Mr. T. Meagher has written nearly 180 short, apologetic style articles, one for each Sunday of the Church’s 3 year calendar. Each article will explain a doctrine or teaching of the Church taken from the 1st or 2nd Reading or the Gospel and every article has been approved for truth and content by Dr. Robert Fastiggi, the Censor for the AOD.
If any doubt arises with regard to the teachings of the church, please email your bulletin editor, Pastor or Associate Pastor.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 – 29th Sunday Ordinary Time
St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, stands out as a model for intercessory prayer (1 Thes 1:2). Augustine was a wild young man and Monica persisted in showering the Lord with her petition and tears for her son’s conversion for 20 years. Monica was convinced that “her son of many tears would not perish.” Indeed he did not. Today St. Augustine is one of only 35 Doctors of the Church. Monica’s example is timeless because all of us have someone, perhaps a child, sibling or friend whose conversion or return to the Church we persistently pray for. Draw strength from St. Monica the next time you pray for that loved one and ask St. Monica to intercede on your behalf with our Heavenly Father. “Our heart was made for you, O Lord, and it will not rest until it rests in you” (St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 1).
Matthew 21:28-32 – 26th Sunday Ordinary Time
“The Great Schism – Eastern Orthodox Churches”
Paul appealed for unity (Phil 2:2), not anticipating “The Great Schism” which separated Rome (Catholic) and the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the 11th century. The reasons are complicated, the effects long-lasting, and major differences exist. The Orthodox only accept, as authoritative, the decrees of the first seven ecumenical councils, ending with the Council of Nicea in 787 AD. The Orthodox also reject the primacy of the Pope and his doctrinal pronouncements which means they reject the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. The Orthodox ordain married men to the priesthood, although their bishops must remain celibate. Pope John Paul II actively pursued uniting the East and West; “The Church of Christ is one. If divisions exist…they must be overcome” [Orientale Lumen, 20].
Matthew 18:21-35 – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time
Is limitless forgiveness humanly possible? In today’s Gospel Peter thinks seven times should be enough, but Jesus’ response, “seventy times seven” means “always” (Gen 4:24). As St. John Chrysostom wrote: “Our Lord did not limit forgiveness to a fixed number, but declared that it must be continuous and forever” (Hom. On St. Matthew, 6). Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). And forgiveness is a key ingredient in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” – we will be forgiven only to the extent that we forgive others. If we don’t forgive others God will not forgive us! “Force yourself…to forgive those who offend you, from the very first moment. For the greatest injury or offense that you can suffer from them is as nothing compared with what God has pardoned you” (The Way, 452, St. J. Escriva).
Matthew 14:22-33 – 19th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fear is a powerful human emotion, so powerful that it can drive human beings to extraordinary actions, from heroic rescues to basic cruelty. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks to the fear lurking in the hearts of his disciples: “It is I. Do not be afraid” (v 27). Their fear is transformed into faith and trust. Following his election the first words John Paul II spoke to the Church from his balcony in St. Peter’s Square were, “Do not be afraid.” He recognized that faith in God casts a new light on everything, even those things that cause us to fear. Faith allows us to see that only “perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment…We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:18-19). God’s perfect love for us is more powerful than fear, and for this we should rejoice!
Matthew 10:37-42 – 13th Sunday Ordinary Time
Today’s second reading speaks of the fullness of new life we receive at baptism. Jesus tells us that unless one is baptized he cannot enter heaven (Jn 3:3-5). Some argue this doesn’t include infants since one must profess faith in Jesus Christ to be baptized. But in Mark 5:23 Jesus healed the daughter of Jairus because of Jairus’ faith, not the faith of his daughter. (See Mt 8:5-13; 15:21-28; Lk 7:7). Just as parents are responsible for the physical welfare and educational development of their children, they are also entrusted with the spiritual well being of their children. Baptism replaced circumcision (Cor 2:11-12), and since it was infants who were usually circumcised the practice continued with baptism – nowhere in the Bible does it say only adults should be baptized! In Acts 10:48; Acts 16:15,33 and 1 Cor 1:16 we see the “household” being baptized. Can’t we logically presume “households” included infants and children? Jesus is clear, “no one” can enter heaven without being baptized – don’t wait to have your children baptized.
