Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

“... when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.” (2 Samuel 7:12.)

Saint Basil the Great offers the following insight on this verse from today's First Reading:

“However, the tribe of Judah did not fail until he came for whom it was reserved, who did not himself sit upon a material throne, for the kingdom of Judea had now been transferred to Herod, the son of Antipater, the Ascalonite, and to his sons, who divided Judea into four provinces when Pilate was governor and Tiberius held the power over the whole Roman province. But his indestructible kingdom he calls the throne of David on which the Lord sat. He himself is “the expectation of nations,” not of the least part of the world. “For there will be the root of Jesse,” it is said, “and he who rises up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles will hope.” “For I have placed you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” “And I shall establish,” it is said, “his seed forever, and his throne as the days of the heavens.” (Letter 236)



Collect
Almighty ever-living God,
direct our actions according to your good pleasure,
that in the name of your beloved Son
we may abound in good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 


Where sin abounded grace has overflowed



Abbot and Doctor of the Church

An excerpt from his Sermon 61 On the Song of Songs

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there the more he can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock. I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: he was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.

Surely the man who said: My sin is too great to merit pardon, was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in his merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, what can I appropriate that I lack from the heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy? They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.

He was thinking thoughts of peace, and I did not know it, for who knows the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? But the piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The sword pierced his soul and came close to his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses.

Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously that in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.

My merit comes from his mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as he does not lack pity. And if the Lord’s mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord’s mercies are from all ages for ever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made you my righteousness.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 





Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church



“Then David came dancing before the LORD with abandon, girt with a linen ephod.” (2 Samuel 6:14.)

Saint Maximus of Turin offers the following insight on these verses from today’s First Reading proclamation:

“For our vows are celebrated when the church is united to Christ, as John says: “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom.” Because of this marriage, therefore, it behooves us to dance, for David, at once king and prophet, is also said to have danced before the ark of the covenant with much singing. In high rejoicing he broke into dancing, for in the Spirit he foresaw Mary, born of his own line, brought into Christ’s chamber, and so he says, “And he, like a bridegroom, will come forth from his chamber.” Thus he sang more than the other prophetic authors because, gladder than the rest of them, by these joys he united those coming after him in marriage. And, by inviting us to his own vows in a more charming way than usual, having danced with such joy in front of the ark before his marriage, he taught us what we ought to do at those other vows. The prophet David danced, then. But what would we say that the ark was if not holy Mary, since the ark carried within it the tables of the covenant, while Mary bore the master of the same covenant? The one bore the law within itself and the other the gospel, but the ark gleamed within and without with the radiance of gold, while holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity; the one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly.” (Sermon 42)



Collect
O God,
Who made Saint Thomas Aquinas
outstanding in his zeal for holiness
and his study of sacred doctrine,
grant us, we pray,
that we may understand what he taught
and imitate what he accomplished.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen





The cross exemplifies every virtue



Priest and Doctor of the Church

An excerpt from a Conference

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently,because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 







Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time



“But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house...” (Mark 3:27.)

In commenting on this verse from today’s Gospel, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons writes:

“The adversary enticed humanity to transgress our maker’s law, and thereby got us into his clutches. Yet his power consisted only in tempting the human will toward trespass and apostasy. With these chains he bound up the human will. This is why in the economy of salvation it was necessary that he be bound with the same chains by which he had bound humanity. It would be through a man that humanity would be set free to return to the Lord, leaving the adversary in those bonds by which he himself had been fettered, that is, sin. For when Satan is bound, man is set free; since “none can enter a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, unless he first bind the strong man himself.” It is in this way that he became exposed as the opposer of the Word who made all things, and subdued by his command. The new man showed him to be a fugitive from the law, and an apostate from God. He then was securely bound as a fugitive, and his goods hauled away. These goods are those who had been in bondage, whom he had unjustly used for his own purposes. So it was a just means by which he was led captive, who had led humanity into captivity unjustly. In this way humanity was rescued from the clutches of its possessor by the tender mercy of God the Father, who had compassion on his own handiwork, and gave to it salvation, restoring it by means of the Word, Christ, in order that humanity might learn from this actual event that they receive incorruptibility not of themselves, but by the free gift of God.” (Against Heresies, 5.)


