Catholic Homily Outline for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Marriage

1vierras75thannivesary-vertWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Authentic prophets who teach with authority. Doctrine: The vocation to marriage. Practical application: Understand and defend marriage.

To view Lectionary 71, click here.

Central idea: Authentic prophets who teach with authority

Reading 1 Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.’”

  • God did send Israel a long line of prophets who spoke the words God commanded them to. John the Baptist was the last of that kind of prophet.
  • But Deuteronomy tells us that “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses” (Dt. 34:10).
  • God’s promise, then, was completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who was a prophet like Moses because he gave a New Law, who was from among the kin of the Chosen People, who revealed the Father, and who, like Moses, worked great signs.
  • The Chosen People asked not to hear and see the LORD directly anymore because it was too much for a living person. In Christ, though, God once again lets us see and hear him directly, because he has taken on human flesh.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”

  • We just read God’s promise to send a prophet who would speak God’s words to us and whose words we should listen to.
  • God’s truth comes to us in many ways, but we hear God’s word most directly in the life, works, and words of Jesus Christ.
  • In order to hear these words, we must do the opposite of hardening our hearts. We must listen to them in our hearts. Maybe we even need to soften our hearts.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

  • Paul was celibate for the sake of the kingdom of God. He could devote himself wholly to “the things of the Lord.”
  • Those who are unmarried can choose this state as well. Hence, we have in the Church the consecrated life. God calls persons to celibacy in order to devote themselves totally to “the things of the Lord.” They also bring many benefits to the rest of us—just as St. Paul brought the Gospel to the Corinthians.
  • Married people do have anxieties the celibate do not share. Married couples are anxious to please God but we also want to please our spouses, raise our children, earn a living, care for a home, and fully participate in civic life. We do this amid the vicissitudes of life.
  • Marriage is also a divine vocation and a Sacrament, so that in doing what husbands and wives do, baptized spouses receive grace and please the Lord.

Gospel Mk 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

  • Jesus, with the newly gathered apostles he was forming, made his base in the Galilean city of Capernaum.
  • Jesus’ “own kin,” that is, the Jews attending the Sabbath service, were astonished at his teaching. Why?
      • The scribes were literate, learned scholars of Judaism. They preserved, studied, and commented on the Scriptures. Their wisdom was all derived from what they received. Although Jesus might quote the Scriptures, he spoke on his own authority. He spoke like Moses, telling people directly what God had to say.
      • His words were also performative. By his word he could bring about actions. He could free people oppressed by illness, injury, possession, and even death.
  • When the unclean spirit called Jesus “the Holy One of God” it was attempting to gain power over Jesus by using his precise name. However, Jesus freed the possessed man with his commands, also revealing his authority.

Doctrine: The Vocation to Marriage

  • Paul said that married persons are anxious to please the Lord and their spouses. What is the vocation to marriage more fully?*
  • Marriage is “a covenant or partnership of life between a man and woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children” (CCC glossary).
  • In creating Adam and Eve in the state of matrimony, God made marriage the natural vocation of human beings and a reflection of the loving relationship within the Blessed Trinity.
  • In marriage, man and woman are equal in dignity but complementary in the gifts they offer one another. While marriage retains its inherent goodness and purpose after original sin, it is wounded and so always subject to disorder.
  • Christ restored marriage to its original dignity as a one-flesh, life-long union which reflects Trinitarian love, and, for baptized spouses, he raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.
    • The two essential characteristics of Christian marriage are exclusivity and indissolubility.
    • In marriage, mutual submission means the wife should submit to her husband like the Church submits to Christ and the husband should love his wife like Christ loved his Church, with total self-sacrifice.
    • The Theology of the Body is St. John Paul II’s catechesis on the meaning of marital sexuality as an expression of human and divine love.
  • The marital act has two purposes, which should not be separated: the unitive and procreative. The Church condemns contraception because it separates the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act.
    • Natural Family Planning (NFP), or periodic continence, is a moral method of spacing births if the couple has a serious reason to do so.
    • The sins against marriage violate either the exclusive and indissoluble nature of marriage or the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act. They include adultery, pornography, fornication, polygamy, cohabitation, free unions, trial marriages, divorce, same-sex unions, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogate motherhood.
  • The Sacrament of Matrimony contributes to the good of the family and of society by sanctifying and forming the family members and contributing good citizens to society.

*From The Didache Semester Series text Vocations, “Chapter Three: The Vocation to Marriage”