John 4:5-42 – 3rd Sunday of Lent – “The Sacrament of Marriage”
The Catholic Church, ever faithful to the Word of Christ, affirms that a valid, sacramental marriage between two baptized persons cannot be dissolved. Marriage is indissoluble (Mt 19:6). St. Paul tells us this command comes directly from Our Lord (1 Cor 7:10-11). Nor does the Church, following God’s Word, permit divorce and remarriage (Mt 9:2-12; Mk 10:2-12). By doing so, one enters a state of perpetual adultery and mortal sin. A baptized couple can “remarry” after divorce only if the Church finds that a valid sacramental marriage never existed in the first place (a decree of nullity; CCC 1629). These laws regarding marriage come from God, they cannot be wrong, unreasonable or too difficult to follow. Remember, God made marriage (Gen 1:27; 2:24), and what God made, God governs.
Matthew 17:1-9 – 2nd Sunday of Lent
“Transfiguration – Jesus and Me”
Six days earlier Jesus predicted His suffering and death to His disciples. Now, to encourage His three favorite disciples to follow the difficult road ahead, Jesus offers a foretaste of the kingdom with the manifestation of His own divine glory (CCC 554-556) in the Transfiguration. Christ’s “face became as dazzling as the sun and his clothes radiant as light” (v2), but before rising in glory Jesus traveled a path of rejection, suffering and death on the cross. The Transfiguration did not just happen to Jesus, it is something that happens to each of us every time we confront difficulties and hardships. At such moments we will be challenged to live our faith more deeply, realizing anew that salvation lies in love, trust and sacrifice.
1 Corinthians 3:16-23 – 7th Sunday Ordinary Time
“We Are Temples of the Holy Spirit”
In today’s second reading we are asked, “Do you know that you are God’s Temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (v 16). The dwelling of God in the hearts of the faithful is a central truth of faith. “God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God…God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 Jn 4:15-16). As temples of the Holy Spirit our bodies are sacred. Jesus said, “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:17). The Holy Spirit is the light that enables us to know the Son. As Paul said, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). Just as Jesus was led by the Spirit, so are we. Jesus is the way to the Father, and the Spirit is the way to Jesus. Every sin we commit against ourselves and our neighbor can by typed as a sacrilege that profanes the temple of God.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 – 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time
“The Church is One”
The First Council of Constantinople, 381 A.D., identified the Catholic Church as “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” (DS 150). These are known as the “marks” or traits of the Church. Oneness refers both to the uniqueness and unity of the Church. Christ’s Church is necessarily unique, for He founded just one Church (Mt 16:18), and Jesus intended His Church be united and undivided (Jn 10:16). Paul argued for this in today’s second reading (v 10). Christ’s Church is one in the faith its members believe and profess (Acts 4:32). There is unity of worship, all united to the one saving sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. All receive the same sacraments. There is also unity among the
“local churches” (or dioceses), each under its’ own bishop, but united in allegiance to the Pope, who is a sign of unity himself.
Feast of Christmas
“A Christmas Reflection”
Every circumstance surrounding the birth of Jesus has meaning. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which literally means, “House of Bread.” Imagine that, Jesus Christ, “the living bread come down from heaven” (Jn 6:51) who gives Himself to us in the Eucharist, was born in the “House of Bread!” Jesus was born amid shepherds because He was to be the “Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11). He was born in obscurity because He is the “hidden God” (Is 95:15). He was laid in a manger where cattle feed because he was to be the food of men. Our Lord came as a little child so that man might approach Him with more confidence and trust. He came in poverty and renunciation to teach us that the road to heaven is the way of suffering and self-conquest, not of pleasure and self-indulgence, and He is the friend of the poor to whom He is appointed to preach the Gospel (Lk 4:18). A light (star) appeared to the shepherds to remind us that the Light of the world is come (Jn 8:12), who is to shine in the midst of darkness (Jn 1:5). In many homes a Christmas tree is erected as a reminder of the tree of paradise and also the tree of the cross. The gifts of the three kings indicate the esteem they had for Jesus. St. Gregory the Great tells us the Magi returned to their homes by another way “to show us that if we wish to reach our true home in paradise we must forsake the path in which we have hitherto walked, and tread in the way of penance, obedience and self-control.”
Matthew 1:18-24 – 4th Sunday of Advent
“Angels” are envoys sent by heaven to convey God’s directives, as in today’s Gospel, to help and protect humanity (Gen 24:7, 48:16; Ps 33:8; Acts 12: 7-8,15), and to bring human petitions before God (Tob 12:12; Rev 8:2-4; Hebrews 1:14). The fact that angels exist is a defined truth of the Catholic Church that we are required to believe. There are a myriad of angels who are immortal, pure spirits with intelligence and free will, but Scripture only names three: Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. Angels do not intervene in human history, except on the occasion of special needs. The angels do not enjoy infinite power or the wisdom of God, and they cannot read the inner thoughts of men and women (Summa Theologiae, I, 57, 4 ad 3). “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession” (Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22 and many more) (CCC 328-336).
