Engaging the Gospel – Luke 20:27-38

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 20:27-38

For centuries in the life of the Church, the month of November has been a time when we pray more intensely on behalf of the dead.

Following so closely from All Saints’ Day on November 1, and All Souls (the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed) on November 2, it is fitting that the Church offers us this Gospel passage today, in which Jesus affirms the resurrection of the dead.

The idea of the resurrection was not explicit in the early Jewish faith, which is why the Sadducees refused to believe in it: “God revealed the resurrection of the dead to His people progressively” (Catechism paragraph 992).

Christ was “raised with His own Body…but He did not return to an earthly life.” So will we “rise again with [our] own bodies which [we] now bear, but Christ will change our lowly body to be like His glorious Body” (999).

This has important implications for how we view the body – not as a disposable object, but as fundamental to the human person, in profound unity with the soul (362-65).

Death, brought into the world by sin, separates body and soul, but God will restore the unity of body and soul in the resurrection (997):

In expectation of that day, the believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering (1004).

Question for reflection: How does my belief in the coming resurrection affect the way I live now?

Advertisements

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?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 13:22-30

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 13:22-30

Recent Gospels have emphasized that we should keep our eyes trained on the ultimate prize of eternal life.

After warning us about the perils of greed, and lack of vigilance, Jesus identifies another error to be avoided: presumption — when we take eternal life for granted, imagining that we can get by without making any effort to cooperate with God’s grace.

We are in danger of falling into presumption in two ways:

Either man presumes upon his own capacities (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or His mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit.

— Catechism paragraph 2092.

On the other hand, the flip side of presumption is the sin of despair, when a person

ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to His justice – for the Lord is faithful to His promises – and to His mercy (2091).

Instead of the pitfalls of presumption or despair, we are called to an authentic hope and trust in God’s merciful love, while striving to live in accordance with the Gospel, and repenting when we fall short. The virtue of hope is entirely different from the sin of presumption.

“Hope is the confident expectation of divine blessing” — that we enjoy “the beatific vision of God” in eternity – but hope also involves the healthy “fear of offending God’s love” and of harming our relationship with Him through sin (2090).

Question for reflection: How do I guard against complacency in my spiritual life?

Engaging the Gospel – Fourth Sunday of Easter

4th Sunday of Easter (Year C): Gospel – John 10:27-30

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” featuring a Gospel passage on this ancient theme.

Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) considered what this means for us:

Turn now to consider how these words of Our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to His flock, whether you know Him, whether the light of His truth shines in your minds…

Again [the Lord] says: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them; they follow Me, and I give them eternal life

So Our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow Him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way.

No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast.

— From a homily on the Gospels

Question for reflection: When has listening to Jesus filled me with a sense of peace?

The Resurrection is not ‘just some miracle from the past’

Easter Sunday: Gospel – Luke 24:1-12 (Vigil); John 20:1-9

“If it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us?”

With this pointed question, Benedict XVI called us to deepen our understanding of the Resurrection of the Lord – and what it means for us, our lives, and our eternal destiny.

Christ is truly risen in the flesh, not to resume earthly life as we know it, but to take up a transcendent life in His glorified Body:

If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest ‘mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history…

The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which…ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.

It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us…

We have been caught up into this supernatural reality through Baptism. Incorporated into Christ, each baptized person is capable of “finding oneself within the vastness of God,” sharing in the intimacy of God’s own life:

The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced.

To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil.

The Resurrection is not a thing of the past; the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that He holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak.

Easter Vigil Homily of April 15, 2006.

Question for reflection: How am I changed by encountering the Risen Christ?

Engaging the Gospel – Third Sunday of Lent

3rd Sunday of Lent (Year C): Gospel – Luke 13:1-9

Like the fig tree that has failed to produce any fruit for the landowner in this parable, we disappoint God when we fail to respond to His love.

For His part, God lavishes even more care upon us to help us bear fruit. In the parable, this special care – or grace – is symbolized by the gardener’s offer to cultivate the ground around the barren tree:

Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life (Catechism paragraphs 1996-97).

“God’s free initiative demands man’s free response” – either we choose to enter “freely into the communion of love” (2002), or we choose to cut ourselves off from it, counting “the offer of God’s grace as nothing” (678).

Jesus warns us of the eternal consequences of our choice. If the fig tree remains barren, even after the gardener’s extra attention, it will be cut down:

By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love (679).

Question for reflection: How might I respond more generously to God’s nurturing care?