The Keys of the Kingdom: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 24, 2014 (Year A)

perugino_sleutels_grtWritten 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 Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Doctrine: The Office of the Pope. Practical application: Cooperating with the Pope and Our Bishop.

To view Lectionary 121, click here.

Central Idea: The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

Reading 1 Is 22:19-23

Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family.”

  • The master of the palace was an office of stewardship with both the authority and responsibility to be “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.”
  • Because of his infidelity, the office of Shebna would taken away and given to Eliakim.
  • The complete scope of the master of the palace’s authority was symbolized by the “key of the House of David.” What he said and did could not be gainsaid by anyone.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

R/ Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple.

I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.

The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.

  • God, who is exalted, does not favor the proud, who exalt themselves, but the lowly.
  • Divine Revelation is a catechesis on why this is so.
  • The lowly one, who knows his need, looks to God, so God sees him. As Our Lord taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:3).
  • The proud one does not look to God, so God only sees him from afar.
  • The lowly are like God: Christ confesses that he is meek and humble of heart (Mt. 11:29). 

Reading 2 Rom 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given the Lord anything
that he may be repaid?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

  • It is foolish to try to instruct God, especially since our understanding is so flawed. Much better is it to be instructed by God, provided the instruction is authentic.
  • When we correctly see what God decides to do and how he goes about acting, we have to confess “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” even while we cannot see all the reasons why.
    • God permits human beings to do real good and real evil. Christ has saved and redeemed us through his sufferings caused by man’s sins. Christ has founded a Church with the hierarchical structure he has given it. We can say these decisions are immensely good but why God decided to act in these ways remain mysteries.

Gospel Mt 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
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.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

  • According to Our Lord, Peter’s confession that Jesus is “The Christ, the Son of the living God” is not the conclusion to a chain of human reasoning but “revealed . . . by my heavenly Father.”
  • Our Lord changes Simon’s name to “Peter,” which means “rock,” on which Christ will build his church.
  • Nothing will prevail against his church. Nothing will conquer it. Not even death—“the gates of the netherworld.”
  • Just as God gives Eliakim complete authority over Jerusalem and Judah with the power of the key of the House of David to open and shut, Christ gives Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose.
  • Peter has complete stewardship over Christ’s church in Christ’s absence, so what Peter decides on earth will be ratified in heaven.
  • So we see in this passage of the Gospel three important realities: (1) Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one who is to redeem Israel and the rest of the world; (2) he founded a Church to carry on his saving work; and (3) the Church has a structure with Peter at its head.

Doctrine: The Office of Pope

  • Christ put Peter first among the Twelve as the rock on whom he would build his Church. “Christ, the ‘living stone’ (1 Pet 2:4), thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.” (CCC 552)
  • “The ‘power of the keys’ designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church” (CCC 553). “The power to ‘bind and loose’ connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church” (CCC 553).
  • “Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom” (CCC 553).
  • The Pope stands in the place of Peter for the whole Church, and the various bishops stand in the place of the Apostles. Thus, each of the lay faithful has two shepherds to look to: the shepherd of the universal Church and the shepherd of his diocese.

Practical Application: Cooperating with the Pope and Our Bishop

  • Since the Pope and our bishop are our religious leaders, it is good for us to be good followers.
  • It is not possible for us to follow either of these men if we don’t know where they want to lead us. How can we know what they want?
  • Hopefully, our parish priest will tell us things in the Sunday homily and at other times.
  • Then there is the media. We have to be good discerners of media, since so much is distorted. It is necessary to find media outlets you trust. One place for your bishop is the diocesan website and the diocesan Catholic newspaper.
  • We can also, according to our capacity, read what the Pope and our bishop write. The pope’s encyclical, audiences, homilies, and other addresses can be read on the Vatican website (http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html).
  • We can do the same with our diocesan bishop. My own bishop recently wrote a very important pastoral letter for our diocese on “The Art of Celebrating the Eucharistic Liturgy Properly and Adoring the Lord in the Eucharist Devoutly.”
  • Again, according to our ability, we can engage in the kind of work he wants done.
  • Finally, we should pray daily for both the Pope and our bishop, for their well-being and for what they want done to be faithfully carried out.

