Saturday, November 26, 2011

First Sunday of Advent – Year B- Sunday, November 27, 2011

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the storytelling by narrating the anticipation of Christ's coming and by highlighting the story in the word-picture of the liturgy. The liturgy of the Catholic Church is most impressive and contains a world of meaning if we will but look beneath the surface and meditate reflectively.  Every movement of priest and people, every psalm, every prayer that is uttered has a meaning and contains a fund for spiritual enrichment.
 The Catholic Church has designated the four weeks preceding Christmas as Advent, a time to “prepare the way of the Lord” for His coming as our King and Savior. In addition, the Church teaches that:
[w]hen the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating [John the Baptist’s] birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Catechism, no. 524; original emphasis).
By participating in various time-honored traditions, such as making Jesse trees or putting on a Christmas play at home, Catholic families can engage more fruitfully in the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent:

esus said to this disciples:  There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars;  and on the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the sound of the sea and of the waves, men withering away for fear and expectation of the things which shall come upon the world; for the powers of heaven shall be moved.  And then they shall see the Son of man coming on a cloud with great power and majesty.  But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption is at hand.  And He spoke to them a similitude;  See the fig-tree, and all the trees;  when they now shoot forth their fruit, ye know that summer is nigh.  So also, when the kingdom of God is at hand.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all things be fulfilled.  heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away  (Lk. 21;25-33).
First Sunday of Advent – Year B
Commentary of the day
Saint Aelred of Rielvaux (1110-1167), Cistercian monk
Sermon for Advent, (Durham collection)
The Lord's Coming
Behold the time is now here for us, dearest brethren, when we are to «sing of kindness and judgment to the Lord» (Ps 101[100],1). This is the Lord's Advent, the arrival of the Lord of all who comes and is to come (Rv 1,8). But how and where is he to come? How and where is he coming? Has he not said: «I fill the heaven and the earth?» (Jr 23,24). How, then, is he who fills heaven and earth coming to heaven and earth? Listen to the Gospel: «He was in the world and world was made by him and the world did not know him» (Jn 1,10). Therefore he was both present and absent at the same time: present in that he was in the world; absent because the world did not know him... How could he who was not recognised not be far away, he in whom people did not believe, who was not feared, who was not loved?...

He comes, then, so that he who was not known might be recognized; he in whom no one believed might be believed; he who was not loved might be loved. He who was present according to his nature is coming in his mercy... Think on God a little and see what it means that he should transfer so great a might; how he humbles so great a power, weakens so great a strength, makes feeble so great a wisdom! Was this a requirement of justice towards us? Most certainly not!...

In truth, my Lord, not my righteousness but your mercy guided you; not your necessity but my need. As you have said: «My mercy is established in the heavens» (Ps 89[88],3). Rightly so, for our neediness abounds on earth. That is why «I shall sing for ever of your love, O Lord», which you manifested at your coming. When he showed himself humble in his humanity, powerful in his miracles, strong against the tyranny of the demons, gentle in his welcome of sinners: all these things came from his mercy, all came from his inmost goodness. That is why «I shall sing your love, O Lord» made known at your first coming. And rightly so, for «the earth is filled with the mercy of the Lord» (Ps 119[118],64).

Prayer to Our Lady of the New Advent

O Lady and Mother
of the One who was and is and is to come,
dawn of the New Jerusalem,
we earnestly beseech you,
bring us by your intercession
so to live in love
that the Church, the Body of Christ,
may stand in this world's dark
as fiery icon of the New Jerusalem.
We ask you to obtain for us this mercy
through Jesus Christ, your Son and Lord,
who lives and reigns
with the Father in the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.


Prayer composed by the Sisters of the Abbey of Walburga
of Boulder, Colorado

Creighton University 



Saturday, November 5, 2011

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sunday, November 6, 2011 - Cycle A

"For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care . . . "

Responsorial Psalm: 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading II: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 4:13-14
"Christians are enabled to transcend the grief of bereavement,
unlike the "others who have no hope."    