Collect
Almighty ever-living God,
direct our actions
according to Your good pleasure,
that in the name of Your Beloved Son
we may abound in good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 




The sanctity of marriage and the family



Second Vatican Council
An excerpt from Gaudium et Spes, 48.

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Husband and wife, by the covenant of marriage, are no longer two, but one flesh. By their intimate union of persons and of actions they give mutual help and service to each other, experiencing the meaning of their unity, and gain an ever deeper understanding of it day by day.

This intimate union in the mutual self-giving of two persons, as well as the good of the children, demands full fidelity from both, and an indissoluble unity between them.

Christ the Lord has abundantly blessed this richly complex love, which springs from the divine source of love and is founded on the model of his union with the Church.

In earlier times God met his people in a covenant of love and fidelity. So now the Savior of mankind, the Bridegroom of the Church, meets Christian husbands and wives in the sacrament of matrimony. Further, he remains with them in order that, as he loved the Church and gave himself up for her, so husband and wife may, in mutual self-giving, love each other with perpetual fidelity.

True married love is caught up into God’s love; it is guided and enriched by the redeeming power of Christ and the saving action of the Church, in order that the partners may be effectively led to God and receive help and strength in the sublime responsibility of parenthood.

Christian partners are therefore strengthened, and as it were consecrated, by a special sacrament for the duties and the dignity of their state. By the power of this sacrament they fulfill their obligations to each other and to their family and are filled with the spirit of Christ. This spirit pervades their whole lives with faith, hope and love. Thus they promote their own perfection and each other’s sanctification, and so contribute together to the greater glory of God.

Hence, with parents leading the way by example and family prayer, their children—indeed, all within the family circle—will find it easier to make progress in natural virtues, in salvation and in holiness. Husband and wife, raised to the dignity and the responsibility of parenthood, will be zealous in fulfilling their task as educators, especially in the sphere of religious education, a task that is primarily their own.

Children, as active members of the family, contribute in their own way to the holiness of parents. With the love of grateful hearts, with loving respect and trust, they will return the generosity of their parents and will stand by them as true sons and daughters when they meet with hardship and the loneliness of old age.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 




“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”



εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven
(ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, hē basileia tou ouranon)
is at hand.”


θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

What is the “Kingdom of Heaven (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, hē basileia tou ouranon)?” Where is the “Kingdom of Heaven?” Is the “Kingdom of Heaven” just another word or synonym in the Gospels for Heaven? “The Kingdom of Heaven” sparks many questions and rightly so. When searching the Gospels for “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven (which appears more often in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew),” one is amazed by the numerous references. Throughout the centuries, believers have pondered the meaning and implications of “the Kingdom of God” and scholars certainly have grappled with the phrase and filled library shelves with volumes of thought-provoking commentaries.


What can and must we do with the reality of “the Kingdom” in our day? In 1975, Pope Saint Paul VI penned the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelizing in our Day). Early in the Exhortation, the saintly Bishop of Rome states: “As an evangelizer, Christ first of all proclaims a kingdom, the kingdom of God; and this is so important that, by comparison, everything else becomes “the rest,” which is “given in addition.” Only the kingdom therefore is absolute and it makes everything else relative. The Lord will delight in describing in many ways the happiness of belonging to this kingdom (a paradoxical happiness which is made up of things that the world rejects), the demands of the kingdom and its Magna Carta, the heralds of the kingdom, its mysteries, its children, the vigilance and fidelity demanded of whoever awaits its definitive coming (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8).” Clearly, Pope Paul VI sees “the Kingdom of God” has the central experience of Jesus’ Public Ministry, so central that everything in His ministry is grounded in “the Kingdom.” Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 541 through 556) examines the manifold depth of “the Kingdom” in Jesus’ Public Ministry. Based on these texts as well as other Catechetical Documents, the Roman Missal and the Sacred Scriptures, what follows is a working description (note: not a definition) of “the Kingdom of God.”

