Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

Ordinary Time, Sundays 22-31, Year C

Select liturgy here

SUNDAYS 22 - 24

SUNDAYS 25 - 27

SUNDAYS 28 - 31

SUNDAYS 22 - 24

Twenty-second Sunday of the Year

Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29; Psalm 68:4-7,10-11; Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24a; St.Luke 14:1,7-14

Jesus ate with the Pharisees as he did with all sinners. Though their faults may not have been publicly known as were those of the tax collectors, prostitutes, drunkards and Samaritans from whom Jesus did not hold himself aloof, these religious leaders were guilty of a perhaps greater sin: "pharisaical scandal", imputing evil to a good act.

Being habituated to denying their hypocrisy, the religious leaders were offended by Jesus' evident love for public sinners. Puffed up with pride, they were angered at being classed with prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus told them they were as "whited sepulchers, full of dead mens bones". They performed religious acts for people to see and dressed in magnificent robes and costly vestments, yet when Christ looked into their hearts he saw the corruption of sin. They were indeed sinners, as are all the offspring of Adam. Jesus told them so out of divine love. The Pharisees' pride blinded them to the truth which would open their hearts to salvation.

"Pride of life" is as grave a sin as those of the flesh or of avarice. All are classed as forms of concupiscence.

"St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. In the Catholic catechetical tradition, the ninth commandment forbids carnal concupiscence; the tenth forbids coveting another's goods." (CCC 2514)

Rabbis were forbidden to speak to certain individuals such as prostitutes lest they be suspected of soliciting sinful acts. Ritual uncleanness also resulted. Jesus, as a rabbi, was expected to abide by such restrictions. When he reached out to sinners with divine compassion by speaking with them and forgiving their sins, the Pharisees and other authorities used these good actions against him, condemning Jesus in order to place a stumbling stone between the Savior and sinners.

"Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as themselves. (Cf. Lk 5:30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1.) Against those among them who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others, Jesus affirmed: 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.' (Lk 18:9;5:32;cf. Jn 7:49;9:34.) He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves. (Cf. Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41.)" (CCC 588)

Those who are self righteous, who refuse to acknowledge that they depend upon God for all that is good, close themselves off to God's grace and redemption, for only by honest repentance for sins is one humbled before God who saves. Scandal taken at another's words or actions, were there is no sin, is itself sinful and betrays a deadly blindness to one's own sin. As St. John teaches, "anyone who says he is without sin is a liar." Scandal in a genuine sense, however, must be avoided.

"Scandal will come, but woe to those by whom it comes," Jesus said. When someone is who is weak in faith is led into sin by the words or actions of another, genuine scandal occurs. CatholicsChristians scandalize others by claiming to be Christian while, for example, profaning the Lord's Day, a grave obligation, by omitting to attend Mass for a less than grave reason.

"Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense." (CCC 2284)

It is the sin of scandal of the weak which is most strongly condemned by Christ.

"Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: 'Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.' (Mt 18:6; cf. 1 Cor 8:10-13.) Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing. (Cf. Mt 7:15.)" (CCC 2285)

Media which glamourizes evil or laws which declare legal something which is intrinsically evil and an abominable crime such as procured abortion, are sources of scandal, leading others into sin.

"Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to 'social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.' (Pius XII, Discourse, June 1, 1941) This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger (Cf. Eph 6:4; Col 3:21), or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values." (CCC 2286 )

"Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. 'Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!' (Lk 17:1)" (CCC 2287)

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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 9, 13-18; Psalm 90, 3-4. 5-6.12-13.14-17; Philemon 9-10.12-17; St. Luke 14, 22-33

Many who love our Church decry the lack of American vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They recognize that effective preaching and teaching of the Gospel will always depend, in part, on those who have been born among, and speak very well the language of, those whom they serve in the mission of the Church. When this comes up in conversation, I often remind the one speaking that vocations come from families. This being so, who better to do something about the vocation dearth than married couples and families? God chooses to call men and women out of any circumstance to serve the Church as priests and religious, but these men and women must first know the freedom necessary to respond to the Lord's call with joyful self-giving.

