Week 27, Sunday. Words of THE WORD.

“Within Your will, O Lord, all things are established,
and there is none that can resist Your will.
For You have made all things, the heaven and the earth,
and all that is held within the circle of heaven;
You are the Lord of all (Ester 4:17).”

Almighty ever-living God,
Who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires
of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us to pardon
what conscience dreads and to give
what prayer does not dare to ask.
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.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (click for full Psalm)
May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives. (Psalm 128:5).

SCRIPTURE EXCERPT (click for all readings)
“Brothers and sisters: He "for a little while" was made "lower than the angels, " that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers.”” (Letter to the Hebrews 2:9-11.

Much is happening this Sunday. Parishes throughout the United States are observing “Respect Life Sunday,” a time of intense prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help all people, regardless of creed or philosophy, to reverence life from the moment of conception to natural death. “Respect Life” also demands not only protection and reverence at the beginning and end of life, but every moment between those two natural poles. In a culture that has appropriately harnessed energies to protect animals and the environment, it should be a ‘no-brainer’ to afford minimally the same respect and reverence towards human life. Prayer, accompanied by the necessary witness, will – in the Lord’s good time – effect a change of heart among all peoples. Thus today is also tinged with more than a dash of hope; it is a day of profound hope that just as any of the impossible situations of salvation history became a reality, so too society will ‘wake up’ to re-discover the preciousness of life as God the Father’s gift. Prayer and witness are effective even when we question the value of continuing to proclaim the Gospel of Life.

Today also marks the beginning of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishop gathering in Rome from 7 to 28 October to discuss “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” Many words have been spoken and written concerning The New Evangelization. A good number have ‘attempted’ a summary and some have even been bold to attempt a definition of a reality that, until the Synod’s work is complete (normally involving an Apostolic Exhortation by the Holy Father), is not possible. There are insights that certainly can assist pastoral ministry presently but these must be grounded minimally in the Church’s pre-Synodal documents: the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum Laboris. Both documents demand close reading and a docile mind made pliable by the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit. What has emerged with clarity is that the essence of The New Evangelization places a priority on the encounter with the Person Jesus in which The Person Jesus is proclaimed, lived and witnessed with a new ardor, new expression and new method to elicit the response of ongoing change of heart, mind and body that daily embraces the Cross of Jesus Christ. While it is an address to seminarians, Fr Robert Barron’s first Rector’s Address summarizes The New Evangelization quite well. Perhaps he can be called upon to address the Synod (not that I want to give him more work than he already has as seminary Rector)! No matter what has transpired prior to the start of the Synod, now is the time for prayer and fasting. Call down the Holy Spirit upon the Synod, its participants and its work. Complement prayer with a specific grace-inspired act of fasting so that all may be docile to the breath and the direction of the Holy Spirit.

This Thursday (11 October 2012) marks both the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and the opening of the “Year of Faith.” Many voice the praises of the Council; many voice concerns of the Church’s direction following the Council. As seminarians who endure my courses in Church History, unrest follows many of the Councils of the Church unless a war happens to divert attention. True, many errors were committed ‘in the spirit of the Council.’ But the reality of the Holy Father’s aggiornamento, admittedly a difficult word to translate into English, is nonetheless consistent with the Church’s duty to be sure that the Gospel speaks and proclaims clearly Jesus’ missionary mandate to bring Him to all peoples that all people may encounter Him and respond with lives of daily conversion and embrace of His Cross. Such cannot happen without the Gift of Faith and what a marvelous blessing that the same Thursday ushers in a time of reflecting and celebrating this wondrous Gift from God the Father. Far from being a crutch that is engaged in the face of incomprehensible and inexpressible ‘mystery,’ Faith is a connection with and trusting of a Person, the Person Jesus. Faith is not abstract. Faith is neither intellectual nor academic. Faith is relational involving the acknowledgement and profession that as Person, Jesus is God Who desires an encounter with each person that transforms her or his life into a mirror of His.

For this reason, the Sunday reflections posted here will focus on the Letter to the Hebrews, whose proclamation is another unique aspect of this Sunday. Beginning today and continuing until the thirty-third Sunday of this Liturgical year, the Second Reading each Sunday will be from this New Testament Letter that focuses on the Person, Jesus as High Priest Who has entered the Heavenly Sanctuary for our salvation. Similar to the Gospels, Hebrews challenges us with fundamental questions: Do I believe that Jesus is God? Do I believe that Jesus walked this earth at a particular time and in a particular place? Do I believe that, since I ‘call’ myself Christian, Jesus has a claim on my life? As one who spends the majority of the week among undergraduates, I am both amazed and saddened that students will acknowledge the historical reality of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and even Moses. But for reasons that are legion and Legion, the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth and the confession that He is God is blown away with a casualness not permitted in any academic assignment.

May this first Sunday of October “Open the Door” to a depth of Faith-life that draws you, your loved ones and your friends into a deeper relationship with Jesus the Christ!

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