Engaging the Gospel – Luke 7:11-17

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 7:11-17

Jesus’ raising of the widow’s son from death is a great miracle that illustrates His power over the natural order. But as St Augustine comments, it is also symbolic of the Lord’s raising us from spiritual death to new life through grace.

Pope Francis expands on this theme:

The mercy of Jesus is not only an emotion; it is a force which gives life that raises man! Today’s Gospel also tells us this in the episode of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-17). With His disciples, Jesus arrives in Nain, a village in Galilee, right at the moment when a funeral is taking place. A boy, the only son of a widow, is being carried for burial. Jesus immediately fixes His gaze on the crying mother.

The Evangelist Luke says: “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her” (v. 13). This “compassion” is God’s love for man, it is mercy, thus the attitude of God in contact with human misery, with our destitution, our suffering, our anguish. The biblical term “compassion” recalls a mother’s womb. The mother in fact reacts in a way all her own in confronting the pain of her children. It is in this way, according to Scripture, that God loves us.

What is the fruit of this love and mercy? It is life! Jesus says to the widow of Nain: “Do not weep” and then He calls the dead boy and awakes him as if from sleep (cf. vv. 13-15).

Let’s think about this, it’s beautiful: God’s mercy gives life to man, it raises him from the dead. Let us not forget that the Lord always watches over us with mercy; He always watches over us with mercy. Let us not be afraid of approaching Him! He has a merciful heart! If we show Him our inner wounds, our inner sins, He will always forgive us. It is pure mercy. Let us go to Jesus!

Angelus of June 9, 2013

Question for reflection: How have I experienced new life in Christ?

Engaging the Gospel – Corpus Christi

Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Year C): Gospel – Luke 9:11b-17

“The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through His disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of His Eucharist,” the Catechism teaches (paragraph 1335).

Hence one of the names of this Most Blessed Sacrament is “the Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table He blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper” (1329), “giving His disciples His Body and His Blood” (1339).

In the Eucharist, “the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ — and therefore, the whole Christ — is truly, really, and substantially contained” (1374).

To strengthen our faith in this extraordinary gift, St John Paul II expressed “with deep emotion” his own “testimony of faith” in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (59-60):

Here is the Church’s treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns. A great and transcendent mystery, indeed….

In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have His redemptive sacrifice, we have His resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?

Question for reflection: How does receiving the Eucharist satisfy my deepest need?

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 7:31-37

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

By healing the deaf man, Jesus signifies that He is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading: He has come for our salvation, not only at a specific moment in history, but for us and our age as well.

This “life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies,” remains in the Church, particularly “through the sacraments and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist” (Catechism 1509).

As Benedict XVI observes,

There is not only a physical deafness which largely cuts people off from social life; there is also a ‘hardness of hearing’ where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time. Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God — there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age.

Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with Him and to Him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses…

…‘Ephphatha’ — ‘Be opened.’ The Evangelist has preserved for us the original Aramaic word which Jesus spoke, and thus he brings us back to that very moment. What happened then was unique, but it does not belong to a distant past: Jesus continues to do the same thing anew, even today. At our Baptism He touched each of us and said ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be opened’ — thus enabling us to hear God’s voice and to be able to talk to Him…

But we do appeal to the freedom of men and women to open their hearts to God, to seek Him, to hear His voice. As we gather here, let us here ask the Lord with all our hearts to speak anew his ‘Ephphatha,’ to heal our hardness of hearing for God’s presence, activity and word, and to give us sight and hearing.

Homily of September 10, 2006.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced an opening up to God?

Engaging the Gospel – John 6:1-15

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – John 6:1-15

Jesus’ miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish not only fed the vast crowd, but it far exceeded their desires. This miracle, prefiguring Jesus’ offering of Himself in the Eucharist, illustrates that God’s generosity is boundless.

Indeed, God’s generosity is at the very root of creation itself:

St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things ‘not to increase His glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,’ for God has no other reason for creating than His love and goodness.

And as St Thomas Aquinas wrote,

Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened His hand.

— Catechism paragraph 293.

Hence creation is not the result of “any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance,” for it “proceeds from God’s free will; He wanted to make His creatures share in His being, wisdom, and goodness” (295).

The magnitude of creation is taken up into every celebration of the Eucharist:

The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ…

The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father…the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving’

The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation.

— paragraphs 1359-61.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced the superabundant generosity of God?


Engaging the Gospel – Mark 5:21-43

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 5:21-43

Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage are more than just inspiring miracle stories. These two exemplars of faith remind us how vitally important our own attitudes and dispositions are in the spiritual life. It is in response to their faith that Jesus performs “signs that anticipate the power of His death and Resurrection” (Catechism 2616).

This power is with us still, conveyed through the sacraments instituted by Christ. Just as Jesus’ power went forth to heal the woman, even so “sacraments are ‘power that comes forth’ from the Body of Christ” (1116).

“Jesus’ words and actions” during His earthly life “announced and prepared what He was going to give the Church when all was accomplished.”

As Pope St. Leo the Great said, “what was visible in our Savior has passed over into His mysteries” (1115).

The sacraments are performed by the power of God, regardless of the personal worthiness of the priest. “Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them” (1128).

Today’s Gospel illustrates the point. Many people were in Jesus’ presence, but failed to benefit because they were indifferent, heedless, or even dismissive of what He could do for them. Let us follow the example of Jairus and the woman, trusting in the Lord’s power to act for us personally.

Question for reflection: When have I stepped out boldly in faith?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 14:13-21

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus’ miraculous feeding of more than 5,000 has an intensely Eucharistic dimension:

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through His disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of His Eucharist.

–Catechism paragraph 1335.

Jesus performed this miracle so that the people could remain with Him and receive food for their bodies. Similarly, through the Lord’s miraculous gift of Himself in the Eucharist, we abide in His sacramental presence, and we are spiritually nourished by His very Body and Blood (1380, 1392).

Benedict XVI has reflected upon the meaning of these Eucharistic gestures in the context of the Last Supper:

The breaking of bread for all is in the first instance a function of the head of the family, who by this action in some sense represents God the Father, who gives us everything, through the earth’s bounty, that we need for life. It is also a gesture of hospitality…

God’s bountiful distribution of gifts takes on a radical quality when the Son communicates and distributes himself in the form of bread…In this sacrament we enjoy the hospitality of God, who gives himself to us…

Thus breaking bread and distributing it – the act of attending lovingly to those in need – is an intrinsic dimension of the Eucharist. Caritas, care for the other, is not an additional sector of Christianity alongside worship; rather, it is rooted in it and forms part of it.

–Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2, p. 129.

Question for reflection: How does God’s generosity to me inspire me to be generous to others?