Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ss Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus: "we have heard of your faith"

through the word of truth, the Gospel, that has come to you

This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: "Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort "to proclaim the good news to the poor." There is a famine on earth, "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD." For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.

-- CCC 2835

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

St. Jeanne Jugan: "children of the light"

encourage one another and build one another up

The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to "preach good news to the poor"; he declares them blessed, for "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." To them - the "little ones" the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned. Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.

-- CCC 544

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Wk 21: "the will of God, your holiness"

refrain from immorality

Incest designates intimate relations between relatives or in-laws within a degree that prohibits marriage between them. St. Paul stigmatizes this especially grave offense: "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you . . . for a man is living with his father's wife. . . . In the name of the Lord Jesus . . . you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. . . . " Incest corrupts family relationships and marks a regression toward animality.

-- CCC 2388

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saint Bartholomew: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

The title "Son of God" signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus Christ to God his Father: he is the only Son of the Father (cf. Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18); he is God himself (cf. Jn 1:1). To be a Christian, one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (cf. Acts 8:37; 1 Jn 2:23).
-- CCC 454

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday 21A: "whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven": God reacts to sinful acts by giving to Peter the keys of divine Mercy

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The laws of physics are pretty predictable. The laws of human behavior, however, are not. Human reactions are sometimes entirely out of proportion to the event which provokes them. A reaction to a problem can present an entirely new problem in itself and sometimes may take the form of serious sin. Reaction to temptation which is consenting results in a cycle of frustration and unhappiness for the human person.

In the first reading we see God's reaction to Shebna's lack of action: he wasn't fulfilling his office so God pulled him down and put another in his place. God's purposes have been fulfilled in salvation history through human beings who must freely cooperate with God's will, whose reactions must reflect God's action of revealing Himself in order to bring about His will that all men be saved. But God will not be frustrated and He perseveres in love to call men and women back to Himself.

God's reaction to sin is always perfect and proportionate in forgiveness. But His grace is always superabundant: through His divine mercy grace is given to forgive and also to begin a process of healing from the effects of sin.

We see in the Gospel that through Christ the will of God for our salvation finds new impetus in a new office conferred upon Peter, whose new name reflects his mission: Peter is the Rock. He will serve as a foundation for God's plan in history which now takes place through the Church. How will this happen? God's mercy will be the holy and proportionate reaction to the sinful actions of men and women. God will stop the cycle of unhealthy reactions through the ministry of reconciliation conferred upon Peter to "bind and loose".

"Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' The 'power of the keys' designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: 'Feed my sheep.' The power to 'bind and loose' connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom." (CCC 553)

The gift of the priesthood received through Peter and the apostles for the forgiveness of sins takes place particularly in confession. The holy reaction of God to forgive when we act sinfully continues His mission to save the world.

Sin if serious results in the loss of baptismal grace and if unrepented can result in eternal separation from God. The office of binding and loosing refers also to the forgiveness of serious sins after our baptism.

"After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles 'so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.' The apostles and their successors carry out this 'ministry of reconciliation,' not only by announcing to men God's forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:

"[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit's action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us." (CCC 981)

All of us at one time or another have frustrated God's plan for us through our sinful reactions to temptation. When we sin in a grave or serious way we cannot receive the Eucharist worthily or in a holy way but rather commit another sin: that of sacrilege. Confession is thus necessary after mortal or serious sin before returning to regular reception of the holy Eucharist.

Our reaction to sin must be the holy and healthy action of seeking sacramental confession at the earliest opportunity. In order to allow God's plan to be fulfilled we must go to the office of Peter in the Church, we must have the help of God whose reaction to sin is always an action of love: healing and forgiving grace.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saint Bernard: “The greatest among you must be your servant."

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

All religious, whether exempt or not, take their place among the collaborators of the diocesan bishop in his pastoral duty. From the outset of the work of evangelization, the missionary "planting" and expansion of the Church require the presence of the religious life in all its forms. "History witnesses to the outstanding service rendered by religious families in the propagation of the faith and in the formation of new Churches: from the ancient monastic institutions to the medieval orders, all the way to the more recent congregations."
-- CCC 927

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday, 20A: "You shall love the Lord"

... your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
-- Mt 22:34-40

Jesus said to his disciples: "Love one another even as I have loved you."

In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

-- CCC 2196

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday, 20A: "you came in here without a wedding garment?"

‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
-- Mt 22:1-14

The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."
-- CCC 1036

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday, 20A: "Are you envious"

... because I am generous?

The tenth commandment requires that envy be banished from the human heart.

CCC 2358

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Church is the "house of prayer for all peoples": not entitlement to miracle bailouts but the universal place of the ordinary miracle of Faith

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Pundits and experts are saying that there is a parallel between the fall of Western economies and children's reading and learning scores. The sense of entitlement that has been bred over many years in these countries, they say, is reflected in the lack of a work ethic among the young now observable in poor educational results and the rampant violence in the streets of Britain and which now may be spreading to other places.

