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?

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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 – Most Holy Trinity

Most Holy Trinity (Year B): Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity touches us personally in the deepest core of our being. This revelation – that there is one God, in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is the heart of our faith. “It is the mystery of God in Himself” (Catechism 234) as well as how we are drawn into, and participate in, that divine life (1997).

God’s “innermost secret” is that He “is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He has destined us to share in that exchange” (221). For this reason the eternal Son of the Father became man in Christ (460).

In today’s Gospel, Christ instructs the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, illustrating how “the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith, principally by means of Baptism” (249).

This is logical because it is through Baptism that we are welcomed into the intimacy of God’s own life (683). The Father adopts us “as His children in His only Son: by Baptism, He incorporates us into the Body of His Christ; through the anointing of His Spirit…He makes us other ‘Christs’” (2782).

“Hence the whole Christian life” is Trinitarian in its essence: “Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him” (259).

Question: When do I remember that God dwells within me?

Engaging the Gospel – Epiphany of the Lord

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

The term “Epiphany” is derived from the Greek word meaning “manifestation” – we celebrate the “manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world.” The divinity of Christ is made manifest not only to the people of Israel, but to all nations, which are represented by the “wise men (magi) from the East” (Catechism paragraph 528).

Just as the magi prostrated themselves before the infant Jesus, so too can we adore Jesus as He is made manifest to us today in the Eucharist — the sublime gift of the Lord’s Real Presence, His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity (1374).

“It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to His Church in this unique way…He wanted to give us His sacramental presence” (1380).

“Because Christ Himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, He is to be honored with the worship of adoration” (1418).

May we grow in reverence, recognizing that when we enter our church, we “cross a threshold.” We step outside our flawed world and come before the Lord (1186). Let us cultivate our “sense of the sacred,” the “respect owed to the mystery of God Himself and to the whole sacred reality it evokes” (2144).

As St. John Paul II said,

Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.

— quoted in 1380.

Question for reflection: How do I pay homage to the Lord in the Eucharist?

 

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 22:34-40

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus distills the essence of the whole Law and Prophets – love of God and love of neighbor – by quoting verses from two different books of the Old Testament.

As Benedict XVI has commented,

The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might’ (6:4-5).

Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbor found in the Book of Leviticus: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (19:18).

Deus Caritas Est, 1.

Jesus thereby emphasizes that these two elements of love of God and neighbor are closely intertwined: “One cannot adore God without loving all men, His creatures. One cannot honor another person without blessing God his creator” (Catechism paragraph 2069).

By citing the Scriptures in this way, Jesus affirms that “the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation” (129).

Because the God-given Law served as a teacher “to lead His people towards Christ” (708), the Church has constantly proclaimed the unity of the Old and New Testaments (128).

“The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfills the Old; the two shed light on each other; both are the true Word of God” (140). That is why the Church “has retained certain elements of the worship of the Old Covenant” in our Mass, such as “reading the Old Testament” and “praying the Psalms” (1093).

Question for reflection: How does my daily life reflect love of God and neighbor?