Engaging the Gospel – Mark 13:24-32

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 13:24-32

Jesus speaks to end times expectation

Today’s Gospel, with its companion passages in Matthew and Luke, “is probably the most difficult Gospel text,” Benedict XVI has noted:

This difficulty stems from both its content and its language: in fact, it speaks of a future that exceeds our own categories and for this reason Jesus uses images and words taken from the Old Testament; but above all He introduces a new center, which is He Himself, the mystery of His Person and of His death and Resurrection.

…The “Son of Man” is Jesus Himself Who links the present and the future; the ancient words of the prophets have finally found a center in the Person of the Nazarene Messiah: He is the True Event which remains the firm and enduring point in the midst of the world’s upheavals.

Hence Jesus wants us to remain focused upon Him:

…He wishes to prevent His disciples in every epoch from being curious about dates and predictions; He wants instead to provide them with a key to a profound, essential interpretation and, above all, to point out to them the right way on which to walk, today and in the future, to enter eternal life…

Dear friends, in our day too there is no lack of natural disasters nor, unfortunately, of war and violence. Today too we need a permanent foundation for our life and our hope, especially because of the relativism in which we are immersed. May the Virgin Mary help us to accept this center in the Person of Christ and in His Word.

Angelus of November 18, 2012.

As the Catechism phrases it, “the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by distress and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching” (paragraph 672).

Question for reflection: How have I discerned signs of God’s presence in my own life?

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?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:46-52

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:46-52

As the Catechism explains, “the urgent request” of the blind man in today’s Gospel – ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!’ – has been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith” (paragraph 2616).

Through the Jesus Prayer, “the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy. The invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always….This prayer is possible at all times because it is not one occupation among others, but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus” (2667-68).

Question for reflection: What important needs should I bring before the Lord in prayer?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

“Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all”

The Christian imperative to serve others is expressed in the Vatican II document Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity), which urges laypeople to “take up the renewal” of the world “as their own special obligation” (7).

The Council Fathers remind us that “charitable enterprises can and should reach out to all persons and all needs” —

Wherever there are people in need of food and drink, clothing, housing, medicine, employment, education; wherever men lack the facilities necessary for living a truly human life or are afflicted with serious distress or illness or suffer exile or imprisonment, there Christian charity should seek them out and find them, console them with great solicitude and help them with appropriate relief. This obligation is imposed above all upon every prosperous nation and person.

Apostolicam Actuositatem, 8.

But our inspiration for serving others isn’t just philanthrophy or humanitarianism, as noble as those ideals are.

Rather, we serve because we are conformed to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came down from heaven to redeem us as the Suffering Servant: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

By giving of ourselves on behalf of others, we unite with Christ’s own self-emptying. The more we grow in union with Christ, the “greater” we become in holiness:

Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ…

— ibid., 4.

Question for reflection: How do I answer Jesus’ call to serve others?

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 – Mark 10:2-16

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:2-16

Jesus proclaims the indissolubility of marriage

“God Himself is the author of marriage,” as the Catechism reminds us (paragraph 1603).

“Since God created [the human race] man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man” (1604).

Sadly, when sin came into the world, this harmony was disrupted: “as a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman” (1607). “To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help” of God’s grace. “Without His help, man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them in the beginning” (1608).

Jesus comes “to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin,” and thereby “He himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God…This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life” (1615).

To learn more about God’s design for the family, see Love Is Our Mission, a guide prepared for the recent World Meeting of Families. Also, for practical helps, visit www.foryourmarriage.org, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Jesus warns us to avoid sin

“Before being against a law or a moral norm, sin is against God, against your brothers and sisters and against yourselves,” wrote St John Paul II, who described sin as our refusal

to let ourselves be loved by the true Love: the human being has in fact the terrible power to be an obstacle to God Who wills to give all that is good…

Today, unfortunately, the more people lose the sense of sin, the less they have recourse to the pardon of God. This is the cause of many of the problems and difficulties of our time.

Message for the 14th World Youth Day.

“Sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives” us (Catechism 387), a “failure in genuine love for God and neighbor” that “wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (1849). Moreover, “sin creates a proclivity to sin” (1865).

As St Augustine wrote, we must not ignore the cumulative effects of even small sins: “A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession”(1863).

The Lord is always eager to welcome us in Reconciliation. JPII urged us to “approach trustfully the sacrament of Confession” and “receive with a grateful heart the absolution given by the priest…The Source of love regenerates and makes us capable of overcoming egoism and of loving again, with greater intensity” (op. cit.).

Question for reflection: What efforts do I make to overcome my habitual faults?