Engaging the Gospel – Luke 17:11-19

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 17:11-19

The ten lepers’ crying out to Jesus to “have pity” on them is an example of a prayer of petition, when we ask God for help with any need:

By prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end.

— Catechism paragraph 2629

Jesus responds to their request by healing them. His gift not only restores their physical health, but also ends their isolation from society, reuniting them with their families and giving them back their lives. Despite the life-transforming nature of this gift, only one person returns to express his gratitude and glorify God, in a prayer of thanksgiving.

We too have been cleansed by Christ, but our healing is an even greater miracle of redemption: we have been “disfigured by sin and death,” yet Christ restores us in the “Father’s likeness” (705), brings us into the very life of the Holy Trinity (1997), and enables us to fulfill our “original vocation” of eternal life (518, 1998).

How can we give thanks for this awesome gift? Christ himself has instituted the perfect way – through the Eucharist, which literally means “thanksgiving.”

The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer: it is the pure offering of the whole Body of Christ to the glory of God’s name…it is the sacrifice of praise (2643).

Question for reflection: When have I been especially grateful to God?

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Engaging the Gospel – Luke 14:1, 7-14

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 14:1, 7-14

Why is pride so harmful to the spiritual life? Pride is rooted in a lie, as though we’re the architects of our own existence, with no need for God.

Humility, on the other hand, is grounded in the truth of who we are. As creatures, we are constantly dependent upon God. As sin-prone human beings, we are incapable of saving our souls for eternal life. And as disciples of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are called to emulate His humility.

In today’s Gospel, set against the background of intense social competition at a banquet, Jesus takes the opportunity to instruct the guests on the virtue of humility. In essence, He counsels us to follow His example.

As God the Son, the Eternal Word of the Father, He humbled Himself to take up our humanity in order to redeem us. Just as He tells His host that he should invite the poor and outcast, so does Jesus invite us, who cannot possibly repay Him, to His eternal banquet.

In the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604),

that He might bring us back to the way of life through humility, He deigned to exhibit in Himself what He teaches us…For to this end the only begotten Son of God took upon Himself the form of our weakness; to this end He endured…the reproaches of derision, the torments of suffering; that God in His humility might teach man not to be proud. How great, then, is the virtue of humility for the sake of teaching which alone He Who is great beyond compare became little even unto the suffering of death!

Book V, Letter 18.

Remembering that we are sinners, forever in God’s debt, helps us to develop a true sense of humility before God and neighbor – not to denigrate our gifts and accomplishments, but to know that they come from God, and to view ourselves in proper perspective.

Because humility enables us to recognize our dependence upon God, and to treat others charitably, it is essential for growth in the spiritual life.

Question for reflection: How might I cultivate the virtue of humility?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

The usual reaction to the parable of the Good Samaritan is an examination of conscience: how well do we step forward to help our neighbor?

But instead of always comparing ourselves to the Good Samaritan, it can be beneficial to identify with the robbers’ victim. From a spiritual perspective, we are the wounded; unable to save ourselves, we need someone to rescue us from sin and eternal death.

The Church Fathers interpreted the parable through this lens, seeing the wounded man as symbolic of fallen humanity and the Good Samaritan as a symbol of Jesus.

Benedict XVI summarizes this theologically rich explanation in his first volume of Jesus of Nazareth (pp. 200-201):

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho thus turns out to be an image of human history; the half-dead man lying by the side of it is an image of humanity. Priest and Levite pass by; from earthly history alone, from its cultures and [human] religions alone, no healing comes.

If the assault victim is the image of Everyman, the Samaritan can only be the image of Jesus Christ. God Himself, Who for us is foreign and distant, has set out to take care of His wounded creature. God, though so remote from us, has made Himself our neighbor in Jesus Christ.

He pours oil and wine into our wounds, a gesture seen as an image of the healing gift of the sacraments, and He brings us to the inn, the Church, in which He arranges our care and also pays a deposit for the cost of that care…

Now we realize that we always need God, Who makes Himself our neighbor so that we can become neighbors.

The Good Samaritan parable thus has special resonance during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Having received God’s mercy, we then act mercifully toward our neighbors:

Everyone must first be healed and filled with God’s gifts. But then everyone is also called to become a Samaritan – to follow Christ and become like Him.

