Engaging the Gospel – Luke 16:1-13

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 16:1-13

Parable of the dishonest steward

Recent Gospel readings have featured recurring themes from St. Luke – the radical demands of discipleship as well as the superabundance of God’s mercy – and today’s reading highlights another recurring theme, the right use of our material goods.

The Gospel turns on the distinction between worldly riches, which are fleeting, and the true wealth of eternal life. Jesus calls worldly riches “dishonest wealth,” reminding us that it cannot ultimately satisfy.

As human beings, we are “created by God and for God,” so “only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (Catechism paragraph 27).

If we seek that happiness in money and possessions, we will be disillusioned. Worse still, if our lives are consumed by the pursuit of material things, we risk losing our only real treasure, our relationship with God – a choice summed up starkly in Jesus’ warning that we “cannot serve both God and mammon.”

To be open to receiving God’s gift of everlasting spiritual wealth, we must put our worldly goods to use in a spirit of generosity:

All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy and of their neighbors in want. A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods (952).

The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities (2043).

Question for reflection: How have I learned that material things don’t really satisfy?

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God Thirsts for Us

Having completed the survey of the first three parts of the Catechism — the Profession of Faith (summarized here on the pages Faith Seeking Understanding and Truths of the Faith), the Celebration of the Christian Mystery (Liturgy and Sacraments), and Life in Christ — we now enter Part Four on Christian Prayer.

While we most often think of prayer as our addressing God, we can overlook the fact that it is God Who seeks us first. Even when we’re asking God for things, our prayer is actually a response to His stirring deep within us.

This amazing truth is reflected in the Gospel story of Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, where He asks her for water (John 4:5-26).

As the Catechism explains,

Jesus thirsts; His asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for Him.

— paragraph 2560.

Prayer is thus an intimate communion with God that takes place in our hearts, an expression of our covenant relationship with Him. We go within to meet the God Who ardently awaits us, our cries, our longings, our thanks and praise.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2558-67.

Engaging the Gospel – Easter Sunday

Easter: The Resurrection of the Lord

Gospel – Matthew 28:1-10 (Vigil), John 20:1-9 

Christ says to each one of us personally, “I arose and now I am still with you.”

So Pope Benedict XVI reflected in his Easter Vigil homily of 2007.

But, the Holy Father went on to ask, “what exactly did Christ bring that was new?”

The fulfillment of our deepest longing for God:

[Our] own powers are insufficient to lift [us] up to God. We lack the wings needed to carry us to those heights.

And yet, nothing else can satisfy man eternally, except being with God. An eternity without this union with God would be a punishment. Man cannot attain those heights on his own, yet he yearns for them…

Only the Risen Christ can bring us to complete union with God, to the place where our own powers are unable to bring us. Truly Christ puts the lost sheep upon His shoulders and carries it home. 

Clinging to his Body we have life, and in communion with his Body we reach the very heart of God. Only thus is death conquered, we are set free and our life is hope.

This is the joy of the Easter Vigil: we are free.

Homily of April 7, 2007.

While we celebrate in an especially intense way at Easter, each and every Mass said anytime, anywhere, draws us into this same mystery and makes present Christ’s saving action.

Blessed John Paul II expressed this truth in On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church:

“The Eucharistic Sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of the Savior’s passion and death, but also the mystery of the resurrection which crowned His sacrifice” (14).

Because the Lord is truly, really, substantially present in Holy Communion, we receive His “Body in its glorious state after the resurrection. With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the ‘secret’ of the resurrection” (18).

Question for reflection: How do I respond to the Lord’s total gift of Himself, in His Passion, Death and Resurrection, for me?

Engaging the Gospel – Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent: Gospel – John 4:5-42

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well reveals both God’s thirst for us and our thirst for God, as Pope Benedict XVI observed:

If there is a physical thirst for water that is indispensable for life on this earth, there is also a spiritual thirst in man that God alone can satisfy.

…Jesus triggers in the woman to whom He is talking an inner process that kindles within her the desire for something more profound. St Augustine comments: ‘Although Jesus asked for a drink, His real thirst was for this woman’s faith.’

Homily of February 24, 2008

Benedict expounded further in his Angelus on the same day:

The theme of thirst runs throughout John’s Gospel: from the meeting with the Samaritan woman to the great prophecy during the feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:37-38), even to the Cross, when Jesus, before He dies, said to fulfill the Scriptures: ‘I thirst’ (Jn 19:28).

Christ’s thirst is an entranceway to the mystery of God, Who became thirsty to satisfy our thirst, just as He became poor to make us rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

Yes, God thirsts for our faith and our love. As a good and merciful father, He wants our total, possible good, and this good is He Himself.

The Samaritan woman, on the other hand, represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who does not find what he seeks. She had ‘five husbands’ and now she lives with another man; her going to and from the well to draw water expresses a repetitive and resigned life. However, everything changes for her that day, thanks to the conversation with the Lord Jesus…

We too can meet Jesus at the “well” of our prayer, and Benedict encourages us to put ourselves in the place of the Samaritan woman:

It is impossible to give a brief explanation of the wealth of this Gospel passage. One must read and meditate on it personally, identifying oneself with that woman who, one day like so many other days, went to draw water from the well…

Question for reflection: For what do I truly thirst?

Our Innate Desire for God

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 27-49:

  • The desire for God is written in the human heart, for we are created by God and for God, who never ceases to draw us to Himself.
  • The human person is thus, at the core, a religious being.
  • This truth has been expressed throughout human history, in a variety of forms across every age and culture around the world.
  • People in ancient times developed an awareness of God by perceiving the orderly beauty of the natural world, and pondering the wonders of the universe.
  • Our interior life also prompts us to seek our Creator – through our ability to be moved by beauty, our innate sense of justice, our longing for the infinite, our thoughts that soar beyond ourselves.
  • Our intellect, our ability to reason, has always played a vital role in discerning these natural motives for belief.
  • Because the truth of God’s existence is accessible to human reason, we can dialogue with scientists, philosophers, people of other faiths, and non-believers.
  • With our innate capacity for God, we are made for more than just gathering clues from nature: humankind is designed to receive divine revelation, God’s own self-communication, and to enter into personal relationship with Him.
  • God willed to reveal Himself in order to build upon, and complete, what we can discern of Him from our natural reason.

Live Your Faith

Every day we can glimpse the divine, or detect a whisper of the infinite. Nor does this happen only during prayer time. Our souls can be touched in a myriad of ways, whether through a majestic sunset, the face of a baby, or beautiful music. Let us learn to pay attention to these gentle reminders that we have a profound capacity for spiritual experiences.