Though many who have already answered the call to priesthood and religious life are an only child, it yet remains true that many do not experience the freedom to answer the call for the reason that they are an only child. Those who love marriage and family enough to answer God's call to marriage and family life, also love to see that life continue in grandchildren. It must be said that this is a very good thing.

Knowing this, and wanting to respond to this human need and the very good gift of God in human life, a young man or woman, to whom it falls alone to pass on the family name or continue life to the next generation, may not experience the freedom necessary to respond to a religious vocation as might a child who has several siblings. Thus, it is a very necessary thing to occasionally remind married couples to give serious consideration and prayer to whether or not they are responding with generosity to their calling to be open to new life.

God's love is generous, and that God's love may truly live in husband and wife, these two are called to reflect divine love in, among other things, a generous openness to new life. As well, the family itself is ordered toward the eternal life of each member and the vocation through which each member approaches eternity.

"Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus: He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (CCC 2232)

Perhaps the most beautiful gift of a parent's love is to respect and nurture the freedom of their children that they might be radically generous to follow the Lord to whichever vocation he calls. This too is generosity.

"Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God's family, to live in conformity with His way of life: For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother. Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord's call to one of their children to follow him in virginity for the sake of the Kingdom in the consecrated life or in priestly ministry." (CCC 2233)

Many are quick to praise Christ. Few possess the generosity and self-sacrifice to follow him closely by giving up mother, father, wife and children for his sake. It is a higher calling to anticipate the kingdom of heaven by embracing the will of Christ through the priesthood and religious life. Families do well to place Christ at the center of their family life and to allow Him to inspire and guide their hopes and dreams for children, spouses and all families.

"Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. (Cf. Luke 14:26; Mark 10:28-31.) From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. (Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 25:6.) Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model: 'For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.' (Mt 19:12.)" (CCC 1618)

Celibacy is a charism, a gift and grace entrusted to the Church by Christ her Lord. Many will continue to be called to receive this gift until the end of the world. Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is a sign of the authenticity and the presence of Christ in His Body, the Church.May we never spurn this or any of the graces he bestows upon all of us as members of His Body.

"Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away." (CCC 1619)
(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 1620 and 2544.)
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Exodus 32, 7-11.13-14; Psalm 51, 3-4.12-13.17.19; 1 Timothy 1,12-17; St. Luke 15, 1-32

Our lives in this world take on the character of a journey in very many ways, but none more so than the way of salvation. In our pilgrimage of faith to our heavenly destination we sometimes fall or turn away in discouragement and sin.

At times the steps necessary for our walk back the Father may seem too many and too arduous for us and we hesitate even to make the first move. Perhaps it is only when we see, like the Prodigal Son, the misery that our sins have wrought, that we are then willing to rouse ourselves to sorrow and to take the path of conversion that leads to the merciful embrace of our heavenly Father, so rich in mercy. When we make even the slightest effort in sorrow, with God's grace, it is then we see the Father waiting with love to embrace us and welcome us home. Rejection of the love and presence of his father, in the communion of live and love as a family, was a terrible choice for the prodigal son. He desired things over people, his share of the inheritance in preference to a life in communion with the father who gave him life and loved him. He wanted the father to be as if dead to him.

Conversion means to come together with a turning point, to make an about face. The parable of the prodigal son is indeed a conversion story, for the son was faced with the choice of a physical turning around and retracing of his steps back to the Fathers house. Even more, this is a story of a spiritual journey, of a turning back of the soul and spirit of man. Such a reorientation is necessary for one who has rejected the Father, choosing the gifts in preference to the Giver in a sinful way and thus rejecting the will and love of the Father.

"The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: (Cf. Lk 15:11-24.) the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life--pure, worthy, and joyful--of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way." (CCC 1439)

Sorrow moved the son to return to whatever might have been awaiting him at his Fathers house. Even the most abject of circumstances, to feed with the pigs, would have been welcome after the misery of his sins.

