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 – Pentecost

Gospel – John 7:37-39 (Vigil), (Year C) John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16, 23b-26

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit fulfills Old Testament prophecy, and continues in the life of the Church, as the Catechism explains:

In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for His saving mission…[Jesus’] whole life and His whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit Whom the Father gives Him “without measure.”

This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people…a promise which [Christ] fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.

–Catechism paragraphs 1286-87

From that time on, the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism…The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

–Paul VI, quoted in Catechism 1288

Through the anointing of the sacrament of Confirmation, we receive the indelible “mark, the seal of the Holy Spirit. A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object” (1295).

“This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in His service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial” (1296).

The “effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (1303).

Question for reflection: How have I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in my life?

 

Engaging the Gospel – Ascension of the Lord

Ascension of the Lord (Year C): Gospel – Luke 24:46-53

“Jesus’ final apparition [to the disciples] ends with the irreversible entry of His humanity into divine glory,” His Ascension into heaven, where He is “exalted at the Father’s right hand” (Catechism paragraphs 659-660).

“Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom” (664) and reveals that “Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history” (668).

To extend the reign of His kingdom on earth, He instructs His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations, a command handed down the ages, even to our own day.

In one respect, “the Church is catholic [literally, ‘universal’] because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race” (831).

As the Vatican II document Lumen gentium states,

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: He made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all His children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one (quoted in 831).

Question for reflection: In what ways do I express solidarity with fellow Christians around the world?

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 – Mark 8:27-35

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 8:27-35

Today’s dramatic Gospel speaks directly to us, beginning with Jesus’ pointed question, “But who do you say that I am?”

Some reduce Jesus to a simply human religious figure, and fail to recognize Him as God come in the flesh, as Benedict XVI comments:

Today, too, similar opinions are clearly held by the ‘people’ who have somehow or other come to know Christ, who have perhaps even made a scholarly study of Him, but have not encountered Jesus Himself in His utter uniqueness and otherness.

— Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, p. 292.

St. Peter’s recognition of Jesus as Messiah goes only so far, for he resists the Cross – and we do too.

The whole scene thus remains uncomfortably relevant to the present, because in the end we do in fact constantly think in terms of ‘flesh and blood,’ and not in terms of the Revelation that we are privileged to receive in faith.

— ibid., p. 299.

The Lord doesn’t mince words: we must also traverse the way of the Cross.

In order to mature, in order to make real progress on the path leading from a superficial piety into profound oneness with God’s will, man needs to be tried. Just as the juice of the grape has to ferment in order to become a fine wine, so too man needs purifications and transformations…Love is always a process involving purifications, renunciations, and painful transformations of ourselves.

— p. 162.

Question for reflection: How has my relationship with Jesus been deepened through trials?

Crux fidelis

Good Friday CrossA beautiful hymn with great theological depth, Crux fidelis is a 6th century composition by Mamertus Claudianus, according to Dom Prosper Gueranger’s Liturgical Year.

You can listen to it chanted in Latin here.

And here is the translation as it appears in the current edition of the Roman Missal:

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare. Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear!

Sing, my tongue, in exultation of our banner and device! Make a solemn proclamation of a triumph and its price: how the Savior of creation conquered by His sacrifice!

(Repeat) Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

For, when Adam first offended, eating that forbidden fruit, not all hopes of glory ended with the serpent at the root: broken nature would be mended by a second tree and shoot.

(Repeat) Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

Thus the tempter was outwitted by a wisdom deeper still: remedy and ailment fitted, means to cure and means to kill; that the world might be acquitted, Christ would do His Father’s will.

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

So the Father, out of pity for our self-inflicted doom, sent Him from the heavenly city when the holy time had come: He, the Son and the Almighty, took our flesh in Mary’s womb.

Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

Hear a tiny baby crying, Founder of the seas and strands; see His Virgin Mother tying cloth around His feet and hands; find Him in a manger lying tightly wrapped in swaddling-bands!

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

So He came, the long-expected, not in glory, not to reign; only born to be rejected, choosing hunger, toil and pain, till the scaffold was erected and the Paschal Lamb was slain.

Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

No disgrace was too abhorrent; nailed and mocked and parched He died; blood and water, double warrant, issue from His wounded side, washing in a mighty torrent earth and stars and oceantide.

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

Lofty timber, smooth your roughness; flex your boughs for blossoming; let your fibers lose their toughness, gently let your tendrils cling; lay aside your native gruffness, clasp the Body of your King!

Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

Noblest tree of all created, richly jeweled and embossed; post by Lamb’s Blood consecrated, spar that saves the tempest-tossed; scaffold-beam which, elevated, carries what the world has cost!

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

Wisdom, power, and adoration to the Blessed Trinity for redemption and salvation through the Paschal Mystery, now, in every generation, and for all eternity. Amen.

Engaging the Gospel – Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Year B): Gospel – Mark 14:1-15:47

“My own sin was present in that terrifying chalice.”

So writes Benedict XVI in his reflection on the Lord’s Passion in Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2 (p. 156).

The Pope Emeritus teaches us that Sunday’s Gospel is not simply a recitation of what occurred in a certain week in Jerusalem. Rather, it unfolds the entire drama of our salvation, and mystically encompasses all of human history:

Palm Sunday was not a thing of the past. Just as the Lord entered the Holy City that day on a donkey, so too the Church saw him coming again and again in the humble form of bread and wine.

— ibid., p. 10.

This is why we proclaim the “Hosanna” at Mass, as we prepare to welcome the Lord in the Eucharist.

Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem was marked by Messianic imagery (pp. 3-7), but only through the Cross did He inaugurate His kingdom. His agony was not just a natural aversion to pain.

Because Jesus is God, “He sees with total clarity the whole foul flood of evil,” every sin ever committed. He suffers immensely when “the full power of destruction, evil, and enmity with God” is “unleashed upon Him…All this He must take into Himself” (p. 155).

Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love…God Himself drinks the cup of every horror to the dregs and thereby restores justice through the greatness of His love.

— ibid., pp. 231-32.

Question for reflection: Which person in the Passion narrative do I identify with most?