Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle A December 22, 2019

First Reading
Isaiah 7:10-14
Ahaz proclaims the sign that the Lord will give: a virgin shall give birth to a son, Emmanuel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 24:1-2,3-4,5-6

The Lord is the King of Glory who established the earth.

Second Reading
Romans 1:1-7
Paul greets the community at Rome and declares himself a servant of Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:18-24

An angel appears to Joseph, directing him to take Mary as his wife and telling him that the child she will bear will be called Emmanuel.

Gospel MT 1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Finally, on this the Fourth Sunday of Advent, our Gospel Reading permits us to begin our contemplation of the mystery of the Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas: “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Matthew 1:18).

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective. Today’s Gospel passage is the second movement in this story. In the preceding verses of the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, the Evangelist has listed the genealogy of Jesus, tracing his lineage through King David to Abraham. In the chapter to follow, Matthew tells of the visit from the Magi, the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, and Herod’s massacre of the infants in Bethlehem. (The other stories which we associate with Christmas, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the angel and the shepherds, are found in the Gospel of Luke).

We must not gloss over too quickly the difficult circumstances described in today’s Gospel. The way that Joseph and Mary face these circumstances tells us much about these holy people and their faith in God. Joseph and Mary are betrothed to be married. This is sometimes described as an engagement period, but it is more than that. Betrothal in first century Jewish culture was in fact the first part of the marriage contract. A breach of this contract was considered adultery. Mary is found to be with child. If adultery is proven, the punishment might be death. Joseph has rights under Mosaic law, but chooses to act discreetly in his plans to break the marriage contract, so as to protect Mary. Then God intervenes.

The message of the angel of the Lord given to Joseph in his dream tells us much about the child that Mary bears and his role in God’s plan. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit. His name will be Jesus, which in the Hebrew means “Yahweh saves.” He will be the fulfillment of the prophecy heard in today’s first reading from Isaiah: “. . . The virgin shall be with child . . . and shall name him Emmanuel [God with us].”

Joseph does as the angel of the Lord directs. He takes Mary to be his wife and accepts the child in her womb as his own. Joseph and Mary are both cooperative with God’s plan. They are both models for us of what it means to be faithful servants of God.

Family Connection

Joseph and Mary are our models for family life and for service of God. Even when the circumstances seemed unclear, Joseph trusted God. Healthy family life is built upon trust, trust in God and trust of one another.

Spend some time talking as a family about the importance of trust in your family life, including the ways in which the children trust the adults in the family as well as the ways in which the adults trust the children. Then read today’s Gospel. Talk about Joseph’s trust of God and reflect together on how your family trusts in God.

Pray together that your family life will be built on trust, as was the family life of Joseph and Mary. Pray and sing together an Advent song, such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle A December 15, 2019

First Reading
Isaiah 35:1-6,10
In the day of the Lord, all sorrow and mourning will cease.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 146:6-7,8-9,9-10
The Lord will save his people.

Second Reading
James 5:7-10
Be patient, and be ready; the coming of the Lord is near.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 11:2-11
Jesus tells John the Baptist of the signs of the kingdom that are being worked through him and praises John as more than a prophet.


Gospel  MT 11:2-11
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,

he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Background on the Gospel Reading
The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete SundayGaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of a purple candle. This Sunday is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.

This week’s Gospel Reading continues our Advent reflection on the person and message of John the Baptist. Last week we heard John speak about his relationship to the coming Messiah, Jesus. This week, we hear Jesus’ message to John the Baptist, now in prison, about the signs of the kingdom found in Jesus’ ministry and Jesus’ assessment of John’s role in the Kingdom of God.

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of John’s arrest in chapter 14:3-12. In today’s Gospel, John sends word to Jesus from prison, asking if Jesus is the Messiah for whom he has been waiting. Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that he has worked and invites John and the other hearers to make their own determination. In his next breath, however, Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus. Then Jesus says that all of those who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John and even greater.

Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This passage is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already mysteriously present to us, but also yet to be fulfilled. Salvation is already in our midst as manifest in the miraculous deeds of Jesus and in the Church. But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God. Even as we observe our world today, we can find glimpses of God’s work among us. Even more, we help to prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our words and our deeds. This message is indeed a cause for rejoicing.


Family Connection
It is easy to look at our world and become discouraged by the apparent absence of God and signs of God’s salvation. Advent, however, is a season of hope, in which we acknowledge that salvation is both mysteriously present, even in our world, and yet to be fulfilled.