Matthew 11:2-11 – 3rd Sunday of Advent
“There is Still Time”
Today marks the halfway point in Advent. Have we done anything to deepen our relationship with Jesus and prepare ourselves for His coming? There is still time. Advent offers us the stillness that comes before birth but most of us cannot be still. Instead we are preoccupied with gifts, trees, lights and party planning. We allow Advent, the quiet season, to become the most frenetic time of the year. Without Advent it is difficult to find the Christmas Christ. Jesus will come this year as He came at the first Christmas, quietly and simply. Yet, just as at that first Christmas, many will miss Jesus this year. Take a few minutes each day to pray, attend Mass or read the Scriptures to prepare for Jesus. Through God’s Word we hear, believe in, and meet Christ (Romans 1:17). There is still time.
Luke 23:35-43 – 34th Sunday Ordinary Time (Feast of Christ the King)
“The Mystery of Death”
Luke 18:9-14 – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time
Throughout the Gospels we read about the Jewish Authorities, like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. But what do we know about them? The High Priest was the undisputed in Judaism, chosen from the descendants of Aaron. The High Priest served until death. Chief Priests refers to a priestly aristocracy in Jerusalem who served in positions of power over the Temple and its treasury. They actively opposed Jesus. The Scribes were scholars. They copied and compiled the traditions of Judaism. Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish court operating from the 4th century B.C. until 70 A.D. It consisted of 71 members made up of elders, high priests, and scribes. Elders were the wealthy nobles, respected for their wisdom. Nicodemus (Jn 3:1f) and Joseph of Arimathea (Mt 27:57) were elders. Pharisees belonged to a movement, but they did not hold positions of power. They usually represented the intellectuals focusing on the legal aspects of religion. They viewed Jesus as a threat. Before his conversion St. Paul was a Pharisee.
Luke 16:19-31 – 26th Sunday Ordinary Time
“The Reality of Hell”
Luke 15:1-32 – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Never Give Up”
A father arrives home to find his house ablaze with his three children trapped inside. He rushes into the house ignoring those telling him there’s no hope, and yet one by one he saves his children. Love does that. Love protects; love seeks out; love perseveres. Love risks personal harms for the good of the beloved. In today’s parables Jesus shows how our heavenly Father seeks out and saves the lost. God sent his only Son to the cross just so we might return home to him. Do you have a loved one, perhaps a child, who has left the Church? If so, take hope today. They are that lost coin or lost sheep and your Father in heaven is searching for them right now! ike that father rushing into the blazing house, God will stop at nothing to find your loved ones and bring them to safety. Your job is to pray for them and never lose hope, and know God won’t either.
Wisdom 9:13-18 – 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time
“Follow Your Conscience”
“For what man knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” (Wis 9:13f). It is Christ who makes the will of God known to us. “Everyone of us is bound to obey his conscience” (Dignitatis humanae, 11), however we are duty bound to form our conscienceaccording to the teaching of Christ and His Church, which is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). “In forming their consciences the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church…the teacher of truth” (Declaration of Religious Freedom, 14). “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful” [CCC 1783]. Thus a Christian has the responsibility to form his conscience in accord with truth and in the light of faith.
Luke 13:22-30 – 21st Sunday Ordinary Time
“Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen”
How many people who lived on this earth will reach Heaven? Half? A third? Maybe a quarter? Jesus tells us, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 20:16). Jesus says, “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt 7:14). Notice Jesus said few even find the path. And then in today’s Gospel we are told that of those who do find the path “many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13:24). The task is difficult, but with God’s grace, the Sacraments and persistent prayer, and as members of the holy Church established by Christ, “we can do all things in Him who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13).
Luke 12:32-48 – 19th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Judgment, Particular and General”
In today’s Gospel we are once again warned to be watchful. Immediately after death everyone will undergo a “Particular Judgment” [CCC 1021-1022]. “Just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). There will also be a “General Judgment” after the resurrection of the dead which will reaffirm the Particular Judgment for those who died before the end of the world and will serve as first and final judgment for those living at the end. The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) states: “God decreed that there should be a General Judgment in addition to the Particular Judgment to show forth His own glory, as well as that of Christ and of the just; also to put the wicked to shame and that man might receive, both in body and soul, sentence of reward or punishment in the presence of all.”