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13
'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'

A good reflection from Mark Hart


Commentary: Attributed to Anthony
Look, the bridegroom comes. Go out to meet him.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, since purity of heart leads to perfection. Two things are contained within the heart—goodness which is natural to it and evil which is unnatural. This latter gives rise to such passions of the soul as murmuring, envy, detraction, and all the rest.

Goodness, on the other hand, promotes knowledge of God and rids the soul of all these passions. If people honestly try to root out vice and avoid evil, if they repent with tears and sighs, devoting themselves humbly to a life of prayer, fasting, and watching, the Lord in his goodness will come to their aid and free them from all sinful inclinations.

Many who have lived a celibate monastic life for a long time have failed to learn what purity of heart is, because instead of studying the teaching of the fathers, they have followed their own wayward desires. So evil spirits and rebel marauders of the air have prevailed against them, hurling invisible darts by day and night, and thus preventing them from finding rest anywhere. Moreover they fill their hearts with pride, vanity, jealousy, criticism, raging anger, strife, and any number of other passions.

Such people are to be reckoned with the five foolish virgins because they have spent their time foolishly. They have not controlled their tongues nor cleansed their eyes and bodies from concupiscence, neither have they purged their hearts of lust and other deplorable defilements. It was enough for them merely to wear a woolen garment signifying virginity. Consequently they lack the heavenly joy which would kindle their lamps, and the Bridegroom does not open the door to them but repeats what he said to the foolish virgins: Truly I say to you, I know you not.

My only reason for writing you this letter is my desire for your salvation. I want you to be free and faithful and pure brides of Christ, the Bridegroom of all holy souls; as Saint Paul says: I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste bride to Christ.

Let us awake, then, while we are still in this body, and grieve overourselves, lamenting day and night from the bottom of our hearts, so that we may escape the bitter torment, the weeping, wailing, and remorse that will have no end.

We must beware of entering through the wide gate and taking the easy road that leads to perdition, for many go that way. Instead we must enter by the narrow gate and take the path of sorrow and affliction that leads to life. Few people enter this gate, but those who do are real workers who will have the joy of receiving the reward of their labors and will inherit the kingdom.

If any are prepared to set out I do beg them not to delay and waste time, for they may be like the foolish virgins and find no one willing to sell them oil. These virgins burst into tears and cried out: Lord, open to us. But he answered: Truly I say to you, I know you not. And this happened to them simply because of their laziness.

I beg you by the grace of God to obey me as I also will obey you; and may we all obey the Lord who said by the tongue of the Prophet: Who longs for life and desires to see good days? Keep your tongue from evil talk and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do good; seek and strive after peace.
(Letter 20: PG 40, 1056-1058 1061)

Source: Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year A, pp. 140-141.

Edith Barnecut, O.S.B., ed.
To purchase or learn more about
this published work and its companion volumes,
go to

Sunday, October 30, 2011

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 30, 2011 - Cycle A

Thank you, Msgr. Charles Pope!

And to the Author, All in Authority Must Answer – A Meditation on the Gospel of the 31st Sunday of the Year

The Gospel today is familiar to many Catholics from a negative point of view, in that many a Protestant has summoned the verse: Call no one on earth your father, to assail the Catholic practice of calling priests, “Father.” Never mind that the text also says to call no one on earth teacher. Never mind either that the New Testament contains almost 200 uses of the word “father” to refer to earthly male people. Apparently Matthew, Mark, Luke and John along with Paul and Peter and Stephen, never got the memo banishing all use of the word in reference to “anyone on earth.” (We will see some of these quotes later). Never mind all that.

Alas, to turn this into a gospel about terminology, is to miss its main point, which is to teach us about authority. And the teaching is both beautiful and essential, especially in modern times when the notion of authority is so misunderstood and frequently maligned.

Before looking at Jesus’ teaching on authority it is good to be clear one point: While it is true you and I are under authority, we also have authority. Whether it is as a parent, at work, as a community leader, Church leader, or just because you’re older; you have authority.