The only effort required was accepting the grace of sorrow. The Father did all the rest; rushing to meet the beloved son, placing rich and beautiful garments upon him, jewels on his fingers and shoes on his feet, and preparing not the food of beasts but instead the finest food imaginable. Far from what he feared, the son's sorrow brought great happiness back into his life because of the Fathers rich mercy and infinite love.

"Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. (Cf. Lumen Gentium 11.)" (CCC 1440)

Our Father, wise as well as loving, shares his wisdom with us as he invites us to live in communion with him, enjoying the gifts in a life of love with the Giver.

The way of the Lord Jesus as we live it in the Father's house, the universal Church, is our privileged meeting place with the Father whenever we must return in sorrow for our sins. In every confessional, in the person of every priest-confessor, the Father awaits us, rich in mercy, to welcome us back into his house, and to reclothe us again in the magnificent garment of our baptismal graces. May we always have the humility to submit in love to the Father's wisdom and thus discover the true happiness of our lives with him now in His Church and forever in His kingdom, when the time of the Church will pass away.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 545, 589, 1423,1443, 1468, 1700, 1846, 2795, 2839.)
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SUNDAYS 25 - 27


Amos 8, 4-7; Psalm 113, 1-2,.4-6, 7-8; 1 Timothy 2,1-8; St. Luke 16, 1-13

"Make friends for yourselves through your use of this worlds goods, so that when they fail you, a lasting reception may be yours." The gifts God bestows upon us in this world come with a responsibility to be good stewards of all he has made. These are the little matters he entrusts to us now, so that we may prepare for the far greater good of eternal life.

The Church holds in a crucial balance both the universal destination of goods as well as the right to private property. Both reflect Gods providence, and neither excuse us from sincere and generous charity.
The Church draws her social teaching from the Lord's instructions in the Gospel parables and other expressions of his law of love.

We are not permitted to reduce our use of earthly goods to the pursuit of profit alone irregardless of other factors. A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable.

"The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order. (Cf. Gaudium et spes, art. 3; Laborem Exercens 7; 20; Centesimus Annus 35.) A system that 'subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production' is contrary to human dignity. (Gaudium et spes 65, art. 2.) Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. 'You cannot serve God and mammon.'(Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13.)" (CCC 2424)

All that God gives is to be shared, but in a collaborative and voluntary way, in accord with the human dignity both of the giver and the receiver of the gift. "The goods of creation are destined for the entire human race. The right to private property does not abolish the universal destination of goods." (CCC 2452)

"Those blessed with wealth or economic power, whether individuals or nations, are called at the same time to stewardship and active solicitude for the poor, unemployed and dispossessed. Goods of production - material or immaterial - such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor." (CCC 2405)

A principal divine foundation for the right to private property is enshrined in the decalogue itself: "You shall not steal".

"The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world's goods to God and to fraternal charity." (CCC 2401)

There are situations, however, when the individual is not committing grave sin where, by appropriating some amount of the private property of an unjust employer, he is merely providing for the basic sustenance of his family or those in his care. This is traditionally called occult compensation.

The Church advocates a living wage for all workers. Withholding just wages can be stealing as well and can put the lives of others in danger. The basic goods to maintain life, shelter and health are a fundamental human right.

"The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another's property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one's disposal and use the property of others." (CCC 2408)

Social justice on earth anticipates the perfect justice and love of the Kingdom. We are trusted with these little matters now that our heavenly Father may prepare us to inherit, as true sons and daughters of his, the treasure beyond all price: the reign of heaven.

<(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 952, 2425.)

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Amos 6, 1. 4-7; Psalm 146, 7.8-9.9-10; 1 Timothy 6,11-16; St. Luke 16, 19-31

Denial of truth is often disguised as kindness. We very often do not tell others the things we know they need to hear for fear of hurting their feelings, treasuring human respect more than salvation. Add to that a general ignorance of the Church's authentic teachings, and you get the general situation we find ourselves in today: many are languishing spiritually, going through all the motions of Catholic life without any perceptible spiritual benefit.

