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 – Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Today’s Gospel is much more than just a description of historical events. Rather, it reveals a divine reality still at work in the world now — indeed, until the end of time.

Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples Whom He has chosen, and entrusted with His own power, endures through the ministry of the Church, governed by the bishops who are themselves successors to the apostles.

The Catechism teaches:

The Lord Jesus endowed His community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved…The Twelve [apostles] and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power…By all His actions, Christ prepares and builds His Church (paragraph 765).

“The Gospel was handed on in two ways” – not only in writing, but

orally, by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received (76, quoting Dei Verbum).

In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church, the apostles left bishops as their successors…The apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time (77, quoting Dei Verbum).

As a result, “the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church” (862).

Since the apostles (and disciples in today’s reading) were chosen together and sent out together, this ministry has ever had a “collegial character.”

Every bishop exercises his ministry from within the episcopal college, in communion with the bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter and head of the college. So also priests exercise their ministry from within the presbyterium of the diocese, under the direction of their bishop (877).

Question for reflection: How do I support those who dedicate their lives to the Lord’s service?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 6:7-13

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 6:7-13

Jesus bestows authority upon the Apostles and sends them forth

As today’s Gospel makes clear,

Christ is Himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal. In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in His Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body.

— Catechism paragraph 874.

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to His apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry.

— paragraph 1536.

Ordination configures the priest to Christ as the Head, marks upon him an “indelible spiritual character” (1581-82) and “confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful” (1592).

Through the priest, “it is Christ Himself who is present to His Church as Head of His Body, Shepherd of His flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth” (1548). “Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to the affairs of the Lord, [priests] give themselves entirely to God and to [us]” (1579).

St. John Vianney, patron saint of all priests, summed up the gift of the ministerial priesthood:

If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.

— quoted in paragraph 1589.

While those in Holy Orders have especially grave obligations, the laity are also called to proclaim the Gospel, and provide faithful witness to Christ, in every sphere of life:

The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways.

— paragraph 863.

Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth.

— paragraph 900.

It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, for the love of Christ urges us on.

— paragraph 851.

Question for reflection: What priests have been most helpful to my spiritual life?

Holy Orders

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1533-1600:

  • When Christ endowed the apostles with authority, and commanded them to go forth and make disciples, He gave the Church an ongoing mission until He comes again; hence the apostolic ministry also continues over time, bestowed through the sacrament of Holy Orders.
  • Its name comes from the Latin ordo, “order,” referring to an established civil body, with a special connotation of governance; by ordination, one is incorporated into such an order.
  • There are three degrees of Holy Orders, each deriving from a Greek term in the New Testament: bishops, from episkopos (“overseer”); priests, from presbyteros (“elder”); and deacons, from diakonos (“servant”).
  • Christ is the supreme Priest, the one mediator between God and humankind, Who is prefigured by the priests offering sacrifice in the Old Testament: from Melchizedek and Aaron to those consecrated for worship in the Temple.
  • While this one priesthood of Christ is shared by all the baptized, the ordained priest is configured to Him in a profoundly different way; this sacrament confers a gift of the Holy Spirit, indelibly marking the soul, so that the priest receives the sacred power to act in the person of Christ, the Head of His Body, the Church.
  • The ministerial priesthood exists to serve the faithful by teaching the faith, exercising pastoral governance, and celebrating the sacraments, above all the Eucharist; by promising celibacy (in the Latin Rite, not in the Eastern Churches) the priest expresses his single-hearted commitment to shepherd his flock.
  • Priests who are consecrated as bishops receive the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders; as successors of the apostles, bishops are responsible for their own flocks, while also caring for the universal Church; they form the apostolic college in our day, in communion with the head of the college, the Bishop of Rome.
  • Bishops have the authority to celebrate this sacrament, ordaining through the laying on of hands and continuing the apostolic line; the priest is ordained as the bishop’s co-worker in apostolic mission, and so exercises his ministry in communion with, and obedience to, the bishop.
  • The ordination of deacons configures them in a special way to Christ, not as Priest, but as Servant; aside from performing some liturgical roles to assist bishops and priests, deacons are dedicated to charitable works and other ministries of service.
  • Holy Orders have been integral to the Church’s life since its inception; St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the early 100s, urged reverence for bishops, priests, and deacons, “For without them, one cannot speak of the Church.”

Live Your Faith

“If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love….The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.” So wrote St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests.

Only through the ministry of His priests does Jesus give Himself to us in the Eucharist. No priest, no Eucharist – a reality that our persecuted brothers and sisters, and those in remote mission territories, know too well.

Let us be ever mindful of praying for our bishops and priests, that the Lord may protect and sustain them, and ask Him to keep raising up good and holy priests for His Church.  

The Gift of Ecclesial Ministry

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 871-96, 976-87:

  • Christ Himself is the source of ministry in the Church: ever since He chose the 12 Apostles and endowed them with authority, this sacred college has continued through their successors, the bishops, led by the Bishop of Rome.
  • Bishops, and their co-workers the priests, receive sacred authority from Christ through ordination, in order to serve the faithful; they serve principally by teaching the faith, sanctifying through prayer and the sacraments, and governing.
  • The Bishop of Rome has primacy among all the bishops because he is the successor of St. Peter, the head of the apostolic college; he is called the “Pope,” from the word “Papa,” in affectionate recognition of his fatherly role.
  • Christ entrusted the fullness of authority to Peter by giving him the keys of the Kingdom; evoking Old Testament imagery from the Davidic Kingdom, Christ made clear that Peter would serve as the chief steward in the Messianic Kingdom.
  • The Pope is the Vicar of Christ: he has universal jurisdiction over the Church and serves as the visible foundation of our unity.
  • His fellow bishops likewise serve as the visible source of unity in their local Churches, which they guide with the authority they receive from Christ; bishops are not vicars of the Pope, but are brothers in collegial communion with him.
  • Christ empowered the Apostles to forgive sins; thus He gave the Church a great gift of mercy, the ministry of reconciliation through the Sacrament of Penance.
  • To protect the Church from heresy, Christ has bestowed the charism of infallibility upon His shepherds.
  • This does not mean that Popes are perfect, for they sin and make mistakes in prudential judgments; nor does it apply to their routine statements.
  • The gift of infallibility instead prevents an erroneous definition of doctrine; this charism is exercised when the Pope proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine of faith or morals, or when the Pope and bishops in an Ecumenical Council declare a doctrine as divinely revealed.

Live Your Faith

While the world sees authority through the lens of power and control, Christ has taught the Church to view authority through the lens of sacrificial service.

The Lord could have constituted His Church in any number of ways, but He chose to give us shepherds. It is His will that our Pope, bishops, and priests serve us for our own spiritual good.

The Lord Himself will hold each and every one of our shepherds accountable for how well, or poorly, they upheld this sacred trust.