Colossians 1:24-28 – 16th Sunday Ordinary Time
“The Captivity Epistles”
St. Paul was a prolific writer. He is attributed with writing fourteen of the twenty-one letters in the New Testament (excluding the Gospels). From very early in Church history four of St. Paul’s letters – Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon and Colossians (from which today’s second reading comes), were known as the “Captivity Epistles” because they were written while Paul was in prison. Given that St. Paul was imprisoned in Ephesus, Caesarea and Rome no one is sure whether these letters were all written from the same place. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is addressed to a congregation at Colossae in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor. Paul had not visited there, but he wrote out of concern that the Colossians were being pressured to adopt false doctrines. Paul commended the community as a whole, expressed his prayerful concern for them, and assured the Colossians that Christ possesses the sum total of redemptive power.
Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20 – 14th Sunday Ordinary Time
“How To Evangelize”
In today’s Gospel Jesus sends out disciples to evangelize. In exactly the same way Christ wants us to evangelize the world today. The world will listen if we are credible witnesses who radiate the glory and grace of God. To reach hearts with Christ’s Gospel we must know the Lord personally and deeply, and testify to what we have experienced deep within. We must evangelize with humility, self-knowledge, and Christ’s genuine care and concern for our neighbor, with no hidden agenda, self-seeking, or desire for personal gain. We must not start with a desire to prove a point based on our convictions, but with the needs, convictions, questions, and doubts of those we wish to reach. And regardless of how anxious we may feel, we must be patient, remembering in love that reaching out and sharing Jesus Christ’s good news of salvation takes time. We are instruments of God’s peace, but God is in charge. Let God be God.
Luke 9:51-62 – 13th Sunday Ordinary Time
“The Son of Man”
In today’s Gospel Jesus is referred to by the title of “the Son of Man” (v58). “The Son of Man” is one of the expressions used in the Old Testament to refer to the Messiah. It first appeared in Daniel 7:14 and was used in Jewish writings during the time of Jesus. Until our Lord began to preach, it had not been understood in all its depth. The title “the Son of Man” did not fit in very well with Jewish hopes of an earthly Messiah; this is why it was Jesus’ favorite way of indicating He was the Messiah – thereby avoiding any tendency to encourage Jewish nationalism. After the Resurrection the Apostles finally realized that “the Son of Man” meant nothing less than “the Son of God.” The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the son of man; so that man…might become a son of God” [CCC 460].
Luke 9:18-24 – 12th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Share in the Suffering of Christ’s Cross”
In today’s Gospel Jesus invites us to take up our cross and follow Him (v23). By refusing this invitation we turn our backs on the redemptive work that Jesus paid for with His life! If we are to imitate Christ we must glory in the Cross, which was His path to glory. By willingly accepting our daily difficulties and sufferings with love we come into great familiarity with the Cross, and that Cross conforms us to Jesus and makes us more like Him. When crosses enter your life don’t complain so much that you forget to seek God’s help. “God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13). Rejoice and embrace your crosses knowing that you are participating in the Cross of Christ out of love for Him.
Luke 7:36-8:3 – 11th Sunday Ordinary Time
There can be no forgiveness of sin if we do not have sorrow, that is, if we do not regret our sin, resolve not to repeat it, and turn back to God. Three acts are required of the penitent for forgiveness of sins: contrition, confession and satisfaction. “Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place” [CCC 1451]. Contrition can be either ‘perfect’ or ‘imperfect.’ Contrition is called “perfect contrition” if the motive of sorrow is true love for God and perfect hatred for sin. Perfect contrition “arises from a love by which God is loved above all else” [CCC 1452]. The sinful woman in today’s Gospel demonstrated perfect contrition for her sins. “Imperfect contrition,” that is imperfect sorrow for sin arises from some other motive, for example the fear of eternal damnation. Both perfect and imperfect contrition are gifts from God, as are all graces, since man can do no good for salvation without help from God.
Luke 7:11-17 – 10th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Returning To A Life Of Grace”
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus filled with compassion. This mother’s joy on being given back her son reminds us of the joy of our Mother the Church when her sinful children return to a life of grace. This story so touched St. Augustine that he commented on it in Sermon (98, 2). “The widowed mother rejoiced at the raising of that young man. Our Mother the Church rejoices every day when people are raised again in spirit. The young man had been dead physically; the latter, dead spiritually. The young man’s death was mourned visibly; the death of the latter was invisible and unmourned. He seeks them out who knew them to be dead; only he can bring them back to life.” Augustine understood the healing grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and its eternal benefits. How often do you visit the Physician of Life to be healed?