 

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Salvation is for those who want it: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: August 17, 2014 (Year A)

Jean Colombe (b. Bourges ca. 1430; d. ca. 1493) The Canaanite woman

Jean Colombe (b. Bourges ca. 1430; d. ca. 1493) The Canaanite woman

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: God’s salvation is for everyone who wants it. Doctrine: Living out our salvation by doing what is just. Practical application: Being more just.

To view Lectionary 118, click here. For the outline for the Solemnity of the Assumption, click here.

Central Idea: God’s salvation is for everyone who wants it

Reading 1 Is 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

  • Communion with God—and with everyone one and everything else in God—is the ultimate good and happiness for us.
  • This good was revealed to the Chosen People over time.
  • Isaiah was glimpsing something on the horizon. A justice and salvation for all people was about to come. Foreigners will be acceptable and the temple “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
  • How does one prepare for this? “Observe what is right, do what is just.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.

May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!

  • Some Jews thought God’s favor was only for them. Some people today think God favors only those in their religion, whatever it is. Yet we can see just from this Psalm that God’s goodness and mercy, his authority, and his salvation are for everyone. “May your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation.”
  • This was to come about through the favor God showed Israel. God promised Abraham, the father of the Jews, that every nation would be blessed through him. This universal blessing was accomplished through the Jew, Jesus Christ.

Reading 2 Rom 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

  • The Jews are the Chosen People and God has not unchosen them.
  • But now anyone can become a member of the new people of God, the Church.
  • God has permitted every human being to disobey him through sin. This disobedience of sin is what human beings need to be forgiven and healed of. God’s mercy to both Gentile and Jew—everyone, everywhere, in every time—is Jesus Christ. His rejection by his own people resulted in his Passion and Death, so their rejection became the source of everyone’s salvation—their forgiveness and sanctification.

Gospel Mt 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

  • Jesus was facing increasing hostility from the Jewish authorities and so he withdrew with his disciples to pagan territory on the northern coast. There he is met by a pagan woman who recognizes him as the king of Israel (she calls him “Lord,” “Son of David,” and abases herself before him). She is certain he can heal her demon-possessed daughter. That is what she wants.
  • Our Lord places an obstacle in her path: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” meaning to the Jews. But she does him homage and begs, “Lord, help me.”
  • Then Our Lord throws down an even greater obstacle. “It is not right,” he says in her hearing, “to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The children are the Chosen People. The dogs are Gentiles. Jesus was sent to offer what he had to offer to his own people, God’s children, not to Gentile dogs.
  • But the woman is humble and persistent when it would not be hard to imagine her getting angry and cursing Christ. She is also a desperate mother with a mother’s love for her daughter.
  • Not only is the Canaanite woman persistent, her reply reveals a kind of genius: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
  • This woman is remarkable. Without anyone instructing her, this pagan woman recognizes who Christ is. This is while his own people, whom he came to save, are rejecting him, despite his preaching accompanied by miraculous signs.
  • She knew Jesus could do good for her daughter. She learned that not only could Jesus do good, he was good.

Doctrine: Living out our salvation by doing what is just

  • Speaking for God, Isaiah said, “Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” John the Baptist said the same thing: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2). Jesus also repeated the words of the Baptist (Mt. 4:17).
  • The first step on the road to salvation, and every new step on the way, is the step of doing what is just.
  • Justice is giving what you owe. There are many dimensions of justice, depending on to whom something is owed and the nature of the debt.
  • For example, the virtue of religion is giving God what you owe him, which includes sorrow for sins, gratitude for benefits received, requests for the goods we need, and adoration.
  • Or the virtue of piety is rendering to your parents appropriate love, obedience, respect, and care, depending on the family-members’ age and circumstances.
  • In every role we have in life, there are natural obligations: what we owe our siblings, our friends, our teachers, employers and employees, our neighbor, our government, our pastors and the Church, and so on.
  • We prepare for God’s salvation by doing what is right. The Church teaches that we are not left on our own to do what is right by our own power but that God’s grace draws us to what is right and helps us do it.