Question for reflection: How am I allowing the Lord to heal my woundedness?

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday: Gospel – John 20:19-31

This Gospel passage featuring “doubting Thomas” is appropriate for Divine Mercy Sunday.

When revealing the unfathomable depths of His mercy to St Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, Jesus emphasized how much He longs for us to trust Him, and how our lack of trust grieves Him.

Just as Jesus showed His wounds to Thomas as proof of His resurrection, so does He remind us of His wounds as a pledge of His mercy:

Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds.

— Diary of St Faustina, paragraph 379.

Thus Jesus implores us to entrust ourselves to His merciful Heart, especially today, Divine Mercy Sunday. This feast was not established because of a personal inspiration on the part of St John Paul II, nor is it just a matter of one’s own spiritual tastes.

Jesus Himself is the Author of Divine Mercy Sunday. In His revelations to St Faustina, the Lord requested that the second Sunday of Easter be dedicated as the Feast of Divine Mercy:

I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.

The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flows are opened.

Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity (699).

Just as He ordered the Feast, so did Jesus call for the Divine Mercy image to be painted, depicting the rays of mercy streaming from His Heart:

The two rays denote Blood and Water…These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross (299).

Jesus commissioned St. Faustina to spread the Divine Mercy devotion throughout the world, asking us to confide in His infinite love for us:

I came down from heaven out of love for you, I lived for you, I died for you, and I created the heavens for you (853).

Love has brought Me here, and love keeps Me here (576).

I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy (367a).

Question for reflection: When has the Lord in His mercy helped me through a struggle of faith?

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?

Christmas: a feast of God’s personal love for us

I think God must have said to Himself: Man does not love Me because he does not see Me; I will show Myself to him and thus make him love Me. God’s love for man was very great, and had been great from all eternity, but this love had not yet become visible…Then, it really appeared; the Son of God let Himself be seen as a tiny Babe in a stable, lying on a little straw.

— St. Alphonsus Liguori, quoted by Fr. Gabriel in Divine Intimacy, p. 83.

May these poignant words of St. Alphonsus help us to grasp more fully the meaning of Christmas. Jesus’ birth isn’t simply an historical event from long ago, which we may feel is too distant and remote from us.

It does involve us, in a deeply personal way, for the Eternal Son of God became man with each one of us in mind. The Lord thought of every human being that has ever existed, and ever will exist. Loving us with a personal love, He acted to save us from our sins and restore us to His friendship.

This same Jesus, Who humbled Himself to come as a vulnerable infant, continues to come to us – preeminently in the Eucharist.

When fashioning the entire arc of salvation history, God carved out our own special place within His design. We belong to this divine love story, if we would only accept Our Lord’s invitation.

One of the great figures of the 20th century Liturgical Movement, Pius Parsch, expressed it thus:

In the night of eternity, you were chosen by the Father; in the holy night of our Savior’s birth, you were remembered in the heart of God’s newborn Son and made His brother and sister; and now the Father draws you to His loving heart: With My Son, born in the stable, you have become My dearest child. With Jesus you are celebrating a birthday, reborn unto God in the holiest of nights.

— The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. I, p. 213.

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

“Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all”

The Christian imperative to serve others is expressed in the Vatican II document Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity), which urges laypeople to “take up the renewal” of the world “as their own special obligation” (7).

The Council Fathers remind us that “charitable enterprises can and should reach out to all persons and all needs” —

Wherever there are people in need of food and drink, clothing, housing, medicine, employment, education; wherever men lack the facilities necessary for living a truly human life or are afflicted with serious distress or illness or suffer exile or imprisonment, there Christian charity should seek them out and find them, console them with great solicitude and help them with appropriate relief. This obligation is imposed above all upon every prosperous nation and person.

Apostolicam Actuositatem, 8.

But our inspiration for serving others isn’t just philanthrophy or humanitarianism, as noble as those ideals are.

Rather, we serve because we are conformed to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came down from heaven to redeem us as the Suffering Servant: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

By giving of ourselves on behalf of others, we unite with Christ’s own self-emptying. The more we grow in union with Christ, the “greater” we become in holiness:

Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ…

— ibid., 4.

Question for reflection: How do I answer Jesus’ call to serve others?