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
“Institution of the Holy Eucharist”
How would Paul have known about the Last Supper in today’s second reading? Paul tells us in verse 23: “For I received from the Lord…” Paul received his knowledge about the Institution of the Eucharist directly from Our Lord! Even though we see no change in the bread or wine after the words of consecration are spoken by the priest, our Faith reveals to us that the substances of bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Jesus. A change-over of substance occurs, a transubstantiation. We know this because Jesus said, “This is My body” and “This is My blood”. Jesus declares the “This,” the objects in Jesus’ hand, the substances of bread and wine, become identical with His Body and Blood, a fact that could not possibly be true unless a change of substance took place. Who are we to doubt Jesus Christ?
John 20:19-23 – Pentecost
“Sacrament of Reconciliation”
The Church has dogmatically defined that the normal means for forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, in particular mortal sins, is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). However, the power to forgive sins does not come only from Christ, for Jesus received it from His Father. Jesus told the apostles; “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). The apostles were to forgive sins just as Jesus did. How do we know this? Read the very next verse: “Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them, who sins youretain they are retained” (v22-23). How would the apostles know which sins to forgive or retain unless the sinner first confessed his sins? By these words Jesus expressly passed on His power to forgive sins to His apostles and their successors, the future caretakers of the Church. Some may find it uncomfortable or difficult to go to Confession, but our task is to obey God, not question His ways. Going to Confession reconciles us with God and the Church, restores us to God’s grace, and gives us peace and serenity of conscience.
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 – 6th Sunday of Easter
“Ecumenical Councils and Infallibility”
The Council of Jerusalem (today’s first reading) foreshadowed the Church’s Ecumenical Councils. These Councils are solemn assemblies of the world’s bishops, called together by the Pope, under his authority to discuss and regulate Church doctrine, discipline and pastoral matters as needed. The bishops, under the Pope, form the Magisterium or Teaching Office of the Church, which can be exercised infallibly in three ways. First, the “Extraordinary Magisterium” where the Pope defines doctrine “ex cathedra” (“from the chair”). Second is the Extraordinary Universal Magisterium, when the bishops, in communion with the Pope, define a matter of faith and morals at an ecumenical council. Third is the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, when the bishops, in communion with the Pope – even though they are dispersed throughout the world – manifest agreement on one position concerning faith and morals to be held definitively (Lumen Gentium, 25, and the CCC, 891). The term ‘infallibility’ is often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean perfection, sinlessness or omniscience. Infallibility simply means that the Holy Spirit prevents or protects the Magisterium of the Church from solemnly teaching error. The early Christians knew the Church was “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) because whoever heard the Church heard Christ(Lk 10:16), and Jesus Christ cannot teach error.
John 10:27-30– 4th Sunday of Easter
“The Divinity of Jesus”
In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals that He and the Father are one in substance: “I and the Father are one” (v30). In 318 AD the heresy of Arianism, led by an Alexandrian priest named Arius, denied the truth of Christ’s divinity and that He is the eternal Son of God. Arius believed Jesus was a creature and there are not three eternal distinct persons in God. For him, only one person, the Father, is truly God and eternal. Arius acknowledged the three divine persons, but the Son and the Spirit were subordinate to the Father. Arius acknowledged the Son as “divine”, but only in a subordinate sense. For him, only the Father was truly and fully God. At the Council of Nicea the Church further developed its Creed which declared, in opposition to the Arian view that Jesus is a creature, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made…” At Nicea the Church adopted the term “homoousios” (“One in Being with the Father”) to express the co-equality and co-eternity of the Son with the First Person of the Trinity.
John 20:1-9E – Easter Sunday
“Resurrection of Jesus”
Jesus rose on the third day “in fulfillment of the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:4). These words recall for us a theme stressed in the New Testament. The rising of Jesus was not merely a happy incident, nor was it simply a dramatic way of signifying Christ’s divine authority. No, it was an event predestined from all eternity. The New Testament recalls prophetic statements concerning the resurrection to show us the significance of this work in God’s plan of salvation. In raising Christ from the dead, the Father began to give the great gifts that good people had so long hoped for. The resurrection is the final sign of Christ’s mission, a sign that perfects the entire revelation of merciful love in a world that is subject to evil. At the same time it constitutes the sign that foretells ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1), when God ‘will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there will be no more death, or mourning, no crying or pain, for the former things have passed away’ (Rev 21:4).