Because we live in a culture that largely despises authority, we tend to think it is always the “other guy” who has authority and needs to be “put in his place.” Maybe it’s that jerk in the corner office, or those nasty politicians, or the boorish and backward pastor. But, look in the mirror, this gospel isn’t just for “them,” it’s for you. So, as we explore this teaching on authority,  remember it applies to you and me just as much as “them.”
Let’s look at the teaching in four stages.

I. The Tenure of Lawful Authority.  Jesus says, The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you but do not follow their example. Jesus teaches the disciples that, for now, they are to remain under the lawful authority of the Scribes and Pharisees. In the future, Jesus will fully send forth his Church and establish the authority of the Apostles themselves. But for now, they are to follow lawful authority, just as Jesus will expect the Church to be under the lawful authority of the Apostles and their successors in the future.
Christians are not encouraged anywhere in scripture to withstand, ridicule, resist or overthrow lawful authority. The human tendency, especially evident in modern times, to be insubordinate and disrespectful of lawful authority is neither encouraged nor supported in the Biblical teaching. Consider some of the following examples:
  1. Rom 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
  2. 1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.
  3. Titus 3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good
  4. 1. Tim 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
  5. 1 Peter 2:17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
  6. Matt 22:21 Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.
Hence, the Lord Jesus, indeed, Scripture in general, upholds the proper need and place for authority. Modern tendencies to celebrate rebellion and disrespect toward authority are not countenanced by Scripture, no matter how popular and pleasing such negative attitudes may seem.
And these tendencies are exhibited at every level in our western culture. Children are bold and disobedient toward parents, younger people toward elders, subordinates in the workplace toward supervisors, citizens toward elected officials, Catholics toward the hierarchy, and so forth.
One may argue, “Well, the one in charge is a pain, or a bad leader.” Perhaps, but consider what Biblical times featured: from the Scribes and Pharisees, all the way up to Herod and the likes of Nero. Yet still this teaching went forth.  Others may rush to assert, “Authorities need to be corrected.” Yes, at times they do, and a Christian should use means that are both respectful and non-violent.
Vigorous political discourse is surely a feature and a genius of our modern democratic republic. However, too much of the discourse strays into the hateful, and the hyperbolic, toward personal attack and ridicule. Such extremes are unfit discourse for a Christian, who is called to speak the truth with both clarity and charity.
So in setting forth a teaching on authority, the Lord Jesus first establishes that there IS authority and that, other things being equal, lawful authority is to be respected and obeyed. And though, as the Lord clearly indicates, there are times when the example of those in authority should not be imitated (more on that in a minute), their lawful and moral directives are to followed.
Thus, in cases where you are under authority, pray, strive to cooperate, and correct where necessary with reverence. And in cases wherein you have authority, do not be ashamed that you DO have it. Use it well, for the common good, and to provide necessary direction and unity for those under your authority. Remember too, as we shall see, if you have authority, it is to serve.
II. The Tyranny of Arrogant Authority. Jesus does acknowledge the burdensome and insensitive qualities of the leadership of that time. He says, Do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders. But they will not lift a finger to move them.
Here is a sober assessment by Jesus of the problems of leadership in his day. They will have to answer to God for their tenure. And Jesus holds them up as a kind of warning to the future leaders of his Church, who will also have to render an account for their leadership one day. “Do not follow their example,” Jesus warns.
As we shall see, true authority exists to serve, not to crush or merely exhibit its power. It exists to unite people around a common purpose and direct people and resources to a good and focused end. It exists to help others to accomplish their tasks in a unified and directed way. Hence we may ask the following questions of authority:
1. Does it make wings to lift a person up, or is it a deadweight to drag a person down?
2. Does help a person or haunt him?
3. Does it carry him does he have to carry it?
4. Does it bring joy to life or depression
5. Does it unite people around common goals or merely unite them in unproductive anger against authority?
How would those under your authority answer these questions?
III. The Trappings of Self-Centered Authority. Jesus sets forth how the Scribes and Pharisees loved titles, honors, and ostentation: All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces and the salutation, “Rabbi”
And so the Lord distinguishes the following problems:
  1. Their Actions are Acted - Jesus often called them hypocrites, not as derogatory, but as a descriptive. For the word hypocrite, in Greek, means “actor.” Now an actor performs and plays his role only when there is an audience. He does so for money and applause. But when the crowd is gone he does not pay his role.  There would be no point in that, since neither money or applause will result. The point here, in terms of authority, is that some in authority have forgotten the reason they have authority, or the goal to which it is directed. They care only about the praise that may increase their authority or build their ego.
  2. They Parade their Piety – The point here about authority is that the one in authority wants to be noticed as having authority. Rather than pointing to the end to which his authority is directed (in this case, God), some in authority see the acknowledgement of their authority as the proper end and desired goal.
  3. They Hunger for Honor - They seek the front seats, and to be seen as having authority. They take the honor due those in authority personally, as directed to them, rather than to the office they hold.
  4. They Take after Titles – But a title is only good if the one bearing it does not disgrace it. Having a title is not so much an honor as a responsibility.
So, in the end the poor example comes down to the fact that those in authority in Jesus’ time, mistook the “trappings” for personal ends and glory, rather than for the ends to which they were intended: the glory of God, the serving of his people and the common good and unity of all.
But leadership is not about trappings, it is about service and the glory of God.
IV. The Truth of Christian Authority. The text says,  Do not be called teacher (Rabbi) You have but one teacher. Do not be called Father, you have but one Father in heaven..Do not be called master, have but one master the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled. Who ever humbles himself will be exalted.
Jesus emphasizes Three fundamental things here, and I would a fourth.
1. All authority is under the headship of God – In critiquing the use of terms like “teacher,” “master” and “Rabbi,” Jesus is insisting that all teachers and “experts” must first be under the teaching and authority of God. All their teaching and “mastery” of any subject must be in conformity to, and submitted to the revealed truth of God. For someone to be worthy of the title “teacher,” “Rabbi,” or “Master” means that they are first submitted to what God teaches and reveals.
2. All Fatherhood, all headship, is submitted to the Father and Lord of us all and reflects His Fatherhood. No one deserves the title “father” who does not first have God for his Father. In this sense, Jesus is not so much banning a word, as insisting on a conformity to the one and perfect Father of us all. In this sense, St Paul can say, You do not have many fathers, For I became your father in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Cor 4:15). And again, For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted you and charged each of you lead a life worthy of God (1 Thess 2:10).  St Paul takes up this title “Father” with them, only in relation to how he guides them to what the Heavenly and true Father would want.
3. Authority exists for service - Jesus says of those in authority: The greatest among you must be your servant. In other words those who have authority have to serve those under them, not to “lord it over.” Jesus says elsewhere:
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mk 10:42ff)
Hence, those who have authority, have it not for their glory, but as a sign of their servitude. The priest who has authority, has it to serve his people in teaching, sanctifying and governing (uniting). The Parent has authority to serve their children, raising them to become the man or woman God intends them to be. The police officer has authority to protect and give order to the people. The teacher has authority in order that she may teach. And so forth. Authority is not for its own sake, it is for the sake of others.
4. Authority is exercised among equals – In the world, authority is equated to power, and is often ascribed to those who gain it because they are smarter, richer, more connected, and so forth. In a way, there is an assumption that “I have authority because I am, some how, better than you.” But among Christians authority is always exercised among equals. For the greatest title one can have is “Child of God.” Adding titles like CEO, President, Grand Knight, Monsignor, Excellency, and so forth, are but mere footnotes. The Pope has authority in the Church, but he is no more baptized than you or I. Please understand, he DOES have authority, and we have an obligation to submit to it. But his greatest title is not “Pope,” or “Supreme Pontiff.” His greatest title is “Child of God.” Authority does not make me greater than you, it makes me your servant. But before God we are all equally his children. This final point is my own addition and I fully open it for critique.

So there it is, a Gospel not about terminology (as in “Father”), but about authority and how to understand it and live it as a Christian. Remember it is not just about “that jerk in the corner office.” It is about you, since you too, have authority. One day we will answer to God about how we have used our authority, whether to build or destroy, enable or disable, inspire or unnecessarily infuriate. We will also render an account for how we have acted toward those in authority. And, no matter the laughter and praise this world gives to disrespect and disobedience, God is neither impressed or pleased. Authority, how we use it, and respect it, is critical to God.

