Archive for the ‘Reflections on Sunday Mass Readings’ Category

Pray Without Ceasing

In the Mass Readings for the Ordinary Form of the Mass we hear about the Israelites’ battle against Amalek as recorded in Exodus 17:8-13.  Joshua leads the Israelites in battle against the Amalekites while Moses stands on top of the hill with the Staff of God in his hand.  It turns out that as long as Moses has his hands raised, the Israelites are successful in battle but when he would rest his hands, the Amalekites would be successful.  This resulted in those who were with Moses upon the hill, propping his hands up so that the Israelites would be successful and win the day in the battle.

This reading is matched with the readings from the New Testament, namely, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 where St. Paul reminds us that we, as Christians are to be persistent in proclaiming the Gospel to others whether it be convenient or inconvenient to do so.  In addition, we read in today’s Gospel reading from Luke 18:1-8 about the parable of the persistent widow who badgered the unjust judge until he gave her a just verdict.  Our Lord reminds us that God is even more in tune with what is just than we are and that if we persevere in prayer to God for justice as this widow did with the unjust judge, that we should be confident that God will answer our prayers.

Since becoming Catholic, I have become amazed at the variety of ways in which the Church teaches us to pray.  There are tons of devotions ranging from the Liturgy of the Hours to the Rosary and others.  It makes sense that the Church would develop such a variety of forms of spirituality since she has been praying to Our Lord and for the salvation of all humanity for the past 2000 years.

Like the leader of the Israelites, Our Lord Jesus raises the Staff of God, His Cross, to heaven as we attempt to fight our sinful ways.  Without the prayers of the Saints who join with Our Lord on heaven’s hilltop and the Sacraments which we receive through Our Lord’s Passion on the Cross, we would never be successful.

In addition, it is tempting at times for us to give up particularly during those times in our lives when we are having difficulties.  St. Paul reminds us that, as Christians, it is our family duty to continue to pray and live out the life of Christ.  We must be determined to make our entire lives and every action that we do in life a prayer to Our Lord.  Imagine what great witnesses we would become for Our Lord if we actually did this and did it well.

And, finally, we must persevere in our prayers knowing that Our Lord is not at all like the unjust judge in the parable.  He hears our prayers and knows what is best for us in all things.  With the help of God’s grace through the Sacraments that we receive through Our Lord’s passion we can, if we are open to it, answer Our Lord’s question at the end of the parable, (“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”) in the affirmative each and every day and ultimately at the end of time as we enter into the new heavens and new earth at His second coming.

God’s Extraordinarily Ordinary Means of Salvation

My wife and I attended the Mass at Holy Hill again this Sunday (www.holyhill.com).  The Old Testament Mass reading for the day was taken from 2 Kings 5:14-17.  It recounts the story of Naaman, a great military commander, who was a leper.  He had captured a little girl in a raid on Israel and this little girl became a servant to Naaman’s wife.

The little girl told Naaman’s wife that the prophet in Samaria, Elisha, could cure Naaman of his leprosy.  Naaman with his King’s permission sought out Elisha and Elisha told Naaman to bathe seven times in the Jordan River and he would be healed.

Naaman was furious.  It was well known that the waters of the Jordan River were not as pristine and healing as the rivers of Damascus and, besides, why would Elisha not come out and just call down the power of God over his skin and heal him?  Naaman wanted lots of flash and fanfare.  He wanted something extraordinary to happen to him.

Naaman’s servants reasoned with him and said that if Elisha had asked him to perform some extraordinary feat, that he would have done it without question and that it did not makes sense for Naaman to refuse to do something quite ordinary such as bathe in the Jordan just because it seemed to be beneath him.  After all, there was a chance that he would be healed of his leprosy.

Naaman bathed in the Jordan seven times and was healed.  He was quite thankful and begged Elisha to take his gifts of great wealth and when Elisha refused, Naaman promised to worship the True God.

I love this story in that it always reminds me of how God can make us Great Saints through ordinary means.  Like Naaman we expect God to ask us to do extraordinary things and sometimes the Lord does ask us to do those things.  However, for the vast majority of us we work out our salvation and grow in holiness by doing those ordinary things that God has called us to do depending on our vocation.

