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 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 – 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?

Engaging the Gospel – All Saints’ Day

Solemnity of All Saints: Gospel – Matthew 5:1-12a

Jesus’ proclamation of the Beatitudes is a particularly appropriate Gospel for All Saints’ Day, for the lives of the saints provide powerful witness of the Beatitudes in action:

The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching…The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity….They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life….They have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.

— Catechism paragraphs 1716-17.

This is our game plan to follow, for we too are “called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness” (2013).

The Lord is calling each and every one of us — regardless of our place in life. But the specific ways we live out that call vary.

If you’re a parent, your top priority is to raise your children in the faith. If you’re a student, your path of discipleship is to study diligently. If you work, be a witness to faith in the workplace. If you’re battling health problems that keep you home, you can be a prayer warrior for the Church.

Wherever we find ourselves, the Lord has a particular form of discipleship in mind for us. And by living that out, we do our part to build up the Body of Christ.

We are reminded of this truth by our celebration of All Saints. Untold numbers of men and women have answered the call to holiness, across all walks of life, down through the ages. They weren’t famous in the world, but they have reached the only goal that matters — heaven. These “ordinary” saints serve as inspiration that we too can reach heaven by following the Lord.

Let us ask them to pray for us, that we may live out our discipleship as the Lord wills.

Question for reflection: How does the example of the saints help me to live the Christian life?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:17-30

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:17-30

In today’s Gospel, the young man seemed so eager to ask Jesus about gaining eternal life. But his attachment to his material possessions proved a stumbling block. When given the opportunity to commit himself radically to Jesus, he chose his wealth instead.

The young man’s reaction brings up a larger point about discipleship. We’re not all called to give up everything. Yet we are called to put the Lord first in all things, including the use of our goods. If our lives revolve around consumerism, we’re actually putting wealth first, in place of God.

“Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven” (Catechism paragraph 2556). Hence “the Lord grieves over the rich because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods” (2547).

“Jesus enjoins His disciples to prefer Him to everything and everyone,” to enter into what the Catechism describes as “poverty of heart” (2544):

All Christ’s faithful are to direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty.

— Catechism paragraph 2545.

Question for reflection: In what ways am I too attached to material things?

Engaging the Gospel – John 6:51-58

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – John 6:51-58

“The Eucharist is revealed as man’s unceasing great encounter with God,” Benedict XVI observes. “For us this food must become an opening out of our existence, a passing through the Cross, and an anticipation of the new life in God and with God” (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, p. 270).

As the name of this great sacrament implies,

Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus…Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet.

— Catechism paragraph 1391.

But this fruit of union presupposes that we are already in the state of grace, or right relationship with God. If we have broken our relationship with God through grave sin, we “must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion” (1385).

A corollary of growing in union with Christ is becoming detached from sin:

Holy Communion separates us from sin…The Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life…By giving Himself to us, Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in Him…

By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in His friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from Him by mortal sin.

— paragraphs 1393-1395.

By fortifying us in our struggles, and increasing our union with God, the Eucharist prepares us for eternal life. It is “a pledge of the life to come” and “an anticipation of the heavenly glory” (1402).

Question for reflection: What impact does the Eucharist have on the way I live my life?

Engaging the Gospel – John 6:41-51

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – John 6:41-51

Jesus says, “the Bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”

Benedict XVI considers “how we can ‘feed’ on God, live on God, in such a way that He Himself becomes our bread…God becomes ‘bread’ for us first of all in the Incarnation” of Christ, and in its “ultimate realization: Jesus’ act of giving Himself up to death and the mystery of the Cross.”

Indeed, “what underlies the Eucharist” is this “sacrifice of Jesus, Who sheds His Blood for us, and in so doing steps out of Himself, so to speak, pours Himself out, and gives Himself to us…The offering of His Body on the Cross” is made accessible to us, really and tangibly, in the sacrament of Holy Communion (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, pp. 268-69).

Because bread and wine have themselves been subjected to a kind of death in their preparation, the Lord has chosen fitting elements to veil His presence in the Eucharist:

Earthly bread can become the bearer of Christ’s presence because it contains in itself the mystery of the Passion…the grain of wheat first has to be placed in the earth, it has to ‘die,’ and then the new ear can grow out of this death…The same is true of wine. It too contains the Passion in itself, for the grape had to be pressed in order to become wine (pp. 271-72).

Let us always remember that the Eucharist makes present, brings us into, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (Catechism paragraphs 1366-67).

Jesus emphasizes that eating His Bread leads to eternal life. The Eucharist is therefore “a pledge of the life to come” and “an anticipation of the heavenly glory” (paragraph 1402).

As St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in the early second century, we “break the one Bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ” (quoted in 1405).

Question: Have I reflected upon Jesus’ total self-giving in the Eucharist?