Note the word “Author” in authority. For no authority exists unless it is granted from God (cf Jn 19:11).  And to the Author, all in authority must one day answer.
Here’s one of my favorite hymns: Crown Him with Many Crowns. It is here sung on the 50th Anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth of England. It is fitting to see those in authority, even if (these days) more ceremonially so, to be seen praising to true King from who all kings, queens and leaders take their authority.

Of this King, Jesus, we can say he is the only King who died for us. And so the second verse of the hymn says, Crown him the Lord of Love, Behold his hands and side. Rich wounds yet visible above, in beauty glorified. No angel in the height, can truly bear that sight, so downward bend his wondering eye, at mysteries so bright.
Indeed, For the Son of man did not some to be served, but to serve, and give his life as ransom for many (Mk 10:45)

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 16th, 2011 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 45:1,4-6
Sometimes we forget the God we worship is far greater than we can imagine. And he acts in ways we cannot imagine. The prophet Isaiah reminded his audience of that fact when he spoke of a pagan king who did God’s will.

Psalm 96:1,3-5, 7-10
R. Give the Lord glory and honor.
Psalm 96 is a hymn a praise for the faithful, both Jew and Gentile. The psalm reminds everyone of God’s overwhelming power in creation. Such power deserves praise from all quarters.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Faith can be a journey of struggle, a road of tested priorities. St. Paul recognized the community at Thessalonika as a tested, yet faithful church. They had a reputation of faith because of their endurance in the face of hostility.
(This is the first written document of the whole New Testament.)

Today it is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the periphery of Central Macedonia.

Matthew 22:15-21 
"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."  
Let's take a little deeper look at this well-known quote!
Notwithstanding the malicious intention the Pharisees had in putting this question to our Lord, they did us all a good turn by getting his answer. That answer is forceful and final. It lays down a norm which solves for all time the problems that can arise from our dual citizenship on this earth.

The Lord is king over all the earth, as we sing in today’s Psalm. Governments rise and fall by His permission, with no authority but that given from above (see John 19:11; Romans 13:1).

In effect, God says to every ruler what he tells King Cyrus in today’s First Reading: “I have called you . . . though you knew me not.” 

The Lord raised up Cyrus to restore the Israelites from exile, and to rebuild Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1-4). Throughout salvation history, God has used foreign rulers for the sake of His chosen people. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened to reveal God’s power (see Romans 9:17). Invading armies were used to punish Israel’s sins (see 2 Maccabees 6:7-16).

The Roman occupation during Jesus’ time was, in a similar way, a judgment on Israel’s unfaithfulness. Jesus’ famous words in today’s Gospel: “Repay to Caesar” are a pointed reminder of this. And they call us, too, to keep our allegiances straight.

We fulfill our duties to God by being faithful, loyal, active members of the spiritual kingdom, the Church, which Christ established on earth in order to lead us to our eternal kingdom. We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State, by paying all lawful taxes, and by contributing our share, whenever called on, toward the common good. 

In today’s gospel note the two questions: one put to Christ by the Pharisees, and the other by Christ to the Pharisees.

The Pharisees’ question concerns this world alone, while Christ’s has an entirely heavenly and other-worldly sense. Their question derived from profound ignorance and perversity; his stemmed from perfect wisdom and goodness.

The Lord alone is our king. His kingdom is not of this world (see John 18:36) but it begins here in His Church, which tells of His glory among all peoples. Citizens of heaven (see Philippians 3:20), we are called to be a light to the world (see Matthew 5:14) - working in faith, laboring in love, and enduring in hope, as today’s Epistle counsels.

We owe the government a concern for the common good, and obedience to laws - unless they conflict with God’s commandments as interpreted by the Church (see Acts 5:29).

