Engaging the Gospel – Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Today’s Gospel is much more than just a description of historical events. Rather, it reveals a divine reality still at work in the world now — indeed, until the end of time.

Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples Whom He has chosen, and entrusted with His own power, endures through the ministry of the Church, governed by the bishops who are themselves successors to the apostles.

The Catechism teaches:

The Lord Jesus endowed His community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved…The Twelve [apostles] and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power…By all His actions, Christ prepares and builds His Church (paragraph 765).

“The Gospel was handed on in two ways” – not only in writing, but

orally, by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received (76, quoting Dei Verbum).

In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church, the apostles left bishops as their successors…The apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time (77, quoting Dei Verbum).

As a result, “the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church” (862).

Since the apostles (and disciples in today’s reading) were chosen together and sent out together, this ministry has ever had a “collegial character.”

Every bishop exercises his ministry from within the episcopal college, in communion with the bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter and head of the college. So also priests exercise their ministry from within the presbyterium of the diocese, under the direction of their bishop (877).

Question for reflection: How do I support those who dedicate their lives to the Lord’s service?

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Engaging the Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

Jesus’ invitation to the apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” underscores the proper value of rest:

God’s action is the model for human action. If God rested and was refreshed on the seventh day [of creation], man too ought to rest and should let others, especially the poor, be refreshed. The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.

— Catechism paragraph 2172.

“Work is for man, not man for work” (2428).

In the early Church, the Jewish sabbath precepts of worshiping God and refraining from work were transferred to Sunday, the Lord’s Day (2175-76, 2184-85).

St John Paul II set out to reclaim this authentic understanding of Sunday rest in Dies Domini:

‘The Lord’s Day’ is ‘the lord of days.’…

I would strongly urge everyone to rediscover Sunday: Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ! Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction.

He is the One who knows the secret of time and the secret of eternity, and he gives us ‘his day’ as an ever new gift of his love. The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings.

Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained.

Question for reflection: How well do I set aside time to rest in the Lord?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 6:7-13

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 6:7-13

Jesus bestows authority upon the Apostles and sends them forth

As today’s Gospel makes clear,

Christ is Himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal. In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in His Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body.

— Catechism paragraph 874.

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to His apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry.

— paragraph 1536.

Ordination configures the priest to Christ as the Head, marks upon him an “indelible spiritual character” (1581-82) and “confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful” (1592).

Through the priest, “it is Christ Himself who is present to His Church as Head of His Body, Shepherd of His flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth” (1548). “Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to the affairs of the Lord, [priests] give themselves entirely to God and to [us]” (1579).

St. John Vianney, patron saint of all priests, summed up the gift of the ministerial priesthood:

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.

— quoted in paragraph 1589.

While those in Holy Orders have especially grave obligations, the laity are also called to proclaim the Gospel, and provide faithful witness to Christ, in every sphere of life:

The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways.

— paragraph 863.

Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth.

— paragraph 900.

It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, for the love of Christ urges us on.

— paragraph 851.

Question for reflection: What priests have been most helpful to my spiritual life?

Engaging the Gospel – Easter Sunday

The Resurrection of the Lord: Gospel – Mark 16:1-7; John 20:1-9; or Luke 24:13-35

The Resurrection is a literal truth, a real historical event, of Christ being raised from the dead.

It cannot be dismissed as merely a nice metaphor for how the disciples were inspired to carry on after Jesus’ death, or a pious myth to recover from the horror of the Crucifixion (Catechism paragraphs 639-44). Such a dismissal doesn’t comport with the facts that the disciples were terrified, in hiding, crushed that their Messianic hope had apparently failed in the most gruesome way under Roman torture.

The transformation of the apostles – from this demoralized and cowardly crew, into fearless missionaries and ultimately martyrs – is inexplicable in purely human terms.

As Benedict XVI observes, their preaching “would be unthinkable unless the witnesses had experienced a real encounter” with the risen Christ (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2, p. 275).

Nor was the Lord just brought back to our ordinary human life, in the way that He had raised others during His ministry.

