He continues to act through the bishops.
-- CCC 1575

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday, 2d Wk: “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath?"

“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
But they remained silent.
Looking around at them with anger
and grieved at their hardness of heart,
Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
-- Mk 3:1-6

The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day. He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing. The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God. "The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."
-- CCC 2173

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday, 2d Wk: “The sabbath was made for man"

not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.
-- Mk 2:23-28

Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.
-- CCC 2175
Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.

-- CCC 2186

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday, 2d Wk: “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?"

As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
-- Mk 2:18-22

To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament (the Eucharist), the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.
-- CCC 1387

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Second Sunday: "Do whatever He tells you"


Isaiah 62: 1-5; Psalm 96, 1-3, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11; St. John 2: 1-11

Our Lady has interceded for those who approach her divine Son from the very beginning of his public life and ministry.

Mary was invited to a wedding at Cana, and "Jesus also was invited to the marriage with his disciples". Our Lady informs Jesus "they have no more wine". Though he hesitates, saying "My hour has not yet come", he yet accedes to her wishes and the needs of the wedding guests and changes water into wine upon our Lady's instruction to the servants: "Do whatever he tells you." We also are invited by our Lady to render obedience to her Son: "in that all Christian holiness consists: for perfect holiness is obeying Christ in all things". (St. Thomas Aquinas, Comm. on St. John, in loc.).

In the public life of Jesus Mary appears prominently; at the very beginning when at the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of the miracles of Jesus the Messiah (cf. John 2: 1-11). In the course of her Son's preaching she received the words whereby, in extolling a kingdom beyond the concerns and ties of flesh and blood, he declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mk 3:35; Lk 11:27-28) as she was faithfully doing (cf. Lk 2:19; 51). Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood (cf. Jn 19:25), in line with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his passion, with his sacrifice, associating herself in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to his disciple, with these words: 'Woman, behold thy son' (Jn 19: 26-27)" (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 58).

"At Cana, Mary appears once more as the Virgin in prayer: when she tactfully told her Son of a temporal need, she also obtained an effect of grace, namely, that Jesus, in working the first of his 'signs', confirmed his disciples' faith in him." (Paul VI, Marialis cultus, 18).

Why are Mary's prayers so effective with God? The prayers of the saints are prayers of servants, whereas Mary's are a Mother's prayer, whence flows their efficacy and their authority; and since Jesus has immense love for his Mother, she cannot pray without being listened to...To understand Mary's great goodness, let us remember what the Gospel says...There was a shortage of wine, which naturally worried the married couple. No one asks the Blessed Virgin to intervene and request her Son to come to the rescue of the couple...; it stirs her to act as intercessor and ask her Son for the miracle, even though no one asks her to...If our Lady acted like this without being asked, what would she not have done if they actually asked her to intervene?" (St. Alphonsus Mary Ligouri, Sunday Sermons, 48).

By God's design Mary is uniquely a Mediatrix for us, our Mother in the order of grace (CCC 967-970) just as she was for the wedding guests at Cana. No other creature shares in the privileges she enjoys as cooperator in the work of her Son.

"This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation...Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 62) (CCC 969)

Blessed Lady, intercede for us that we may do whatever the Lord tells us and so may, like the wedding guests at Cana, see his glory and believe in Him.

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

(See also nos. 486, 495, 1335, 1613, and 2618 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

(Publish with permission.)

Saturday, 1st Wk: “Follow me.”

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation."
-- CCC 1656

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday, 1st Wk: "He preached the word to them"

“Child, your sins are forgiven.”

It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgment and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace."

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God." He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother."
-- CCC 1424

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday, 1st Wk: "go, show yourself to the priest"

offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed
-- Mk 1:40-45

"Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession." There are profound reasons for this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally addresses every sinner: "My son, your sins are forgiven." He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them. He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church.
-- CCC 1484

Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."
When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, "for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know."
-- CCC 1456

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday, 1st Wk: "The LORD called to Samuel"

the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Before the grandeur of the priestly grace and office, the holy doctors felt an urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole lives to him whose sacrament had made them ministers. Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as a very young priest, exclaimed:

We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God's greatness and man's weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ's priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God's image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes.

And the holy Cure of Ars: "The priest continues the work of redemption on earth. . . . If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. . . . The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus."
-- CCC 1589
Image: Manuscript illumination of Saint Hilary of Poitiers writing his commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew. St Hilary is quoted in CCC 537 on baptism:

"Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God."


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday, 1st Week: “What have you to do with us"

... Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

Faced with God's fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God's holiness. Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: "Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips." Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: "I will not execute my fierce anger. . . for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst." The apostle John says likewise: "We shall. . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
-- CCC 208

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday, 1st Wk: “Come after me"


... and I will make you fishers of men.

"The priests, prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its support and instrument, called to the service of the People of God, constitute, together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college (presbyterium) dedicated, it is, true to a variety of distinct duties. In each local assembly of the faithful they represent, in a certain sense, the bishop, with whom they are associated in all trust and generosity; in part they take upon themselves his duties and solicitude and in their daily toils discharge them." priests can exercise their ministry only in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him. The promise of obedience they make to the bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss of peace from him at the end of the ordination liturgy mean that the bishop considers them his co-workers, his sons, his brothers and his friends, and that they in return owe him love and obedience.
-- CCC 1567

Art: The Calling of the Sons of Zebedee by Marco Basaiti

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Epiphany-tide: "We know that we belong to God"

We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
-- 1 John 5: 14-21

This dramatic situation of "the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one"makes man's life a battle:

The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.
-- CCC 409

Friday, January 8, 2010

Epiphany-tide: Who indeed is the victor over the world

but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
-- 1 Jn 5:5-13

"Our Father": Since the Lord's Prayer is that of his people in the "end-time," this "our" also expresses the certitude of our hope in God's ultimate promise: in the new Jerusalem he will say to the victor, "I will be his God and he shall be my son."
-- CCC 2788

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Epiphany-tide: "we love God"

... because
he first loved us.
If anyone says, “I love God,”
but hates his brother, he is a liar

The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who "first loved us":

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.

-- CCC 1828