Proper celebration of the faith and life of the Church should unfailingly lead to serenity and hope despite the vicissitudes of life. Faith must have as its foundation an ongoing investigation and acceptance of the truths the Church teaches. When sacramental celebration and prayer flow from this firm foundation, the faithful are able to reap the benefits of our Catholic Faith.

One matter which many avoid, and some outright deny, is the existence of hell. For some Catholics the possibility of a state of damnation is one of the fables that was allegedly jettisoned at the second council of the Vatican. A belief that the Church ever put her faith in fables or myths is regrettably common.

That anything ever true, and held thus in the Church's deposit of faith, must always be true is also poorly understood. Among the unpopular subjects today is hell. Hell does exist, as we profess in our Creed at each Liturgy.

"The rich man is denied the vision and presence of God forever because of his actions in this world. The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs." (CCC 1035)

Some wonder how Christ could descend into hell, as we profess in the Creed, if he is divine and holy. Some, also, because he brought some souls out of hell with him, which we sometimes call the" harrowing of hell" think that hades is not an eternal state of separation from God.

"Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" --Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek--because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. (Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.) Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into Abraham's bosom: (Cf. Ps 89:49; 1 Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.) It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord, delivered when he descended into hell. (Roman Catechism I, 6,3.) Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him. (Cf. Council of Rome (745); DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.)" (CCC 633)

So, those who were freed by Christ when he descended among the dead had been just according to the Old Law and therefore, in God's mercy, could not be justly consigned to eternal damnation simply because, by an accident of history, they had lived and died before the Redemption. Those who were justly damned remained so and thus the state of separation from God is upheld as a reality. It is important to remember, howeve,r the prayer of the Church in the Roman Canon: "save us from final damnation". The highest law of the Church is the salvation of souls and thus her prayers and liturgy reflect this.

God has given us dominion over ourselves in Christ. We are the masters of our destiny through the manner in which we live our lives. Each act of the intellect and will engages the entirety of our personhood and determines how we stand before God whether for good or for evil.

"Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude. He pursues his perfection in seeking and loving what is true and good (GS 15 § 2)." (CCC 1711)

Hell, the state of eternal separation from God, is a radical possibility for every man and woman, because every man and woman has been created by God in His image and likeness, with intellect and free will.
Every choice man or woman makes is a choice either for or against God, according to or in denial of His will. The Lord has proclaimed that even indifference will be judged: If you are a lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 336, 633,1021, 1859, 2831.)
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Hebrews 1, 2-3; 2, 2-4; Psalm 95, 1-2.6-7.8-9; 2 Timothy 1,6-8.13-14; St. Luke 17, 5-10

The apostles implore the Lord Jesus to increase their faith. He makes clear that faith will grow for those who are generous with their time, talents and treasure for the sake of the Lord and the kingdom of heaven

"Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to Timothy: 'Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.' (1 Tim 1:18-19.) To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;(Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5;22:32.) it must be 'working through charity,' abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.(Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.)" (CCC 162)

Faith can be lost; it is a gift and thus can be refused. St. Paul uses a dramatic image, evoking a battle or disaster at sea by saying, "Some have made shipwreck of their faith." He explains how: "By rejecting conscience."

What do the Church and St. Paul mean when speaking of "conscience"?

"Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
"Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.
(John Henry Cardinal Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk)" (CCC 1778)

Conscience is given by God for man and woman's dignity, created in the divine likeness.

"Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God: "We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 Jn 3:19-20)" (CCC 1781)

Some describe the witness of their conscience as the "feeling" of guilt. Rather than choosing to indulge in the uselessness of guilty "feelings" man and woman are invited instead to see the tugging o their conscience as "a pledge of hope and mercy". Our merciful Father calls us to return to Him through the gift of conscience. How does one have an upright, or morally correct, conscience?

"Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings." (CCC 1783)

The ten commandments, as well as all the moral teachings of the Scriptures taught by the Church and codified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are some of the sources for properly informing one's conscience. Learning right and wrong begins early in life but continues as long as one lives.

"The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart." (CCC 1784)

The fruits of a properly formed conscience are serenity and confidence as the faithful pursue a state of grace by living the virtues, seeking forgiveness in Confession when conscience accuses of grave sin, and looking forward in hope and joy to glory in the life of heaven without end.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph number 162.) Publish with permission.

SUNDAYS 28 - 31


2 Kings 5, 14-17; Psalm 98, 1.2-3.3-4; 2 Timothy 2, 8-13; Gospel: St. Luke 17. 11-19

Jesus cures ten, but only one returns to give thanks. "Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? No one, it seems, has come back to give glory to God but this foreigner." Perhaps this percentage of thankfulness continues among God's children today. All have abundant and infinite reason to give thanks yet very few turn to the Lord with words and hearts expressive of gratitude.

The teaching of Christ here is not about the healing of the flesh; it is of a far greater and more precious gift: the grace of God by faith in Christ Jesus. God's gift of faith in the Son of Man is poured out freely for all, regardless of race, language, or place. The working of his grace is seen here in the gratitude of the Samaritan. He who was thought to be socially repulsive, and an outcast even before he contracted leprosy, shows the dignity of faith in returning to give thanks to Christ. "Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you."
How often do our prayers turn to the theme of thanksgiving to God? Does our concern for present needs and wants cloud our remembrance of past gifts and blessings? Do we forget that all we have and are is "gift" - what then should be our response to the Giver?

Giving thanks is at the heart, and gives its name to, the most important act of the Church: the offering of the holy Eucharist in the sacrifice of the Mass.

"Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. Indeed, 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. The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head." (CCC 2637)

The Scriptures are our model of prayer and illustrate for us the many reasons and occasions on which we can and should render thanks to God "from whom all blessings flow."

"As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: 'Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you'; 'Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.' (1 Thess 5:18; Col 4:2)" (CCC 2638)

Refusal to thank another may imply one deserves the gift. Entitlement is an illusion to which all humans can fall prey. This dishonors the generosity and virtue of the giver and shows sinful pride in the receiver. Failure to thank God makes the creature equal to the Creator. Reality is distorted and pride reaches even greater heights: the finite pretends to infinity.

Pride is to be shunned by the baptized believer as a sin against divine love which puts salvation at risk if unrepented.

"One can sin against God's love in various ways:

"- indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.
"- ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return him love for love.
"- lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.
"- acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.
"- hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments."
(CCC 2094)

Thankfulness is a necessary component and expression of our love for God who has loved us in Christ to His death on the Cross. What can we do but give thanks every day to God who has put to death our death by the death of His own Son and, by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given us a share in His own life which never ends? If we open our hearts and minds to this perspective of faith, how could we fail to begin and end every prayer and offering in heartfelt and loving thanks to our heavenly Father? (Publish with permission. )


Exodus 17, 8-13; Psalm 121, 1-2. 3-4.5-6.7-8; 2 Timothy 3, 14-4,2; St. Luke 18, 1-8