Practical application: Understand and defend marriage

  • Know marriage. It is necessary today for every mature Catholic to have a clear idea of what marriage is.
    • One reason for this is not to be overcome by false ideas ourselves.
    • Another reason is to be able to tell others the truth about marriage in the spirit of 1 Pt. 3:15-16: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” with gentleness, reverence, and a clear conscience. By doing so, we share in the prophetic office of Jesus Christ.
    • Still another reason is to be able to advocate for natural marriage in public policy for the good of civil society.
    • A good current resource is the 120 page booklet “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the preparatory catechesis for the eighth World Meeting of Families this September in Philadelphia.
  • Live marriage. Of course, if we are married we must conform ourselves to the demands of marriage. Marriage, including sacramental marriage, is wounded because we retain the wounds of original sin and so disorder can exist in our own marriages. We who are married can examine our own behavior in light of the vocation of marriage outlined above.
  • Prepare for marriage. If you are single but think your vocation is to matrimony, now is the time to prepare for it.
    • You can pray for your future spouse, even if you currently have no idea who that person is.
    • With God’s help you can work on becoming the kind of person who will attract the mate God is preparing for you. With God’s help you can work on becoming the kind of person who will be the spouse and parent God is calling you to be.
    • This preparation could be physical, academic, occupational, intellectual, practical, moral, and spiritual.
      • A very important kind of admirableness to cultivate that might seem hidden at first but which will be clearly revealed over time is the possession and exercise of virtues, especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the natural virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, including the virtue of purity.
    • One woman’s remarkable preparation for marriage and the transformation it effected in her and her future spouse is recounted here.
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Catholic homily outline for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B on contrition

jonah-preaching-in-nineveh-1923sWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Contrition. Doctrine: The act of contrition. Practical application: Acts of contrition.

To view Lectionary 68, click here.

Central idea: Contrition

Reading 1 Jon 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

  • There are two kinds of evil. Physical or natural evil is any kind of suffering. Moral evil is sin.
  • Those innocent of moral evil can suffer physical evil, but those who commit moral evils always cause suffering in themselves and others. The ultimate suffering that will be the consequence of moral evil is hell, but simply to sin makes one pitiable. This is why Socrates could say it is worse to be unjust than to be the victim of injustice.
  • God wants human beings to “repent,” that is, to turn away from their moral evil, from sin.
  • In the story of Jonah, to motivate the pagan inhabitants of Nineveh, God’s prophet threatens them with physical evil, that is, with physical destruction, and so, physical suffering: “Nineveh shall be destroyed.” To show they have repented of their moral evil, these pagans voluntarily take on physical evil through fasting and wearing sackcloth. Because they repented of their moral evil, God repented the physical evil he threatened to inflict upon them.
  • Fear of the consequences of sin is imperfect but adequate contrition.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Teach me your ways, 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.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, 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.

  • We are all sinners who need to be guided along the right way. An adequate but imperfect guide for sinners is fear of the consequences of sin. Sin wrecks us in this life and leads us to hell in the next.
    • Pride is a foolish deformation of a person’s character because it makes him seem great to himself when he is actually turned away from goodness and headed for destruction.
  • Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin out of love for goodness itself. So the other and better guide for sinners is the goodness of God’s moral law and God himself.
    • Humility is a wise character strength because it makes a person seem small, weak, and in need of help when it comes to doing good and attaining salvation.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:29-31

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

  • Because this world is temporary and the world to come is permanent, and our permanent inheritance depends on how we live now with God’s grace, we are wise to have a detachment from the things of this world.
  • Detachment does not mean that we don’t love our spouses, that the things that hurt us do not really hurt, that the things that make us happy don’t really give us joy, that we don’t really need physical things, and that these things do not have their own value.
  • Detachment does mean that we see all these persons and good things—and the hardships of life—in light of eternity. Marriage, sorrows, joys, material things, and work find their real meaning in the light of Christ. No earthly good—as truly good as these can be—is our final end. No earthly evil—as truly evil as these can be—is the last word either.

Gospel Mk 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

  • Since Jesus Christ is the king of the kingdom of God, wherever he is, the kingdom of God is present. This is why “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Christ is in it but the inhabitants of Galilee have not entered.
  • How do people enter the kingdom of God? They do so by repenting of their sins and believing in the gospel, which is the person and message of Christ, the king of the kingdom of God.
  • The nature of the kingdom of God is that it is extended person to person. So Christ calls his first apostles, who as his co-workers will call others.
  • Eventually, the contours of the kingdom of God will become clearer and we will see the reality of the Church on earth, with her hierarchical structure, her doctrines, and her sacraments.

Doctrine: The act of contrition

  • The words of a traditional act of contrition are a good way into understanding the remedy for our sins. Here is the one I was taught as a boy:

O MY GOD, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

  • O MY GOD—My act of contrition is addressed not just to the omniscient and omnipotent God but to “my God” with whom I am in a covenant because of my Baptism. God and I belong to each other intimately by his choice irrevocably and my choice which I’m often revoking by my sins.
  • I am heartily sorry—Whether or not I “feel” the emotion of sorrow, whether or not I shed tears or have a lump in my throat, my will is that my sorrow is from the core of my being, and in Biblical language, that place is called the heart.
  • For having offended Thee— In many cases my “I’m sorry” should be made also to those human beings I have offended. However, my contrition is first addressed to God because my “sin sets itself against God’s love” for me and turns my heart “away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods,’ knowing and determining good and evil.” (CCC 1850 quoting Gen 3:5) As St. Augustine put it, sin is “love of oneself even to contempt of God” (CCC 1850).
  • And I detest all my sins—Here is the turning away or aversion to sin. The Council of Trent defined contrition as “a sorrow of soul and a hatred of sin committed, with a firm purpose of not sinning in the future.”
  • Because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell—This is an expression of imperfect, but sufficient, contrition. Imperfect contrition “arises principally from . . . motives such as loss of heaven, fear of hell, the heinousness of sin” and so on. I see that my ‘love of self to contempt of God’ is an absurd, foolish, and deadly revolt. The inhabitants of Nineveh probably repented out of fear of destruction.
  • But most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love—This is perfect contrition. God is both all-good in himself and all-good to me. I am sorry because I have not returned love for love.
  • I firmly resolve—Repentance is an act of the will. My repentance is not real if I do not decide to act.
  • With the help of Thy grace—Here I acknowledge that even though I choose God again, I need God’s help to make this choice itself and to act on it. Both imperfect and perfect contrition are “a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1453). So, what are these acts?
  • To confess my sins—Mortal sins must be confessed as soon as possible according to kind and number. Venial sins and even imperfections that lead to sins may be confessed as well.
  • Do penance—I promise to do the (usually) small penance the priest imposes on me. The difference between the offense of sin and the penance imposed is incommensurate, which underlines the goodness and mercy of God. I also live the seasons and days of penance in the liturgical year (CCC 1428) and undertake other forms of interior and exterior penance (CCC 1427-1439).
  • And to amend my life—Firm purpose of amendment is necessary for forgiveness. My intention is to never do again what I am sorry for. The fact that I may do it again doesn’t negate my intention. Neither does the knowledge that I am very likely to do it again due to my weakness.

Practical Application: Acts of Contrition

  • If we have not already, we should memorize an act of contrition so we always have it with us.
  • We can think about what the act of contrition says, because a well-written act of contrition is itself a catechesis on sin and its remedy.
  • We can make an act of contrition whenever we need to.
  • We can do, with God’s help, what the words say.
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Catholic homily outline for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Speak, LordWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: God calls men to serve. Doctrine: “To reign is to serve.” Practical application: To reign by being a humble, obedient servant.

To view Lectionary 65, click here.

Central idea: God calls men to serve.

Reading 1 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, “ Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

  • God was calling the youth, Samuel, to tell him something, but Samuel could not recognize the Lord’s voice because he was not yet familiar with it.
  • Yet Samuel had something which disposed him to listen to God’s word once he discerned it: he had the humble, obedient heart of a servant. When he thought Eli called him he got out of his bed and went to him. Being a boy, Samuel probably ran.
  • How many of us need to develop that kind of heart to dispose ourselves to listen to what God has to say to us? Maybe we are not willing to spring out of our comfort and go with alacrity to a person in need who calls us. Maybe we are willing but nevertheless just don’t actually do it.
  • If we got into this habit of serving, we would then be better disposed to hearing God calling to us in all sorts of ways. And then we would already have the habit of listening and acting at once.
  • What we find is that very often what the person in need is saying is exactly what the Lord is saying. The Lord is saying, I want you to supply what that person in want wants.
  • Sometimes we don’t want to hear God’s word because we don’t want to hear God’s will. It’s giving us an order we don’t want to obey. We don’t have the heart of a humble, obedient servant.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.

  • What better prayer is there than, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will”?
  • What better desire is there than to want God’s will?
  • What better habit is there than always being ready to do God’s will?
  • Samuel and all the prophets and many other servants of God in the Old Covenant had this disposition.
  • Jesus Christ perfectly embodied this, and by doing so redeemed the world.
  • Our Lord taught this same virtue to the apostles and disciples he personally called.
  • We have learned this disposition through the word and example of Christ’s followers who came before us.
  • God calls others to this outlook through our word and example—all of us are evangelizers.

Reading 2 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20

Brothers and sisters:
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.

  • It is clear from the context what St. Paul means here by the “immorality” which the Christian must avoid. He is referring to sins against the virtue of chastity. He specifically condemns practices that people today want to permit.
  • Our bodies belong to Christ because he has purchased them at the price of his Passion.
  • Paul makes the startling statement that “the Lord is for the body.” God made us not just as animals or not as angels but as embodied souls. Our bodies are good in themselves. In addition, our intellect, free will, and ability to love and to be in communion with others are all expressed through our bodies.
  • God being “for the body” goes even farther than how he has created us. In redeeming us, he has also glorified our bodies by making them temples of the Holy Spirit. This is all the more reason that we should live the virtue of purity.
  • Frankly, one of the obstacles to being able to say “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will” and why we don’t have the humble, obedient heart of a servant is that we don’t want to hear God’s word because we don’t want to hear God’s will in the matter of chastity of the body.

Gospel Jn 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

  • The Church began first as a family—the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Now, Jesus begins to bring in men, men who will become his Apostles, to build his Church with its hierarchal structure.
  • According to the Gospel of John, Andrew and John were followers of John the Baptist. John the Baptist gives these two disciples what seems to be a signal: He points out Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”
  • What would Lamb of God mean to them? There was the paschal lamb, whose blood saved Israel from the final plague in Egypt (Ex 12). Jews were reminded of this lamb every Passover. And there also was the mysterious suffering servant who was led like a lamb to the slaughter as an offering for sin (Is 53).
  • So, these two young men followed Jesus, who turned and asked them a question which was both an “ice breaker” and one of the most profound questions one person can ask another: “What are you looking for?”
  • It sounds as if Andrew and John don’t know what to reply, so one asks, “Where are you staying?” But if Andrew and John are disciples of John the Baptist, they must be looking, most of all, for the Messiah, God’s anointed one who will restore Israel.
  • So they stayed with him. We don’t know what Our Lord said or did but by the next day Andrew was able to go to his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.”
  • When Andrew led Simon to Jesus, this man, whom John gave the mysterious title Lamb of God, gave Simon a mysterious name, Cephas, meaning rock. Simon and the other Apostles and disciples whom Christ gathered to himself would eventually learn that Simon Peter is the Rock on whom the Lord will build his Church.

Doctrine: “To reign is to serve”

  • Christ perfectly embodied the words, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.” He was the servant of the will of the Father. His heart was meek, humble, and obedient.
  • “Christ, King and Lord of the universe,” exercised his royal office, his kingship, by making “himself the servant of all, for he came ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Mt 20: 28; CCC 786).
  • Each Christian shares in the royal office of Christ. How? “For the Christian, ‘to reign is to serve him,’ particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder’,” as Lumen Gentium puts it (LG §8; CCC 786).
  • Our Lord underlined this servant leadership at the Last Supper after he had donned an apron and washed the feet of his disciples. “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:12-15).
  • In this light we can be helped by a passage some atheists try to use against the Faith, because it is advice that St. Paul gave to slaves who converted.
    • “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (Eph 6:5-8).

Practical Application: To reign by being a humble, obedient servant

  • We are all slaves of God because we have been purchased by Christ at the cost of his Passion, as St. Paul reminded the Corinthians.
  • We all have earthly masters.
    • We all have someone or many persons to whom we owe legitimate obedience, because they have just authority over us.
    • We all also have another kind of earthly master—anyone in need of our service, because whenever we serve anyone in need, we serve Christ. Lumen Gentium reminds us this is the case “particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder’.” Keep in mind, though, that poverty and suffering come in many forms and degrees and are all around us.
    • Thus, opportunities to serve are always close at hand.
  • We serve with purity of heart. This is the fear, trembling, and singleness of heart that St. Paul refers to.
    • The “eye-service” and men-pleasing St. Paul refers to is duplicity in which we serve or obey to look good, to be well thought of, to be praised, to flatter others, to manipulate others in some way, or even just to keep out of trouble.
  • There is in Christian service something that looks like duplicity but is not. If it is necessary—because the service is hard—the Christian servant looks through the person he is obeying or serving, or through the task that is onerous, and sees Christ in that person or the will of God in that task. This is why the will remains good and praiseworthy in the eyes of God. The Christian recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder in that person or work.
  • Real service is also attentive: “The eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress” (Ps 123). We do this so as to anticipate need and to supply. In other words, we see what needs to be done and do it without being ordered or asked.
  • Service is very often—almost always—physical and humble. It is changing the diaper, or putting paper in the copying machine, or emptying the dishwasher, or listening to the person speaking, or putting aside the “important” thing you prefer for another.
  • The motivation for Christian service is to receive back from Christ what we have given in our service. But even more we are moved simply to be like Christ, being real children of God who are really princes and princesses, kings and queens, who reign in this world by serving.
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Mary the Mother of God – Catholic homily outline

thotokos iconTo access a doctrinal homily outline for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, January 1, 2015, click here.

To view the lectionary readings (18) , click here.

A doctrinal homily outline for the Epiphany based on the lectionary (20) readings can by found by clicking the tab for Year B on the menu bar and then clicking on the Epiphany.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

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Homily Outline for Holy Family Sunday, Year B

holy_familyWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: God dwells in the family. Doctrine: The domestic church of the Holy Family. Practical application: Making the family more a domestic church.

To view Lectionary 17, click here.

Central idea: God dwells in the family

Reading 1 Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying:
“Fear not, Abram!
I am your shield;
I will make your reward very great.”
But Abram said,
“O Lord GOD, what good will your gifts be,
if I keep on being childless
and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?”
Abram continued,
“See, you have given me no offspring,
and so one of my servants will be my heir.”
Then the word of the LORD came to him:
“No, that one shall not be your heir;
your own issue shall be your heir.”
The Lord took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would;
he did for her as he had promised.
Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age,
at the set time that God had stated.
Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his
whom Sarah bore him.

  • Marriage is the natural human vocation and so most people have a natural desire for marriage and children.
  • Abraham and Sarah desired a child, a desire which was frustrated.
  • It was doubly frustrating because of the special vocation God gave him and the promises attached to it: through their progeny, which would be countless, every nation on earth would be blessed.
  • Abraham put his faith in God’s promise and the impossible occurred: Sarah conceived and bore Isaac.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R/ The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.

Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
constantly seek his face.

You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.

He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations
which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.

  • By the time of David, Abraham’s offspring had become a nation. God was true to his promises.
  • Even though the Jews were God’s chosen ones, his particular people, there was within Judaism a universal dimension: “Throughout the earth [God’s] judgments prevail” and God’s deeds were to be made known “among the nations.”
  • So, the “hearts that seek the LORD” were not confined to only the chosen people, the children of Abraham. This world-wide dimension came to fruition with the arrival of the Son of God as savior of the world and his commission to his Church to make disciples of all nations.

Reading 2 Col 3:12-17

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  • The virtues which St. Paul commends to the Colossians pertain to every Christian family.
  • The mission of the family is to love, and love integrates “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” along with forgiveness, peace, gratitude, and mutual correction.

Gospel Lk 2:22-40

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
They took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

  • Joseph and Mary recognized the just demands of God by going up to Jerusalem for the Presentation just as they had of Caesar in traveling to Bethlehem for the census.
  • At the same time, this family of slender financial means also completely fulfilled the Mosaic ordinance: Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord. There never was before, or ever would be after, a first-born son who was as dedicated to God the Father, because this first-born son was also God the Son.
  • Simeon says that in beholding this child he is beholding “salvation.”
  • This savior glorifies the nation of Israel, because as Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman, “salvation comes from the Jews” (Jn 4:22).
  • Simeon also says to the child’s mother that she will share in his saving work: “you yourself a sword will pierce.” She accomplished this in accompanying her son during his passion.

Doctrine: The Domestic Church of the Holy Family

  • Just as at one time the entire Chosen People consisted of one man, one woman, and their son—Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac—at one time the entire Church consisted of one man, one woman, and their son—Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
  • The Church, therefore, began its life in the home of Joseph and Mary.
    • “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.” (CCC 1666)
  • The virtues which St. Paul commends to the Colossians—love which integrates “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” along with forgiveness, peace, gratitude, and mutual correction—were lived out by the Holy Family, even forgiveness.
    • The members of the Holy Family had opportunities to forgive their neighbors, since living in a community they encountered disrespect, violence, impurity, greed, and dishonesty. When that “sword” pierced her heart, the Blessed Virgin Mary had a special opportunity to forgive because of what they did to her son. And of course her son had that mission to forgive every sin.
    • Within the Holy Family, there was no need for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to forgive one another due to sin. Even so, it is possible there were misunderstandings that led to pain, as when Joseph learned that Mary was with child or when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days.

Practical application: Making the family more a domestic church

  • As the Catechism points out, every Christian family is already a domestic Church. Marriage and the family is the arena in which spouses can learn to love and can teach the Gospel, live charity, and train their children in virtue.
  • In your family, is the faith proclaimed to your children by word and deed?
    • Have your children ever heard you utter the word Jesus in your home?
    • Do they hear you speak of God and the Gospel?
    • Do they see over time that being a Catholic means you live differently?
  • Is your home a community of grace?
    • Objectively, you have the graces of Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage, but are they stopped up by not keeping the Sunday obligation or by reception of the Holy Eucharist unworthily? Is your home being poisoned by contraception?
  • Is it a community of prayer? We are to teach our children to have a relationship with God through a life of prayer so they can eventually discern their vocations.
    • Do you offer your day to God and have you taught your children how to do this?
    • Do you say grace before meals?
    • Is there any other family prayer you practice together?
  • Is your home a school of human virtues?
    • Do you and your spouse try to live, model, and train your children in the love which integrates “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” along with forgiveness, peace, gratitude, and mutual correction?
  • Is it a place where freedom is cultivated?
    • Young children can be forced to do what you want when you are standing over them, but will they want to do what is right when you are not watching them or when they leave home?
  • Is it a school of Christian charity?
    • Charity is willing the very best for the other even to the point of sacrifice. In the domestic church and in the Christian life in general, love takes the shape “of service, sacrifice, trust, and openness to God’s generosity” (50).[*]



[*] “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families in 2015.

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Mary, Virgin Most Prudent: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 21, 2014 (Year B)

Pregnant BVMWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Mary, Virgin Most Prudent. Doctrine: The virtue of prudence. Practical application: Growing in prudence.

To view Lectionary 11, click here.

Central idea: Mary, Virgin Most Prudent

Reading 1: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?’

“It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”

  • King David wanted to build God a house. God’s reply was, in effect, I will build you a house that will last forever.
  • When the author or final editor of the Books of Samuel was writing, Nathan’s prophecy was already a promise to be fulfilled. By then, the line of Davidic kings had failed, the Chosen People were surrounded by enemies, and the nation was about to be or was already destroyed. Therefore, they were awaiting a new anointed king, an heir of David, who would be in a father-son relationship with God, whose kingdom would stand firm forever.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27-29

R/ For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”

“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”

  • Soon after the reign of Solomon, the faithful ones of Israel had to wait many generations for the Lord to keep his promise to David to establish his throne forever. They had to wait for the appearance of Jesus Christ.
  • But those who do not accept that Jesus Christ is Lord will have to wait until Our Lord’s Second Coming to see the proof that God’s covenant to David “stands firm.”

Reading 2 Rom 16:25-27

Brothers and sisters:
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever. Amen.

  • Paul gives glory to God in this doxology or song of praise. A very good but long-kept secret or mystery is now revealed. God is a communion of three loving persons, one of whom, the Son, has become man and redeemed us from sin and death, so long as we say yes through the “obedience of faith.”
  • Mary is the first who rendered this “the obedience of faith” in her fiat or “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Gospel: Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

  • Luke presents such richness in so few words:
    • Mary’s condition as the Immaculate Conception in the angel Gabriel’s words, “full of grace”;
    • Christ’s virginal conception by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit;
    • Mary’s obedience of faith in her “fiat” or “May it be done to me according to your word”;
    • The revelation to Mary (and to us) that her child is the long-awaited heir to David who will rule the people of God forever.
    • And the revelation that this Messiah is not just a highly favored mortal man but the Son of the Most High, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

Doctrine: The Virtue of Prudence

  • Prudence or sound decision-making is a cardinal virtue, essential to being a decent human being and to holiness.
  • The practice of the virtue of prudence begins by taking counsel, meaning, gathering wise thoughts about the course of action being considered. After that, you make a rational judgment of the best course of action. Finally, you act.
  • Sometimes there is very little time to make the decision. At other times there is plenty of leisure. In the first reading, King David had reached a period in his life in which he had ample time to think about things. He told the prophet Nathan his idea to build a temple in Jerusalem for the Ark of the Covenant to dwell in. Nathan immediately said yes, do it. Then, that night, God gave Nathan other counsel for David, which David obeyed.
  • When St. Joseph found out that his betrothed was going to have a child, he took council within himself and concluded that the most just or righteous thing to do was to divorce Mary quietly. But then, when the angel enlightened him, he immediately changed his mind. He got better counsel and took it.
  • In the Litany of Loreto, we praise the Blessed Virgin Mary with the title Virgin Most Prudent. Mary arguably made the most prudent decision in all of human history by saying yes to God’s plan. This plan of action was made known to her by the angel Gabriel. She took council by thinking about it and asking the big question on her mind. When she heard the answer, she quickly reached the best conclusion: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
  • How was Mary able to reach such a wise decision so swiftly? She had behind her a lifetime of considering every decision, even the smallest, in the light of God’s will, and with the help of God’s grace, and there was never on her part any part of her that wanted to prefer her own will over against God’s will.

Practical application: Growing in Prudence

  • Prudence is first of all a human virtue. Anyone who wants to become more prudent can. We just have to use our heads. As our Lord said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Lk 14:28). Sitting down and counting the cost is taking counsel. If you rashly make your judgment and then act upon it you might only prove yourself to be a fool: “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish’” (Lk 14:29-30).
  • Prior to the judgment that a certain course of action will be practically effective, we also first want to be certain it is morally acceptable. So, for example, if you plan to go into business you need to find a line of work that you think you can be successful at and that is also moral. If you are 250 pounds of pure muscle and enjoy physical and mental challenges, you could be an effective bodyguard or personal trainer or police officer or loan shark, but you would need to rule out the last one, since that is immoral.
  • Anyone can become more prudent, but we are not just anyone. We are Catholics, children of God, and Temples of the Holy Spirit. So, besides bringing the moral law and reason in, we also want to bring God himself into our decision-making process. So, whenever we have a decision to make, we should place the situation before God in prayer. Sometimes it may be only a quick cry for help. At other times, as in the case of discernment of a vocation, our counsel may take a long time, even years.
  • Whenever we have a decision to make, we should use our best human judgment, and get good advice from others who should be able to give it, if that is appropriate. Yet if God tells us otherwise, we should do as King David and St. Joseph did.
  • What is our best means to be prudent? It is to grow in purity of heart, like the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If we have purity of heart we will not entrap ourselves into foolish or evil behavior by preferring our own will (when it is wrong) to God’s will (which is always best).
    • Unlike Mary, we are not conceived without Original Sin. Yet we can keep getting rid of our sins through Sacramental confession and our daily struggle to grow in virtues.
    • Unlike Mary, we are not full of grace. Yet we have access to sufficient graces through our Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communions, frequent Confessions, and Marital Covenant (if we are married).
    • A serious spiritual life also helps us attain purity of heart. This is built by practices like daily prayerful meditation, daily reading of Sacred Scriptures and other good spiritual reading, regular spiritual direction, and so on.



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Rejoice in the Lord Always: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Third Sunday of Advent – December 14, 2014 (Year B)

Visitation 2Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Rejoice in the Lord. Doctrine: The Beatitudes. Practical application: Rejoicing in the Lord always.

To view Lectionary 8, click here.

Central idea: Rejoice in the Lord always

Reading 1 Is 61:1-2a, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

  • The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday because the Introit begins with “Gaudete in Domino semper” (Phil 4:4,5), meaning, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
  • According to the Gospel of Luke, Our Lord began his public ministry in his own hometown on a Sabbath by opening the scroll of Isaiah and reading the first part of this passage. Then he said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
  • This scripture was fulfilled because the Messiah, God’s anointed, stood before them. He would do all those things for Israel and for every human being who would one day follow him. Christ the Messiah not only saves but also sanctifies. The poor are not just fed and clothed but elevated to royalty and treated as such.
  • Each follower of Christ can also associate himself with the speaker in the second part of the reading. While we are not the Messiah, we also can rejoice heartily in the Lord, because he has clothed us in robes of salvation and sanctification.

Responsorial Psalm Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

R/ (Is 61:10b) My soul rejoices in my God.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

  • We just celebrated the underlying reason for Our Lady’s constant joy, that which made her fit to be the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception.
  • Mary completely shares in the joy of the Messiah which Isaiah proclaimed.
  • The Blessed Virgin Mary proclaims that if you have God you have everything. She also testifies that if you don’t have God, no matter how many seemingly good things you have, you ultimately have nothing.

Reading 2 1 Thes 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it.

  • Is the person of Jesus Christ and his salvation real to me? If it is, then I can rejoice always.
  • Paul presents offers us an examination of conscience about joy:
    • Do I pray without ceasing? A young child will talk incessantly to his parents; two friends with the same interest can never exhaust what they have to say about it; a couple falling in love can never share enough. Is my prayer anything like those examples?
    • Do I give thanks constantly because I am aware of all the gifts I have received and am receiving from the Lord?
    • Do I realize that the Holy Spirit actually will speak and act through me?
    • Am I fearless toward the world, able to test what is of value, to keep that, and to bring even more good out of it?
    • Do I refrain from all evil?
  • Of course this kind of perfection is not possible for us on our own. It is not even fully possible in this life. But this life is the process by which, with God’s help, we become entirely—meaning “in spirit, soul, and body”—holy and blameless.

Gospel Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,’
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

  • The psalmist says, “Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice” (Ps 105:3). The Catechism reminds us, “Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness” (CCC 30). God made us for life and happiness, not misery and death. Yet in the condition in which we exist on this earth, “this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, ‘an upright heart,’ as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God” (CCC 30). This Catechism point then ends with the beginning passage of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

  • John the Evangelist says that St. John the Baptist “came to testify to the light.” That light is Christ. Christ is the person who make it possible for us to see what will really make us happy. What he helps us see most of all is himself. He is what will most make us happy. But to see Christ, we need to be “tuned up,” so to speak. Our intellect, will, and heart need to be oriented to Christ and we also need the witness of others to teach us. That is what St. John the Baptist was doing for the Chosen People. He was orienting them, tuning them up, preparing them to be able to see the light by repentance.

Doctrine: The Beatitudes

  • In today’s lectionary readings, which advise us to rejoice always, even in tribulation, Christ’s nine Beatitudes, though not named, are entirely present in the sense that those who have not have everything. This is God’s surprising divine economy or dynamic at work.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you
and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven. (Mt 5:3-12)

  • Point 1717 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this dynamic.
  • The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity.
    • Our Lord is humble, merciful, pure of heart, a peacemaker. In his passion, especially, his spirit was crushed, he mourned, and he was reviled and persecuted.
    • His charity is seen in his promise to reverse the painful condition of all those in similar straits.
  • They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection.
    • We are called to offer up all our needs, wants, and physical and mental suffering to help bring about the kingdom of heaven.
  • They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life.
    • We should act with mercy and be reconcilers. Our attitude should be to desire justice with a purity of heart, despite how others respond.
  • They are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations.
    • The poor in spirit know their need of God and so are deficient, yet Christ promises that deficiency will be fully remedied. Those who mourn will be comforted in full some day. Those who have nothing now, the meek, will inherit everything. Those who are distressed about all the evil in the world, including the evil they see in themselves, will see justice restored in creation.
  • They proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples.
    • Because Christ has won heaven for us, it is already ours, and we are winning it ourselves by experiencing what he experienced to win it for us.
  • They have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.
    • The Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the meek who will inherit the earth: “for he has looked upon his lowly servant,” whom all generations will call blessed. She is one of the pure in heart who literally saw God. She mourned at the foot of the Cross and was comforted in the Resurrection.

Practical Application: Rejoicing in the Lord always

  • Paul exhorts us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4,5).
  • As we have seen, we can rejoice in gratitude for every blessing either in possession or in promise. If we regularly count our blessings in the presence of God, we will see how much we have to be thankful for.
  • We can rejoice in our material and spiritual poverty, because this is why Christ has come to save and sanctify us. He is merciful and we are the beneficiaries of his mercy.
  • We can rejoice even when other people are causing us suffering because we can unite that persecution to Christ’s passion and be co-redeemers.
  • We can rejoice when we are actually loving and serving others because that is what they and Christ want.
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What Sort of Persons We Ought to Be: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Second Sunday of Advent – December 7, 2014 (Year B)

St. John in the Wilderness Hieronymus Bosch

St. John in the Wilderness
Hieronymus Bosch

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: The sort of persons we should be eager to become. Doctrine: The virtue of friendliness. Practical application: Become friendlier.

To view Lectionary 5, click here.

Central idea: The sort of persons we should be eager to become

Reading 1 Is 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

  • Over centuries, the prophets of Israel announced “the coming of God’s son to earth” (CCC 522). This passage from the Book of Isaiah is one such.
  • During Advent, we recall the “ancient expectancy” of the Chosen People for the coming of the Messiah in order to stir up our own “ardent desire” for his second advent (CCC 524).
  • We can take comfort, as in have hope, that one day soon our own struggles will come to an end, when we meet Christ in our particular judgment.
  • But right now, we build this highway for our God by our struggle to imitate Christ. That is what levels out the peaks and valleys of our life.
    • For example, with the grace of Christ, we demolish the peak of foolhardiness and fill in the ravine of cowardice so that we can travel toward Christ along the way of courage.
    • Or we level the hills of our fawning, flattery, and human regard, and raise up the valleys of our indifference, smugness, and self-centeredness, to pave a highway of true friendship with our neighbor.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14

R/ (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD—for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.

  • The people of God do want the kingdom of God. In fact, all people of good will want a place to live in which they have peace, security, and justice, and experience mutual kindness—all grounded in the truth.
  • But is this really what everyone has wanted and wants today? Individuals and societies have operated on the basis of the strong and clever deceiving, oppressing, enslaving, plundering, and killing the weaker.
  • A particular form of oppression with a religious veneer, which has existed since the seventh century and which is on the rise again, is militant Islam.
  • To age-old tyrannies which still exist around the world, the modern age has added a whole new series of promised utopias not grounded in the truth, like:
    • We can build a perfect world by rejecting the superstition of religion and living by reason and science alone (the Enlightenment and scientism).
    • We can build a perfect world by overthrowing the capitalist economic order which enslaves workers and by instituting socialism or communism (Marxism).
    • We can build a perfect world by freeing people from their dark and oppressive sexual psychological enslavements (Freud).
    • We can build a perfect world if the “superman”, freed from Christian morality, seizes what he wants (Nietzsche and Fascism).
    • We can build a perfect world if women can be freed of the enslavement of motherhood (feminism).
    • We can build a perfect world if only a few human beings exist (environmentalism).
    • We can build a perfect world if everyone can have sex in whatever way they want without anyone judging them (the sexual revolution and “gay rights”).
  • In none of those ideologies can it be said that kindness and truth met or justice and peace kissed.

Reading 2 2 Pt 3:8-14

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

  • According to St. Peter, the Lord is patiently giving us time so that generations and generations of persons can live and become the “sort of persons” fit for eternal life.
  • Thus, we should aspire to become as quickly as possible persons who can be described as holy, devoted, righteous, without spot, without blemish.
  • In other words, we should aspire to be and to do good, avoiding all evil.

Gospel Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

  • John is the last and greatest of all the prophets of Israel, sent by God immediately before Christ’s advent to prepare the way for him (CCC 523). “John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom” (CCC 523).
  • Many Jews who heard John the Baptist responded positively; that is, they received this “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
  • Some questions we can all ask ourselves are: To what extent do I need to repent? To what extent have I repented? What makes me want to repent? How can I help others convert their lives?

Doctrine: The virtue of friendliness

  • God desires to be in a state of friendship with us and for us to be in a state of friendship with ourselves, with other persons, and even with the natural world. That is what the Church means by original holiness and justice. It is why Christ has saved us, why he sanctifies us, and why there will be a new creation.
  • God’s friendliness is what draws us to him. Human friendliness is what draws us to other persons and other persons to us.
  • Friendliness is the virtue by which we show to others that we welcome, accept, value and support them. Friendliness helps us to make and keep friends. Friendliness helps us to ‘just get along’ with people in all sorts of situations. It assists us in cooperating with others to achieve goals. Other names for friendliness are sociability and agreeableness.
  • It is possible to be “too” friendly or falsely friendly. Watch out for flatterers who feign friendship to manipulate. It is also a vice to lack Nobody likes to be around a surly, self-interested lout.
  • People deserve our friendliness because of their inherent human dignity. On the practical level, we also need to be friendly to just about everyone. We are all members of the human community. We depend on each other. Friendliness makes cooperation easier and we need to cooperate.
  • Friendliness is affectionate, warm, and welcoming; friendliness is delighted and admiring of the other; it is altruistic, benevolent, beneficial, generous, and helpful whenever it sees a need; it is benign and never deliberately does harm; it is attentive, considerate, sympathetic, and supportive; it is patient, peaceful, and easy-going in the face of difficulties; it is civil, cordial, courteous, and respectful; it is cheerful and has a sense of humor; it is forgiving, lenient, conciliatory and understanding; it is communicative and responsive; it is cooperative; friendliness is loyal, faithful, devoted, and trustworthy.

Practical application: Become friendlier

  • If we want to grow in friendliness, so as to be more like God and really be of use to others, we can think about our various relationships with other persons and ask, Am I really behaving as a friend?
  • Different relationships do call for different applications of the qualities of friendliness.
    • Are we actually acting toward God like a friend of God? For example, do we greet him in the morning, talk to him at times during the day, “dine at his home” when he invites us each Sunday, thank him for the gifts he has given us, and ask his pardon for offending him?
    • What about the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph or some other saint we have an attachment to, or our guardian angel?
    • How about our parents if we are a child or if we are all grown up and they are older?
    • Then there is the special friendship of our spouse and children and members of our extended family. What about them?
    • What about how we behave toward our friends, co-workers, and neighbors?
    • Then there are the people we randomly meet, like cashiers and those we share the roads with. What about them?
  • If we pick any one of these persons or groups of persons and think of them while going over the qualities of friendliness, we may experience gladness which tell us we are acting as a true friend. We may also experience some ouches which indicate that is a sore spot and so we have something to work on.
  • Then it is a matter of forming a specific practical resolution. It is a waste of time to resolve to be more friendly to people. Much better would be to resolve something like the following:
    • I will be more devoted to God by greeting him the moment I awaken each morning.
    • I will be more courteous to people who wait on me in stores, restaurants, and fast food windows by saying please, thank you, and have a good day.
    • I will let drivers who want to change lanes in front of me or merge into my lane to do those things.
    • I will be more affectionate toward my wife by giving her a kiss with each goodbye and hello.
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