“Jesus’ Resurrection was about breaking out into an entirely new form of life” that lies beyond our earthly existence (ibid., p. 244). In truth, His Resurrection marks a “leap” into a new order of being, “opening up a dimension that affects us all…a new space of being in union with God” (p. 274).

“It is a historical event that nevertheless bursts open the dimensions of history and transcends it” (p. 273).

Question for reflection: How does the radical reality of the Resurrection transform my life?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 1:14-20

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 1:14-20

Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and His calling of the apostles, are profoundly interrelated:

The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the ‘little flock’ of those whom Jesus came to gather around Him, the flock whose shepherd He is. They form Jesus’ true family.

–Catechism paragraph 764.

Every human being is called into this gathering (542).

First, “there is the choice of the Twelve, with Peter as their head.” Because the number of apostles represents the twelve tribes of Israel, Jesus is signifying that His gathering, the Church, is the new Israel (765).

Indeed, around the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were praying for just such a renewed gathering by God.

Benedict XVI explains that they longed for a qahal, the Old Testament word for a divinely-called assembly of the people: “a qahal coming from God himself, a new gathering and foundation of the people, increasingly became the center of Jewish hope.”

Qahal was rendered into Greek as ekklesia – the New Testament word for “Church.” By using this technical term to describe herself, the Church declares that she is the hoped-for qahal.

“This petition is granted in us…the chosen final gathering of God’s people” through Christ (Called to Communion, p. 31).

Question for reflection: How has listening to God’s call changed me?

Engaging the Gospel – John 1:35-42

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – John 1:35-42

Andrew learns of Jesus from John the Baptist, meets Him, then brings his brother Simon to the Lord

Sunday’s Gospel illustrates the importance of personal relationships in the transmission of faith.

Benedict XVI explored this dimension in his catechesis on St Andrew:

Andrew had previously been a disciple of John the Baptist, and this shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared in Israel’s hope, who wanted to know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.

After “Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus,” he shared his life-changing discovery with his brother Simon (Peter). Andrew, according to this Gospel, “was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus.” Thus the “liturgy of the Byzantine Church honors him with the nickname: ‘Protokletos,’ which means precisely, ‘the first called.’”

The Apostle Andrew, therefore, teaches us to follow Jesus with promptness, to speak enthusiastically about Him to those we meet, and especially, to cultivate a relationship of true familiarity with Him, acutely aware that in Him alone can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death.

General Audience of June 14, 2006.

This reminds us that “faith is not an isolated act,” as the Catechism teaches:

You have not given yourself faith, as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers.

— paragraph 166.

Question for reflection: In what ways do I try to bring others to Jesus?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 18:15-20

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 18:15-20

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us about the personal and communal dimensions of reconciliation.

The first has been described as fraternal correction – when we approach someone privately, in a spirit of charity, not with animus or resentment, in order to promote healing and for the spiritual good of the person who committed the fault.

“Fraternal correction is a work of mercy,” Benedict XVI reminds us:

None of us sees himself or his shortcomings clearly. It is therefore an act of love to complement one another, to help one another see each other better, and correct each other…to know the shortcomings that we ourselves do not want to see…

Of course, this great work of mercy, helping one another so that each of us can truly rediscover his own integrity and functionality as an instrument of God, demands great humility and love.

Only if it comes from a humble heart that does not rank itself above others, that does not consider itself better than others but only a humble instrument to offer reciprocal help; only if we feel this true and deep humility, if we feel that these words come from common love…can we help one another in this regard with a great act of love.

October 3, 2005

At the same time, sin is not just a private matter, because it is “an offense against God” that also “damages communion with the Church” (Catechism paragraph 1440).

Hence Jesus has provided a way for us to be reconciled in a deeper sense. By giving His apostles the power to forgive sins, He established the sacrament of Reconciliation through the Church (1444-45). This healing sacrament reconciles us first and foremost with God (1468), restores fraternal communion, and has a “revitalizing effect on the life of the Church” (1469).

Question for reflection: When have I benefited from charitable correction?