For parents, it is providing for their families not only materially but spiritually as well.  It is through wiping the noses of sick children, saying the family rosary, attending Mass regularly, and teaching the faith to those young ones.  For some this may seem all rather ordinary and somewhat tedious.  We may even ask, “How can I become a Great Saint if all I do all day is clean the house, cook the meals, and answer the same questions over and over again?”

This is not unlike Naaman’s reaction to Elisha’s request to bathe seven times in the muddy Jordan River of all places.  And yet, through this extraordinarily ordinary action of bathing, the Lord made Naaman clean.  Likewise, the Lord can remove the leprosy of sin from our souls through our faithfully performing the extraordinarily ordinary daily tasks as determined by the vocation to which Our Lord has called us.

Humbly Doing What We Ought to Have Done

Today, my wife and I attended the ordinary form of the Mass at the The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill (www.holyhill.com).

It is a wonderful place for meditation and renewal.  It was most fitting that today’s Gospel reading for the Mass was taken from Luke 17:5-10.  In today’s Gospel, the Apostles asked the Lord to “increase our faith”.  The Lord said to them, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

This comment is a rather impressive description of how powerful faith can be.  Our Lord tells us that if we have faith that is as small in size as a mustard seed that it can uproot a tree and replant it in the sea of all places.  However, we are so weak in faith in most cases that we are not even able to develop faith even of this small size-the size of a mustard seed- on our own.  After all, how many of us have accomplished this feat lately?

Prior to His comments on the size of one’s faith, Our Lord reminds us that we are weak and subject to great temptations and that if we were to give ourselves over to our temptations so as to create such scandal that it would stumble others, it would be better for us if a millstone were hung around our neck and we were cast into the sea.

After his comments on the size of our faith, we are reminded how we treat our servants and those who work for us.  We really do not reward someone for something that they should have done in their role as servants anyway.  Likewise, the things that Our Lord commands us to do are really things that we should be doing anyway if we are to live out our lives as good Christians.  And, how often do we feel as though we are wonderful people when we do something good for others?  How often do we feel as though we are superior to those individuals who we believe may not be living the life of Christ as well as we think we are?  How often have we forgotten that there, but for the grace of God, go I, when we see others fall into temptation and sin?

Since becoming Catholic, I am always amazed at Our Lord’s generosity and love towards us.  He commands us to do good things toward others and yet He gives us the power through the Sacraments to actually fulfill those commands because on our own we would surely fail.  And, here He reminds us that we must cooperate with the grace that He gives us in order to even do those things that we ought to do as faithful servants of His.   Let us remain humble in the sight of God and pray for ourselves and others that we may all grow in our faith through the generosity of Our Lord.

Prisoners of His Divine Love

In today’s Epistle reading for the Extraordinary form of the Mass from Ephesians 4:1-6, St. Paul exhorts us to live out the vocation to which we have been called.  What is this vocation?  It is to be a Prisoner of the Lord and, therefore, a Prisoner of His Divine Love.

St. Paul lists how we ought to behave toward one another because of our one baptism into the life of Christ.  We are to be humble and mild, peaceful and caring, towards others- including our enemies.

The Gospel reading for today in Matthew 22:34-46 gives us the words of Christ Himself, the very one who through His life, death, and resurrection has captured us as Prisoners of His Divine Love.

In response to a question from the Pharisees about which commandment of God is the greatest, He tells us it is the commandment to love the Lord, our God, completely with our whole soul and mind and our neighbor as ourself.  A task that is impossible for us without the help of God’s grace.

It is through our baptism and our willingness to be lead captive by Our Lord into His Life and His Love that we are able to show genuine love for others. We receive the ability to love as Our Lord loves by receiving the graces He gives us through our experiences in life and ultimately through the Sacraments.

The Pharisees, like us if left to our own devices, liked to follow rules for the purpose of making themselves right before God which is why they asked our Lord the question about the greatest of all the commandments.  They had, as it is so easy for us humans to do, forgotten that the Law is not an end in and of itself that somehow makes someone righteous but it is a teacher leading us to discover our need to be captured by the Divine Lawgiver who is also our Divine Lover.