Practical application: Being more just

  • The justice that God wants from us is very concrete and practical. This is why, for example, when tax collectors ask John the Baptist, “What are we to do?” he replies, “Collect no more than is appointed you.” To soldiers, he says, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (Lk 3:10-14) In both cases, the Baptist zeroes in on the injustices tax collectors and soldiers are naturally prone to commit.
  • To make a good examination of conscience in terms of justice, one can consider his state in life (single, married, clerical, or consecrated), the roles that state entails (e.g., high school student, hospital chaplain, daughter of elderly parents, citizen), and the persons to whom justice is due, always beginning with those closest to us (God first, spouse, children, religious superior, employer, etc.). To consider the example of the Baptist’s Roman soldier, he might think, “I am a creature of God, the son of my father and mother, a sibling, a married man with children, a subject of the Emperor, a soldier in the Roman legion,” and so on.
  • The next step is to stop doing what is wrong, which for a Catholic also means seeking God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance and doing due restitution. The Roman soldier cannot go to Confession, but he can stop using his military training and weapons to extort money out of people. This is what “repent” means.
  • The final step is to begin doing the good as best we can with the help of God’s grace. . This is a seemingly infinite obligation. For example, a husband owes love to his wife, and how can ever say, “I’ve perfectly loved her and so am done”? The husband can only keep performing acts of love, service, and sacrifice as he thinks of them and they arise through circumstances.
  • I claimed above that the first step on the road to salvation, and every new step on the way, is the step of doing what is just. We are assisted on this walk by God’s grace which helps us want to take each step and to actually take the step.
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The Assumption 2014 Vigil Mass

Schmitt_BlueMadonna

Carl Schmitt “Blue Madonna”

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Doctrinal Homily Outline for August 15 (Vigil Mass)

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.)

To view Lectionary 621, click here. To see a doctrinal homily outline for the Mass for the day, click here.

Central idea: The Ark of the Covenant. Doctrine: The Assumption. Practical application: Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Reading 1 1 Chron 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2

David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the LORD
to the place which he had prepared for it.
David also called together the sons of Aaron and the Levites.

The Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders with poles,
as Moses had ordained according to the word of the LORD.

David commanded the chiefs of the Levites
to appoint their kinsmen as chanters,
to play on musical instruments, harps, lyres, and cymbals,
to make a loud sound of rejoicing.

They brought in the ark of God and set it within the tent
which David had pitched for it.
Then they offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings to God.
When David had finished offering up the burnt offerings and peace offerings,
he blessed the people in the name of the LORD.

  • The Ark of the Covenant was the beautiful and precious chest, designed by God, which contained God’s Word, the tablets on which God himself wrote the Law he gave to Moses.
  • This reading is an example of how New Testament realities are hidden in the Old Testament. The Ark is a type or foreshadowing of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the beautiful and precious vessel, designed by God to be free of Original Sin and filled with every grace, to contain the very Word of God, the Incarnate Son of the Father and Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
  • This is why in the Litany of Loreto one of the titles Our Lady is praised with is “Ark of the Covenant.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 132:6-7, 9-10, 13-14

R. Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness.

Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
Let us enter his dwelling,
let us worship at his footstool.

May your priests be clothed with justice;
let your faithful ones shout merrily for joy.
For the sake of David your servant,
reject not the plea of your anointed.

For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he prefers her for her dwelling.
“Zion is my resting place forever;
in her will I dwell, for I prefer her.”

  • This Psalm was sung when the Ark of the Covenant was transferred from the Tabernacle outside the city to Jerusalem or Zion. God desired the Ark, his throne, to be in Zion.
    • “For the LORD has chosen Zion; he prefers her for her dwelling.” The LORD prefers Zion for his Ark’s dwelling.
  • In the same way, we learn in the Annunciation that God chose a new place to dwell: the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
    • The LORD has chosen Mary; he prefers her for his dwelling.
    • He dwelt in her physically for nine months and he dwells in her through grace from that time on forever.
  • As the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary also needs a place to dwell forever. That place is the New Jerusalem, heaven.
    • The LORD has chosen Zion; he prefers heaven for Mary’s dwelling.

Reading 2 1 Cor 15:54b-57

Brothers and sisters:
When that which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
then the word that is written shall come about:

Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • God gave to the Blessed Virgin Mary his Son’s victory over death at the moment of her conception by preserving her from the consequences of Original Sin and filling her with grace. This gift was given in view of her vocation to be the Mother of God.
  • The moral law reveals the reality of sin and so gives sin its power to condemn man to death. But the moral law had no power to condemn Mary because she never sinned. Death could never destroy her. So, at the end of her life on earth, her mortal body was clothed in immortality.