For bodily weariness there is rest and upon arising from sleep one is able to rejoin the human race with renewed vigor. One may even go apart from work and home for an extended period. But in the task of prayer there can be no rest, for Christ commands us "Pray always". Prayer is the vigilance of one in battle, defending the stronghold of the soul against temptation and sin.
In the Book of Exodus Israel is under attack; Moses, his hands aloft, is the figure of intercession and prayer on behalf of the people in the life and death struggle against Amalek. Only as long as he is able to hold his hands thus will the chosen people gain the victory over their enemies. That he may continue to pray and not grow weary he is seated upon a stone and his hands are supported with the help of Aaron and Hur. Aided thus he is steadfast and the chosen people are victorious.
"The prayer of Moses responds to the living God's initiative for the salvation of his people. It foreshadows the prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus." (CCC 2593)
Mosesí prayer in the battle against Amalek is a sign only of the greatest warrior and the most awful struggle. Jesus Christ upon His cross holds his hands aloft with the help of the nails; His feet are supported not by a stone but by a piercing nail. His hands are held in place in the perfect prayer for the sake of victory over the most terrible enemy of death which entered the world through sin. Until the last drop of His blood is shed and until His last breath His hands are held thus. There is no rest; the battle is total. All must be given to defeat the enemy of all.
The holy Mass is the experience here and now of this most glorious battle of God over the most fearsome enemy of death. But in order that His victory may be in us and that we may find life unending in Him we must pray always this prayer of victory. We must not lose the heart of sacrifice so that our sins may not tear us from His grasp.
A superficial or trite celebration of the holy rites can mislead and deceive the faithful, lulling us into a lax and casual understanding. The liturgy can become a mere social gathering, an opportunity for friends to say hello or a venue for trotting forth the latest fashions. The crowding of the faithful into the sanctuary, making of it a mere stage, have undermined the truths of the Mass, displacing Christ as the actor who saves sinful man. The role of altar server is for many just another activity for the boys and girls to include on their list of social services in anticipation of applying for high school rather than an opportunity to encourage young men to associate with the work of the priest as an opening to a priestly vocation. These things most assuredly have nothing in common with the death of Christ on the cross, relived in each Mass, and undermine what is most necessary in the life of the praying Church.
We have not been serious as a Church about what we say we believe about the Eucharistic Sacrifice. And we have paid the price. Attendance has fallen as uncatechised Catholics on the margins replace the Mass with sleep, shopping or other more satisfying social events. Young men have dropped out of service on the altar as young women, at such an age much more poised and socially at ease, have taken over their roles. Vestments, sacred vessels, and sanctuaries lack noble beauty. Lectors who have not practiced the reading of the Scriptures prior to Mass leave the people without a proper hearing of the Word. Priests replace prayer with banter and prescribed liturgical gestures are ignored.
The family is the unique school of prayer where the most lasting lessons are learned.
"The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of
marriage, the family is the 'domestic church' where God's children learn to pray 'as the Church' and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit." (CCC 2685)
Family prayer leads to and flows from the perfect prayer of the Church which is every holy Mass.
At every moment, all over the world, the Body of Christ is at prayer. In churches, chapels, convents and monasteries, with soldiers in the field of battle or with the persecuted in hidden places, the hands of the faithful are raised aloft in union with the heart of the suffering and triumphant Lord. Our liturgy of the Mass is the upraising of the Lordís hands on the Cross unto death, that He may then rise to give us life. We must never grow weary of a correct and dignified offering of the sacred rites. The Lord God has proved we are worth it with the payment of the most precious cost: His own Life Divine.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 695.)
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Sirach 35, 12-14.16-18; Psalm 34, 2-3. 17-18.19-23; 2 Timothy 4, 6-8.16-18; St. Luke 18, 9-14

What is the Pharisees' sin? He attends the temple worship as he ought, does he not? To all appearances he performs outwardly all that God demands, and in fine form. His actions are deceiving to all but God, however, for his heart is far from the Lord. He is blinded by his pride and ends by making himself God's equal. He was "self-righteous" and he held "everyone else in contempt". When we are unable to simply thank the Lord for our many unmerited gifts, and beg him for his mercy, seeking the grace to return His love for us, we make ourselves God's equal. This is the sin of the Pharisee.

"The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that 'we receive from him whatever we ask.' Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer." (CCC 2631)

Our prayer in the Liturgy is a great offering before God and brings him glory when it is offered with a contrite and humble heart. We acknowledge our sinfulness at the start of each Mass in the "Penitential Rite" in order that we may properly humble ourselves before the thrice-holy God.

"Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God." (St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 24:PG 94, 1089C.) But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or 'out of the depths' of a humble and contrite heart? (Psalm 130:1) He who humbles himself will be exalted;(Cf. Lk 18:9-14) humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that 'we do not know how to pray as we ought,' (Rom 8:26) are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. 'Man is a beggar before God.' (St. Augustine, Sermo 56, 6,9:PL 38, 381.)"(CCC 2559)

When we humble ourselves it is then, the Lord promises us, we will be exalted: "He who humbles himself will be exalted". That our deepest longing to share in God's glory forever in heaven may be fulfilled, we must eschew all pride and vainglory. We do this by becoming "little children". We look to the Father in adoration, love and worship. Every offering of the Mass gives us the perfect opportunity to turn as children back to the Father, to make the prayer of the tax collector our own: "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." His sincere and humble offering was worth more than all the temple sacrifices, for it was the expression of a "humble, contrite heart".

That we may be "exalted", "raised up" by the Lord who rose from the dead to raise us up, let us treasure every grace of contrition, and respond to every impulse to repeat the blessed prayer we learn from the tax collector, "O God be merciful to me, a sinner".

"Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction." (CCC 1450)

In every Mass we begin our worship by examining our consciences that we may offer an acceptable gift at the altar. We place ourselves in our true position before God, needy souls who come to him for every good. In every confession we respond with honesty to our acknowledgement of serious sin. We tell the priest all of our grave sins by species, that is what we have done, and number, how many times we have committed each sin. This, and sorrow for our sins, are all that are required and, in return, we receive the overflowing mercy of the Father in the priest's prayer of absolution. These are the attitudes of the humble heart that are so pleasing to the Father and thus truly lead to our exaltation as blessed souls in heaven.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 2558 and following.)
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Wisdom 11,22-12,1; Psalm 145, 1-2.8-9.10-11.13.14; 2 Thessalonians 1, 11-2,2; St. Luke 19, 1-10

Zaccheus is filled with remorse for his sins, so much so that he promises publicly, before Jesus and other witnesses, to perform reparations for his crimes.

What moves Zaccheus to this sincere contrition for his sins and the vow to change his life, even to a willingness to endanger his livelihood? How does he find within himself such superhuman generosity? He has encountered the transforming supernatural power of Divine Love.

Conversion has a social component because it is a rejection of sin and its social consequences.

"Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, (Cf. Am 5:24; Isa 1:17) by the admission of one's faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of reightouesness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance." (Cf. Lk 9:23) (CCC 1439)

Sorrow for sins, always necessary for receiving the grace of God's forgiveness, should always accompany one's works of reparation for sin.

"The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more in the future. Conversion touches the past and the future and is nourished by hope in God's mercy. (CCC 1490)

Sorrow for sin is always required when celebrating the sacrament of Confession in order that the penitent may indeed receive the graces of the sacrament. As well, one's sorrow and experience of God's healing love can and should move one to repair damage or replace what is taken away from others by one's sins.

Reparation, as seen in the example of Zaccheus, may under certain circumstances be a duty for the penitent.

"Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another's reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience. (CCC 2487)

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation reconciles the repentant sinner both with God and with the communio, or community, of the Church.

"During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: he reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at his table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God's forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God. (Cf. Lk 15; 19:9.)"(CCC 1443)

Zaccheus was converted from an attraction to evil by his attraction to the love of Christ and a desire to share in it.

"God is infintely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? 'I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution,' said St. Augustine, (St. Augustine, Confessions 7,711:PL 32,739.) and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For 'the mystery of lawlessness' is clarified only in the light of the 'mystery of our religion.'(2 Thess 2:7; 1 Tim 3:16.) The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace.(Cf. Rom 5:20.) We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror. (Cf. Lk 11:21-22; Jn 16:11; 1 Jn 3:8.) (CCC 385)

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 549, 1443, 1936, 2412, 2712.)
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