Luke 22:14-23,56 Palm Sunday
“The Real Presence”
Very early in Church history the Church Fathers were unanimous–Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. How could anyone, after more than 1,500 years, doubt this belief or question those Church Fathers, but that’s what happened following the Protestant Reformation. St. Ignatius was taught by the apostle St. John who walked with Jesus for three years. St. Ignatius wrote: “I have no taste for corruptible food…I desire the bread of God which is the flesh of Jesus Christ…and for drink I desire his blood…” (Letter to the Romans, 7:3; 110 AD).In Homilies on Numbers, 7:2 (248 AD) Origen wrote “…now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.’” And St. Cyril in 350 AD wrote: “…the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ” (Catechetical Lectures, 19:7)
John 8:1-11 – 5th Sunday of Lent
“The Role of Women”
In his Gospel St. John seems to take great care to show that women are not inferior to men in the Christian community. This is evident in a few of his narratives. For example, Jesus demonstrates this with the woman at the well who is depicted as a prototype of a missionary (Jn 4:4-42), and Mary of Magdala who was the first witness to the resurrection (Jn 20:11-18). This was a radical change since the Jews regarded Samaritan women as ritually impure. The role of women in the Church today leaves some disappointed, but the following story, written anonymously, shows the truly unique and awe-inspiring role of women: “The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral – she need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral – a dwelling for an immortal soul, the time perfection of her baby’s body. Not even the angels have been blessed with such grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation. What on God’s earth is more glorious than to be a mother?”
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 – 4th Sunday of Lent
“Our Father’s Infinite Mercy”
Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel manifests God’s mercy – He receives sinners in order to convert them. “Although the word ‘mercy’ does not appear, this parable nevertheless expresses the essence of the divine mercy in a particular way” (Dives in Misericordia, 5, Pope John Paul II). In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus describes the infinite, fatherly mercy of God and his joy at the conversion of a single sinner. So much does God desire the conversion of sinners that this parable ends with great joy over one sinner who repents. “Human life is in some way a constant returning to our Father’s house. We return to our Father’s house by means of that sacrament of pardon in which, by confessing our sins, we put on Jesus Christ again and become his brothers, members of God’s family” (Christ is Passing By, 64, St. Jose Escriva).
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 – 3rd Sunday of Lent
“Once Saved – Always Saved”
In today’s second reading St. Paul warns the Corinthians that no one’s eternal salvation is secure (v12). Even today some believe that by accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior they are guaranteed eternal salvation and nothing they do after that can cause them to lose their salvation. This belief, sometimes called “Eternal Security” or “Once Saved – Always Saved” was never believed by the Church and is not supported by Scripture. In fact St. Paul teaches the opposite: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). And again, “I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27). This does not sound like a man who believes he cannot lose his salvation! The Catholic Church teaches we must cooperate with God’s grace and if we persevere in faithfulness to God we shall be saved.
1 Corinthians 12:12-30 – 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time
“The Communion of Saints”
The doctrine of the “Communion of Saints” refers to the exchange of the graces and blessings between individuals here on earth, (the Church Militant), the saints in heaven, (the Church Trimphant), and the souls in purgatory, (the Church Suffering). In today’s second reading Paul describes this mutual dependence required of Christians living in union with one another. The Church has always taught this. Pope Paul VI referred to this dogma of faith when he wrote: “We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, whether these still make their pilgrim way on earth, whether, their life over, they undergo purification or then enjoy the happiness of heaven. One and all they go to form the one Church” (Creed of the People of God, 30). Through the Church we are incorporated into one Christ, and He communicates His life to each of us through each of us to others.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 – 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time
“Gifts of the Holy Spirit”
In today’s second reading St. Paul gives us a list of special gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it can be difficult to identify exactly what each gift involves. What is clear is that the action of the Holy Spirit is enormously fruitful. The Holy Spirit is Himself the gift (Jn 14:26f), the source of all comfort and grace, proceeding from the Father and the Son. There are seven gifts known most commonly as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: “wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord” [Is 11:1-2; CCC 1831]. These gifts are infused into the heart of every baptized person, every member of Christ. We need them all, for as we grow in holiness the influence of these gifts increases. By these gifts “the soul is furnished and strengthened to be able to obey God’s voice” (On the Holy Spirit, Pope Leo XIII). Take the time to study more about these gifts.
Matthew 2:1-12 – Epiphany
“Holy Days of Obligation”
The first precept of the Church requires that all Catholics participate in and “attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation…” [CCC 2042]. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1246.1, there are ten holy days of obligation, but Canon 1246.2 says: “The conference of bishops can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See.” The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops have suppressed the solemn feasts of St. Joseph (March 19) and Saints Peter and Paul (June 29) as holy days of obligation in the United States. As a result there are eight holy days of obligation that we must observe in the USA. Epiphany, which we celebrate today, and the Feast of Christ’s Body and Blood are holy days celebrated on their nearest Sunday. The other six are Christmas (December 25); Ascension Thursday; Mary’s Immaculate Conception (December 8); Mary, the Mother of God (January 1); Assumption of Mary (August 15); and All Saints Day (November 1). Any baptized Catholic over the age of reason who fails in this obligation and deliberately chooses not to attend Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day commits a mortal sin unless excused for a serious reason or is dispensed by his or her own pastor [CCC 2181, Canon 1245].