Our Divine Captor, Jesus Christ  took on human nature and emptied out Himself completely in love to the point of dying on the Cross and this excruciating and most cursed way of dying has, ironically, become a blessing to all.  And, we, as His followers through our baptism, enter into His Life and Death which becomes not only an example of a Life of Love to follow but also the source of the grace and power we receive from God to actually love others unconditionally.

For those who are willing, the graces we receive from Our Lord through the Sacraments that He provides to us through His Church, can take us captive and make us Prisoners of His Love which compels and aids us to love others as Jesus loves us.  This helps us to become better priests, religious, husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, employers, employees, citizens and rulers.  It reminds us that as Christians we owe it to others to love them as Christ first loved us……and remember Christ loved us so much that he stretched out His arms upon a cross.  Just think how different the world would be if we all lived out our vocations as Prisoners of His Divine Love.

He Has Drawn the Sign of the Cross on All Things

In today’s Epistle reading for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Ephesians 3:13-21), St. Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus that he prays for Christ our Lord to dwell in the hearts of believers. Why?

So that believers may understand with all the Saints in heaven, “what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth” of God’s love for us. It is as if St. Paul is using the dimensions of the Cross as a way to describe the completeness of Our Lord’s love for us in that it embraces and redeems all of the “dimensions” of this world. St. Paul reminds us that Our Lord has drawn His Cross on all created things to the point of giving us more for our own good than we would ever even think of asking.

This drawing of the Cross on all creation is demonstrated in the sufferings and difficulties that we experience in our lives. Since becoming a Catholic, I understand that these events have a special meaning in my life.  These difficulties and challenges are those gifts that the Lord gives us without asking which give us the opportunities to grow in virtue and love.

In fact, I was reminded after thinking about this Epistle reading today of those times that I have prayed to Our Lord and have asked the Lord to take away some difficulty in this life that bothers me whether it is a physical ailment or some other “thorn” and the answer has been either “no” or “not yet.”

This Epistle reading reminded me that in these cases Our Lord has something better in mind for me and that Our Lord is asking me to persevere in whatever suffering He chooses to allow in my life. It is my Cross. The one He has drawn for me in this life to lead me, and others, to our place in His Kingdom so that we may become more like Him and learn to love like He loves in our own very small, but with the help of God, meaningful way.

God Has Visited His People

I went to Mass today in the Extraordinary Form where we celebrated the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel reading for today was from Luke 7:11-16 where Jesus went into the city of Naim with His disciples and sees a funeral being attended by a great multitude. He discovers that the dead man is the only son of a widow and there is much weeping. Our Lord in His Divine Mercy raises the dead son and gives him back to his mother and the crowd glorifies God by saying that God has visited His people this day.

While reflecting on this Gospel, I cannot help but wonder about how God visits His people today. I realized that God visits us in a variety of ways but mainly through the Sacraments and ultimately through the Mass which effects our salvation, our own resurrection from the dead both spiritually but ultimately at the end of time physically as well in the new heavens and the new earth.

The 1962 Missal in its brief explanation of the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost, makes some interesting comments as it says that just as Our Lord has pity on the widow who has lost her son in the city of Naim, so today our Lord has pity on our Holy Mother, the Church, who laments the loss of Her children due to sin. Similarly through the Sacraments administered by the Church, our Lord resurrects the children of the Church. Notice the emphasis on the widow’s only child. I would imagine that each of us Children of Holy Mother Church are so valuable to God through His Church that we are loved as if we are the only child that Mother ever had. Notice also that when the Lord resurrects the widow’s son he gives him to his mother. Likewise, when our Lord resurrects us to a state of grace, he gives us to our Mother, the Church who nourishes and keeps us in this state of grace, if we choose to cooperate with the graces we receive from Our Lord through His Church.

It never ceases to amaze me, how generous Our Lord is with us and these readings today reminded me of this.  Perhaps when we attend Mass we can remember that God is visiting us today, healing us, and giving us to our Mother the Church to keep us safe on our Journey Home to Him.

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