But we owe God everything. The coin bears Caesar’s image. But we bear God’s own image (see Genesis 1:27). We owe Him our very lives - all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, offered as a living sacrifice of love (see Romans 12:1-2).

We should pray for our leaders, that like Cyrus they do God’s will (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2) - until from the rising of the sun to its setting, all humanity knows that Jesus is Lord.

Dr. Scott Hahn
*St. Lorenzo of Brindisi (1559-1619) Opera omnia 8, 335. 336. 339-340. 346
With St. Anthony, St. Bonaventure, and Blessed John Duns Scotus, he is a Doctor of the Franciscan Order. - Catholic Encyclopedia
Cartoon -

*St. Lorenzo of Brindisi (a.k.a. -Lawrence of Brindisi) (1559-1619) was born at Brindisi and educated at Venice. In 1575 he entered with the Capuchins and was sent to Padua to study philosophy and theology. He had a prodigious memory and was said to know the Scriptures by heart in the original. This enabled him to convert many Jews. Raised to a high degree of contemplation himself, he evangelized much of Europe, speaking to the hearts of those who heard him. From 1602 he served a term as minister general of the Capuchins. As chaplain to the imperial troops he led them into battle and to victory against the Turks on two occasions, armed only with a crucifix. He died at Lisbon while on an embassy. His writings include eight volumes of sermons, commentaries on Genesis and Ezekiel, and other didactic or controversial works.  The process of beatification, several times interrupted by various circumstances, was concluded in 1783. The canonization took place on 8 December, 1881.
In 1959 Pope John XXIII added his name to the list of Doctors of the Universal Church.
His Feast Day is July 6. 

The known writings of St. Lorenzo of Brindisi comprise eight volumes of sermons, two didactic treatises on oratory, a commentary on Genesis, another on Ezechiel, and three volumes of religious polemics. Most of his sermons are written in Italian, the other works being in Latin. The three volumes of controversies have notes in Greek and Hebrew.

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 9th, 2011 - 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

Isaiah 25:6-10
The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face;

Psalm 23:1-6
I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
I can do all things in him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

Matthew 22:1-14
The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. . . .

     There are about 77 days left until Christmas.  I am reminded of this not because the secular world has already started its Christmas selling frenzy; they are still too concerned with ghosts and goblins.  Rather, in the last few weeks our Scripture readings at Mass are about the end times.  We have been hearing a lot of parables about working in the vineyard.  

     Last week, we heard in the Gospel, about the tenants who failed to produce a harvest for the Lord.   And the question, “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?" They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death.”  

     As you may know, the Church’s liturgical year begins with the First Sunday of Advent and is only about 48 days away.  The first Sunday of Advent will also be the day on which we begin using the new translation of the Mass.  The last Sunday of Ordinary Time is Christ the King Sunday.  As we approach that great solemnity of Christ the King, the Church asks us to meditate upon Judgment Day.  We say in the Creed every Sunday, “That Christ will come to judge the living and the dead.”  

     As St. John Vianney said, “Our home is in heaven, on earth, we are like travelers staying in a hotel.  When one is away, one is always thinking of going home.”  On the day we die, the Lord will come to us and ask us how we have tended His vineyard here on earth.  “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"  

     We hear in this week’s Gospel, the parable of the wedding feast.  We hear of those who, though invited, refuse to come to the feast and we hear how everyone, whomever the servant finds are invited.  But though many are invited, few are chosen.  We cannot presume that since God loves each of us with unbounded love, it does not matter what we do with our lives.  We must conform our lives to God’s standards rather than to our own standards or the standards of the government.  If we come to the feast not wearing the wedding garment which God has asked us to wear, we shall be bound hand and foot, and cast into the darkness.   

     The early 20th century English author, G. K. Chesterton has written
“We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has bidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is, that it is the image of Christ in the churches, that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well. The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heartbreaking beauty,  his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words that he utters.” 

     We all love to hear the Jesus speak the beatitudes, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.”  But in the next few verse Jesus also says, “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”  

     When we come before the Lord, will we be wearing His wedding garment of righteousness or the will be clothed in our own self-will.  One of the beauties of the new translation of the Mass is that we are no longer asking God to do our will.  We no longer tell God to “do this” or “give us that”  rather the new language has us humbly begging God to hear our prayers.  

