Engaging the Gospel – Luke 19:1-10

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 19:1-10

Today’s Gospel, focusing on the dramatic repentance of Zacchaeus, reveals that an encounter with Jesus is a life-changing experience.

Benedict XVI has often emphasized this very theme of encountering Jesus:

We are only Christians if we encounter Christ…We too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ’s Heart and feel Him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One, do we truly become Christians.

September 3, 2008.

St John Paul II viewed Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus as a “biblical icon” that illustrates the sacrament of Reconciliation, “God’s arrival at a person’s home.” Just as Jesus’ look deeply affects Zacchaeus, “that same gaze looks upon each” one of us:

Mercy has already come to him as a gratuitous and overflowing gift…Beneath the loving gaze of Christ, the heart of Zacchaeus warms to love of neighbor…

The salvation which truly heals and restores, involves a genuine conversion to the demands of God’s love. If Zacchaeus had welcomed the Lord into his home without coming to an attitude of openness to love and reparation for the harm done, without a firm commitment to living a new life, he would not have received in the depths of his heart the forgiveness which the Lord had offered him with such concern.

Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2002.

Question for reflection: In what ways do I relate to Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

The usual reaction to the parable of the Good Samaritan is an examination of conscience: how well do we step forward to help our neighbor?

But instead of always comparing ourselves to the Good Samaritan, it can be beneficial to identify with the robbers’ victim. From a spiritual perspective, we are the wounded; unable to save ourselves, we need someone to rescue us from sin and eternal death.

The Church Fathers interpreted the parable through this lens, seeing the wounded man as symbolic of fallen humanity and the Good Samaritan as a symbol of Jesus.

Benedict XVI summarizes this theologically rich explanation in his first volume of Jesus of Nazareth (pp. 200-201):

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho thus turns out to be an image of human history; the half-dead man lying by the side of it is an image of humanity. Priest and Levite pass by; from earthly history alone, from its cultures and [human] religions alone, no healing comes.

If the assault victim is the image of Everyman, the Samaritan can only be the image of Jesus Christ. God Himself, Who for us is foreign and distant, has set out to take care of His wounded creature. God, though so remote from us, has made Himself our neighbor in Jesus Christ.

He pours oil and wine into our wounds, a gesture seen as an image of the healing gift of the sacraments, and He brings us to the inn, the Church, in which He arranges our care and also pays a deposit for the cost of that care…

Now we realize that we always need God, Who makes Himself our neighbor so that we can become neighbors.

The Good Samaritan parable thus has special resonance during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Having received God’s mercy, we then act mercifully toward our neighbors:

Everyone must first be healed and filled with God’s gifts. But then everyone is also called to become a Samaritan – to follow Christ and become like Him.

Question for reflection: How am I allowing the Lord to heal my woundedness?

 

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?

Engaging the Gospel – Corpus Christi

Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Year C): Gospel – Luke 9:11b-17

“The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through His disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of His Eucharist,” the Catechism teaches (paragraph 1335).

Hence one of the names of this Most Blessed Sacrament is “the Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table He blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper” (1329), “giving His disciples His Body and His Blood” (1339).

In the Eucharist, “the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ — and therefore, the whole Christ — is truly, really, and substantially contained” (1374).

To strengthen our faith in this extraordinary gift, St John Paul II expressed “with deep emotion” his own “testimony of faith” in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (59-60):

Here is the Church’s treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns. A great and transcendent mystery, indeed….

In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have His redemptive sacrifice, we have His resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?

Question for reflection: How does receiving the Eucharist satisfy my deepest need?

Engaging the Gospel – Pentecost

Gospel – John 7:37-39 (Vigil), (Year C) John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16, 23b-26

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit fulfills Old Testament prophecy, and continues in the life of the Church, as the Catechism explains:

In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for His saving mission…[Jesus’] whole life and His whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit Whom the Father gives Him “without measure.”

This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people…a promise which [Christ] fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.

–Catechism paragraphs 1286-87

From that time on, the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism…The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

–Paul VI, quoted in Catechism 1288

Through the anointing of the sacrament of Confirmation, we receive the indelible “mark, the seal of the Holy Spirit. A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object” (1295).

“This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in His service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial” (1296).

The “effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (1303).

Question for reflection: How have I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in my life?

 

Engaging the Gospel – Ascension of the Lord

Ascension of the Lord (Year C): Gospel – Luke 24:46-53

“Jesus’ final apparition [to the disciples] ends with the irreversible entry of His humanity into divine glory,” His Ascension into heaven, where He is “exalted at the Father’s right hand” (Catechism paragraphs 659-660).

“Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom” (664) and reveals that “Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history” (668).

To extend the reign of His kingdom on earth, He instructs His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations, a command handed down the ages, even to our own day.

In one respect, “the Church is catholic [literally, ‘universal’] because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race” (831).

As the Vatican II document Lumen gentium states,

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: He made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all His children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one (quoted in 831).

Question for reflection: In what ways do I express solidarity with fellow Christians around the world?

Engaging the Gospel – Sixth Sunday of Easter

6th Sunday of Easter: Gospel – John 14:23-29

Jesus tells the disciples that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to them. The Catechism explains:

Before His Passover, Jesus announced the sending of ‘another Paraclete’ (Advocate), the Holy Spirit. At work since creation, having previously spoken through the prophets, the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them into all the truth.

–paragraph 243.

This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us (683).

The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls His word to them, and opens their minds to the understanding of His death and resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist…(737).

The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer (2672).

The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ – the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates His work of salvation through the liturgy of His Church, until He comes (1076).

Question for reflection: When have I been comforted by a timely reminder of Jesus’ words?