The Prudence of Choosing Christ: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 27, 2014 (Year A)

net thrown into the sea

Fiona French’s “The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind”

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 prudence of choosing Christ. Doctrine: The virtue of prudence. Practical application: Growing in prudence.

To view Lectionary 109, click here.

Central Idea: The prudence of choosing Christ

Reading 1 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

  • The LORD says he will give Solomon anything he asks for. Solomon does not ask for a long life, or riches, or the life of his enemies, or any of the other valuable things people want.
  • Instead, he asks for prudence so he can govern Israel. That is what he means by “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” He means practical wisdom, the cardinal virtue of prudence.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R/ Lord, I love your commands.

I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.

For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.

Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.

  • God’s words reveal God’s will. In loving God’s commands, the Psalmist, traditionally King David, Solomon’s father, has reached a level in his spiritual life we should all aspire to.
  • At first, virtually no one fully welcomes God’s will. The reason is our concupiscence or inclination to sin. This attraction will put us in conflict with God’s will in at least one way and for most of us in many ways. Therefore, the first victory of the human being over himself is to say yes to the will of God. That is a first positive level of the spiritual life and it is good. It is good to say yes to God’s will and no to your own when the two conflict.
  • But the Psalmist not only accepts God’s will, he loves it. He sees God’s will as not only right because God commands it but precious, a delight, desirable, and wonderful.

Reading 2 Rom 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

  • Following Christ can cost us a great deal. But St. Paul assures us that no real evil can come to us, only surpassing good because we are predestined, called, justified, and glorified according to the image of Christ.
    • “All things,” even suffering, “work for good for those who love God.”

Gospel Mt 13:44-52

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

  • The kingdom of God, the salvation Christ has won for us, Christ himself, is of unsurpassed value.
  • The most prudent thing anyone can do who gets a glimpse of it is to put it first in one’s life, like the person who discovered the treasure buried in the field or the jeweler who discovered a pearl of great price.
  • At the same time there is an urgency in doing so, because we will all be judged at the end of our lives and either be approved or condemned.

Doctrine: The virtue of prudence

  • Prudence, or practical wisdom, or sound decision-making is one of the most important virtues anyone can acquire. It is the ability to know what to do in any situation and to act on that knowledge.
  • Solomon had enough prudence to ask God for more of it.
  • To obey and to love God’s will is great prudence.
  • To realize that God will judge me for the good and evil I do in this life is the beginning of prudence if it will move me to repent of the evil and to do good.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas identified three steps or activities within making wise decisions about what to do. They are counsel, judgment, and decision.
  • Counsel means to deliberate about what to do, to think it over, to pray about it, to ask for advice, to use your intellect to try to discover the best thing to do with the time available.
    • The man who discovered a treasure buried in a field could not ask other people what might be the best to do, so he had to counsel himself.
  • Judgment means to decide what among the many possibilities is best, meaning both what will be both moral and likely to be effective. In some cases, the most prudent thing is to do nothing.
    • The man who found the treasure reasoned that the best course of action was to sell everything he had and buy that field. That way, perhaps, no one could accuse him of stealing it from someone else.
  • Decision means to take action. Based on what your reason tells you is best, you then tell your will to do it.
    • The man did sell his worldly possessions and buy the field and so got the treasure.

Practical application: Becoming more prudent

  • Prudence is necessary for us to be good citizens of this earth and to prepare to be good citizens of heaven.
  • We are faced with choices every day and from time to time with very big decisions.
  • The most prudent thing children can do is obey their parents and teachers.
  • The most prudent thing a teenager can do is to have a close relationship with God and to discover his divine vocation.
  • The most prudent thing an adult can do is always to ask, “What does God want me to do?” God will always want what is moral and what will be effective.


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Weedy Wheat: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 20, 2014 (Year A)

Tying bundles of wheat woodcutWritten 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’s justice and mercy. Doctrine: The message of the Last Judgment. Practical application: Conversion and Penance.

To view Lectionary 106, click here.

Central Idea: God’s judgment and mercy

Reading 1 Wis 12:13, 16-19

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
For your might is the source of justice;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins.

  • One way God shows his power is by condemning sin, especially in those who know better (for example, when those who know him act arrogantly). When God condemns sin, he is just.
  • Yet God’s power, justice, and mercy are one, so he judges with clemency and governs with leniency. “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” (Ps 85:11).
  • A similar quality ought to be practiced by men: by his way of dealing with his people Israel, God taught that “those who are just must be kind.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16

R/ Lord, you are good and forgiving.

You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.

All the nations you have made shall come
and worship you, O LORD,
and glorify your name.
For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds;
you alone are God.

You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me, and have pity on me;
give your strength to your servant.

  • Since the God who has revealed himself to Israel is the only true God and since he is both all-powerful and all good, it is inconceivable that he would not become the God of everyone on earth. Thus,
    • “All the nations you have made shall come and worship you, O LORD, and glorify your name.
  • This prophecy has come true in Christ and his Church, whose mission is to bring the Gospel to all peoples.
    • An obstacle, then and now, is the weakness of God’s servants: we sin and so need God’s “pity” and we are weak and so need God’s “strength.”

Reading 2 Rom 8:26-27

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

  • God wants what is best for us. When we want what God wants, or at least want to want what God wants, deep down the Holy Spirit expresses it within us. So even though we don’t “know how to pray as we ought,” the Holy Spirit prays for us, asking for what is best.