     Now is the time to choose whether we will come to the wedding feast and whether we will wear the wedding garment.  Are we dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness (see Revelation 19:8)?  Not all who have been called will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus warns. Let us be sure that we’re living in a manner worthy of the invitation we’ve received (see Ephesians 4:1).
      After our death, we will no longer be able to choose but will have to stand on the decisions we make here on earth.  This the meaning of phrase, “bind his hands and his feet.”  Once we have been thrown into the darkness outside for refusing to wear the wedding Garment of the Lord, we will not be able to free ourselves from the wailing and grinding of teeth.  We are not called to judge who will enter and will be thrown into the darkness.  That is the job of the King, our job as servants of the King is “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike.”  Our job is proclamation of the invitation.  It is Christ the King who will judge those worthy to enter the feast.  So remember, while our life may be compared to an essay test, the final judgment is True or False.

Dr. Scott Hahn
Catholic Homilies

And on the lighter side: 

Agnus Day appears with the permission of

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October 2nd, 2011 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, October 2nd is also the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels.  Not enough can be said to honor and thank our very own personal angels.  God is so good to show us this special token of His love for us, in giving each of us a unique Angel Guardian in our lives. 

Sunday's Readings:
Isaiah 5:1-7
The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;
he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!

Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Philippians 4:6-9
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 21:33-43 
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

In today’s Gospel Jesus returns to the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach about Israel, the Church, and the kingdom of God.

And the symbolism of today’s First Reading and Psalm is readily understood.
God is the owner and the house of Israel is the vineyard. A cherished vine, Israel was plucked from Egypt and transplanted in a fertile land specially spaded and prepared by God, hedged about by the city walls of Jerusalem, watched over by the towering Temple. But the vineyard produced no good grapes for the wine, a symbol for the holy lives God wanted for His people. So God allowed His vineyard to be overrun by foreign invaders, as Isaiah foresees in the First Reading.

Jesus picks up the story where Isaiah leaves off, even using Isaiah’s words to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower. Israel’s religious leaders, the tenants in His parable, have learned nothing from Isaiah or Israel’s past. Instead of producing good fruits, they’ve killed the owner’s servants, the prophets sent to gather the harvest of faithful souls.

In a dark foreshadowing of His own crucifixion outside Jerusalem, Jesus says the tenants’ final outrage will be to seize the owner’s son, and to kill him outside the vineyard walls.
For this, the vineyard, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God, will be taken away and given to new tenants - the leaders of the Church, who will produce its fruit.

We are each a vine in the Lord’s vineyard, grafted onto the true vine of Christ (see John 15:1-8), called to bear fruits of the righteousness in Him (see Philippians 1:11), and to be the “first fruits” of a new creation (see James 1:18).

We need to take care that we don’t let ourselves be overgrown with the thorns and briers of worldly anxiety. As today’s Epistle advises, we need to fill our hearts and minds with noble intentions and virtuous deeds, rejoicing always that the Lord is near.

Sources: Scott Hahn, Ph.D.
You can Listen Here
Are We There Yet

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Reading 1: Ezekiel 18:25-28

Thus says the Lord:
You say, "The Lord 's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Commentary on Ez 18:25-28

The theme of this section of Ezekiel is “The Lord’s way is just.”  In these verses the prophet presents an apology of the fairness of the Law saying that those who sin against God die but those who turn from sin and repent live.  This argument stresses individual responsibility and the ability of the faithful to choose life or death, fully informed.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

R. (6a) Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Remember that your compassion, O Lord,
and your love are from of old.
The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not;
in your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O Lord.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Psalm 25 is an individual lament. The sinful psalmist prays that “Your ways” be made know. This request directs us to repentance and ultimately justice.  The theme of guidance is continued in the psalm. This selection gives a clear sense of the Lord’s path announced by John the Baptist and Malachi.

