Engaging the Gospel – Luke 17:11-19

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 17:11-19

The ten lepers’ crying out to Jesus to “have pity” on them is an example of a prayer of petition, when we ask God for help with any need:

By prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end.

— Catechism paragraph 2629

Jesus responds to their request by healing them. His gift not only restores their physical health, but also ends their isolation from society, reuniting them with their families and giving them back their lives. Despite the life-transforming nature of this gift, only one person returns to express his gratitude and glorify God, in a prayer of thanksgiving.

We too have been cleansed by Christ, but our healing is an even greater miracle of redemption: we have been “disfigured by sin and death,” yet Christ restores us in the “Father’s likeness” (705), brings us into the very life of the Holy Trinity (1997), and enables us to fulfill our “original vocation” of eternal life (518, 1998).

How can we give thanks for this awesome gift? Christ himself has instituted the perfect way – through the Eucharist, which literally means “thanksgiving.”

The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer: it is the pure offering of the whole Body of Christ to the glory of God’s name…it is the sacrifice of praise (2643).

Question for reflection: When have I been especially grateful to God?

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Engaging the Gospel – Luke 12:32-48

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 12:32-48

The central message of today’s Gospel is that we must be prepared, and ever vigilant, as we await the Second Coming of Christ in glory.

Jesus uses the imagery of a banquet in His example: if the servants are found to be vigilant when their master returns from a wedding, the master himself will serve them at his table. This alludes to an idea that was especially prevalent in Jesus’ day: namely, the Messianic banquet that would take place at the end of time, a feast celebrating the Lord’s final victory over evil.

By virtue of His passion, death, and resurrection, Christ has already triumphed, and His victory is celebrated eternally in heaven.

We are able to participate in that celebration at each and every Mass, a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice that culminates in the Eucharistic banquet. This celebration is called “liturgy,” meaning “public work.”

“The liturgy is the work of the whole Christ” — Christ Himself and all the faithful who comprise His Body. “Our high priest [Christ] celebrates it unceasingly in the heavenly liturgy” (Catechism paragraph 1187).

At Mass, the ordained priest in fact “represents Christ as Head of the Body” (1188). “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy…toward which we journey as pilgrims” (1090).

Let us enter more deeply into the mystery of the Mass, which helps us to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

Question for reflection: What would I do if I knew that Christ would return tonight?

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 – 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?

The Mass draws us into the mystery of Epiphany

Epiphany of the Lord: Gospel – Matthew 2:1-12

During our celebration of Epiphany, let us not only hear the familiar story of the Magi who came from afar to honor the baby Jesus. Let us put ourselves in their place, recognizing that we too come to worship, giving gifts and doing homage before the Lord really, truly, substantially present in the Eucharist.

“Holy Mass repeats the scene at Bethlehem,” comments the liturgical scholar Pius Parsch:

See, the Offertory procession is taking shape; we join in eagerly and with the Magi proceed to the altar. We too are kings, and our gifts today are kingly gifts.

At Mass a wondrous exchange of gifts takes place: we give ourselves to the Lord, Who gives Himself to us. Our gifts of bread and wine will become, upon consecration, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ:

the Church’s sacrificial Offering is more precious than gold, frankincense, and myrrh – it is Christ Himself. Our offering is Christ, mirrored in our hearts in the gold-like purity of the love that attends our oblation; our offering is Christ, immolated like frankincense; our offering is Christ, received at the sacrificial Banquet and penetrating our inmost soul like myrrh. At the Communion, we have come with the Magi to the goal of our journey. The star that once shone on high shines now within our hearts; and having found the Lord, we worship Him.

And at the same time, we are uniting ourselves with His sacrifice on the Cross: “Our offering represents our person; in other words, we offer ourselves.”

On Epiphany, let us

make a special offering, one that includes all our going and coming during the year; and we ought bring gifts that match gold in preciousness, frankincense in holiness, and bitter myrrh in willing submissiveness to the divine Infant.

— The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. I, pp. 270-71.

Question for reflection: What gift am I giving to Jesus?

Christmas: a feast of God’s personal love for us

I think God must have said to Himself: Man does not love Me because he does not see Me; I will show Myself to him and thus make him love Me. God’s love for man was very great, and had been great from all eternity, but this love had not yet become visible…Then, it really appeared; the Son of God let Himself be seen as a tiny Babe in a stable, lying on a little straw.

— St. Alphonsus Liguori, quoted by Fr. Gabriel in Divine Intimacy, p. 83.

May these poignant words of St. Alphonsus help us to grasp more fully the meaning of Christmas. Jesus’ birth isn’t simply an historical event from long ago, which we may feel is too distant and remote from us.

It does involve us, in a deeply personal way, for the Eternal Son of God became man with each one of us in mind. The Lord thought of every human being that has ever existed, and ever will exist. Loving us with a personal love, He acted to save us from our sins and restore us to His friendship.

This same Jesus, Who humbled Himself to come as a vulnerable infant, continues to come to us – preeminently in the Eucharist.

When fashioning the entire arc of salvation history, God carved out our own special place within His design. We belong to this divine love story, if we would only accept Our Lord’s invitation.

One of the great figures of the 20th century Liturgical Movement, Pius Parsch, expressed it thus:

In the night of eternity, you were chosen by the Father; in the holy night of our Savior’s birth, you were remembered in the heart of God’s newborn Son and made His brother and sister; and now the Father draws you to His loving heart: With My Son, born in the stable, you have become My dearest child. With Jesus you are celebrating a birthday, reborn unto God in the holiest of nights.

— The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. I, p. 213.

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 12:38-44

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 12:38-44

The widow’s mite

Unlike the self-serving scribes, who are more interested in prestige and human respect, the poor widow in this Gospel has a self-giving attitude: she wants to contribute what she can, however small, to the Temple treasury.

The Gospel harmonizes with today’s first reading from 1 Kings, highlighting another poor widow who exhibits radical trust in God: the widow of Zarephath is down to her last bit of flour, but still feeds the prophet Elijah from it. She puts her in faith in his word that they will not be lacking, and God does indeed provide.

Jesus commends the poor widow for her offering, given in a similar spirit of reliance on the Lord, despite her poverty. She exemplifies generosity, as well as the moral virtue of justice, “the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the ‘virtue of religion’” (Catechism paragraph 1807), whereby love “leads us to render to God what we as creatures owe Him in all justice” (2095).

In keeping with our obligation to give God and neighbor their due, “the faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities” (2043). “From the very beginning, Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need” (1351).

Question for reflection: When have I made a financial sacrifice out of love for God?