Gospel Lk 11:27-28

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
He replied,
“Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”

  • The most basic reason we call Mary blessed is that she did, better than any human being, “hear the word of God and observe it.”
    • She heard the word of God from Gabriel that God would dwell in her physically in his Incarnation and Mary said yes.
    • She heard the Law, the word of God which was carried in the Ark of the Covenant, and observed it all her life.
    • She heard the word of God from the lips of the Word of God. She observed the Word of God with her own eyes. She kept all these things in her heart.
  • We don’t know why this woman from the crowd said what she said. It is clear that she was praising both Jesus and his mother. As a woman who was a mother or who wanted to be a mother, this woman in the crowd praised the Mother of Christ with the focus on physical, life-giving femininity: the womb which nurtured and protected the fetus Jesus as he grew and the breasts which fed him as a baby and a toddler until weaned. Mary was blessed in this way, as is every human mother who accepts her gift of femininity.
  • Perhaps this woman in the crowd was really saying, “I wish I had a son like you. If I had a son like you I would be blessed.” There are many mothers who haven’t gotten what they hoped. To make this universal, how many of us can say, “Things have not turned out the way I wished. I have regrets”?
  • Our Lord shifts what the woman says to a deeper level. The truly blessed person is the one who hears what God has to say and conforms her life to that word. And the Blessed Virgin Mary was such a person par excellence. She heard the word of God from the angel Gabriel and said, “Let it be done to me as you have said.” And she never stopped observing God’s will.
  • In the same way, the woman in the crowd could also be blessed in this way. She too could hear the word of God and keep it. That way, if her original words were spoken out of regret, if she was really saying, “I do not feel blessed because I do not have a son,” or “The son I have is not the son I would wish,” she can have something even better, just by conforming her life to the will of God.
  • The same is true for each of us. We can have the best thing for us by imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary and hearing the word of God and keeping it. We can be the Blessed Woman in the Crowd or the Blessed Man in the Pew.

Doctrine: The Assumption

  • What is the doctrine of the Assumption we celebrate today?
  • “The Immaculate Mother of God . . . having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (MD 44).
  • “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (CCC 966).
  • Christ rose from the dead with his glorified body never to die again. The Blessed Virgin Mary never experienced physical death, that is, the separation of her body from her soul, because she was preserved at the moment of her own conception from original sin and she never committed an actual sin.
  • Her Assumption anticipates the final judgment when God will reunite our bodies with our immortal souls.

Practical Application: Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  • We venerate Mary to honor her and to become more like her.
  • Just as the ancient Jews venerated the Ark of the Covenant (it was the only physical thing they were permitted to venerate—everything else was idolatry), we can also venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary. Catholic piety has invented countless ways to do so. I’ll discuss just two here.
  • Veneration of Our Lady through images:
    • The Ark was kept in a tent or tabernacle and later in the Temple in the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could see it and he could see it only once a year. When the Temple was sacked and razed, the Ark disappeared. The ancient Jews must have longed to see the Ark again and devout Jews must still desire to see it.
    • We can see Mary anytime we want through some image of her. Do you have an image of Mary close by? In your bedroom, or on your desk, or as a screensaver on your computer, or in your car? You want this so that from time to time during the day you can look at her with love and remind yourself that she heard the word of God and kept it . . . and so should you. Remember, we venerate Mary to honor her and to become more like her.
  • Veneration through praying the Hail Mary.
    • Drawing on Sacred Scripture, Catholic piety composed the Hail Mary. We can say this prayer throughout the day in many contexts. One special one is as a last thing at night. As we fall asleep it is appropriate to ask her to intercede for us at the hour of our death.
    • We are sinners because we disobey the moral law. Sin is what gives death its sting. We pray for the same victory over death that Mary accomplished by her cooperation with the graces God gave her. Again, we venerate Mary to honor her and to become more like her.

 

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The Prayer of Christ’s Followers: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 10, 2014 (Year A)

16_Lorenzo_Veneziano,_Christ_Rescuing_Peter_from_Drowning._1370_Staatliche_Museen,_Berlin.

Lorenzo Veneziano, Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning (1370)

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’s prayer to the Father. Doctrine: The prayer of Jesus and Mary. Practical application: Important norms for our own life of prayer.

To view Lectionary 115, click here.

