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?

The Resurrection is not ‘just some miracle from the past’

Easter Sunday: Gospel – Luke 24:1-12 (Vigil); John 20:1-9

“If it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us?”

With this pointed question, Benedict XVI called us to deepen our understanding of the Resurrection of the Lord – and what it means for us, our lives, and our eternal destiny.

Christ is truly risen in the flesh, not to resume earthly life as we know it, but to take up a transcendent life in His glorified Body:

If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest ‘mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history…

The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which…ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.

It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us…

We have been caught up into this supernatural reality through Baptism. Incorporated into Christ, each baptized person is capable of “finding oneself within the vastness of God,” sharing in the intimacy of God’s own life:

The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced.

To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil.

The Resurrection is not a thing of the past; the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that He holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak.

Easter Vigil Homily of April 15, 2006.

Question for reflection: How am I changed by encountering the Risen Christ?

Engaging the Gospel – Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday (Year C): Gospel – Luke 22:14-23:56

Benedict XVI invites us to “open our hearts” to the profound meaning of the Lord’s Passion:

Is it possible to remain indifferent before the death of the Lord, of the Son of God? For us, for our salvation He became man, so as to be able to suffer and die. Brothers and sisters, let us direct today our gaze toward Christ, a gaze frequently distracted by scattered and passing earthly interests. Let us pause to contemplate His cross…

His nailed arms are open to each human being and they invite us to draw near to Him, certain that He accepts us and clasps us in an embrace of infinite tenderness…

Through the sorrowful way of the Cross, the men of all ages, reconciled and redeemed by the blood of Christ, have become friends of God, sons and daughters of the heavenly Father…

‘Friend,’ He calls each of us, because He is the authentic Friend of everyone. Unfortunately, we do not always manage to perceive the depth of this limitless love that God has for us…

Let us ask ourselves, in this moment, what have we done with this gift, what have we done with the revelation of the face of God in Christ, with the revelation of the love of God that conquers hate…

Dear friends: After having lived together the Passion of Jesus, let us this night allow His sacrifice on the Cross to question us. Let us permit Him to challenge our human certainties. Let us open our hearts. Jesus is the truth that makes us free to love. Let us not be afraid…Let us remain, then, in adoration before the Cross.

Good Friday, 2008.

Question for reflection: How does the Lord’s Passion prompt me to search my own heart?

Spiritual value of work

No matter what kind of work we do – whether inside or outside the home – our daily duties have a spiritual dimension.

The Church offers us a rich theology of work, what St John Paul II calls a “gospel of work,” that may revolutionize how we see our workaday lives. In Laborem Exercens, JPII explains that we are in fact collaborating with God’s work of both creation and redemption.

“The Church finds in the very first pages of the Book of Genesis the source of her conviction that work is a fundamental dimension of human existence on earth.” God created us in His image and gave us the task of earthly stewardship. “In carrying out this mandate, man, every human being, reflects the very action of the Creator of the universe” (4).

This truth took on special resonance when God became man in Jesus, and worked in St Joseph’s carpentry shop. Jesus “belongs to the ‘working world’…He looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man’s likeness with God, the Creator and Father” (26).

And the “sweat and toil” of our work likewise give us a share in Christ’s work:

This work of salvation came about through suffering and death on a Cross. By enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity. He shows himself a true disciple of Christ by carrying the cross in his turn every day in the activity that he is called upon to perform. The Christian finds in human work a small part of the Cross of Christ and accepts it in the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted His Cross for us (27).

Engaging the Gospel – John 6:41-51

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – John 6:41-51

Jesus says, “the Bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”

Benedict XVI considers “how we can ‘feed’ on God, live on God, in such a way that He Himself becomes our bread…God becomes ‘bread’ for us first of all in the Incarnation” of Christ, and in its “ultimate realization: Jesus’ act of giving Himself up to death and the mystery of the Cross.”

Indeed, “what underlies the Eucharist” is this “sacrifice of Jesus, Who sheds His Blood for us, and in so doing steps out of Himself, so to speak, pours Himself out, and gives Himself to us…The offering of His Body on the Cross” is made accessible to us, really and tangibly, in the sacrament of Holy Communion (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, pp. 268-69).

Because bread and wine have themselves been subjected to a kind of death in their preparation, the Lord has chosen fitting elements to veil His presence in the Eucharist:

Earthly bread can become the bearer of Christ’s presence because it contains in itself the mystery of the Passion…the grain of wheat first has to be placed in the earth, it has to ‘die,’ and then the new ear can grow out of this death…The same is true of wine. It too contains the Passion in itself, for the grape had to be pressed in order to become wine (pp. 271-72).

Let us always remember that the Eucharist makes present, brings us into, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (Catechism paragraphs 1366-67).

Jesus emphasizes that eating His Bread leads to eternal life. The Eucharist is therefore “a pledge of the life to come” and “an anticipation of the heavenly glory” (paragraph 1402).

As St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in the early second century, we “break the one Bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ” (quoted in 1405).

Question: Have I reflected upon Jesus’ total self-giving in the Eucharist?

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 – Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday: Gospel – John 20:19-31

St. John Paul II established the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

In his encyclical Dives in Misericordia (“rich in mercy”), JPII wrote that Jesus makes God’s mercy “incarnate and personifies it” (2). Expressing the Father’s love and mercy thus becomes “the fundamental touchstone of His mission as the Messiah” (3).

This is especially visible in the Paschal Mystery: “In His resurrection, Christ has revealed the God of merciful love, precisely because He accepted the cross as the way to the resurrection,” proving that the Father’s love “is more powerful than death” and “more powerful than sin” (8).

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite….Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man, only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent.

— ibid.,13.

And yet even when we put up obstacles, the Lord still seeks us out, and offers us a way to trust in Him.

We see this clearly in today’s Gospel passage about “doubting Thomas,” which speaks to us in three important ways, according to Benedict XVI:

First, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any uncertainty; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.

The figure of Thomas shows us that we have “the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for explanations” —

Let us be brave enough to say: ‘I do not understand you, Lord; listen to me, help me to understand.’

General Audience of September 27, 2006.

Question for reflection: When has the Lord brought His mercy home to me in a personal way?