Philippians 4:4-7 – 3rd Sunday of Advent
“Find Time for Prayer”
In today’s second reading Paul suggests that we have a constant dialogue with God in prayer. Far too many find prayer worthless. There are those who say God already knows what we need and others who see prayer as selfishness. Still others are too lazy or distracted to find a few minutes each day to pray to God. Prayer is certainly not worthless, it merits graces from God and brings spiritual refreshment of the mind [Summa Theologica II. 83,13]. Nor is prayer selfish if one prays properly, with humble submission to God’s will. The traditional Catholic definition of prayer is “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” In The Sayings of the Fathers, a collection of sayings of 4th or 5th century Egyptian monks, Father Agatho gave us priceless advice: “We need to pray till we breathe out our dying breath.”
Luke 3:1-6 –2nd Sunday of Advent
“What is a Sacrament?”
Sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace (Council of Trent, DS 1601-1608). The Church has seven sacraments. In addition to Baptism, which is proclaimed in today’s Gospel, there is Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance (or Reconciliation), Sacrament of the Sick and Dying, Holy Orders and Matrimony [CCC 1210]. For the valid administration of a sacrament five elements are required: 1) form, 2) matter, 3) subject, 4) minister, and 5) the proper intention of the minister. The form, or formula, refers to the words spoken as the sacrament is administered. The matter refers to the materials used, (i.e., bread and wine, water, oil, etc.), long with accompanying gestures. The subject is the recipient and the minister is the one who validly administers the sacrament. The minister (priest) is a representative of Jesus Christ, therefore he must have the proper intention of administering the sacrament and of doing what the Catholic Church does. The minister is duty bound to humble himself and adapt his will to the will of Christ Who gives him his mandate. The principal effect of each sacrament is grace, for it is grace alone that sanctifies. “Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify” [CCC 1127].
John 18:33-37 – 34th Sunday Ordinary Time (Feast of Christ the King)
Jesus Christ came into this world “to testify to the truth” (Jn 18:37). We are called to do no less. Lying is wrong, it is the most direct offense against the truth and it is forbidden by the Eighth Commandment (Exod 20:16; Duet 5:20). Jesus denounced lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil…there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44; CCC2482). Lying is communication of information that is contrary to what is in one’s mind. St. Paul wrote: “Do not lie to one another” for you “have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourself with the new self…” (Col 3:9-10). Again St. Paul wrote: “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors” (Eph 4:24-25). To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error [CCC 2483]. In all situations, Christians must strive to be trustworthy and honest.
Mark 10:2-16 – 27th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Sacrament of Matrimony”
The Sacrament of Matrimony was established by God: “A man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh” (Mk 10:8). A matrimonial contract is made for life and is entered into by a free and deliberate act of the will. This Sacrament gives special grace to those who receive it enabling them to bear the difficulties of their state, to love and be faithful to one another and to raise children in the fear of God. Many disagree because the Catholic Church does not permit divorce and remarriage, but these are God’s laws (Mk 10:9-12; Lk 16:18), not man’s. To violate God’s laws can only result in injury to those whom God intended to benefit from His laws. Today, more than 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Those who divorce and remarry outside the Church are not permitted to receive Eucharistic communion unless they go to Confession and commit to complete continence [CCC 1650]. We must remember that marriage is a holy, sacramental state established by God and we should pray for those considering marriage or experiencing difficulties in their present marriages.
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 – 26th Sunday Ordinary Time
Hell is not a popular topic, but it is a reality. Jesus spoke forcefully in today’s Gospel describing “hell, where the worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched” (v48) and where “…there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 13:49-50). Some deny the existence of hell by rationalizing that a merciful God could never send His children to hell. But refusing to believe in hell is refusing to take God seriously. “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity” [CCC 1035]. God predestines no one to hell [CCC 1037]. Those who go to hell only do so because they choose to go; they have never asked for mercy, and they never will. To be separated from God, the source of all love and happiness, will be the greatest pain in hell. Our Lord makes it clear that condemnation to hell is the greatest of all misfortunes: “It is better for him, if that man had not been born” (Mt 26:24). We should think often of hell and its reality, go to confession regularly and pray an Act of Contrition daily while always remaining in a state of grace.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time
Did Jesus Condemn Tradition?”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus condemns a tradition that violates the word of God. The Fourth Commandment directs people to honor and care for their parents. To avoid doing this the Pharisees declared their property and money “Corban”, which means they are dedicated to God and cannot be used for parental support. Thus, Jesus condemns this “tradition of man” because it is a custom or discipline that nullifies God’s commandment. But Sacred Tradition should not be confused with mere traditions of men. Sacred Tradition preserves doctrines first taught by Jesus to the Apostles who passed them down to us through the Church. Sacred Tradition is opposed by many non-Catholic Christians who believe all doctrine is in the Bible and that Tradition is not necessary. But that is not what the Bible teaches: “Mstand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2 Thess 2:15; also 1 Cor 11:2).