Having been given so much and worked for so little has aroused in some an addiction that must be fed through rioting and looting. In the burning and destruction of the property of others is a rejection of the society to which they once looked so expectantly to give them everything they lack little effort on their part. The false illusion of the "miracle" of free stuff leaves the human person weakened and vulnerable before the harsh reality that work and discipline is a fact of human existence, exempting no one from its laws of give and take.

Have you ever heard someone say "I don't get anything out of it" when asked why they no longer attend Mass regularly on Sundays? Perhaps it is a sense of entitlement on the part of individuals on a spiritual level that leads to such an attitude. The thinking might be that if God is all powerful and capable of miracles and I give Him what He wants by keeping the commandments, among them the law of keeping holy the Lord's Day each Sunday, then I am entitled to expect Him to give me everything I want, including meeting my expectations of what I should get out of attending Mass.

Everyone dreams of miracle bailouts: materially by winning the lottery or spiritually by having all their dearest prayers answered. But the fact is that the God of the extraordinary and the miraculous chooses normally to work through the ordinary and the mundane. And this is the greatest miracle of all: everyone without exception is called to find what he or she needs in Christ who makes Himself radically available in the universal Church, the ordinary place of faith.

James Joyce once famously described the universal Church thus: "Here comes everybody". Increasingly it is the Church which serves as a unifying force in societies with a growing interracial and multicultural face, as was evident recently after the senseless violence in Norway when the Catholic Church offered a place of prayer and consolation for the grieving from diverse languages and backgrounds. Immigrants from diverse backgrounds recently filled the streets of London to overflowing to welcome the Holy Father during his visit there.

But though all are called, it is the through the ordinariness of their lives that God makes extraordinary possibilities take on flesh through Christ. The Church is "the place of faith" where this great work of God is done in us and through us; "the house of prayer for all peoples" (Is 56:1, 6-7) where anyone from anywhere can meet, know and love God.

All were dead because of sin but now, through the mercy of God, all are able to live in Jesus Christ whose "ordinary" death on the Cross won for us the extraordinary gift of God's own life opened for us through His merciful love.

"For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy."

It is through the ordinariness of obedience, the keeping of the Commandments, that God does what is extraordinary for mankind by the grace of faith. Christ is the "gift" that opens up the possibility of God in the lives of everyone, and each of us. The most ordinary task of keeping God's law, of doing what is right, just and good, is the great miracle of the extraordinary for every human person called to life of faith in the universal Church.

"Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed." (Rom 11:13-15, 29-32)

The Canaanite woman in the Gospel approaches Christ not with a sense of entitlement but rather with humility. And the Lord makes clear that she indeed is not entitled to demand what must remain sheer gift: "it is not right to take the food of the children and give it to the dogs". Despite odds which might discourage many she perseveres in the humble prayer of faith and thus gains access to Christ and the gift of an answered prayer.

God Himself, His own love and presence are "revealed", made real again and again, for us and others in a continuing miracle of goodness when we do what is just, right and holy for love of God who revealed His law of love most fully in Christ who obeyed the Father unto death on the Cross.

Sunday is the most miraculous of days when we, though many, are called forth from many different lives and from many different places, to be truly one in Christ. Let us never take this miracle for granted by overcoming even the greatest of inconveniences in order to be here again next and every Sunday so as to start an ordinary week once again in the most extraordinary of ways: gathered in the miracle of true oneness around the one Lord who took on the ordinariness of human flesh to change us so that we might share forever in the miracle of the extraordinary, eternal life of God.


Ss Pontian, pope and martyr, and Hippolytus, priest and martyr: "they will also persecute you"

If they persecuted me
-- Jn 15:18-21

The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus' preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven.

-- CCC 1716

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Saint Clare: "the glory of the LORD left the threshold of the temple"

Come, you scourges of the city! With that I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate which faces the north, each with a destroying weapon in his hand...They stood at the entrance of the eastern gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was up above them. Then the cherubim lifted their wings, and the wheels went along with them,
while up above them was the glory of the God of Israel.

Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession."
-- CCC 1378

Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc.
-- CCC 1674

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr: "God loves a cheerful giver"

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.

-- John 12: 24-26

The sacrifice of Jesus "for the sins of the whole world" expresses his loving communion with the Father. "The Father loves me, because I lay down my life," said the Lord, "(for) I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the whole world may know that I love the Father."

-- CCC 606

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday, 19A: "It is the LORD, your God, who will cross before you"

unless you turn and become like children,you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven

Finally, the church has an eschatological significance. To enter into the house of God, we must cross a threshold, which symbolizes passing from the world wounded by sin to the world of the new Life to which all men are called. The visible church is a symbol of the Father's house toward which the People of God is journeying and where the Father "will wipe every tear from their eyes." Also for this reason, the Church is the house of all God's children, open and welcoming.

-- CCC 1186

In the Roman liturgy, the Eucharistic assembly is invited to pray to our heavenly Father with filial boldness; the Eastern liturgies develop and use similar expressions: "dare in all confidence," "make us worthy of. . . . " From the burning bush Moses heard a voice saying to him, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Only Jesus could cross that threshold of the divine holiness, for "when he had made purification for sins," he brought us into the Father's presence: "Here am I, and the children God has given me."
Our awareness of our status as slaves would make us sink into the ground and our earthly condition would dissolve into dust, if the authority of our Father himself and the Spirit of his Son had not impelled us to this cry . . . 'Abba, Father!' . . . When would a mortal dare call God 'Father,' if man's innermost being were not animated by power from on high?"

-- CCC 2777

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sunday 19A. "Earth, Wind or Fire?": God is not found in fear of what He has made but through Faith, a holy fear of the One who made everything

There are so many fears: of heights or depths, of close spaces or open spaces, of crowds or loneliness. There are almost as many kinds of fear as there are people. Some fears can be debilitating and require years of therapy or are kept manageable only through medication and close supervision.

What do you fear? If you are like most people you probably have a very deep respect for the powers of nature, such as the earth, wind and fire. In the case of these fear can be a very good thing because it can save our lives. The powers of nature threaten us with death and perhaps we sometimes are fearful because we suspect we may not be ready to meet God and are afraid of punishment.

"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)

There is another kind of fear about which we learn in today's Scriptures that can save our eternal life: fear of God which is that "love for Him who commands". This kind of fear is not at all like a cowering before the powers of earth, wind and fire or a "servile fear" of punishment which is lacking in love and trust.

In the first reading from the Old Testament Elijah on Mount Horeb finds that these "salutary" or life-saving fears of the powers of nature are eliminated as ways of finding or knowing God: God is not in the earthquake, in the fire or in the wind.

Where is God? In something so small it takes very great attentiveness, listening and presence to find him: in "a tiny whispering sound". This does not inspire fear as do the powers of nature and is so small as to be easily missed or mistaken for something very unlike those things we think of as God: small, insignificant, only noticed with great effort. And yet, because Elijah withstood the fears inspired by the destructive powers of nature did he survive to hear the voice of God and to have direction for his mission as a prophet.

We sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by things that make us fearful and we are sometimes tempted to think that if God is great like the things He has made that we must also appproach Him through fear. In the Gospel Peter is invited by the Lord Himself to approach the divine Presence on the water and he starts out well. It is only when he gives in to fear of the power of the wind and the waves that he also finds himself unable to approach God.

Peter succumbed to the kind of fear which does not help but rather hinders our access to the Lord. Whatever the fears that frustrate a faith which enables a loving trust, a holy fear of God, we must ask His help to eliminate and overcome them so that we can live a joyful and fulfilling life. Only when fear of the things God has made is overcome by the power of loving Faith will we be able like Peter to "walk on water", fully unleashed to love the uncreated God who made the earth, the wind and the fire. We must ask for the grace of conversion.

"The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: 'Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!' God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced: Let us fix our eyes on Christ's blood and understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance." (CCC 1432)

That still, small Voice, so hard sometimes to hear, is Present in the holy Eucharist, calling us with the same Divine Love that Elijah and Peter discovered. The holy Mass is our opportunity to practice a holy listening, to offer the gift of an attentive presence to God, and so be rewarded with the experience of growing closer to Him in the love and trust of holy fear which make our hearts capable of holding God's love.

We can make Peter's prayer our own: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you.” And we listen for His invitation, “Come.” Our desire, "Save me!", is satisfied as we overcome the temptation to painful fear and instead find ourselves close to Him, knowing His love and power as God, the Creator of the magnificent and awesome powers of earth, wind and fire, and we worship Him as did Peter: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”


The Transfiguration of the Lord: "the Ancient One took his throne"

His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. The court was convened and the books were opened.
-- Dn 7:9-10, 13-14

On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection. From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body." But it also recalls that "it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God":

Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?"
-- CCC 556

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday 18A: "hear the voice of God"

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
-- Mt 16:24-28

When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace.
-- CCC 682

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Saint John Vianney: "assemble the community"

From the rock you shall bring forth water for the congregation

1094 It is on this harmony of the two Testaments that the Paschal catechesis of the Lord is built, and then, that of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. This catechesis unveils what lay hidden under the letter of the Old Testament: the mystery of Christ. It is called "typological" because it reveals the newness of Christ on the basis of the "figures" (types) which announce him in the deeds, words, and symbols of the first covenant. By this re-reading in the Spirit of Truth, starting from Christ, the figures are unveiled. Thus the flood and Noah's ark prefigured salvation by Baptism, as did the cloud and the crossing of the Red Sea. Water from the rock was the figure of the spiritual gifts of Christ, and manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, "the true bread from heaven." (CCC 1094)

Photo: Tomb of Saint John Vianney in Ars, France.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wed, 18A: "Have pity on me, Lord"

“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as "Lord". This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, "Lord" expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus. In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: "My Lord and my God!" It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: "It is the Lord!"
-- CCC 448

Monday, August 1, 2011

S Alphonsus Liguori: "whoever obeys and teaches these commandments

... will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
-- Matthew 5, 13-19

Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.
-- CCC 1777