Reading II: Philippians 2:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Commentary on Phil 2:1-11

Contained in this selection from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians are two specific instructions to the community.  He begins exhorting them to unity and harmony (see below) and then continues with the Kenotic (emptying) Hymn which focuses on humility.  Christ empties himself of the complete divinity that is his essence and accepts the human condition. As true man he suffers the ultimate humiliation of death (on the cross). The second section of the hymn focuses on God’s resulting actions of exaltation. The Christian sings to God’s great glory in Christ proclaiming him Lord and Savior.

Shorter Form: Philippians 2:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus.
Commentary on Phil 2:1-5

St. Paul tells the community in essence “If you want to console me in Christ, complete my joy by paying attention to the advice I am now going to give you.”[4] He then tells them that what they should strive for is unity with Christ (en Christō) which would bring harmony to the community.  He defines the “mind of Christ” in a sense; “…solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy” then telling them they should be also of that mind but in humility.


Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
"What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?"
They answered, "The first."
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him."
Commentary on Mt 21:28-32

This passage is the first of three parables concerning the judgment of the people of Israel.  This parable could be taken simply as the difference between saying and doing (see also Matthew 7:21; 12:50). Presented as it is as a question to the Jewish leaders, they are forced to admit that the son who did the father’s will was the one justified. Jesus then clarifies his meaning by setting the analogy of the two sons against religious leaders, who disbelieved the message of St. John the Baptist and the sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) who did. 

This characterization does not mean that St. John led a righteous life but pointed to how one might be lead.  Ultimately that parable tells the Jewish leaders that those they look down upon are achieving the inheritance of God before them because of their acts of repentance and devotion.


Ezekiel and St. Paul set us up for the Gospel from St. Matthew.  Ezekiel tells us that those of us who repent of our human rebellion against God will find life.  In essence he tells us that the door to happiness and life is always open but we must turn away from sin.  St. Paul then exhorts us to not just turn from sin but to embrace the mind of Christ who provides solace in love coupled with participation in the Holy Spirit and living lives of compassion and mercy.  He follows this with the great Kenotic Hymn reminding us that Christ did this in humility “…taking the form of a slave”. 

To all of this, as we pull the Word apart, we are saying “Yes, yes! That is what I must do.  Thank you Ezekiel, thank you St. Paul.” 

Then we come to the Parable of the Two Sons from St. Matthew’s Gospel.  On the surface we see Ezekiel’s theme brought to life as Jesus uses the parable to tell the Jewish leaders how they have missed the boat by rejecting the repentance preached by St. John the Baptist. 

We applaud Jesus for taking those hypocrites to task.  Then we think about those two sons.  We ask ourselves; “Which of them most closely resembles me?”  Have I said to my Heavenly Father – Yes, I am here to do what you ask; but then fail?  Or have I been brought to obedience through my errors and sins, as so many of those saints before me?  There lies our trap, our conundrum.  If we chose the latter answer and say we have found the right path – that we are walking the “Way”’, have we missed the point of the Kenotic Hymn?  Have we put on the mind of Christ whose attitude St. Paul tells us to adopt?  Jesus emptied himself of all pride and, in spite of his perfection in love, allowed us to humiliate him and kill him, hanging him upon a tree.

Yet, on the other side, if we admit that we have said “yes” to the Father but not fulfilled our duty to him do we desperately need to undergo the conversion of heart necessary to put on the mind of Christ? Or are we acting out of the humility we are called to and indeed on the right path?

Of course the answer is that as hard as we try we shall never be able to completely personify the perfect love and ultimate humility of Christ.  He may have emptied himself of pride but that was part of his perfect nature, a nature reflected dimly in us in, a way befitting God’s creation.  Our challenge as Christians is to work constantly toward that perfect goal.  We do so firstly by never taking personal pride in the good we accomplish.  It is Christ’s glory we proclaim not our own.  Secondly, we recognize, through acts of contrition, that we have failed to answer our call but God’s mercy is there for those who ask for it.


SOURCE: A Servant of the World

[2] The picture used today is “The Eberhard Brothers” by Johann Anton Alban, Ramoux, 1822
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] cf St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Philippians