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 10:38-42

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 10:38-42

Today’s readings revolve around the theme of hospitality, or how we treat God Himself as our guest.

In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham waits attentively on his three mysterious guests, a divine visitation prefiguring the revelation of the Holy Trinity.

In the Gospel, Martha also hosts a divine visitor in Jesus, but she is too absorbed in, and overburdened by, her activity, to be attentive to Him. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, offers hospitality, not by serving, but by listening intently to Jesus. When Martha complains that Mary isn’t helping, Jesus gently tells her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.”

As St John Paul II observed,

How can we not perceive in this episode the reminder of the primacy of the spiritual life, of the need to be nourished with the Word of God which gives light and savor to our daily routine.

It is an invitation which is particularly opportune for the summer period. Holidays and vacation time, in fact, can help to balance activism with contemplation, haste with natural rhythms, great noise with the healing peace of silence.

Angelus of July 22, 2001.

We too have a divine guest, the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within us — let us always be mindful of His presence.

Question for reflection: When have I been so busy that I lost sight of what was truly important?

Engaging the Gospel – Most Holy Trinity

Most Holy Trinity: Gospel – John 16:12-15

God’s interior life as Holy Trinity is “a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone, or even to Israel’s faith, before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit,” as the Catechism notes (237):

The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – reveals Himself to men and reconciles and unites with Himself those who turn away from sin (234).

As St. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389) wrote,

the Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely. The New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of Himself (quoted in 684).

Through the revelation of the Holy Trinity, we see that God exists in an eternal relationship of love, and He “freely wills to communicate the glory of His blessed life” (257) to us:

By the grace of Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal light (265).

Question for reflection: When have I felt that God was leading me patiently into a deeper knowledge of Him?

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?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

Jesus reveals that He is the fulfillment of prophecy

“In the Old Testament, the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission” (Catechism paragraph 1286).

The book of the prophet Isaiah, in particular, reveals the characteristics of the Messiah. “This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News” by reading Isaiah 61:1-2 to those in attendance at the Nazareth synagogue (714).

The very title of Messiah – which means “anointed” in Hebrew, and is translated into Greek as Christos – signifies a “divine mission” (436).

St. Irenaeus, writing in the second century, considered the anointing from the perspective of the Holy Trinity: “The One Who anointed is the Father, the One Who was anointed is the Son, and He was anointed with the Spirit Who is the anointing” (quoted in 438).

Question for reflection: When did I first truly embrace Jesus as my Savior?

Engaging the Gospel – Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord (Year C): Gospel – Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

“Jesus’ public life begins with His baptism by John in the Jordan” (Catechism paragraph 535).

Because the Holy Spirit is visibly present as a dove descending upon Jesus, and the Father proclaims Him as His beloved Son, the baptism of Jesus is another aspect of His “epiphany,” or “the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God” (535).

“The Spirit Who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation” (1224).

Christ transformed Baptism into a sacrament, which purifies us from sin, fills us with sanctifying grace, and brings us into this new creation “ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection” (2174). The baptized person is made “a new creature, an adopted son of God, who has become a partaker of the divine nature, member of Christ and co-heir with Him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1265).

As St. Hilary of Poitiers wrote in the mid-fourth century,

Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water [in baptism], the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father’s voice, we become sons of God.

— quoted in paragraph 537.

Let us always strive to live in accordance with our baptismal dignity.

Question for reflection: When have I felt especially close to God?

Prayer of Praise

Based upon Catechism paragraphs 2639-49:

When we praise God, we glorify Him purely because of Who He Is – the all-holy, all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful, all-beautiful One.

Praise therefore has a different aspect from the other forms of prayer, which in some way refer to ourselves and what God does for us. We bless God in response to His blessings upon us, and adore Him in recognition of our status as creatures; we offer thanksgiving to God for His abundant gifts; we ask Him to take care of our needs in prayers of petition; and we pray on behalf of others in our prayers of intercession.

In prayers of praise, however, we are focused upon God Himself, loving Him for His Own sake. We exult in the sheer awesomeness of the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – Who Is Being itself, in glorious perfection forever, transcending time.

The technical term for a prayer of praise is “doxology,” a loan word from Greek. Examples include the “Glory to God in the highest” that we sing at Mass, the “Glory Be,” and the phrase added to the Lord’s Prayer, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever.”

As the conclusion to the “Our Father” implies, the other forms of prayer logically lead us into praise. Blessing, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession all call to mind the infinite goodness, generosity, and majesty of God, a reflection that culminates in our praising God just for being God.

This is illustrated to the highest degree at Mass: “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, and according to the traditions of East and West, it is the ‘sacrifice of praise.’”