Engaging the Gospel – Luke 9:51-62

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 9:51-62

Today’s Gospel continues a theme from last Sunday – “the nobility and difficulty of the Christian vocation,” as St John Paul II described it:

Jesus calls us to follow Him personally. This call, it may be said, is at the very heart of the Gospel.

We think of all those calls of which the evangelists tell us. One of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me go first and bury my father.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.’ This is a drastic way of saying: leave everything, immediately, for Me.

JP II went on to put this scene in its proper perspective, guiding us to its meaning for our own lives. The specific way that we dedicate ourselves to following Christ is shaped by such factors as our state in life and our unique talents. The Lord doesn’t call all to serve “in an identical manner,” but all of us are called to the same spirit of radical commitment to Christ:

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Gospel request for heroic renunciations…commits everyone…to be ready in spirit to carry out what is required, should one be called upon to do so…The counsels therefore imply for everyone an interior detachment, a donation of self to Christ, without which there is no true evangelical spirit.

— General Audience of October 28, 1987.

It’s only natural to feel our inadequacy to respond to such a radical call. But we don’t have to rely on our own strength. The Lord in His mercy will help us, if we cooperate with His grace and take a single step toward Him.

Question for reflection: Do I keep putting off a resolution to follow the Lord more faithfully?

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 – Second Sunday of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent (Year B): Gospel – Mark 9:2-10

The Transfiguration is rich in meaning on several levels, beginning with its timing. Christ’s divine glory was made manifest during the Jewish Feast of Sukkoth. Commemorating Israel’s time of wandering in the desert after the Exodus, living in tents (“sukkoth”), this feast had messianic overtones: the Jewish people believed that it foreshadowed the coming age of the Messiah.

Jesus fulfills this hope, as Benedict XVI observes:

Indeed, the Lord has pitched the tent of His body among us and has thus inaugurated the messianic age…Jesus is the holy tent above whom the cloud of God’s presence now stands.

— Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1, pp. 315-16.

The presence of Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration demonstrates Jesus’ fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. They represent the Law and the Prophets, which proclaimed the Messiah’s coming. Although Moses and Elijah had encounters with God in the Old Testament, “only on the mountain of the Transfiguration” did they “behold the unveiled face of Him Whom they sought” – in Christ (Catechism paragraph 2583).

Moreover, the Transfiguration gives us a glimpse of the Holy Trinity.

As St. Thomas Aquinas noted, “The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud” (quoted in paragraph 555).

Question for reflection: In what ways do I listen to the Lord?

God’s Inspiring Plan for the Family

Today’s celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is a sign of the dignity of the family itself, and a call to live up to God’s inspiring plan for our own families.

Marriage and family life have profoundly theological dimensions, as St. John Paul II explains in Familiaris Consortio.

God Himself is the author of marriage: He created man and woman as complementary partners, designed for a matrimonial union, to cooperate with Him in the extraordinary gift of transmitting new life. Husband and wife therefore enjoy a “unique participation in the mystery of life and of the love of God Himself” (29).

Parents are to bring children up in the faith – a task so important that St. Thomas Aquinas “has no hesitation in comparing it with the ministry of priests” (38). The family thereby fulfills its vocation of being a “domestic church.”

The family is also “the first and fundamental school of social living,” with each member called to self-giving for the others (37).

“The essence and role of the family” is summed up by love: “the mission to guard, reveal, and communicate love,” as “a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride” (17).

And to the lonely, John Paul offers a special word: “No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone” (85).

Creation

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 279-301, 337-49:

  • God created the entire cosmos out of nothing; all that exists, whether spiritual or material, owes its origins, life, and existence to God.
  • Perfectly sufficient within Himself, God was under no necessity or constraint to create.
  • But out of His own sovereign freedom, He chose to create the cosmos, to show forth His glory by making creatures who could share in His life, goodness, and love.
  • As St. Thomas Aquinas observed, “Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened His hand.”
  • Creation is thus the first step toward God’s covenant of love with humankind; indeed, He made the cosmos as a gift for us.
  • The creation accounts in Genesis are not intended as a scientific textbook; the sacred author is not trying to explain precisely how God created everything.
  • Rather, the language of Scripture conveys the essential theological point: that creation has its origin from God, and that it is good in itself because it reflects the order, beauty, and wisdom of the Creator.
  • As a result, the Church welcomes scientific advances that can teach us about the nature of the physical world, and its fascinating intricacies that inspire wonder and admiration.
  • While science plays a vital role in analyzing the material world, it cannot properly address the profound spiritual questions that have long absorbed the human mind.
  • The Church has defended the truth about creation from various heresies over the centuries, upholding its goodness and testifying to God’s continuing care for His creatures.

Live Your Faith

Has the beauty of the natural world helped us to draw near to God, praising Him for its extravagant variety? Or do we sometimes take creation for granted, and miss out on God’s elaborate gift to us? Let us examine our attitudes toward creation and resolve to be better stewards of the world God has entrusted to us.