1. The “Kingdom of God” is God our Father intervening definitively in the created order through the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus. The Kingdom is not necessarily or strictly a specific place, although ‘place’ will be a dimension of the Kingdom as a way of living. The Kingdom is a way of living, an ongoing activity initiated by God the Father in loving concern for human beings created in His image and likeness because we have become addicted to sin in such a way that we cannot break free from its grip by our own power. We have come to enjoy sin too much. Sin’s tentacles have woven deeply into our lives that often we cannot see or think clearly. We may from time-to-time have great desires to rid ourselves of sin, desires that are marvelous but desires that do not contain within themselves the power to effect what is desired. More often than not, however, sin has dulled our senses to Divine Love. Sin has numbed us into complacency and entitlement to the point that we even approach the things of God and Church from a selfish point of view with no regard to the life of faith as engagement with the Divine Persons who call me as an individual and as a community to ongoing conversion manifesting charity and service to the Body of Christ. So powerless over sin, so addicted to the false self we have become that an intervention is needed: the “Kingdom of God.”

2. This intervention is a work of power, a power that transforms and surpasses the power of Creation. God the Father’s work is quintessentially a work of restoration, not annihilation. Ask anyone in construction and he or she will tell you that it is often easier to raze a building and start over than to renovate or restore. Renovating an existing structure that does not have a level, plumb or square line in it makes restoration tedious and time consuming, not to mention the ‘surprises’ lurking behind old plaster and lathe. Yet ask any restorer when the project is complete and most likely she or he will tell you that in spite of its challenges and frustrations, it was and continues to be a labor of love. Such is the Kingdom. Neither Creation nor humanity is destroyed. The Creator does not raze the created order and begin anew. Even though humanity makes continuous choices reinforcing the addiction to sin, the Father – with eyes of love – gazes upon and into each human person in such a way that each of us are declared “precious.” So precious are we in the sight of God the Father, that none of us is disposable, expendable or useless. Each of us has a particular vocation in the Father’s plan of salvation and our very being is so precious to the Father that the loving, transforming power of His Kingdom calls us from the addiction to our false selves to our true selves as icons of the Father’s love.

3. This transforming power becomes a way of living grounded in the Person Jesus and thus not a specific ‘place’ that one can absolutely pinpoint. You cannot use Google Maps or a GPS device to find the Kingdom. The Kingdom is God the Father’s way of living. It is a way of living that is His Son, Jesus. Jesus lives each moment of His life attentive to His Father’s word and will. Spending nights in communion with His Father, Jesus teaches with His life that Kingdom living is living joined, connected, related – whatever words you wish to use – to God the Father. As a way of living, the Kingdom is a radical embrace of the First Commandment: no one nor no thing nor anything we deem important comes before the Father or interferes with our relationship with Him. Kingdom living is life that provides the essentials to a sister or brother in need (Matthew 25:31-45) and celebrates, praises and thanks the Father for all that He is doing in life (see “Mary’s Canticle,” Luke 1:46-56). It is in this sense that one can speak of the Kingdom as ‘a place.’ Wherever one is when living as the Father commands, there is the Kingdom.

4. The Kingdom, as a way of living, has been prepared by the prophets of Old. Many of the prophets called Israel to authentic worship, a message that is still most valid despite present, misguided and weak arguments that attempt – erroneously – to create an artificial division between religion and spirituality. For the prophets, the spiritual relationship formed by the covenant necessarily bound one (religion) freely to observe and practice a continuous, ongoing change-of-heart. The prophets knew that the ‘energy’ required to live justly as a covenant person did not come from within a person by himself or herself. Such living depended upon the mercy of God celebrated and experienced in authentic worship. Such worship then propelled one to be an instrument of charitable service in the world acting not on one’s own initiative and power but in the name of the One, Living God.