Central Idea: Christ’s prayer to the Father

Reading 1 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

  • Horeb or Sinai is the mountain where Moses also spoke to God.
  • Elijah has been driven here by his own people who rejected the LORD and embraced idolatry.
  • When God revealed himself to Elijah, it was through “a tiny whispering sound.”
  • A lesson for us in our life of prayer is that we should not expect God to reveal himself to us or to answer us dramatically (if he does, so much the better). Rather, the normal way to hear him is to listen carefully for “words” that are gentle, non-coercive, and do not contradict the moral law.
  • God’s quiet words should be asking us to do something good: acts of kindness, truth, justice, and so on, as the Psalm indicates. (For example, “God proclaims . . . peace.”)

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

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

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

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

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

  • This psalm speaks of the Incarnation of Christ. The person of Christ is our peace. He became near to us. He was God’s glory dwelling in our land. He embodies in himself kindness, truth, justice, and peace. Through him, God himself gave us his benefits.
  • In the time of the Psalmist it was understood that the LORD could be near to those who tried to be near to him. As the Chosen People, the Jews could be near to the LORD.
  • The same is even more true for us through Baptism. We live now in the condition of anticipating heavenly happiness. Heaven is not just something for the future but can be experienced in a limited way now. This heaven now is living in communion with Christ and his family the Church.

Reading 2 Rom 9:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;
my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness
that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my own people,
my kindred according to the flesh.
They are Israelites;
theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants,
the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
theirs the patriarchs, and from them,
according to the flesh, is the Christ,
who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

  • St. Paul was a Jew by birth and a Christian by Christ’s personal calling.
  • He desires his own people’s conversion to Christ so much that he is willing to be damned himself (“accursed and cut off from Christ”) for their sake, meaning for their conversion.
  • He also provides a catalogue of reasons why we should always admire the Jewish religion, first for what God gave them and then for what God gave us through them: “from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever.”

Gospel Mt 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

  • Our Lord wanted to be by himself to pray and he finally got the chance after sending the disciples ahead and dismissing the crowds himself.
  • Like Moses and Elijah on Sinai, Christ “went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Later, these two Old Testament prophets will appear with Christ on the mountain of the Transfiguration.
  • We wonder what Jesus said and what the Father answered. We don’t know, but we can imitate Christ. We can go by ourselves to pray. If we do, we will know what we will say to the Father and we will know what the Father answers. As was the case with Elijah, we should listen carefully.
  • Our own Horeb will be someplace we can be alone: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mt 6:6).
  • Christ shows his complete mastery over nature by walking on water. It is hard to imagine a reason that any of us would need to walk on water but we do need to carry out God’s will with (sometimes) heroic faith. God may ask us to do something we are afraid to do, because it seems beyond our powers, and so we don’t do it. Or, we start to do it and then feel overwhelmed and cry out, “Lord, save me.” God is much more pleased by that seeming failure than the one that results from doing nothing. Still, he rebukes us a little: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
  • In asking Christ to call him to walk with him on the water, Peter was asking to enjoy heaven now. Christ agreed and said, “Come.”

Doctrine: The prayer of Jesus and Mary

  • Jesus “went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Jesus’ prayer to the Father “is the perfect model of prayer in the New Testament. Often done in solitude and in secret,” as we see in today’s Gospel, “the prayer of Jesus involves a loving adherence to the will of the Father even to the Cross and an absolute confidence in being heard.” (CCC 2620)
  • “In his teaching, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray with a purified heart, with lively and persevering faith, with filial boldness. He calls them to vigilance and invites them to present their petitions to God in his name. Jesus Christ himself answers prayers addressed to him.” (CCC 2621)
  • “The prayers of the Virgin Mary, in her Fiat and Magnificat, are characterized by the generous offering of her whole being in faith.” (CCC 2622)

Practical Application: Important norms for our own life of prayer

  • While the Mass is the perfect prayer, we also need to have a private life of prayer, a daily and intimate conversation with God. Heaven is communion with God and one way to begin this communion now is by the conversation of prayer. “Commune with your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (Ps 4:4).
  • As was the case with Christ and his mother, the heart of prayer is offering oneself in “loving adherence to the will of the Father,” regardless of the cost. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39). “And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
  • In imitation of Christ our Master, we also have to have the confidence of faith that God will answer our prayers. So we pray with faith. “And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.’” (Jn 11: 41-42)
  • We cannot expect our life of prayer to mean anything without on-going conversion of heart. If we don’t work with God to purify our lives of sin, we can’t expect a life of prayer. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mt. 1:15).
  • We can also pray with “filial boldness” or the audacity of a loved child. We can ask for what we want, so long as it is not evil. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13).
  • We pray to the Father through Christ and directly to Christ. Christ “invites [his disciples] to present their petitions to God in his name. Jesus Christ himself answers prayers addressed to him” (CCC 2621).
  • To be vigilant means to be on watch. We are vigilant if we say to Our Lord, I will pray at this time every day and I will pray in these ways every day, and then actually do it.
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Christ’s Miracles and the Spiritual Works of Mercy: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 3, 2014 (Year A)

multiplication-of-loaves-and-fishes-c-ossemanWritten 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 and doctrine: Christ’s miracles announce the Kingdom of God. Practical application: The spiritual works of mercy.