Gospel Mt 13:24-43

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

He proposed another parable to them.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”

He spoke to them another parable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

  • In the parable of the weeds in the field, Our Lord is revealing something that “has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.”
  • God wants men to be morally good so as to be children of the kingdom and one day shine like the sun. God helps us, first because we are good seed and because he has planted us in his kingdom. Yet many men by their actions are morally evil and so children of the evil one and will one day suffer in “the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” This latter fate will be deserved because in the kingdom of God they have been those “who cause others to sin and [are] evildoers.”
  • This parable provides an answer to why God permits some evil. The Master in the parable says, “if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.” God does not uproot every evil now because to do so would do greater harm than good.
    • One reason God permits on-going evil is that those who do evil and cause others to sin can repent.
    • In addition, those who are “good seed” also need time to repent. It could be said that some wheat stalks want the weeds around them. Some Christians are living compromised lives.
  • Ultimately, we are either “weeds” because we do evil and follow the devil (whether or not we know it) or “wheat” because we do good and follow God (whether or not we know it).
  • We are all good seed planted in God’s garden, but we have a liking for the weeds and some of us choose to become all weed. God lets us be what we want to be, while he helps us be good if we want that. We are choosing either the most terrible fate or the best possible fate.

Doctrine: The Message of the Last Judgment

  • At the moment of death, every man will receive “his eternal recompense in his immortal soul.” This is the particular judgment by Christ. (CCC 1051)
  • Those who will shine like the sun are the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in Paradise [who form] the Church of heaven, where in eternal blessedness they see God as he is . . .” (CCC 1053).
  • “Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the ‘sad and lamentable reality of eternal death’ (GCD 69), also called ‘hell’” (CCC 1056). The burning and wailing and grinding of teeth is the punishment “of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1057).
  • But both the Church and Christ want no one to be lost and for God “all things are possible” (CCC 1058).
  • “[O]n the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ’s tribunal to render an account of their own deeds” (CCC 1059).
  • The Last Judgment “calls men to conversion” now, since everyone who hears about it, as Christ told the crowd about it in the parable of the weeds, still has time. Right now, for us, therefore, this is “the acceptable time, … the day of salvation.” This truth should inspire in us “a holy fear of God” and a commitment “to the justice of the Kingdom of God,” that is, to live the Gospel. (CCC 1041).

Practical application: Conversion and Penance

  • God wants every one of us to do good deeds and stop doing evil.
    • Now is the acceptable time to do so. Not the past which is over and not the future which may never come.
  • To do so, we can ponder the words of the parable of the wheat. Even though God is merciful and gives us grace, we can make ourselves into weeds.
  • This is why a daily examination of conscience and frequent confession are essential.
  • Priests: Preach the reality of sin and hell.
  • Priests: Preach the remedy of the Sacrament of Penance.
  • Priests: Put yourself into the confessional so people can get this medicine!
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‘God who created you without you, will not save you without you’: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 13, 2014 (Year A)

LuttrellSower300wWritten 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 who created you without you, will not save you without you.’ Doctrine: The Parables of Christ. Practical application: Surrendering our freedom to God.

To view Lectionary 103, click here.

Central Idea: ‘God who created you without you, will not save you without you’

Reading 1 Is 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

  • Human words are usually, at their best, informative: They convey the truth about something as best we can express it. God’s Word, on the other hand, is also performative. It achieves something, as when Our Lord said, “Your sins are forgiven” and they really were.
  • God’s word achieves the end for which he sends it. God’s will shall be done: God will keep his promises.
  • Isaiah’s words are also a prophesy of Christ. The Father sent the Word into the world to do his will. This Word did not return to the Father void, but did the will of the Father, achieving the end for which the Father sent him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14

R/ (Lk 8:8) The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.

You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.

The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy.

  • Why joy before an abundant harvest? The grain and flocks mean we will not just survive another year but prosper. We are made to want complete happiness always. This desire is promised to be fulfilled in heaven.
  • The Word of God is like a fertile land, fully cultivated, ready to be harvested. Such a land provides everything we need physically: grain, wine, meat, and wool. Such a Word has everything we need spiritually: truth and grace.

Reading 2 Rom 8:18-23

Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

  • Reborn in baptism as children of God, we do not yet have the happiness of heaven, so we groan within ourselves and wait in hope.
    • This temporal and temporary suffering is nothing compared to the happiness that awaits us.
  • St. Paul says that all of creation shares in this hope. Through us, through Christ, creation itself will be “set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

Gospel Mt 13:1-23

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

  • It sounds as if Our Lord speaks in parables so that people will not understand him. In fact, he speaks in parables so that he will be better understood. Our Lord speaks to his disciples directly and little by little they come to understand who he is, what he is going to do, and what he wants of them. In his parables, Our Lord illustrates truths in stories so they can be easily remembered and understood, so they can have an effect on our lives.
  • The parable of the sower seems to be describing types of men. Don’t we dread the prospect of losing the salvation God offers us through our own negligence? Can’t we easily imagine that such men exist?
  • The parable can also be understood as describing each one of us. In regard to the Gospel, we can be oblivious to it, enthusiastic about it until it costs us something, choked with anxiety about getting by in this world and filled with desire for material goods, so the Gospel bears no fruit in our lives, and fruitful. This, in part, explains the groaning in expectation that St. Paul describes as our condition.
  • The parable of the sower illustrates the truth that St. Augustine articulated this way: ‘God who created you without you, will not save you without you’ (Sermo 169, 13). Our salvation is up to God and us. God always says yes to our salvation. We can say yes and no.

Doctrine: The Parables of Christ

  • Jesus invites people into his kingdom using his characteristic teaching method of parables.
  • Christ’s invitation is like an invitation to a feast, so it can be refused.
  • If accepted, it requires “a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.”
  • This giving is not just verbal assent: “Words are not enough; deeds are required.”
  • The Catechism says the parables “are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received?”
  • If we find a parable hard to understand the reason may be we have not yet become enough of a disciple of Christ: “For those who stay ‘outside,’ everything remains enigmatic.” (CCC 546)

Practical Application: Surrendering our freedom to God

  • Whatever we give to God we get back in abundance. When we give God our freedom we are making it possible for him to free us not sin and to the most good of which we are capable.
  • A prayer which can help us give everything to God, which can be recited daily and in those moments when we most are tempted to hold back is the Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.



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The humility of Christ and of his followers: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2014 (Year A)

Sorrowing Old Man ('At Eternity's Gate') by van Gogh

Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’) by van Gogh

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: Christ is the humble king of all who are humble. Doctrine: The virtue of humility. Practical application: Growing in humility.