5. The Kingdom, as a way of living, is now definitely revealed and embodied in Jesus. Here, all ambiguity concerning the Kingdom is erased. The Kingdom is essentially a Person, the Person Jesus: “only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 426).” The Incarnation makes the Kingdom a reality in the created order to effect the Father’s loving transformation of everything, most especially the human heart. Responding and living the love revealed to us in Christ Jesus is the essential work and life of the “Kingdom of God.”

Is there more to be said about the Kingdom? Certainly – but more importantly the Kingdom is not intended for study but for living — and a specific way of living that is grounded in a Person, the Person Jesus. While some of these reflections may give us some insight, such insight is always directed to worshipping God the Father and serving one another in the name of Jesus Christ with the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit.






Third Sunday in Ordinary Time



“From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“John’s preaching of repentance was not precisely the same as the preaching of Jesus, yet the Savior preaches in ways commensurable with John, for there is one God who sent them both. John first says “repent” in order to make ready a “people prepared” for God. Jesus, when he has received a people who have been made ready and who have already repented, does not merely say to them, “Repent.” For he does not preach in competition with the law and the prophets. When John had fulfilled the old covenant, Jesus “began to preach” the new, being himself the beginning of it. For this reason the words “he began” are not written of John, for he was an end. Moreover, the one preaches in the wilderness, the other in the midst of the people.” (Fragment 74)




Collect
Almighty ever-living God,
direct our actions
according to your good pleasure,
that in the name of your beloved Son
we may abound in good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen









Christ is present to his Church



Second Vatican Council

An excerpt from Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7-8.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Christ is always present to his Church, especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same Christ who formerly offered himself on the cross that now offers by the ministry of priests) and most of all under the eucharistic species. He is present in the sacraments by his power, in such a way that when someone baptizes, Christ himself baptizes. He is present in his word, for it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he himself promised: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.

Indeed, in this great work which gives perfect glory to God and brings holiness to men, Christ is always joining in partnership with himself his beloved Bride, the Church, which calls upon its Lord and through him gives worship to the eternal Father.

It is therefore right to see the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, in which through signs addressed to the senses man’s sanctification is signified and, in a way proper to each of these signs, made effective, and in which public worship is celebrated in its fullness by the mystical body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the head and by his members.

Accordingly, every liturgical celebration, as an activity of Christ the priest and of his body, which is the Church, is a sacred action of a pre-eminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness.

In the liturgy on earth we are given a foretaste and share in the liturgy of heaven, celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, as minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With the whole company of heaven we sing a hymn of praise to the Lord; as we reverence the memory of the saints, we hope to have some part with them, and to share in their fellowship; we wait for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, who is our life, appears, and we appear with him in glory.

By an apostolic tradition taking its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, the day that is rightly called the Lord’s day. On Sunday the Christian faithful ought to gather together, so that by listening to the word of God and sharing in the Eucharist they may recall the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God who has given them a new birth with a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord’s day is therefore the first and greatest festival, one to be set before the loving devotion of the faithful and impressed upon it, so that it may be also a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations must not take precedence over it, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, since it is the foundation and the kernel of the whole liturgical year.



A reflection on the Kingdom of God for this Sunday.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 





Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle



“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.” (Acts 22:3.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“He does not simply say “the law” but “the law of our fathers.” This shows what type of person he had been, someone not ignorant of the law. Now this seems to be said for the benefit of his audience, but in fact, it is an accusation. For what if, with all his knowledge, he had been negligent? What if you have a thorough knowledge of the law but do not fulfill it? You do not love it, then, do you? [Paul] then states plainly that he was a zealot. So after he has delivered a great encomium about himself, he then extends this praise by adding, “just as all of you are today,” and thus points out that what they are doing is not just for a human purpose but for their zeal for God. By bestowing this favor on them he also captures their understanding from the beginning.” (Catena on the Acts of the Apostles, 22.)



Collect
O God,
Who taught the whole world
through the preaching
of the blessed Apostle Paul,
draw us, we pray, nearer to You
through the example of him
whose conversion we celebrate today,
and so make us witnesses
to Your truth in the world.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen