Be watchful! Be alert! Doctrinal Homily Outline for the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014 (Year B)

flock-guardian-dog-8Written 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: Be watchful! Be alert! Doctrine: Humble vigilance of heart in prayer. Practical application: Being a better servant.

To view Lectionary 2, click here.

Central idea: Be watchful! Be alert!

Reading 1 Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.

  • The Catechism tells us that in the Old Testament, God himself teaches humanity how to pray. This revelation of prayer comes between God the Father’s sorrowful words to his children in the Garden, “Where are you? . . . What is this that you have done?” (Gn 3:9,13) and God the Son’s answer when he comes into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God” (Heb 10:5-7). (CCC 2568)
  • Isaiah’s outpouring is an example of this divine pedagogy of prayer. Isaiah is speaking from the depths of his heart with utmost seriousness in a dire situation. There will be times in our own lives when we will do the same. This dialogue between man and God goes something like this:
    • God is our father and redeemer—Yes, I am.
    • Please don’t let us reject you—No, I want to “let you” have freedom. That is better for you.
    • Please perform a great sign for us—Why do you need another sign to believe in me? Nevertheless, when I send my Son you will see signs and wonders again.
    • We wish we would do what is right—Then why don’t you? I’ll help you.
    • You are angry because we are sinful—Yes, you are sinful and I oppose sin. What you think is my anger is consequences of rejecting me.
    • You have abandoned us and we deserve it— If I had abandoned you, you would not be calling on me now.
    • Yet you are our father—Yes.
    • We are all the work of your hands—You are the work of “our” hands: yours and mine.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

R/ (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

  • “Make us turn to you.” It is natural that we would ask something unnatural, that God would override our freedom and force us to be pleasing to him.
  • The truth is that we cannot be close to God without his grace but we must cooperate.
  • We do need leaders in the Church—prophets, priests, and kings—so it is right to pray: strengthen them so they can strengthen us.
  • Christ is preeminently this “son of man” and “man of your right hand” through whom God gives us new life and through whom we can call on God’s name.
  • Through the Sacraments, each member of the Church becomes a “son of man whom you yourself made strong” and who then shares in Christ’s prophetic, priestly, and royal offices.

Reading 2 1 Cor 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • CCC 2568 pointed to the first epoch of salvation history—the time between God the Father’s words to Adam and Eve after they had sinned and the arrival of the Son of the Father as man to redeem us from sin.
  • Now we are in the second epoch of salvation history—the time between that first coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his second coming in glory, “the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • Paul teaches the Corinthians that God the Father calls them to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, and so, they have everything they need to remain irreproachably faithful until this second coming.
  • We don’t have to say to God “make me be good.” Through the sacraments he gives us the grace to be good and faithful servants—or better—sons and daughters.

Gospel Mk 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

  • “Watch!” The Catechism has a whole section on vigilance (CCC 2729-2733). It discusses vigilance in the context of “humble vigilance of heart” as the solution to problems of prayer.
  • We should be vigilant in living our faith because Christ Our Lord counsels us to. Our vigilance should be humble because we are weak. It is the heart most of all that must be vigilant, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).

Doctrine: Humble vigilance of heart in prayer

  • We might assume that the most important watchfulness necessary to be ready to meet Christ is moral vigilance, which is avoiding all sin and doing good. This is true. However, if we pray always with a humble heart, it will become more and more impossible for us to carry on the double life of being a disciple but living as if we are not. This is one reason why humble vigilance in prayer is so important.
  • One difficulty in prayer is getting distracted. Distraction reveals what we are really attached to. When we become aware that we have been distracted in prayer we can humbly turn back to the Lord due to “our preferential love for him” and “offer him our heart to be purified.” (CCC 2729)
  • Another difficulty in prayer is fighting “the possessive and dominating self.” We need vigilance or “sobriety of heart” to keep our focus on Christ rather than ourselves. “When Jesus insists on vigilance, he always relates it to himself, to his coming on the last day and every day: ” (CCC 2730)
  • A third difficulty for those who try to pray is dryness, when one feels he is getting nothing from prayer. This may require deeper conversion, if our emptiness is due to our own faults, or deeper faith, as we cling “faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb.” (CCC 2731)
  • “The most common yet most hidden temptation against prayer is our lack of faith.” We don’t really believe in Christ or we don’t really believe that “apart from me, you can do”(CCC 2732)
    • Presumption is a sin against hope in which “either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).” (2092)
  • A final temptation against prayer is This is a kind of “depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart.” The humble of heart are not “surprised” by discouragement, either in prayer or in life, because they know how poor and weak they are. Rather, discouragement “leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.” (2733)

Practical application: Being a better servant

  • As we have seen, part of our life of prayer is the interplay between two realizations. One is the realization that on our own we are lost sinners. The other is the Gospel message that in Christ and like Christ we are here “to do your will, O God.”
  • This interplay happens in moments of conversation with God, part of that humble vigilance of heart in prayer.
  • One way we can foster this realization is by putting ourselves in today’s Gospel as one of the servants in the parable. The man leaves home on a journey and “places his servants in charge, each with his own work.” Christ has ascended to the Father and we are his disciples, given responsibilities.
  • So we can each ask, What am I currently in charge of? What is my own work? What does being watchful mean in my regard?
  • No one can make this discernment for us because the answer will vary based on our age, state in life, and occupation.
    • For a high school student it might mean being hard-working, discovering one’s vocation, and living chastity.
    • For a woman at home with her young children, the answer would be different than for that same woman immersed in the world of work, or that same woman in her old age.
  • But right away, it gives us something to talk with God about as we ask, How can I be a better servant in the work you have already given me to do?

 

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Christ the King: Doctrinal Homily Outline for November 23, 2014 (Year A)

Jan van Eyck - Christ the KIng from the Ghent Altarpiece (1432)

Jan van Eyck – Christ the KIng from the Ghent Altarpiece (1432)

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 king of the kingdom of God. Doctrine: The kingdom of God and the last judgment. Practical application: Living today with the end in mind.

To view Lectionary 160, click here.

Central idea: The king of the kingdom of God

Reading 1: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.

  • The good shepherd is an image of the good leader, ultimately the good king. In this oracle, the LORD declares that he will be the shepherd of his Chosen People. This oracle is fulfilled in Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
  • This good shepherd will set to work immediately and will continue without stop until he has re-gathered the flock and restored each animal to health. This is fulfilled in Christ’s work to save and sanctify us.
  • But why will God destroy the sleek and strong? The reason is that they only looked out for themselves. They either gave no thought to or actually harmed the weaker members of the flock who were lost, injured, or sick. This judgment will take place when Christ returns.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.

Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

  • For the person who can say, “The LORD is my shepherd,” there is no fear in Christ’s return. Rather, there is great joy, for Christ returns to look after the person as a shepherd looks after a sheep who knows his need of a shepherd.
  • The smart sheep knows he needs a shepherd. We, too, need God to find, save, guard, and guide us, because by our own powers we cannot defeat the forces of sin, suffering, and death arrayed against us.

Reading 2 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.

  • In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” St. Paul is describing how the kingdom of God will become universal.
  • The first fruits of the “harvest” is Christ’s resurrection from the dead, which has occurred.
  • Then at his second coming all who belong to him will rise from the dead. They are already subject to him. They have become subject to him by the way they have lived.
  • Then, like a warrior king, Christ will conquer “every sovereignty and every authority and power” which is opposed to him, “enemies” of which death the last and greatest.
  • Then when everything is subjected to Christ, Christ will subject himself to God the Father “so that God may be all in all.” God is not all in all now because there is so much resistance to him. (Footnote 1 Cor 15:28)

Gospel Mt 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

  • In Ezekiel’s vision, there are some people who are sleek and strong while their fellow men are lost, in need of rescuing, hungry, tired, injured, and sick. In this prophecy, God himself will tend to those in need, while he will “destroy” the sleek and strong.
  • It must be that God negatively judges the sleek and strong because they did nothing for their brothers in need when they could have. This comes into focus in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Those of us who do nothing for the hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, and imprisoned will be condemned while those who do something for them will have eternal life.
  • Most broadly, if you love your neighbor, giving what you are able to give that he needs, you are helping God’s kingdom come and you “belong to Christ.”

Doctrine: The kingdom of God and the Last Judgment

  • When we pray, thy kingdom come, “the Church looks first to Christ’s return and the final coming of the Reign of God. It also prays for the growth of the Kingdom of God in the ‘today’ of our own lives.” (CCC 2859)
  • When we pray, thy will be done, “we ask our Father to unite our will to that of his Son, so as to fulfill his plan of salvation in the life of the world” (CCC 2860).
  • “Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church, but all the things of this world are not yet subjected to him” (CCC 680).
  • “On Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which . . . have grown up together in the course of history” (CCC 681).
  • “When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace” (CCC 682).

Practical application: Living today with the end in mind

  • The Catechism tells us that “In the Lord’s Prayer, ‘thy kingdom come’ refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ’s return.” Does this mean that the faithful just sit back and wait?
  • No. “[F]ar from distracting the Church from her mission in this present world, this desire [to see the kingdom of God on earth] commits her to it all the more strongly” (CCC 2818). This is why the Church never stops proclaiming the Gospel, teaching Christian faith and morals, and providing the Sacraments. This is why every lay member of the faithful should take seriously the call to be an evangelist, which presupposes knowing and living the faith. Thus, because we want God’s kingdom to come, we know, live, and speak to others about Catholic faith and morals.
  • The Catechism goes on to explain how we cannot really say, “Thy kingdom come” unless we live the faith and its demands.
    • “‘The kingdom of God [is] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ The end-time in which we live is the age of the outpouring of the Spirit. Ever since Pentecost, a decisive battle has been joined between ‘the flesh’ and the Spirit.” As St. Cyril of Jerusalem taught, “Only a pure soul can boldly say: ‘Thy kingdom come.’ One who has heard Paul say, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies,’ and has purified himself in action, thought, and word will say to God: ‘Thy kingdom come!’” (2819)
      • Thus, we cannot evangelize unless we have engaged in the personal battle between God’s will and our own often disordered passions. To use the image of Christ as the Warrior-King, we are soldiers in Christ’s army fighting to subdue creation to him so it can be turned over to the Father. But the enemy we fight is our own selves!
  • Similar to our concern to advance the kingdom of God on earth now, the Church reminds us that “By a discernment according to the Spirit, Christians have to distinguish between the growth of the Reign of God and the progress of the culture and society in which they are involved.” Progress in the kingdom of God is not the same as economic, cultural, medical, technological, or scientific progress. However, this distinction is not a separation. “Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces, his duty” to contribute to “the progress of the culture and society in which” he lives. Thus we have the “duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace.” (CCC 2820) Laypersons should be especially excited to contribute to human progress in the temporal order through their work, whatever it is.
    • This is precisely what the Second Vatican Council taught about the lay vocation. “The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word.  . . .  In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light.” (Lumen Gentium 36)
  • To summarize, we care about becoming personally transformed into the image of Christ so that we can more effectively advance both the temporal and eternal orders.

 

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Divine Filiation: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 16, 2014 (Year A)

The Spinner by William Adolphe Bouguereau

The Spinner by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1873)

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: Fruits of the fear of the Lord. Doctrine: Children of God or divine filiation. Practical application: A brief summary of some of the consequences of divine filiation in the Christian life.

To view Lectionary 157, click here.

Central idea: Fruits of the fear of the Lord

Reading 1 Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

  • What does it mean for a woman to fear the LORD? It means she puts God first in her life and does everything else in light of that decision.
  • What does the life of a woman who fears the LORD look like? She does good and not evil. She works diligently, with loving hands. Her work produces good things. Through her work she can help her neighbor in need.
  • This is the inner beauty and charm for which such a woman deserves praise and a reward.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R/ Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.

  • What does it mean for a man to fear the LORD? It means he puts God first in his life and does everything else in light of that decision.
  • What does the life of a man who fears the LORD look like? He works diligently and not in vain: “you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork.” The good that he does blesses others, beginning with his family: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; Your children like olive plants around your table.”
  • His decision to fear the LORD results in blessings for him and those in his care.

Reading 2 1 Thes 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters,
you have no need for anything to be written to you.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief at night.
When people are saying, “Peace and security,”
then sudden disaster comes upon them,
like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness,
for that day to overtake you like a thief.
For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.

  • The day of the Lord is when God will judge each person. Everyone knows in some way that he will be judged according to the morality of his acts. Many persons try to ignore this and say all is well: “Peace and security.” Such persons will be blindsided.
  • To be awake, sober and alert as a child of the light and of the day means to live like the woman in Proverbs and the man in the Psalm: To fear God, meaning to put him first and to live accordingly, to do good and not evil, and to work and produce good things for everyone’s benefit.

Gospel Mt 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

  • The woman and the man who fear God and act accordingly are to be praised and are blessed. They are entrusted with some talents, abilities, potentialities. They employ them and bear some fruit. And they receive a reward: They share in their master’s joy when he calls them to account.
  • Some people are given enormous talents and advantages. Others seemingly receive much less. Still others appear to be given disadvantages. But everyone has scope to do some good in the time of his or her life.
  • The master in the parable calls the servant who did nothing with the talent entrusted to him wicked and lazy and punishes him by taking away what he had been given and by having him thrown “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
  • This is why it is good to pray: Lord, may I bear fruit.

Doctrine: Children of God or Divine Filiation

  • To be a child of the day or a child of the light are metaphors for being a child of God. The technical term for this is divine filiation.
  • Our final end, that is, the purpose for which God created us in the first place, is presented to us in Sacred Scripture in images of blessings: “the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, filiation, rest in God” (CCC 1726).
  • God made man “to make him share in his own blessed life. . . . In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life” (CCC 1).
  • What is this beatitude?
    • It would probably seem enough to us if being adopted by God meant having all the benefits of being taken care of by the greatest person we could ever conceive of—if we were the beneficiaries of the greatest rags to riches story imaginable. Divine filiation is that.
    • If we thought about beatitude more we would probably want to add being healed and rejuvenated physically, morally, and intellectually. Divine filiation is that too.
    • But divine filiation is also divinization: God giving us a share in his own divine life!
    • In one of his general audiences, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about the ninth century Irish thinker John Scotus Erigena on “theosis” or divinization. Using the ancient metaphor of the smelting of iron, John Scotus Erigena wrote: “just as all red-hot iron is liquefied to the point that it seems nothing but fire and yet the substances remain distinct from one another, so it must be accepted that after the end of this world all nature, both the corporeal and the incorporeal, will show forth God alone and yet remain integral so that God can in a certain way be com-prehended while remaining in-comprehensible and that the creature itself may be transformed, with ineffable wonder, and reunited with God.”
  • That is the mountaintop, so to speak, of being a child of God, but what about now? What does God ask of his children?
    • “Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: ‘Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.’” (CCC 305)
    • Jesus also asks for prayer. “Prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. . . . The life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice–holy God and in communion with him,” made possible because “through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ (CCC 2565). “Our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom (CCC 2736).
    • Jesus asks that we cooperate in transforming our moral lives through the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which “are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life” (CCC 1813).
    • Jesus asks that we be led and transformed by the Holy Spirit. “This ‘Spirit of the Son’ teaches them to pray to the Father and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation. He enlightens and strengthens us to live as ‘children of light’ through ‘all that is good and right and true.’”(CCC 1695)

Practical application: A brief summary of some of the consequences of divine filiation in the Christian life[1]

  • Because God the Father loves us and will always take care of us, we can abandon ourselves to God the Father’s providence.
  • Our piety can be like that of a little child.
  • We can ask him for gifts.
  • We can see the Mass as the place where we meet our Father.
  • We can love the Church since it is the family home of God.
  • We can value our baptism since that is how we joined God’s family.
  • When we sin, we can play the prodigal son without shame and return to the Father through repentance and the sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • We can imitate Christ our brother because he is the perfect image of our Father.
  • We can love freedom since we are not slaves or wage earners but sons.
  • We can embrace obedience to the will of our Father just as Christ did.
  • All of these consequences of divine filiation are both means by which we can bear good fruit and they are in themselves rewards for fearing God, that is, putting him first in our lives and living accordingly, with his grace.

[1] Paraphrased from Dr. Raul Nidoy http://primacyofreason.blogspot.com/2007/09/divine-filiation.html

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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome: Doctrinal Homily Outline for November 9, 2014 (Year A)

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Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin dedicated in 2008

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: Living Temples. Doctrine: Grace. Practical application: Understanding the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.

To view Lectionary 671, click here.

Central idea: Living Temples

Reading 1 Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12

The angel brought me
back to the entrance of the temple,
and I saw water flowing out
from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east,
for the façade of the temple was toward the east;
the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple,
south of the altar.
He led me outside by the north gate,
and around to the outer gate facing the east,
where I saw water trickling from the southern side.
He said to me,
“This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah,
and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows,
every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.
Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

  • The prophet Ezekiel wrote as a Jewish exile in Babylon. Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon were destroyed. In his vision of a new temple, he saw a spring welling up it that flowed all the way down to the Dead Sea, which it made fresh. The angel tells Ezekiel that the source of this stream is the sanctuary, the holiest place in the temple. Along this stream every living creature would multiply and the waters would be filled with fish. Along the shores, trees would grow bearing fruit each month. Even their leaves would serve for healing. Every place this spring’s water touched became another garden of Eden, beautiful, full of life, and beneficial to man.
  • What can this spring be but divine grace, flowing out from God’s dwelling to humanity and creation, giving life where there was death, healing where there were wounds, and sustenance where there was want? How can we Christians not see this spring as the Sacraments of the Church, with their graces flowing out to humanity through their source, Jesus Christ who is the New Temple of Jerusalem?

Responsorial Psalm Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9

R. The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.

The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth.

  • God is the life and the security and the source of the gladness of the Chosen People, just as he is for us Christians.
  • The stream which refreshes the city of God represents for us all the graces which flow to us in the Sacraments—these gifts are God’s own life.
  • Grace is how God is in our midst, giving us life and security and gladness.

Reading 2 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17

Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

  • Paul was writing to mostly Gentile converts to Christianity in Corinth. There was only one true physical temple of God in the world, the Temple of Jerusalem. There were no physical buildings we think of as churches, because the faith was outlawed.
  • Paul lays out a profound truth, that we Christians are each God’s “building,” because the Spirit of God dwells in us. St. Paul laid the foundation for the Corinthians’ “buildings” by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them and then baptizing them in Christ.
  • We, each, are responsible for continuing the construction of our own temples. And by our words and actions we contribute to the further construction of other persons’ temples. We can err by trying to substitute another foundation other than Christ. And we can misbuild through error and sin. If we harm our own temple or other persons’ temples, “God will destroy that person; for the temple of God . . . is holy.”

Gospel Jn 2:13-22

Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.

  • The Temple in Jerusalem really was God’s house for the Jews, although in less than forty years the Romans would destroy it, and it has never been rebuilt.
  • Christ’s humanity is even more truly the Temple of God, for with it the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity has united itself.
  • Just as Christ is the living stone which the builders rejected, the cornerstone on which is built the Church, the Christian faithful are the living stones that make up the rest of this temple of the Body of Christ.
  • Our own physical churches are also living temples of God, for in it the Eucharist is celebrated and preserved in the tabernacle.
  • Just as the Temple in Jerusalem deserved not to be a “marketplace,” our own Catholic Churches deserve our best care—keeping them clean, well-decorated, in good repair—and if they merit it, restoration and preservation.
  • Many modern Catholic church buildings deserve to be razed and rebuilt so that they may really reflect what they signify.

Doctrine: Grace

  • We claimed above that the spring that trickles out from the mystical Temple of Jerusalem is a symbol of grace. What is grace? It is “favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996).
  • “The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.” (CCC 2022) Salvation and sanctification are divine gifts.
  • “Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it” (CCC 2023).
  • “Sanctifying grace makes us ‘pleasing to God.’ Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.” (CCC 2024)
  • Sanctifying grace is the permanent change God makes in our nature. A charism, like the ability to comfort others in their sorrow, is a special grace given to us for others. An actual grace is a particular help, like the ability to be patient at this very moment with a crying baby when one is at her wits end.

Practical application: Understanding the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

  • This is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has to say about this feast:
    • Today we “celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called the ‘mother and head of all the Churches of the Urbe and Orbe’,” that is, the City (of Rome) and the orb (of the world). It was dedicated in about AD 324 by Pope Silvester and built by the Emperor Constantine, after he granted Christians religious freedom.
    • The Lateran Basilica the pope’s cathedral. “Hence, honoring the holy building is meant as an expression of love and veneration for the Roman Church ‘which’, as St Ignatius of Antioch affirms, ‘presides in charity’ over the entire Catholic communion.”
    • “The Word of God during this Solemnity,” that is, the lectionary readings we have just considered, “recalls an essential truth: the stone temple is the symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, that the Apostles Peter and Paul had, in their Letters, already understood as a ‘spiritual building’, constructed by God with the ‘living stones’ that are the Christians, upon the one foundation that is Jesus Christ, who is in turn compared to the ‘cornerstone’.”
    • “The beauty and the harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us human beings too, though limited and sinful, to convert ourselves to form a ‘cosmos’, a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies. This reaches its culmination in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the ‘ecclesia’ that is, the community of baptized finds itself again united to listen to the Word of God and nourish itself on the Body and Blood of Christ. Gathered around this twofold table, the Church of living stones builds herself up in truth and in love and is molded interiorly by the Holy Spirit, transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself ever more to her Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, thus becomes a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.”
    • Finally, Pope Benedict adds, “today’s feast celebrates an ever current mystery: that God desires to build himself a spiritual temple in the world, a community that adores him in spirit and truth. But this occasion reminds us also of the importance of the concrete buildings in which the community gathers together to celebrate God’s praises. Every community therefore has the duty to carefully guard their holy structures, which constitute a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, so that she might help us to become, like her, a ‘house of God’, living temple of his love.” (from Benedict XVI, Angelus address, Sunday, 9 November 2008)
  • Some practical considerations:
    • To pray for the Roman pontiff daily.
    • To appreciate those persons in our own parish, often volunteers, who clean and decorate our churches.
    • To get involved in the care and restoration of our church buildings if we are able to do so.
    • To assist in the building of new church buildings or the rebuilding of ugly, inhuman church buildings, if we are able.
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The Faithful Departed and Purgatory: Doctrinal Homily Outline for All Souls—November 2, 2014 (Year A)

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We can undergo this temporal punishment by “patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death,” accepting this purification from sin “as a grace” (CCC 1473).

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: Purification in this life. Doctrine: The final purification or purgatory. Practical application: Assisting the souls in purgatory.

To view Lectionary 668, click here.

Central idea: Purification in this life

Reading 1 Wis 3:1-9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

  • How important it is to die in a state of grace, to be in a relationship of justice or friendship with God! But how can we have confidence about dying in that state unless we strive to be in that relationship all the time?
  • Yet to be in this right relationship with God entails some suffering in this life. For the just or righteous—that is, the one who strives to do the will of God—these sufferings are a test that purify and lead to glory.
  • The ancient Jewish author of Wisdom understands the modern philosophy of existentialism for he acknowledges that “men” see good persons receiving punishment in this world and then going on to the seeming utter destruction of death. But for the author of Wisdom, that is a foolish view.
  • Rather, “the souls of the just are in the hand of God,” greatly blessed, proven worthy to be with God, glorious, ready to judge and rule nations, full of truth and love, and in God’s grace, mercy, and care forever.
  • Seen in the light of Catholic doctrine, this reading is also a description of the condition of the “faithful departed” who are in the state of purgatory.
  • The faithful departed, who belong to the company of “the souls of the just” are in God’s hands. They are not tormented in purgatory but are at peace and are filled with hope for immortality. From our perspective, what they are experiencing might seem to be punishment, but it is really a purification, like gold being refined of all impurities in a furnace. Soon, they will enjoy all the glory and happiness of the saints.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

  • This most familiar and consoling psalm describes life in this world for the just person, for he or she can say, “The LORD is my shepherd.”
  • It describes the inner experience of these persons during times of affliction, for the LORD’s “rod and . . . staff . . . give me courage.”
  • It describes the care the just person receives as death approaches: “Though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil.”
  • It describes life forever in heaven: “I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.”
  • That dark valley can also describe the condition of purgatory: “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”

Reading 2 Rom 6:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.

  • Once we resolve to follow Christ, to do the will of God, a fight begins inside us. Our old self demands, complains, whines, cries, gets moody, pleads, tries to make deals, and makes grandiose promises. Standing up to that, the new self suffers and experiences the dying to self which gives rise to eternal life. If we are faithful, this struggle to the death, between the old self in slavery to sin and the new self who lives with Christ, will lead to eternal life with Christ.
  • This struggle continues for the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory, when the old self is burned away (to use the image gold being tested in fire).

Gospel Jn 6:37-40

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

  • Our Lord here declares that God the Father gives to God the Son everyone who does something: comes to him, sees him, believes in him. Christ promises “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”
  • God the Father gives the believer to God the Son when the believer believes in the Son. This belief is the gift of faith that God gives to the believer and the believer responses with a free “yes.”
  • This giving means eternal life.
  • On this day, we commend to God the souls of all the faithful departed, that is, every follower of Christ who has died but who does not yet see God face to face due to not yet being ready for that vision. Such persons are being purified so that they are ready for that vision.
  • We also pray for every person who has ever died, that they may be faithful departed, too: that in some way they, too, have been given to Christ by God the Father and have come to him and are not rejected by him.

Doctrine: The final purification or purgatory

  • The central Catholic teaching on purgatory is this: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC 1030). As we have seen, Sacred Scripture refers to this as “a cleansing fire” (CCC 1031).
  • Sin has what the Catechism calls a double consequence, which comes not from some vengeance God angrily inflicts but rather from the nature of sin (CCC 1472). These consequences are eternal punishment and temporal punishment.
    • Eternal punishment is the privation of communion with God due to grave sin. It “makes us incapable of eternal life.” (CCC 1472)
    • Temporal punishment is a purification which frees one from the unhealthy attachment to creatures, which is the basis of every sin, even venial ones. This purification takes place either in this life or “after death in the state called Purgatory” (CCC 1472).
  • After Baptism, the forgiveness of moral sin and restoration of communion with God comes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which remits “the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains.” The person still needs to be healed of whatever induced the sin in the first place.
  • We can undergo this purifying temporal punishment by “patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death,” accepting this purification from sin “as a grace” (CCC 1473).
  • In addition, we can “strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the ‘old man’ and to put on the ‘new man’” (CCC 1473).
  • Because of the real communion that exists among the members of Christ’s mystical body, we can assist the souls in Purgatory (CCC 1474-1477).

 Practical application: Assisting the souls in purgatory

  • “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.” (CCC 1032)
    • Thus, by attending this Mass and joining in the Church’s prayers, we are helping the faithful departed.
    • Many people perform “suffrages” for the souls in purgatory during the month of November. This might mean offering one’s daily attendance at Mass, and one’s reception of Holy Communion, and reciting the Rosary or some other prayers for the souls in purgatory or some specific faithful departed, such as family members.
    • Almsgiving and other works of penance also can assist those souls.
    • One can also obtain indulgences for them. “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” This indulgence is “partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” (CCC 1471).
  • For a brief theology of indulgences, here is a link to an excellent resource.

 

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The Greatest Commandment: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 26, 2014 (Year A)

widowWritten 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 greatest commandments. Doctrine: The social teachings of the Church. Practical application: Living Catholic social teachings.

To view Lectionary 148, click here.

Central idea: The greatest commandments

Reading 1 Ex 22:20-26

Thus says the LORD:

“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

“If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him.
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

  • Moses teaches the Chosen People never to wrong, exploit, cheat, enslave, or in any other way to take advantage of an alien, a widow or an orphan—persons powerless to defend themselves and in need of mercy.
  • Charging interest to a poor person would be taking advantage of him if he borrows to have enough to eat and to feed his family. Interest would just make the poor man poorer.
  • Similarly, it would be wrong to make a deal with a poor person that would take away from him something essential, like the only cloak he has to stay warm.
  • Our own experience of borrowing money, say to buy a home or a car, is much different. We borrow not to survive but to become enriched, so a reasonable interest is permitted.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R/ I love you, Lord, my strength.

I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.

My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.

The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.

  • One person who needs God is the man who has enemies who can harm him.
  • We all have these harmful enemies: our own sinful tendencies, bad men, the physical world, the devil.
  • If King David needed God’s kindness, how much more do we?

Reading 2 1 Thes 1:5-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

  • Paul and his companions imitated Christ, and the Thessalonians imitated them. The Thessalonians became models to be imitated. So, all the believers and those who could come to believe in Macedonia and Achaia could see Christ in the Thessalonians.
  • People around us are to see Christ in us and through us. By our example and words, we are to proclaim the word of Lord, that is, Christ. We are to become that “sort of people” among our neighbors.

Gospel Mt 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

  • The Pharisees were glad that Our Lord had silenced the Sadducees, because they were opposed to them.
  • The Pharisees stood for obedience to the law. They saw lack of fidelity to the Covenant—which on the part of Israel meant obeying the law of Moses—as the cause of the downfall of Israel time and time again.
  • They would also have liked Christ’s answer to the question of which commandment in the law is the greatest. It was fully supported by Sacred Scripture.
  • They didn’t like Jesus’ ignoring their strict interpretation of the law, but Christ’s interpretation was actually more reasonable, for he put the law in service to man, as in the principle, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
  • This general idea of putting man first can apply to many realities—work, the economy, the state, civil law, the natural world—these are made for the good of man; man is not created to serve them.

Doctrine: Social Teachings of the Church

  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has highlighted seven key themes at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.
  • The Life and Dignity of the Human Person. “We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.” This is why the Church defends the unborn, the poor, the sick, and the elderly. It is the motivation for the just war doctrine, and why the Church now opposes the death penalty except in extraordinary cases.
  • The Call to Family, Community, and Participation. We are social beings with marriage and the family as our central social institutions. Laws, policies, and the economy must support human dignity, not undermine it. Through the principle of subsidiarity, “people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
  • Rights and Responsibilities. “The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities–to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.”
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. “A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.”
  • The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. “The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”
  • “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that ‘if you want peace, work for justice.’ The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.”
  • And Care for God’s Creation. “We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation . . .. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.” The universal destination of goods means that the goods of creation are for everyone alive now and those who will come after us.

Practical application: Living Catholic social teachings

  • Moses taught the Chosen People not to take advantage of aliens, widows, and orphans and Our Lord taught that the true good of human beings is how we should measure both creation and human institutions.
  • It is good for each of us to review Catholic social teachings to discover, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what thing each of us can do to promote justice and charity. It will be different based on our unique circumstances.
  • First, it is necessary to remedy anything we may be doing that is unjust.
  • Then, it would be good to ask ourselves what we might be able to do out of charity and to try to do it.
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Theological Virtues: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
– October 19, 2014 (Year A)

Roman coinWritten 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: Faith, hope, and love. Doctrine: The theological virtues. Practical application: Exercising the theological virtues more effectively.

To view Lectionary 145, click here.

Central idea: Faith, hope, and love

Reading 1 Is 45:1, 4-6

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
subduing nations before him,
and making kings run in his service,
opening doors before him
and leaving the gates unbarred:
For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
of Israel, my chosen one,
I have called you by your name,
giving you a title, though you knew me not.
I am the LORD and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, there is no other.

  • Though he was a gentile, King Cyrus the Great was a messiah for the Chosen People. He conquered the known world, including Babylon, where the Chosen People were enslaved in exile. He gave permission for the Jews who wished to return to Israel to go home. He even gave men and materiel to rebuild the Temple.
  • Though Cyrus did know the Lord, the Lord chose him and gave him the means to be his instrument. This was for the sake of Israel and for all throughout the world who would learn of Israel’s God.
  • For the Chosen People in exile, Cyrus was the fulfillment of their hope.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

R/ Give the Lord glory and honor.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,
but the LORD made the heavens.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
Bring gifts, and enter his courts.

Worship the LORD, in holy attire;
tremble before him, all the earth;
say among the nations: The LORD is king,
he governs the peoples with equity.

  • Ancient peoples mistakenly thought there were many gods, but the Chosen People were taught by God himself that there is only one. This is the faith of Israel.
  • It is right to give God glory and praise because he is the creator and benefactor of all human beings.
  • It is right for every human being on earth to worship and obey the one true God. This is why the Church is always evangelical.
  • There is only one God in existence whom we should love.

Reading 2 1 Thes 1:1-5b

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace.
We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father,
knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God,
how you were chosen.
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

  • The church of the Thessalonians is Trinitarian. It is “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” and “in the Holy Spirit.”
  • These Thessalonians are members of the Church because they are chosen and loved by God. So are we.
  • Paul also recognizes at work in them what we call the theological virtues: “your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope.”

Gospel Mt 22:15-21

The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,
for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”

  • These crafty Pharisees want to get Our Lord into trouble with either the Jews or the Roman authorities. They begin by deceptively flattering him, by attributing to him a goodness that they don’t believe he possesses, that “you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth”; for if they believed that, they would follow him.
  • They ask him if it is accordance with God’s law to pay the census tax, which in effect recognizes the legitimate authority of the Roman Empire.
  • Our Lord here introduces “the distinction between serving God and serving the political community” (CCC 2242). Civil government has legitimate authority when it serves the common good.
  • What do we owe to God? Many things, but chief among them as Christians are faith, hope, and, above all, love.

Doctrine: The theological virtues

  • The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love that Paul recognizes at work in the Thessalonians are gifts given to all the baptized.
  • They are called theological because they “dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have God for their origin, their motive, and their object—God known by faith, God hoped in and loved for his own sake.” (CCC 1840)
    • They have God as their origin because God gives them to us at baptism—they are not “natural” to us.
    • They have God as their motive because they move us to act in a way pleasing to God.
    • They have God as their object or end because the make it possible for us to reach God.
  • “By faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that Holy Church proposes for our belief” (CCC 1842).
  • “By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it” (CCC 1843).
  • “By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God” (CCC 1844).
  • Charity is Christ’s “new commandment” (CCC 1823), the most important of the theological virtues, and superior to every moral virtue (CCC 1826).
  • Faith, hope, and charity “inform all the moral virtues and give life to them” (CCC 1841). What does it mean that these virtues “inform” the moral virtues and “give them life”? It means that as children of God, we practice every other virtue according to and for the sake of these virtues. The theological virtues give each moral virtue a direction and make it possible for us to go in that direction.
    • For example, we practice chastity because it is part of our faith (Our Lord taught that anyone who looks at a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery). We practice chastity out of hope (recall Our Lord’s beatitude that the pure of heart will see God). We practice chastity out of love (we love God, our spouse if we are married, and other persons more than we love the enjoyment of this passion).
    • Or, we are patient with others due to faith—because Our Lord said we will get from God what we give to others, and we want God to be patient with us. We are patient due to hope—whatever irksome person or situation we have to endure is only temporary and heaven is forever. We are patient because it is a quality of love—love endures all things.

Practical application: Exercising the theological virtues more effectively

  • Faith, hope, and love are gifts of grace with which we cooperate. We don’t go out and get them the way a soldier acquires courage through his training. We have these virtues through Baptism and receive an increase in them in all the other sacraments. So, it is important to stay in a state of grace and to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Frequent Communion is also a way to increase our possession of these virtues. If we are married or in Holy Orders, we have the graces to act out of faith, hope, and love in these states of life.
  • But what can we do on our part? After all, St. Paul refers to “your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope.”
    • We can ask. Like the apostles who asked Our Lord, “increase my faith” (Lk 17:5), or the father of the boy with seizures who said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24), we can ask God to increase our faith, hope, and love. This can be done in set prayers (e.g., an Act of Faith) or in our own words.
    • Our growth in faith, hope, and love are greatly assisted by mental prayer. Mental prayer is a dialogue with Our Lord. When we talk with God about what is on our minds, what is going on in our lives, and what he wants us to do, we see reality more clearly, including the acts God wants us to perform. If we pray about a problem of faith, for example, God may give us a solution, even if the solution is just to trust what the Church teaches. Or we may realize we are sad because of some setback or rejection or fear and see we need more hope, and so make an act of hope and go on. Or we see more clearly the acts of love God wants us to perform, like do that task, talk to that person, help that person, ask forgiveness, or forgive, and so on.
    • Most importantly, we grow in faith, hope, and love, by performing acts in accord with each virtue. For example, if there is a detail of Catholic belief or morals we have a hard time accepting, yet we are certain they are what the Church teaches, we accept that Catholic truth, defend it as best we can, and attempt to live it. That is a work of faith. Or if we get discouraged in any way, we keep going anyway, trusting in God’s goodness. That is our endurance in hope. We certainly have opportunities to love God and neighbor every day, all day. That is our labor of love.
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The Desirability of Salvation: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 12, 2014 (Year A)

harold-copping-parable-of-the-great-supper-400x546Written 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 desirability of salvation. Doctrine: Heaven or hell. Practical application: The spiritual works of mercy.

To view Lectionary 142, click here.

 Central idea: The desirability of salvation

First Reading Is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

  • Isaiah conveys God’s promise of salvation to the Jews and to “all peoples.”
  • Salvation will come from the mountain of the Lord, Jerusalem, and the house of the Lord, the temple.
  • What is this promise?
    • The best food and drink.
    • The end to the ignorance, error, fear, suspicion, and hostility of peoples to one another: “the veil that veils all peoples.”
    • The destruction of “death forever.”
    • Consolation for past suffering.
    • The removal of any reproach so as to be held in the highest esteem.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

  • As Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel reading shows, salvation can be seen as the greatest party every thrown. Salvation can also be seen as peace, in the quiet, secure life described in Psalm 23.
  • To be united to Christ, to live in his house, to be a member of the Church, is like being the sheep of the best shepherd imaginable.
  • Due to having this shepherd, the sheep enjoys rest, peace, protection, refreshment, never being lost, no fear of evil ever falling, encouragement, honor, and abundance.
  • Instead of being followed by enemies wanting to devour him, “only goodness and kindness follow” the sheep of this shepherd.

Reading 2 Phil 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

  • In the Gospel reading we will hear the seeming irrationality of the king who casts the guest out of the wedding feast for not wearing a wedding garment. But the reason the king would have been justified was that the king himself supplied the garment to those admitted. In the same way, God fully supplies whatever we need to achieve our end of salvation.
  • Being fully supplied to achieve salvation does not preclude being in need, as St. Paul experienced many times.
  • The “secret” that St. Paul learned for living the gospel in all circumstances was to rely on Christ, “him who strengthens me.”
  • Christ disclosed this “secret” in his first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:3).
    • Poverty of spirit means knowing your need for God. Jesus Christ himself was poor in spirit through his kenosis or self-emptying, as we just heard again in last Sunday’s second reading.
    • Being in need reminds us to turn to the Lord who is himself the Kingdom of Heaven.
    • We can imitate Christ’s poverty of spirit through detachment.
    • If we can use the things we have to love God and our neighbor, we are detached from those things and have poverty of spirit, and we do a lot of good in the process.

Gospel Mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

  • In this parable, Our Lord gives the religious leaders of Israel a stern warning to move them to listen to his gospel.
  • The king is God the Father. The son is Jesus Christ. The wedding feast is the salvation his gospel announces. The servants are the disciples of Christ. The invited guests are the chief priests and elders of the people. Their behavior is the refusal of the leaders of Israel to accept the gospel, to ignore it, and to mistreat and even kill the disciples. The punishment is the destruction of Israel and specifically Jerusalem. The “whomever you find” is the Gentiles. The wedding garment is repentance and conversion. The place outside is damnation. The wedding guest who is cast out is the follower of Christ who turns away into sin. Thus the parable ends with a warning to us disciples of Christ.
  • Our Lord also provides us an image of heaven and of hell.
    • Heaven is like the best party given by the best party-giver. People are all together, feasting, singing and dancing, wearing splendid garments. But in hell one is bound hand and foot, in the dark, alone. Instead of singing there is wailing. Instead of eating and drinking there is grinding of teeth.

Doctrine: Heaven or hell

  • Article 12 of the first part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the passage in the Creed, “I believe in life everlasting.” After this life there are only two possibilities, heaven or hell.
  • Heaven
    • In the prayer of commendation said for the dying Christian, the minister says, “May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion” (CCC 1020).
    • “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030)
    • “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness,” a “communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed” (CCC 1024).
    • “This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.’” (CCC 1027)
  • Hell
    • “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves” (CCC 1033).
    • “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’” (CCC 1033).
    • “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1035).
    • “The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny[,] . . . an urgent call to conversion” (CCC 1036).
    • It is not God’s or his Church’s will that anyone goes to hell. For that, “a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end” (CCC 1037).
    • This is perhaps why the wedding guest without a wedding garment “was reduced to silence.”

Practical Application: The Spiritual Works of Mercy

  • Spiritual works of mercy are acts by which we become instruments of God’s kindness to others. These are ways we cooperate with God’s grace and fulfill the petition “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • The traditional seven chief spiritual works of mercy are: To admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead.
    • Pointing out to someone that he is doing moral wrong costs us something, because it can earn us his hatred and even his revenge, but this admonishment can also save his soul.
    • It is not just the unchurched that need instruction in the truths of the faith. Catholics have largely been denied doctrinal formation for the past two generations.
    • To counsel the doubtful requires the virtue of prudence, prayer, and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, lest we be the “blind leading the blind” (Mt 15:13-14).
    • To comfort the sorrowful implies we have a relationship with others, are available for them, and know how to express compassion.
    • To bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries give others the chance to come to their senses. Likely we have inflicted wrongs on others and injured others, either deliberately or inadvertently, and never want these to happen again. We hope the same for others.
    • All of us can petition God for others in their wants and needs when it is impossible for us to supply them ourselves. For those who have died, what more can we say than “May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion.”
  • The spiritual works of mercy obviously benefit others but they also greatly help the one who practices them. Some of them—like instructing the ignorant—may be out of our reach while others—like forgiving injuries—are always within it (New Advent).
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Justice and the People of God: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 5, 2014 (Year A)

ripe cabernet grapes ready for harvestWritten 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: Justice and the people of God. Doctrine: The Church is sacramental. Practical application: Frequent the Sacraments that can be frequented.

To view Lectionary 139, click here.

Central idea: Justice and the people of God

Reading 1 Is 5:1-7

Let me now sing of my friend,
my friend’s song concerning his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
he spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he looked for the crop of grapes,
but what it yielded was wild grapes.
Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I had not done?
Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes,
did it bring forth wild grapes?
Now, I will let you know
what I mean to do with my vineyard:
take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!
Yes, I will make it a ruin:
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
but overgrown with thorns and briers;
I will command the clouds
not to send rain upon it.
The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;
he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!

  • The vineyard is a metaphor for God’s Chosen People. God would provide everything Israel needed for a good life and Israel would obey the commands of the covenant. But they did not; they were “wild.” So, God said he would remove his favor, everything would fall apart for them, and their enemies would overrun them.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

R/ (Is 5:7a) The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

A vine from Egypt you transplanted;
you drove away the nations and planted it.
It put forth its foliage to the Sea,
its shoots as far as the River.

Why have you broken down its walls,
so that every passer-by plucks its fruit,
The boar from the forest lays it waste,
and the beasts of the field feed upon it?

Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
LORD, God of hosts, restore us;
if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.

  • The psalmist is not one of those wild grapes whose injustice resulted in God removing his favor from Israel. He asks the question, “Why are we in this condition?” which Isaiah answered, “Because of Israel’s injustice.”
  • The psalmist says ‘give your favor back to us and we will return to the covenant’. The psalmist sees that life, happiness, and salvation consist in being in a right relationship with God.

Reading 2 Phil 4:6-9

Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

  • St. Paul speaks of the fundamental, deep-down peace we followers of Christ and members of his Church should have. The reason for this happiness is that we are in a right relationship with God, our neighbor, and creation.
  • With gratitude for all we have received and with trust in God’s steadfast goodness, we ask for what we now need—and we will be in need every day of our life. This is why we make petitions to God for everyone’s needs.
  • We should focus our minds on the goodness, truth, and beauty of God, of human beings, and of the natural world. And we should fix our wills on pursuing these goods.

Gospel Mt 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

  • Our Lord addressed this parable “to the chief priests and the elders of the people.”
  • Isaiah described the unjust Israelites as “wild grapes.” Now Our Lord refers his own people as “tenants,” not part of the family of the landowner but outsiders who wish to rob the landowner of his property through murder.
  • This parable applies to each of us insofar as we have responsibilities and authority—and we all do to some degree.
  • God demands good works from us, just as the landowner expected produce from the land he leased. Our natural tendency, because of original sin, is to look out only for our own selfish interests, like the tenants. We can reject any “prophet”—that is, anyone who tells us the truth about ourselves and God—just as the tenants did.
  • We are capable of being rejected by God and having everything taken away from us, just like the wretched men who faced a wretched death.

Doctrine: The Church is sacramental

  • In the beginning, every human being was supposed to be a member of the family or people of God. This was broken by original sin. Then God formed a people for himself through Abraham. In the time of Moses, this now-numerous assembly of the descendants of Abraham agreed to live in a covenant with God. They did so imperfectly but reached the apex of their temporal prosperity with King David and his son King Solomon. Christ, the descendent of David, brought salvation and sanctification to every human being, establishing his Church as the new People of God. Every human being is invited to be a member of this family.
  • The vineyard of the Lord today is the Church. We enter its protective hedge through baptism. The work that God himself did in the vineyard so that the choice vines could grow and bear fruit is the sacraments. The sacraments provide grace so we can be saved and sanctified while in this earthly vineyard.
  • There are seven sacraments, all instituted by Christ, through which he pours his salvation and sanctification on his people. (See The Seven Sacraments of the Church CCC 1210 ff.)
    • Baptism forgives all sins, gives us a share in God’s own life through sanctifying grace, and makes us children of God.
    • Confirmation is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit which enables us to live and witness the Faith maturely.
    • The Eucharist gives us as our daily spiritual food the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.
    • Holy Orders gives to some men the power Christ gave the Apostles to teach, rule, and sanctify the people of God.
    • Matrimony raises the natural institution of marriage to a means of sanctification for spouses so they can help each other and their children and contribute to the common good.
    • Penance forgives sins committed after Baptism.
    • Anointing of the Sick helps the faithful face serious illness and death.

Practical Application: Frequent the Sacraments that can be frequented

  • The Church recommends that we receive the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist frequently.
  • For many, frequent Confession means once or twice a month or weekly. It is good to get prudent advice and then to make a prayerful decision about how often to receive this sacrament of healing—and then to be faithful to this resolution. For example, one might decide to go on the first Saturday of each month. Frequent Confession is greatly aided by a daily evening examination of conscience.
    • Pastors can assist the faithful in receiving this sacrament frequently by offering times for Confession that are convenient for the faithful. Pastors can let people know they are always available. At my parish, the celebrant hears weekday confessions for ten minutes beginning twenty minutes before Mass.
  • The Church requires us to attend Mass each Sunday. We can also attend daily Mass. Many do because they have discovered what a treasure it is.
    • If you attend Mass each Sunday and wish to go deeper, you can start small by attending just one more Mass each week. Choose a day and time that will work for you and, assuming you are in a state of grace, receive Communion.
    • Pastors can assist the faithful in receiving frequent Communion by offering daily Mass at a time convenient for people who have regular work commitments. For example, in a city center Mass, could be offered before or after most people work or during the noon hour.
    • They can also welcome mothers with small children.
    • They can also not make the weekday Mass unnecessarily long. A daily Mass can be celebrated reverently and without hurry in twenty minutes; a forty-minute Mass may preclude busy people.
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The Same Attitude as Christ: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 28, 2014 (Year A)

tissot-simon-the-cyrenian-and-his-two-sons-608x682Written 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 attitude of Christ. Doctrine: Thy will be done. Practical application: Loving the will of God.

To view Lectionary 136, click here.

Central idea: The attitude of Christ

Reading 1 Ez 18:25-28

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

  • Every evil act we perform makes us less human and in a sense more dead. The opposite is true also: good acts make us more human and alive.
  • If we turn from our sins and do what is right, God will give us life now and eternal life after this life. In our doing what is right, God assists us by his grace that helps us desire to do what is right and to actually do it.
  • But we have an essential part in our doing what is right. Our intellect says yes to God’s law, and our will cooperates with God’s will.
  • Repeatedly to act in this way builds virtues, so that rather than dying through sin, our souls are more and more alive. The word “alive” here has the same meaning as in the famous expression of St. Irenaeus: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

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

R/ Remember your mercies, O Lord.

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

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

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 in the condition of needing to be taught and guided. We don’t come into the world having the rule of right conduct but must learn it. Thus we commit sins out of ignorance, strong passions, and weakness of will. But God is good and “he shows sinners the way.” On our part, we need humility to say, “I need to be taught; I’m willing to be taught; I want to be taught.”

Reading 2 Phil 2:1-11

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

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

  • Paul recommends that we have the same attitude toward others that Our Lord has.
  • It is the opposite of selfishness, vainglory, and everyone only looking out for his own interests.
  • It is humbly regarding others as more important than oneself and looking out for the interests of others.
  • It is encouraging others, giving loving solace to others, listening to what the Holy Spirit wants you to say and do for the others, showing compassion and mercy toward the others, and everyone being of one mind in love.
  • This attitude Christ has can be best and most easily seen his self-emptying, in his taking the form of a slave, humbling himself and “becoming obedient” to his Father’s will “to the point of death, even on a cross.”
  • We rightly desire to have everything, to be highly esteemed, and to be important, to be exalted and glorified, yet the way to this is through our own self-emptying out of love.

Gospel Mt 21:28-32

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

  • John the Baptist proclaimed God’s will “in the way of righteousness.” Tax collectors and prostitutes, who seemed to be saying by their lives, “I will not,” did God’s will. Chief priests and elders of the people, who seemed to be saying by their lives, “I will,” did not do God’s will. Not even seeing the good example of the repentant sinners changed the minds of the seemingly righteous.
  • For us, it is better to be a person who resists God’s will but does it than to be a person who says he will do God’s will but does not do it. But the best is to say yes to God’s will and then to do it, like Mary, who heard the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28).

Doctrine: “Thy will be done”

  • In the Catechism, points 2822-2827 explicate the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • What is God’s will? Jesus’ new command “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34) “summarizes all the others and expresses [God’s] entire will” (CCC 2822).
  • Part of God’s will is to gather up everything in creation in Christ and to give us as an inheritance (CCC 2823).
  • Christ alone has perfectly fulfilled God’s will, which is why he can save and sanctify us (CCC 2824).
  • We can do God’s will because of Christ, in Christ, through Christ. “United with Jesus and with the power of the Holy Spirit” we can do what we are otherwise “radically incapable of” doing: surrendering our will and doing “what is pleasing to the Father” (CCC 2825).
  • This will to be done that “is pleasing to the Father” is not just our private good but good for the whole world (CCC 2825).
  • Prayer teaches us the will of God but “one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing ‘the will of my Father in heaven’” (CCC 2826).

Practical application: Loving the will of God

  • Our Faith teaches us that God’s will for us is entirely good, a far greater good than we can even imagine. So, in theory, it is easy to say, “Thy will be done.”
  • But it is often not easy to do in practice. One of the most basic aspects of our human condition is that we want pleasure and happiness and hate pain and suffering. This is why we resist and so may reject the will of God. We see that what God wants or what we think he wants will make us suffer or prevent us from being happy. This is why the first brother said he would not go out into the field to work and why the second brother said he would but did not.
    • The things that happen to us can be accepted and even embraced as coming to us from God for our good or the good of others. We can do this even when what happens is objectively bad: God is not sending us the evil but permitting it and he will draw a greater good out of it.
    • Many things that are the will of God and that we can see are perfectly good are just hard. For example, it is hard to obey one of the commandments when a strong passion is making us want to disobey it. It is hard to act virtuously when we are weak in that virtue.
    • Then there are the things we actively set out to do: We might think: “I think it is God’s will that I do this” And then come setbacks, contradictions, obstacles, and opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • St. Josemaria Escriva had a succinct and very practical formula we can aspire to when it comes to the will of God: “Stages: to be resigned to the will of God; to conform to the will of God, to want the will of God; to love the will of God” (Way 774).

 

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