To view Lectionary 112, click here.

Central idea: The Miracles of Christ announce the Kingdom of God

Reading 1 Is 55:1-3

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

  • Many times in Jewish history, especially in the time of distress in which Isaiah wrote, the Chosen people were overwhelmed, unsure if they would even survive.
  • We also, because of the constant drag of original sin, can often feel empty inside and worry that we will never have the good things we desire, never really have life.
  • God promises to satisfy our hunger and thirst for physical and spiritual goods. We want to have life and that is what he promises: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). These goods are a gift.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18

R/ The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

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.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

  • We have no need of other persons and we have no need of God: This is a fiction that can seem believable. Some think it is degrading to consider himself like a hungry child or a beggar whose eyes are on another to see if he will be given something.
  • It is a fiction that we are not in need, and it is not degrading to be needy. We really are interdependent when it comes to the natural world and other human beings. And we really are dependent when it comes to God. He created our bodies through our parents and created our souls directly at the moment of conception. He sustains us and everything in being in every moment.
  • It is good that God is just and kind so that we can call upon him with confidence.

Reading 2 Rom 8:35, 37-39

Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • We have just been promised that our physical needs for good food and drink will be met, but that is not good enough if we are constantly insecure, if everything can be taken away from us at any time, which is our condition in this life.
  • St. Paul claims that nothing can ultimately harm us. But what is more, this protection is founded in the greatest good: We will be joined to God in Christ in love.

Gospel Mt 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.

  • By the sign Jesus performed he showed that in the Messianic kingdom people would have their physical needs fulfilled. They ate and were satisfied for free. This showed Isaiah ’s prophecy was coming true.
  • At the time leading up to this miracle, Our Lord might have felt sad and needing to be alone with the Father, just having been told of the death of his cousin and friend and fellow worker John the Baptist. Whatever he felt, he did not permit these to stop him from having compassion on the crowd, curing their sick, and then feeding them with an abundance of loaves and fish.

Doctrine: The Miracles of Christ

  • Christ’s miracles are signs of the Kingdom of God, the way things will be when Christ reigns in our hearts and when he fully reigns in the world.
  • As we just saw, Jesus cured the sick the crowds had brought him and then fed them through the miracle of the loaves and fish.
  • Jesus’ preaching is accompanied by “mighty works and wonders and signs” which “manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah” (CCC 547). They “strengthen faith . . . [and] bear witness that he is the Son of God” (CCC 548).
  • Some people have thought to ask, why did not Christ perform a universal miracle and heal and feed and give eternal life to everyone then living and who would ever live? Some people assert that if he was all wise, all good, and all powerful he would have to do just that.
  • This is the answer the Catechism gives. By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness, and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage. (CCC 549)
    • It was, then, not Christ’s intention to end every evil.
    • It was not even Christ’s intention to abolish sin, but to free men from its slavery.
    • Does sin really thwart one’s vocation as a child of God? Yes. It is the only thing that can separate us from the love of Christ.
    • Is sin really the cause of every form of human bondage? Yes.

Practical application: The spiritual works of mercy

  • There are many signs that we children of God are supposed to perform with the help of the graces God blesses us with. One group of these are the spiritual works of mercy. As Fr. John Hardon points out, these are the “traditional seven forms of Christian charity in favor of the soul or spirit of one’s neighbor, in contrast with the corporal works of mercy that minister to people’s bodily needs.”
  • The seven are converting the sinner, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries, and praying for the living and the dead.
  • The needs of the body are important but objectively those of the soul are even more, because, as we have seen, sin is the gravest slavery.
  • It is good to think about your current situation, the people around you and their needs. That will reveal the opportunities you have to perform these works of mercy. There certainly are such opportunities in every person’s life.

 

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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.

[1] http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=34023

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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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