God Dwells in the Family: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Holy Family – December 28, 2014 (Year B)

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

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

To view Lectionary 17, click here.

Central idea: God dwells in the family

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

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

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

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

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

R/ The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

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

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

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

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

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

Reading 2 Col 3:12-17

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

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

Gospel Lk 2:22-40

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

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

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

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

Doctrine: The Domestic Church of the Holy Family

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

Practical application: Making the family more a domestic church

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



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

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

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

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

To view Lectionary 11, click here.

Central idea: Mary, Virgin Most Prudent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading 2 Rom 16:25-27

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

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

Gospel: Lk 1:26-38

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

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

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

Doctrine: The Virtue of Prudence

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

Practical application: Growing in Prudence

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



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

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

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

To view Lectionary 8, click here.

Central idea: Rejoice in the Lord always

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading 2 1 Thes 5:16-24

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

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

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

Gospel Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

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

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

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

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

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

Doctrine: The Beatitudes

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

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

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

Practical Application: Rejoicing in the Lord always

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

St. John in the Wilderness Hieronymus Bosch

St. John in the Wilderness
Hieronymus Bosch

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

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

To view Lectionary 5, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading 2 2 Pt 3:8-14

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

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

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

Gospel Mk 1:1-8

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

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

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

Doctrine: The virtue of friendliness

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

Practical application: Become friendlier

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


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)


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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