To view Lectionary 100, click here.

Central Idea: Christ is humble king of all who are humble

Reading 1 Zec 9:9-10

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he,
meek, and riding on an ass,
on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,
and the horse from Jerusalem;
the warrior’s bow shall be banished,
and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
His dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

  • Human saviors arrive in chariots (or tanks or warships or police cars) because with violence they imposes peace and with threats of violence they maintain it.
  • But the just savior, Jesus Christ, can come meekly, riding on a lowly donkey, because he transforms men from within.
  • “Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth” (CCC 559).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14

R/ I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God or Alleluia

I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.

The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

  • Of all possible rulers, Christ the King is the best because of his good service to mankind.
  • He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, good to all, compassionate toward all his works, mighty, faithful in his words, and holy in his works, which are glorious.
  • United to him, we will be able to praise his name forever, both because he deserves it and because we will have eternal life.

Reading 2 Rom 8:9, 11-13

Brothers and sisters:
You are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

  • The just savior, Jesus Christ, who transforms men from within, works this transformation through the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ who raised Jesus from the dead.
  • This transformation on Christ’s part comes about through the grace he gives us. This transformation on our part comes from living according to this grace. This means not doing unjust deeds—“the deeds of the body”—which result in death.

Gospel Mt 11:25-30

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

  • When Christ spoke these words, no one on earth knew the persons of the Blessed Trinity except Christ. But the Son became man so that we might know them.
  • We can know Christ, the just universal king, to whom all things have been handed over by the Father. The requirement is that we become “little ones” as opposed to being among “the wise and the learned.” That is, we must be humble and not claim a wisdom and learning we don’t actually possess. It is scary to be humble and lowly, which is why Christ promises we can trust him. He himself is humble and lowly and yet the King.
  • None of us is burdenless. The good transformation we need from within is also a burden. It is not a burden imposed on us by violence or its threat. Rather, it is an easy and light yoke. That yoke is used by the meek and humble teacher to lead us to rest.

Doctrine: The virtue of humility

  • Our English word humility comes from Latin humilitas meaning abasement, itself from humus or ground.
  • It is the “moral virtue that keeps a person from reaching beyond himself.”
  • Clearly, there are some ways in which it is good to reach beyond oneself, for example, by improving in anything which is good. How can this go wrong? People can have an “unruly desire for personal greatness” which leads to a “love of themselves based on a” false “appreciation of their position with respect to God and their neighbors.” To put it another way, we are always trying to give ourselves a status we don’t actually have, and this is foolish.
  • “Religious humility recognizes one’s total dependence on God.”
  • “[M]oral humility recognizes one’s creaturely equality with others.”
  • Humility is obviously opposed to pride, yet “it is also opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which would fail to recognize God’s gifts and use them according to his will.”[1]

Practical Application: Growing in humility

  • St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, laid down in his famous Rule, twelve steps for a monk to grow in the virtue of humility. Here are a few of them, summarized and adapted for laypersons today.
  • Of course, to apply these also requires the virtue of prudence.
    • Consciously obey all of God’s commandments and whatever you see to be his will.
    • Obediently submit to those persons in authority over you.
    • Endure difficulties without complaining inwardly or outwardly.
    • Confess your sins and faults in the sacrament of Penance.
    • Admit to yourself you are full of faults and not all that special.
    • Restrain yourself from speaking and say only what is necessary.


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Peter and the Pope, and the Apostles and Bishops: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles (Year A)

Peter and PaulWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles (Year A), June 29, 2014, (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: Peter and the pope, and the apostles and bishops. Doctrine: The hierarchical structure of the Church. Practical application: Assisting the hierarchy.

To view the Lectionary 591 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Peter and the pope, and the apostles and bishops

Reading 1 Acts 12:1-11

In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them.
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,
and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
–It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–
He had him taken into custody and put in prison
under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.
He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison,
but prayer by the Church was fervently being made
to God on his behalf.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter, secured by double chains,
was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,
“Get up quickly.”
The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.”
He did so.
Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
So he followed him out,
not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
“Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

  • There are always people ready to persecute both the leaders and the members of the Church. King Herod Agrippa was one-such tyrant, with no regard for justice.
  • Members of the Church are always also ready to pray for one another and especially for their leaders.
  • God also always assigns angels to watch over his Church and protect her members, and sometimes this aid is dramatic.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.

  • To fear God means to never want to do anything that would displease him, as a good child never wants to displease his or her good father.
  • The one who fears to offend God also turns to God and to his or her guardian angel in times of distress. God will deliver those who fear him either in this life or in the next.
  • This Psalm perfectly expresses the joy of one who fears God and who has been delivered from distress. It also perfectly expresses the joy of those who enter heaven.

Reading 2 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

  • Because Sts. Peter and Paul did the work Christ sent them to do in a hostile world, they had to be rescued from dangers many times. Both apostles could pray our responsorial psalm with the words personally applying to them.
  • We honor them today not because they escaped death many times (until they were finally put to death). We honor them because the Lord gave them the most important task to do—to announce the Gospel and to build up the Church—and they did it faithfully despite powerful opposition, with the help of God, of angels, and of the rest of the faithful.

Gospel Mt 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

  • When Christ established his Church he placed the Apostles at her head. Christ also placed Simon (Peter) at the head of his Apostles and of his Church.
    • After Simon confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Our Lord gave him a new name, Rock on which he would build his Church.
      • Rock: Kepa in Aramaic, Cephas in Greek, Petros in Latin, Peter in English.
  • Christ established his Church never to be destroyed, despite the many trials she will face (“the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”).
  • Christ gave Peter divine authority in the Church. A decision he makes for the Church on earth will be ratified in heaven.
    • For example, Peter took the initiative to create a new apostle to replace Judas who killed himself. Peter also determined that Gentiles who converted to Christianity did not have to adopt the Mosaic Law, a decision ratified in the Council of Jerusalem.

Doctrine: The hierarchical structure of the Church

  • By divine institution, the Church has sacred ministers called clerics (CCC 934).
  • The first of these “clerics” were the apostles, to whom Christ gave a share in his saving mission with power to act in his person (CCC 935).
  • Christ made Peter the Church’s visible head.
  • “The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is ‘head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth’”(CIC, can. 331) (CCC 936).
  • “The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls”’ (CD 2) (CCC 937).
  • “The Bishops, established by the Holy Spirit, succeed the apostles. They are ‘the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches’” (LG 23) (CCC 938).
    • “Helped by the priests, their co-workers, and by the deacons, the bishops have the duty of authentically teaching the faith, celebrating divine worship, above all the Eucharist, and guiding their Churches as true pastors. Their responsibility also includes concern for all the Churches, with and under the Pope.” (CCC 939)

Practical Application: Assisting the hierarchy

  • Members of the laity have their own distinct work to do as family members, in their professional work, and as citizens. They are not clerics but are also not second-class Christians. (Some Catholics think that only what the clergy does is important.)
  • When we consider assisting the hierarchy of the Church, we probably should have in mind three persons: the pope, our diocesan bishop, and the pastor of our parish.
  • We can offer prayers and sacrifices for them, just as for Peter “prayer by the Church was fervently being made.”
  • We can also learn the current agenda of these three persons. When they speak we can listen and when they write something we can read it. In this way we can know their minds and tell others.
    • Then, if we are qualified, we can assist in carrying out their agenda.
  • We can also let our own concerns and views be known when necessary.
    • According to the Code of Canon law 212 §3, “According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, [the laity] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.
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The Eucharist: Doctrinal Homily Outline for Corpus Christi (Year A)

corpus christi monestary in Menlo Park

Corpus Christi Monastery in Menlo Park, CA

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Year A), June 22, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday 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 and Doctrine: The Eucharist. Practical application: Proper and frequent Communion

To view the Lectionary 167 readings, click here.

Central Idea: The Eucharist

Reading 1 Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a

Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments.
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.

“Do not forget the LORD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that place of slavery;
who guided you through the vast and terrible desert
with its saraph serpents and scorpions,
its parched and waterless ground;
who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock
and fed you in the desert with manna,
a food unknown to your fathers.”

  • What does Moses mean when he says that God has shown the Chosen People, “not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD”?
    • Through Moses, God had given the Chosen People “words” in the form of commandments to follow, and they agreed to follow them. After the golden calf when they rejected God, God then both (1) afflicted them with hunger and thirst, dangers like seraph serpents and scorpions, and no good land for home to see if they really intended to follow him, and (2) supplied them with manna from heaven and water from the flinty rock to show them that every good thing comes from God so they would not forget him once they reached the Promised Land. So, the words “not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD” mean that everything we need to live, both material and spiritual goods, including moral guidance, comes to us from God, so we need him the most.
  • Christ quotes Moses in his first temptation in the desert after he had fasted for forty days.
  • We followers of Christ can see every bad thing we experience as an opportunity to show God that we really intend to follow him (with his help). We can see every good thing we experience as gift from God. In this way we will never forget him.
  • Christ has given us a gift that feeds us in this desert of life so we will never forget him: the Eucharist, his bread from heaven.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R/ Praise the Lord, Jerusalem or R/ Alleluia

Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.

He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!

He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.

  • It is from the good things we receive that we can glorify and praise God. What are some of these good things? The Psalmist says: security from dangers, healthy children, peace in our relationships, good food, and knowing what God wants of us in our conduct.
  • Just as God revealed the Mosaic Law to his Chosen People, Christ has now revealed the New Law of the Gospel to us, his new people in the Church.
  • We live by every word that comes forth from God’s mouth. These words are God’s laws:
    • The physical laws of the world which we discover and which can be used to improve the physical conditions of our lives;
    • The natural moral law, which can be known by reason but which is interpreted and clarified by the Magisterium of the Church, showing us how we are to conduct ourselves as human beings; and
    • The law of the Gospel, revealed to us in Christ, on how we can live as children of God and attain eternal life.

Reading 2 1 Cor 10:16-17

Brothers and sisters:
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.

  • In this passage, St. Paul is speaking of how every sacrifice, whether Jewish, pagan, or Christian, attempts to create some kind of communion.
  • Our Christian sacrifice brings us into communion with Christ and one another. We call what St. Paul is speaking of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Sequence – Lauda Sion

Laud, O Zion, your salvation,
Laud with hymns of exultation,
Christ, your king and shepherd true:

Bring him all the praise you know,
He is more than you bestow.
Never can you reach his due.

Special theme for glad thanksgiving
Is the quick’ning and the living
Bread today before you set:

From his hands of old partaken,
As we know, by faith unshaken,
Where the Twelve at supper met.

Full and clear ring out your chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting,
From your heart let praises burst:

For today the feast is holden,
When the institution olden
Of that supper was rehearsed.

Here the new law’s new oblation,
By the new king’s revelation,
Ends the form of ancient rite:

Now the new the old effaces,
Truth away the shadow chases,
Light dispels the gloom of night.

What he did at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
His memorial ne’er to cease:

And his rule for guidance taking,
Bread and wine we hallow, making
Thus our sacrifice of peace.

This the truth each Christian learns,
Bread into his flesh he turns,
To his precious blood the wine:

Sight has fail’d, nor thought conceives,
But a dauntless faith believes,
Resting on a pow’r divine.

Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things are all we see:

Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.

Whoso of this food partakes,
Does not rend the Lord nor breaks;
Christ is whole to all that taste:

Thousands are, as one, receivers,
One, as thousands of believers,
Eats of him who cannot waste.

Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues rife.

When the sacrament is broken,
Doubt not, but believe ‘tis spoken,
That each sever’d outward token
doth the very whole contain.

Nought the precious gift divides,
Breaking but the sign betides
Jesus still the same abides,
still unbroken does remain.

The shorter form of the sequence begins here.

Lo! the angel’s food is given
To the pilgrim who has striven;
see the children’s bread from heaven,
which on dogs may not be spent.

Truth the ancient types fulfilling,
Isaac bound, a victim willing,
Paschal lamb, its lifeblood spilling,
manna to the fathers sent.

Very bread, good shepherd, tend us,
Jesu, of your love befriend us,
You refresh us, you defend us,
Your eternal goodness send us
In the land of life to see.

You who all things can and know,
Who on earth such food bestow,
Grant us with your saints, though lowest,
Where the heav’nly feast you show,
Fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.

Gospel Jn 6:51-58

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

  • The Chosen People received daily bread from heaven to sustain them in life during their forty-year sojourn in the desert when God tested them to see if they really intended to follow his commandments.
  • Christ promises us bread from heaven which will give us eternal life. This bread is Christ himself. To receive him, we must do something seemingly impossible and abhorrent: to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.”
  • How this could be true and how it could be done was not known until the Last Supper when Christ said of the bread and wine, this is my body and this is my blood.
  • This is how we get the life of God: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

Doctrine: The Eucharist

  • The truth about the Eucharist, which we celebrate today, is too vast to do much more than summarize, which the sequence does poetically.
  • Here is a very brief definition from Fr. John Hardon, S.J.[1]
    • The Eucharist is “the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.”
    • Christ “is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine.”
    • He makes himself present “in order to offer himself in the sacrifice of the Mass and to be received as spiritual food in Holy Communion.”
    • This reality “is called Eucharist, or ‘thanksgiving,’ because at its institution at the Last Supper Christ ‘gave thanks,’ and by this fact it is the supreme object and act of Christian gratitude to God.”
    • “Although the same name is used, the Eucharist is any one or all three aspects of one mystery, namely the Real Presence, the Sacrifice, and Communion.
      • “As Real Presence, the Eucharist is Christ in his abiding existence on earth today;
      • “as Sacrifice, it is Christ in his abiding action of High Priest, continuing now to communicate the graces he merited on Calvary;
      • “and as Communion, it is Christ coming to enlighten and strengthen the believer by nourishing his soul for eternal life.”

Practical Application: Proper and frequent Communion

  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us “Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (CCC 1415). This is part of what the sequence means:

Bad and good the feast are sharing,
Of what divers
[different] dooms preparing,
Endless death, or endless life.

Life to these, to those damnation,
See how like participation
Is with unlike issues [outcomes] rife.

  • The only other requirement is to have fasted from food for one hour before receiving communion. Canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law tells us:
    • “§1. A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.”
    • “§3. The elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them can receive the Most Holy Eucharist even if they have eaten something within the preceding hour.”
  • While we are required to participate in the Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation (CIC 1247), we can attend Mass and receive Holy Communion on other days as well. Given what a great thing every Mass is and the fact that we can receive Christ in the Eucharist, why not attend one more Mass per week? Some people participate in Mass every day. Is it possible for you to assist at Mass and receive Holy Communion one more time each week?


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The Most Holy Trinity: Doctrinal Homily Outline (Year A)


Holy Trinity by PIETER COECKE VAN AELST, Pieter (1502-1556)

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (Year A), June 15, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday 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 and Doctrine: The Holy Trinity: Practical application: Living like the Holy Trinity.

To view the Lectionary 164 readings, click here.

Central Idea: The Most Holy Trinity

Reading 1 Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the LORD had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, “LORD.”
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
“The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own.”

  • Through Moses, the Chosen People given a privileged understanding of who God is. He is worthy of worship because he is LORD, that is, the Supreme Being, and because he is good, being “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
  • At the same time, God wants to be in a relationship with human beings beginning with this Chosen People. Moses asks, “Do come along in our company,” and God does.
  • At the same time, human beings have a hard time going along with God. We are “stiff-necked” and in need of pardon for our sins.

Responsorial Psalm Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R/ Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.

Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.

Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

  • This is from the song of the three young men who were thrown into a furnace by order of the Babylonian king, whose lives were miraculously preserved.
  • In their joy they praised God for every good thing in creation.
  • God does not “need” this praise: In himself he is perfectly happy and glorious.
  • However, we need to offer this praise. God is worthy of our highest praise because of the benefits he bestows on his creation. He bestows these benefits, especially us, creatures who can know God and who are saved by God, who not only looks down “into the depths” here, but who has come down “into the depths” to save this world out of love (Jn 3:16).

Reading 2 2 Cor 13:11-13

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

  • To be a follower of Christ means to be happy to be in a privileged state of friendship with God. This is why we rejoice.
  • To be a follower of Christ means to make an effort to live accordingly, to mend our ways.
  • It also means to live in friendship with all other Christians (and as much as possible with every other person we encounter).
  • Christian theology had not yet developed the explicit doctrine of the Trinity, but we see it implicitly in the formula Paul uses to say farewell to the Corinthians in this second letter: God (the Father), the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
  • The “love of God” the Father flows to us through the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and the Holy Spirit draws Christians together in fellowship (we can “encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace” for this reason).

Gospel Jn 3:16-18

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

  • God has an only Son. Therefore God is also Father.
  • God the Father and God the Son are also good toward mankind.
    • God gave his Son to humanity by coming into the world as a man. He also gave his son to suffer and die to save humanity.
    • The Son said yes to becoming a man and to suffering to give everlasting life.
  • This world that God so loves is a serious place in which people are already condemned. People perish unless they are saved.
  • If you know this but refuse it you are condemned.
  • If you know this and accept it by believing “in the name of the only Son of God” you will be saved and have eternal life. It must be understand that believing is not just words but actions. Both the belief and actions are possible due to the free gift of graces received. They are the fruit of graces received.
  • This Gospel passage says the same thing as the passage in which God reveals himself to Moses. God is good; he wants to be “in our company”; yet we are stiff-necked and need to be pardoned.

Doctrine: The Blessed Trinity

  • The one God is three divine persons (CCC 261).
  • We know this mystery hidden in God because he has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (CCC 261).
  • The Father generates the Son, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
  • The truth of the Blessed Trinity sheds light on the truth that God is Love. The Blessed Trinity in itself forms a community of three bound together by mutual love.
  • In creating the human family, God looked at his own inner life to find the design for it. God’s inner life is a loving, life-giving community: the Father and Son love one another and from their love proceeds the Holy Spirit. The family is also a loving, life-giving community: From the mutual love of a husband and wife comes a child – with the help of God.
  • The Trinitarian nature of God is hinted at in the Old Testament, for example in Genesis when God says, “Let us make man in our image” or in the passage from Proverbs about the Holy Spirit at play in the Creation. But it is explicitly revealed in the New Testament. For example at Christ’s Baptism, when Christ comes out of the water, we hear the voice of the Father speaking, and the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove. Or when the resurrected Christ instructs the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
  • God welcomes us into his Trinitarian life: Jesus Christ is the eternally begotten Son of God the Father. Through his Son, God the Father adopts us as spiritual sons and daughters. We are temples of the Holy Spirit.
  • The “task” of the Holy Spirit in regard to us is that he sanctifies the Church and humanity.
  • By “Baptism ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ we are called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal light” (CCC 265).
  • Does Christianity believe in three gods? No. We profess three persons. Christianity is not polytheistic, as Islam charges. We believe in the existence of only one God. Yet, we believe in the Trinity, who is one God in three divine Persons.
  • Each of the persons of the Trinity is equally God. Consubstantial (“of the same substance”) is the technical word which we recite in the revised translation of the Nicene Creed.
  • Through sanctifying grace, which we receive at baptism, we actually share in the inner, Trinitarian life of God. If we attain salvation, we will directly participate in the Beatific Vision in heaven.
  • These are some reasons the Blessed Trinity is not only the central truth of our Christian faith but also the central truth of our Christian life (CCC 261).

Practical Application: Living like the Blessed Trinity

  • Because the Blessed Trinity is the central truth of our Christian life, it must be possible to live this truth. How can we be like the Blessed Trinity?
  • One truth we can glean from the Dogma of the Blessed Trinity is that God is a social being: three Divine Persons in relationship with one another.
    • We are also social beings. We are always in relationships with other persons: as a family member, as the member of a school community, as a friend, as a spouse or parent, as the member of any number of civic associations, as a member of the Church.
  • In God, each of the three Persons is co-equal.
    • However, in human relationships there is inequality. In some, we are dependent on the other, like a child is. In others, we and the other depend on each other, as in a friendship. In others still, the other is dependent on us, for example, when a teacher instructs a student.
  • With Sacramental grace we can live all these human relationship as communions of love that reflect God’s inner life.
  • The best idea of that inner life of God we have is from Christ. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God’s love and he has shown us that the essence of this love is the gift of self. How does this apply to us? A Vatican II document gives us the answer: “[M]an, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (GS 24).
  • It is easy to see how sacrificial love applies when people depend on us. It may be hard to provide the sacrifice, yet when we do, we love like God loves.
  • But what about when we are the dependent ones? Even when we depend on the other, we can still give of ourselves. Some examples are obeying the just authority of the one on whom we depend, as in obeying a doctor’s orders; offering up the difficult situation, as in patiently waiting when we are hungry; being cooperative and cheerful when getting technical support over the phone; and so on. When we accept the consequences of being in a dependent position, we also have a chance to imitate Our Lord when he was a child, when he was in the wilderness for forty days, and when he was enduring his Passion.
  • So whenever we give of ourselves to another person out of love, we are being like the Blessed Trinity.
  • However, we also have the terrible freedom to be selfish. Every selfish act is not only the opposite of human love; it is also the opposite of the life of the Blessed Trinity. No one on earth likes to be around a purely selfish person. We can’t stand people like that. This helps us see how such behavior could exclude one from the Beatific Vision.


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Pentecost, the Gift of the Holy Spirit: Doctrinal Homily Outline for Pentecost (Year A)

El Greco's Pentecost (detail)

El Greco’s Pentecost (detail)

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for Pentecost (Year A), June 8, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday 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: Pentecost. Doctrine: Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Practical application: The Gift of Piety.

To view the Lectionary 63 readings (Mass during the day), click here.

Central Idea: Pentecost, the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Reading 1 Acts 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

  • Each disciple in that upper room received the one Holy Spirit who chose to make his presence known through their sense of sound with a noise “like a strong driving wind” and their sense of sight through an appearance “like tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” The immediate effect was this ability to speak in different languages “of the might acts of God” such that people from many lands could hear them in their native languages.
  • The Church is a collection, not a collective. When the Holy Spirit is given to the Church, He is given to individual members of the Church. So, what St. Paul says to the Corinthians comes about: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” The One Spirit manifests himself in many different ways to benefit the members of the Church.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

R/ Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia

Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O Lord!
the earth is full of your creatures;

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD be glad in his works!
Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.

If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

  • The Psalmist prays, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever.”
    • Is he praying that God always exist? No. “The glory of the LORD” is God’s works, his creation (CCC 293-294). We are the part of God’s creation that matters the most to us and, Revelation tells us, matters the most to him.
    • The Psalmist prays, Let your creation keep existing. Let human beings keep living. Even though we perish in death, you can recreate us. Be glad in your works, LORD, by renewing our lives.

Reading 2 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

  • The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live the new life that Christ has won for us. One name for this new life is holiness. It is the moral perfection of human life (not just not doing evil but positively doing good). It is also a share in God’s own life.
  • Every baptized person has this gift of the Holy Spirit. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
  • Because the one Holy Spirit is at work in countless human beings in countless unique circumstances, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are also too many for any of us to count, although they are traditionally enumerated as seven, the number which symbolizes perfection.

Sequence – Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.

Gospel Jn 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

  • Christ greeted the disciples with the words “Peace be with you” because there was no longer a reason to be afraid, or anxious, or suspicious, or guilty, or sneaky. The tyranny of sin and death that causes all the turmoil of life is now vanquished by Christ’s atonement and resurrection.
  • The peace of Christ’s victory is transferred from him to us by the Holy Spirit. Christ dramatically illustrated this by breathing on the disciples.

Doctrine: Gifts of the Holy Spirit

  • While the Holy Spirit gives a wide variety of individual gifts for service to the Church, the traditional sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit are permanent habits that make it easy to follow the inspirations He gives us.
  • For each of the seven gifts here are two definitions—one for adults followed by one written for third graders—and an example.
  • The gift of wisdom is a loving knowledge of God and everything that comes from and leads to him.[1]
    • WISDOM: the ability to respond to divine truths.[2]
      • I love the natural world not just because of its beauty and the good things I can receive from it but because (1) it is God’s gift to humanity, (2) in its own way it reflects some of the perfections of God, and (3) it is meant to draw us to God.
  • Understanding is the power which perfects our perception of the mysteries of the faith, enabling us to penetrate more deeply into the divine truths revealed by God.
    • UNDERSTANDING: the ability to recognize truth in the Catholic Faith.
      • I see the connection between the statements “This is my body . . . This is my blood,” and “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life in you,” and “The Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.”
  • The gift of counsel helps us make wise decisions promptly, correctly, and according to the will of God.
    • COUNSEL: the ability to make good decisions.
      • I have the impulse to do something but immediately reject it as wrong and don’t do it.
  • Fortitude makes us steadfast in the faith, constant in struggle, and faithful in perseverance.
    • FORTITUDE: means we have the courage to do what is right.
      • I refuse to tell a lie that might get me out of trouble or benefit me, but instead face the trouble that telling the truth will entail.
  • Knowledge enables us to be wise in using the things of this world.
    • KNOWLEDGE: the ability to judge from the viewpoint of eternity.
      • If a friend says let’s go to that party, the gift of knowledge can help me see whether that would really be a good thing or could harm me or others.
  • The gift of piety teaches us the meaning of divine filiation, the joyful supernatural awareness of being children of God and brothers and sisters of all mankind.
    • PIETY: means we have a deep love for God as our Father.
      • I want to greet God first thing each day because we love each other.
  • Fear of the Lord is respect for the all-powerful and loving God.
    • FEAR OF THE LORD: we understand the greatness of God and desire not to sin.
      • I don’t want to do anything that God disapproves of.

Practical Application: The Gift of Piety

  • We all have natural gifts we may never employ. We may not even know we have them.
  • We can also have supernatural gifts, not know it, and not employ them.
  • But those supernatural gifts can also be working in us without our knowledge. God is taking the initiative. We can thank God for this and ask him to do it even more.
    • This is what we just prayed in the Veni, Sancte Spiritus sequence. And can pray daily the “Come Holy Spirit” prayer.
  • On our part, one way we can begin to unwrap and to use the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is by simply doing the will of God as we see it. We have this opportunity at every waking moment.
  • Our own easiest entry into the Gifts of the Holy Spirit might by via the gift of piety.
    • If I often think about the truth that I am a child of God, and consider everything that truth might entail, I will also be happy to do the will of God my Father.
    • Fear of the Lord will make sense: Who wants to disappoint a good parent?
    • I will not be afraid of the gift of knowledge, which tells me the true importance of the good things of this world.
    • I will want fortitude, because I will want what God wants, not just what seems easiest in the moment.
    • I will not be afraid of the answers the Holy Spirit offers me in the gift of counsel.
    • I will want to be in the presence of God and to think about God and so can contemplate God and creation through the gifts of understanding and wisdom.
  • Due to original sin, we have the tendency to see God as our enemy who wants to take away from us the little that we have. The gift of piety helps us “get” that God is on our side and that he wants to guide us and bless us, best Father that he is.

[1] The definitions in bold are from the Didache Semester Series Our Moral Life in Christ.

[2] The definitions in caps are from the third grade text from the Faith and Life Series (quoted from


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The Ascension of the Lord: Doctrinal Homily Outline (Year A)

Ascension Piotr BasinWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Ascension of the Lord (Year A), June 1, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday 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 and Doctrine: The Ascension. Practical application: Children of the Father.

To view the Lectionary 58 readings, click here.

 Central idea: The Ascension

Reading 1 Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

  • As much as they might like to, the Apostles are not going to know the future, except that soon the Holy Spirit will come upon them and someday Christ will return. We don’t know the future either.
  • The Apostles will be given power by the Holy Spirit to work in the present time, to understand God’s message and to witness it. We have this same power.
  • They are to spread the Gospel from the center, Jerusalem, out to what was left of the Jewish kingdom (Judea), out to the lands which were once Jewish (Samaria), and out to the entire world. We are to continue this work.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R/ God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord or Alleluia

All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.

  • How do human beings express joy? Communally, we do it with glad shouts and cries, songs, and music, the louder the better.
  • What is this occasion of joy? Christ has ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God the Father.

Reading 2 Eph 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

  • St. Paul wants the Christians at Ephesians to know and experience what they can hope for, based on the exalted status of the Church, based on the exalted status of Christ, based on the power and authority of God.
  • God possesses the fullness of being, goodness, truth, beauty, and power. God in Christ has revealed that within the one God are three persons, alluded to here: The Father of glory, the LORD Jesus Christ, and the Spirit. In raising him from the dead, God has given the Son supreme power and glory.
  • The Son is head of his body the Church, “the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”
  • Thus, our inheritance is God himself, which means to share in the life of God.

Gospel Mt 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

  • One who commissions another can only do so based on the legitimate authority he possesses.
    • Jesus’ authority is universal: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
  • Those who are commissioned can only do the work they are commissioned to do.
    • The Apostles have a commission to “all nations.”
  • What are they commissioned to do? “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
    • They are to announce the Gospel to all.
    • They are to baptize anyone who accepts the Gospel into the Trinity.
    • They are to teach the baptized the way of love Christ has taught the Apostles.

Doctrine: The Ascension

  • In the Creed we proclaim that Our Lord “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” What does it mean to “ascend into heaven” and to be “seated at the right hand of the Father”?
    • Christ ascends in a glorified body. Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection. But when he appeared to his disciples, he kept his full glory veiled. Now in heaven, Christ’s full glory shines forth. St. Paul got a glimpse of this post-Ascension glory on the road to Damascus. (CCC 659)
    • Christ is a kind of road from earth to heaven. Christ’s Ascension or going up to heaven completes his Incarnation or coming down to earth. Christ has opened the way to heaven for us. (CCC 661).
      • “Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever” (CCC 666).
    • Christ is the means by which we can travel this road. By ascending from earth to heaven, Christ did not just open a way for us to follow as best we can. Rather, he is the way. Christ promised his disciples, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He does this by interceding for us to the Father resulting in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 662)
      • “Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 667)
    • Christ the King is the destination of this journey. Being seated at the right hand of the Father means Christ has “the glory and honor of divinity” (CCC 663).
      • Being seated at the right hand of the Father is the fulfillment of “the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man: ‘To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’” (CCC 664)

Practical application: Children of the Father

  • It is right to love, honor, respect, and obey many persons, especially beginning with our own parents. However, the Church uses the term latria to refer to the supreme loving worship or adoration which belongs only to God.[1]
  • While there are many reasons and ways to adore God, Christians adore God the Father as his children.
  • As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “We can adore the Father because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: by Baptism, he incorporates us into the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other “Christs.” (CCC 2782)
    • St. Cyril of Jerusalem explains, “God, indeed, who has predestined us to adoption as his sons, has conformed us to the glorious Body of Christ. So then you who have become sharers in Christ are appropriately called ‘Christs.’” (CCC 2782)
    • About this, St. Cyprian says, “The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, ‘Father!’ because he has now begun to be a son.” (CCC 2782)
  • This insight should allow us to pray the Lord’s Prayer in a new way. We can say “Our Father” because we are really his sons and daughters.
    • Every time we have the occasion to consider God as Father, we can realize that through the ascended Christ, we are reborn and adopted into, conformed to, and sharers in God’s own divine life.


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The Holy Spirit gives life to our faith: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

ConfirmationWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A), May 25, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday 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 Holy Spirit gives life to our faith. Doctrine: Communion of life and love. Practical application: Apologetics.

To view the Lectionary 55 readings, click here.

Central Idea: The Holy Spirit gives life to our faith

Reading 1 Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,
they sent them Peter and John,
who went down and prayed for them,
that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
for it had not yet fallen upon any of them;
they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid hands on them
and they received the Holy Spirit.

  • Because of the dramatic good they received from him, the Samaritans paid attention to the deacon Philip’s proclamation of Christ and were baptized.
  • The apostles Peter and John then went to them and gave them another sacrament, what we call confirmation, laying hands on them so they received the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

R/ Let all the earth cry out to God with joy or Alleluia

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”

“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.

He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!

  • What has motivated God to create? His love and goodness. For what end has he created? To reveal and communicate his glory through the benefits which he bestows on his creatures (CCC 293).
    • Among all creatures, human beings are specially privileged because we can know this and consciously enjoy it.
  • Why should we worship and praise God? The answer is very simple. He does good things for us. He answers our prayers and is kind to us.

Reading 2 1 Pt 3:15-18

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.

  • Christians who are really living their faith have something that the world does not: hope for salvation.
  • The world has had to try to find happiness in all kinds of behavior that is not good or not good enough. The world may malign us for doing good and for rejecting the evil the world calls good.
  • This is a kind of blindness the world has. The world does not see or know and so cannot accept the Holy Spirit of truth.
  • But that is not the end of the story. We can enlighten anyone who asks “a reason for your hope.”
  • To speak effectively to the world we must first be doing good and then we can explain our hope “with gentleness and reverence.”
  • It may be God’s will that we suffer for doing good. Why? So we can do what Christ did: suffer for sins to lead men to God.

Gospel Jn 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

  • Keeping the commandments is the proof of our love for Christ.
    • “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”
    • This is what St. Paul meant by “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.”
  • This loving obedience “unlocks” the life of the Blessed Trinity for us.
    • “And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
    • At the Son’s request, the Father will send to us the Holy Spirit (the Advocate).
  • What will the Holy Spirit do for us?
    • He will be with us always and we will know it.
    • He will reveal to us the truth, because he is the Spirit of truth.
    • He will make us children of God.
    • He will show us Christ and that he lives.
    • He will show us that we have life through Christ.
    • He will show us that Christ is in the Father.
    • He will show us that we are in Christ and Christ is in us.
  • In other words, through the gift of the Holy Spirit we will see that there is a communion of life and love in God, between Christ and his Church, and among her members.

Doctrine: The communion of life and love

  • Communion means union-with. Communion can be thought of as a state of perfect friendship that fulfills our deepest needs and desires as social beings. What could be better than being in a relationship in which we both receive and give life and love? Does such a thing exist anywhere? The answer our Catholic faith gives us is yes.
  • The communion of life and love pertains first of all to God’s Trinitarian life.
    • “God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion” (CCC 2331).
  • God shares the communion of life and love with human beings.
    • “Creating the human race in his own image . . . , God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion” (CCC 2331).
  • This human communion of life and love is established first and foremost in the marriage covenant, in the expression of intimate love between husband and wife and the new society created by their offspring (CCC 1660). The family is the human communion of life and love par excellence.
  • A communion of life and love is what the Church herself is on two levels: first, in the relationship between Christ and all the members; and second, among her members on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven.
  • This communion is what heaven is: a “communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed . . . , the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024).

 Practical Application: Apologetics

  • Apologetics is explaining the Catholic faith to others to show them it is reasonable.
  • Apologetics removes obstacles to a person making the act of faith, which is a consequence of God’s grace inviting him and his free response.
  • The Holy Spirit will help us live and defend our faith.
  • It is foolish to think people will listen to us if we are not living good lives and doing good for others, like Philip was.
  • We must also know the fundamentals of our faith. This requires on-going formation on our part.
  • Then we can explain our hope “with gentleness and reverence,” as St. Peter advises us.
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