Engaging the Gospel – Luke 12:49-53

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 12:49-53

Households will be divided

It’s tough to be a committed disciple when the entertainment culture and prevailing opinion are often antithetical to the truth of Christ. We may feel enormous pressure to go with the flow, or else risk losing friends and popularity.

This can lead to what spiritual writers have described as the sin of “human respect” – being so concerned with what other people think of us, that we lack courage to stand with the Lord. Fearing a loss of others’ esteem, we may end up compromising our beliefs and morals.

If we give in, we’re effectively becoming disciples of the world, not of Christ. If we commit to the Lord, we may experience difficulties in some personal relationships.

Jesus Himself prophesies such division in today’s Gospel. Some will not accept Him, and that will cause opposition to His disciples in every age.

“As soon as worldly people see that you wish to follow a devout life, they aim a thousand darts of mockery and even detraction at you” and accuse you of “hypocrisy, bigotry.”

Sound like something you’ve read or heard recently? Those words were written in the early 1600s by St Francis de Sales in his spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life.

We can take heart from the fact that we are not alone in our trials. Disciples down through the course of history have been faced with the same kind of choice: do I follow God’s way, or the world’s way?

The saints chose wisely, and our brothers and sisters in heaven are ready, willing, and able to help us as we make our choices. Let us ask for their timely intercession, draw lessons from their lives, and consult their writings for guidance.

St Francis de Sales gives us sage advice:

These people [seeking to draw you away from the Lord] aren’t interested in your health or welfare.

Does anyone fail to see that the world is an unjust judge, gracious and well disposed to its own children but harsh and rigorous towards the children of God?

We can never please the world unless we lose ourselves together with it.

–Quotations from the Fourth Part of the Introduction, Chapter 1

Question for reflection: When have I stood with the Lord, even when it was unpopular?

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Engaging the Gospel – Fourth Sunday of Easter

4th Sunday of Easter (Year C): Gospel – John 10:27-30

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” featuring a Gospel passage on this ancient theme.

Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) considered what this means for us:

Turn now to consider how these words of Our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to His flock, whether you know Him, whether the light of His truth shines in your minds…

Again [the Lord] says: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them; they follow Me, and I give them eternal life

So Our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow Him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way.

No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast.

— From a homily on the Gospels

Question for reflection: When has listening to Jesus filled me with a sense of peace?

Engaging the Gospel – All Saints’ Day

Solemnity of All Saints: Gospel – Matthew 5:1-12a

Jesus’ proclamation of the Beatitudes is a particularly appropriate Gospel for All Saints’ Day, for the lives of the saints provide powerful witness of the Beatitudes in action:

The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching…The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity….They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life….They have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.

— Catechism paragraphs 1716-17.

This is our game plan to follow, for we too are “called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness” (2013).

The Lord is calling each and every one of us — regardless of our place in life. But the specific ways we live out that call vary.

If you’re a parent, your top priority is to raise your children in the faith. If you’re a student, your path of discipleship is to study diligently. If you work, be a witness to faith in the workplace. If you’re battling health problems that keep you home, you can be a prayer warrior for the Church.

Wherever we find ourselves, the Lord has a particular form of discipleship in mind for us. And by living that out, we do our part to build up the Body of Christ.

We are reminded of this truth by our celebration of All Saints. Untold numbers of men and women have answered the call to holiness, across all walks of life, down through the ages. They weren’t famous in the world, but they have reached the only goal that matters — heaven. These “ordinary” saints serve as inspiration that we too can reach heaven by following the Lord.

Let us ask them to pray for us, that we may live out our discipleship as the Lord wills.

Question for reflection: How does the example of the saints help me to live the Christian life?

Simplicity of Prayer

Do we sometimes complicate prayer, thinking that unless we’re reciting traditional formulas, we’re not “really” praying? But in truth, prayer is beautifully simple, as easy and natural as speaking with our family and friends.

For prayer is our conversing with God, as our prayer partners – the saints – have described it.

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God, or the requesting of good things from God,” St. John Damascene teaches us (quoted in Catechism paragraph 2559).

St. Teresa of Avila emphasizes the intimacy of our relationship with God, viewing prayer as “nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him Who we know loves us” (quoted in 2709).

St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, reminds us that prayer doesn’t even require words: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (quoted in 2558).

While our learned prayers and devotions offer us wonderful ways of engaging the Lord, let us also cultivate the habit of turning to Him throughout the day, whether to thank Him for a particular blessing, ask for His help in difficulty, or tell Him hello, just because.

Parents can encourage children to do likewise, and in the evening, family members may share one aspect of their prayer that day.

 

Hallowed Be Thy Name

God desires to draw us into His own life. Because He is indescribably holy, we are called to be transformed by His grace and become holy.

This is what is meant by the petition “hallowed be Thy Name,” that God’s Name be made holy in us, and in others. As sinners still on the path to sanctification, we pray for God’s saving plan to be accomplished in our lives.

God has entrusted us with a great mystery of intimacy — His revelation of Himself, first to the People of Israel, and ultimately in the Person of Christ.

But how do we respond to this divine gift? If we treasure the holiness of God and strive to live in accord with His grace, we hallow His Name. On the other hand, if we deliberately indulge in unrepentant sin, or disparage sacred things, we besmirch His Name, effectively telling God that we don’t care about Him or His friendship.

That is why the saints have been so zealous for the Holy Name: God’s friends yearn to glorify Him.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2803-15.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

Jesus Himself taught us to say the “Our Father.” Accordingly called the “Lord’s Prayer,” it is an extraordinary gift to us: the very words that flow from the Son’s heart, we now make our own.

Moreover, we have received the Holy Spirit, Who cries “Abba! Father!” within us, and empowers us to pray in spirit and truth.

Thus when we say the Our Father, we are not merely to parrot the familiar phrases as though on auto-pilot. Rather, let us be enveloped in the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Let us also be mindful of our place in the communion of saints, who have said this prayer with devotion down through the ages.

Ever present in the Church’s liturgy from the beginning, the Our Father “is truly a summary of the whole Gospel” (Catechism paragraph 2761), and we will examine its petitions in the weeks to come.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2759-76.

Communion of Saints

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 946-962, 1474-77:

  • The communion of saints is a description of the Church; we have communion in “holy things,” which creates our communion “among holy persons.”
  • Among the holy things, or spiritual goods, we share in common are our faith; the charisms or special graces given by the Holy Spirit; our material possessions, which we use to help others; and our charity.
  • But above all, the holy things we share are the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, which binds us most intimately with Christ and therefore with each other.
  • Through the sacraments, Christ, as the Head of His Body the Church, communicates His riches to all; these riches are referred to as the Church’s treasury – not meaning worldly wealth or property, but her spiritual endowment.
  • In addition to Christ’s infinite merits, this treasury includes the totality of the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all of the saints.
  • Because we are one in the Mystical Body, we all share in each other’s good, and a wonderful exchange of spiritual goods takes place continuously.
  • A perennial link of charity connects us with the saints in heaven as well as with the holy souls being purified in Purgatory: the saints constantly intercede for us to help us on our journey, just as we on earth pray for our family, friends, and those in special need.
  • This profound understanding of communion is why the Church on earth has always prayed for the dead; the faithful departed are not cut off from us, but organically joined to us in Christ, so that our prayers may benefit them, and they may assist us.
  • While our good works redound to the benefit of the whole Body, every one of our sins harms this mystical communion.
  • Thus sin is never a purely private matter, for it has a detrimental effect on the Body.

Live Your Faith

Our culture promotes radical individualism, celebrating a selfish desire to do whatever we like and call it good.

But such a notion is incompatible with the mind of Christ. To be authentically Christian, we must live with a deep sense of communion with others, aware that our “personal” choices have consequences that reverberate well beyond ourselves.

Let us reflect if our opinions are formed by the world, or by Christ.