John 6:60-69 – 21st Sunday Ordinary Time
“Bread of Life Discourse”, Part 4
As the “Bread of Life Discourse” concludes, many of Jesus’ disciples who heard Him say “eat my flesh and drink my blood” are now saying “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v60). As a result, many of the disciples left Jesus (v66). If the disciples had interpreted Jesus’ words in a symbolic sense it would not have been a ‘hard saying’. No, they knew Jesus was speaking literally and they left because they did not believe! (v64). Jesus did not say, “Wait, come back, I’m sorry – you misunderstood me.” Nor did Jesus say the bread and wine would ‘symbolize’ His flesh and blood. If that is what He meant He would have used one of more than two dozen Aramaic words that meant ‘represents’ or ‘symbolizes’. Twelve times Jesus said He was “the bread from heaven”; four times He said “eat My flesh and drink My blood”. Jesus meant exactly what He said, and he fulfilled this promise the night before He died at the Last Supper when Jesus said “Take and eat, this is My body…this is My blood” (Mt 26:26-28).
John 6:51-58 – 20th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Bread of Life Discourse”, Part 3
Week 3 of the “Bread of Life Discourse” finds the Jews asking, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v52). They understand Jesus literally. Knowing they were having trouble with the idea of ‘eating flesh’ Jesus could have corrected any misunderstanding – but He didn’t. Instead, Jesus intensified His words: “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him” (v53-56). Four times in four verses Jesus says we must eat His “flesh” and drink His “blood”. Could He have been more emphatic? The most important effect of the Blessed Eucharist is intimate union with Jesus. No wonder Jesus was so insistent in His words, He wants us to share in His divine nature (2 Pet 1:4).
John 6:41-51 – 19th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Bread of Life Discourse”, Part 2
Week 2 of the “Bread of Life Discourse” finds the Jews confused because Jesus said He is the “Bread that came down from heaven” (v41). Jesus requires belief for eternal life (v47) as He repeats His solemn declaration for those doubters in the crowd: “I am the bread of life” (v48). Christ’s words are too descriptive to be taken symbolically. If Jesus were not truly present under the species of bread and wine this discourse would make no sense. If there were any doubts the last words of today’s Gospel should have erased them: “…the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v51). “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life” [CCC 1324]. As Catholics we are obligated to believe that the bread and wine are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ at Mass. Why? Simple, because Jesus said so!
John 6:24-35 – 18th Sunday Ordinary Time
“Bread of Life Discourse” Part 1
Today’s Gospel begins the “Bread of Life” discourse that will last for the next four weeks. John 6 is the most important Scriptural reference for the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence of the Eucharist, a teaching every Catholic should know, love and understand. As today’s passage opens, Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and fish. The next day, Jesus begins to make the transition from physical food to spiritual food. He tells the people not to labor for food which perishes (v27), then Jesus reminds them (and us), of the need to believe in the one whom the Father sent (v29). The people then asked Jesus for a sign, like the manna which they knew symbolized messianic blessing. They didn’t know the manna was a prefiguring of the greatest messianic gift, the Blessed Eucharist. Jesus then contrasted ordinary bread with a bread which contains eternal life for those who eat it. In the last verse of this passage (v35) the emphasis shifts to the bread from heaven that Jesus not only gives, but actually is.
Ephesians 2:13-18 – 16th Sunday Ordinary Time
“The Working of the Holy Spirit”
In today’s second reading we see the part played by the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation. Prior to Christ’s coming, mankind was excluded from heaven, the gates of heaven were closed. The words “in one Spirit” (v18), besides identifying the access route to the Father, implies two additional facts. First, the mysterious union which binds all Christians together is caused by the action of the Holy Spirit who acts in them. Second, this same Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son because all three share the same divine nature, always present and continually active, yet distinct. In the 3rd century St. Irenaeus wrote “…where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and the fullness of grace” (Against Heresies, III, 24). St. Augustine called the Holy Spirit the “soul” of the Church (Sermo, 267, 4).