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?

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?

 

Prayer of Praise

Based upon Catechism paragraphs 2639-49:

When we praise God, we glorify Him purely because of Who He Is – the all-holy, all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful, all-beautiful One.

Praise therefore has a different aspect from the other forms of prayer, which in some way refer to ourselves and what God does for us. We bless God in response to His blessings upon us, and adore Him in recognition of our status as creatures; we offer thanksgiving to God for His abundant gifts; we ask Him to take care of our needs in prayers of petition; and we pray on behalf of others in our prayers of intercession.

In prayers of praise, however, we are focused upon God Himself, loving Him for His Own sake. We exult in the sheer awesomeness of the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – Who Is Being itself, in glorious perfection forever, transcending time.

The technical term for a prayer of praise is “doxology,” a loan word from Greek. Examples include the “Glory to God in the highest” that we sing at Mass, the “Glory Be,” and the phrase added to the Lord’s Prayer, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever.”

As the conclusion to the “Our Father” implies, the other forms of prayer logically lead us into praise. Blessing, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession all call to mind the infinite goodness, generosity, and majesty of God, a reflection that culminates in our praising God just for being God.

This is illustrated to the highest degree at Mass: “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, and according to the traditions of East and West, it is the ‘sacrifice of praise.’”

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 1:40-45

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 1:40-45

Christ graciously heals the leper, who then disobeys the Lord

The leper’s earnest prayer encourages us to pray with “filial boldness” for our needs (Catechism paragraph 2610).

But after Jesus graciously heals him, the leper fails to respond in kind, and disregards the Lord’s instruction to him. This prompts us to reflect upon how we receive the Lord’s gifts.

Are we truly “living in thanksgiving,” knowing that “everything we are and have comes from Him” (224), or do we thoughtlessly go our own way? Like the leper, we also have been healed, from the deadly spiritual sickness caused by our sins.

Jesus referred the leper to the Jewish priest: the Old Covenant priesthood prefigures the New Covenant priesthood, which Christ gave us as a gift to cleanse and shepherd us (1541).

Benedict XVI comments:

According to the ancient Jewish law…leprosy constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing a kind of resurrection. It is possible to see leprosy as a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart that can distance us from God.  It is not in fact the physical disease of leprosy that separates us from God as the ancient norms supposed but sin, spiritual and moral evil.

…The sins that we commit distance us from God and, if we do not humbly confess them, trusting in divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul…In the Sacrament of Penance, the Crucified and Risen Christ purifies us through His ministers with His infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers, and makes us a gift of His love, His joy and His peace.

Angelus of February 15, 2009

Question for reflection: How do I express my gratitude for God’s blessings?

Thanksgiving

The term “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek for “thanksgiving.” This form of prayer reaches its apex in the celebration of the Eucharist, in which we participate in Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father, in a salvific work that encompasses the entire cosmos.

As the Catechism explains, “in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for His glory.”

Because Christ is the Head and we are the members of His Body, we too are integrally involved in this action. When we make our own offerings at Mass – of our time, resources, and most of all ourselves – all are taken up and absorbed into Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving.

But our thanksgiving is not limited to the Mass itself. Anything that we experience can become an occasion for thanksgiving. Although it is obviously easier to render thanks in happy circumstances, we should also learn to thank God even in our trials. St. Paul exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

By offering thanksgiving to God in the midst of difficulties, we grow in trust, knowing that the Lord is ordering all things for our eternal welfare. In this way we keep our earthly lives in the proper perspective of our ultimate destiny.

God did not have to create us at all, or share with us His own divine life. If we maintain a spirit of gratitude for God’s great works of creation, redemption, and sanctification – which we could never merit on our own – we can better shoulder the burdens of daily life.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2637-38.

Uniting with Jesus’ Prayer

We should never feel alone or isolated in prayer: made God’s children in Baptism, we are conformed to Christ, and so caught up in the Son’s “filial prayer” to the Father.

Jesus’ prayer is described in the Gospels – His great love for the Father, absolute acceptance of His will, and heartfelt thanksgiving, poured out even before His request is granted.

Now enthroned at the Father’s right hand, Christ continues to pray unceasingly as our High Priest in heaven.

And because we are members of the Body of Christ, He actually prays within us!

St. Augustine captures this beautiful mystery:

He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in Him and His in us.

–quoted in Catechism paragraph 2616.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2598-2606, 2746-51.