Read together today’s Gospel. Think about John’s question to Jesus: Are you the One? Jesus does not answer directly, but points to the signs of the kingdom present in his midst.

Together as a family, look through the newspaper for signs of hope that God is at work in our world. Pray that the world will know God’s salvation by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.


Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A December 8, 2019

First Reading
Isaiah 11:1-10

A descendent of Jesse will usher in a time of peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17
The Messiah will bring justice and peace to the nations.

Second Reading
Romans 15:4-9
Both Jews and Gentiles glorify God for the salvation found in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appears in Judea preaching a message of repentance.

Gospel MT 3:1-12

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

In this week’s Gospel Reading and next week’s, our Advent preparation for Christmas invites us to consider John the Baptist and his relationship to Jesus. In this week’s Gospel, Matthew describes the work and preaching of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist appears in the tradition of the great prophets of Israel, preaching repentance and reform to the people of Israel. In fact, the description of John found in this reading is reminiscent of the description of the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). In this reading, John directs a particularly pointed call to repentance to the Pharisees and Sadducees, parties within the Jewish community of the first century.

John marks the conversion of those who seek him out with a baptism of repentance. Other groups in this period are thought to have practiced ritual washings for similar purposes, and John’s baptism may have been related to the practices of the Essenes, a Jewish sect of the first century. John’s baptism can be understood as an anticipation of Christian baptism. In this passage, John himself alludes to the difference between his baptism and the one yet to come: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11).

In this reading, John makes very clear that his relationship to the Messiah yet to come (Jesus) is one of service and subservience: “. . . the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals” (Matthew 3:11). In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, today’s passage is followed by Jesus’ baptism by John, an event that is attested to in all four of the Gospels and appears to have been the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

John’s preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of the Advent season. As John’s message prepared the way for Jesus in the first century, we, too, are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming. We respond to John’s message by our repentance and reform of our lives. We are also called to be prophets of Christ, who announce by our lives, as John did, the coming of the Lord.


Family Connection

We do many things to get ourselves ready for our celebration of Christmas: purchase gifts, prepare Christmas cards, decorate our homes. John’s call of repentance in preparation for Jesus reminds us that our repentance is another way in which we can prepare for the Lord’s coming and our celebration of Christmas. Parish communities often offer a communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Advent season. Your family might choose to participate in the communal celebration of the sacrament, or you might seek out the sacrament on an individual basis.

Read together today’s Gospel. Talk about how John reminds the people that they prepare for the reign of God by reforming their lives. As a family, prepare a simple reconciliation service in preparation for Christmas such as the following: Gather in a prayerful space, perhaps around your family Advent wreath. Read again today’s Gospel: Matthew 3:1-3. Invite each family member to pray silently, asking God to forgive their sins. Pray together an Act of Contrition. Then celebrate God’s forgiveness by sharing a Sign of Peace with each other.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

First Sunday of Advent, Cycle A December 1, 2019

First Reading
Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah describes his vision in which all nations are gathered together by God in peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 122:1-2,3-4,4-5,6-7,8-9

Rejoicing, let us enter the house of the Lord.

Second Reading
Romans 13:11-14

Be prepared, salvation is near.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 24:37-44

Jesus tells his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man will catch many people unprepared. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to always be ready for the day of the Lord.

Gospel MT 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. The Advent season includes the four Sundays that precede Christmas. It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. In this season, we recall two central elements of our faith: the final coming of the Lord in glory and the incarnation of the Lord in the birth of Jesus. Key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, preparation, and justice.

In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Matthew will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (Lectionary Cycle A). In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the need for wakefulness, for watchful waiting, for the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew’s Gospel is dated by most scholars after 70 A.D. Most believe that Matthew wrote for a primarily Jewish community, but one that was no longer centered on the Temple in Jerusalem. These were Jewish Christians trying to come to terms with their relationship to Judaism in a new situation: Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. There may have been Christians who believed that the events of the world around them gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord in glory.

The passage from Matthew we read today is rather straightforward. No one knows the precise time of the coming of the Lord in glory, so watchful waiting and vigilance are required. The passage speaks to the uselessness of looking for signs; there will be none. As a thief sneaks in during the night, so will the Lord’s coming in glory be.

The question for us as members of the Christian community, then, is how do we prepare for this? Today’s passage speaks more about the manner of waiting, rather than the details of the preparation. Jesus compares the vigilance required of Christians to the vigilance of a homeowner who knows the plans of the thief. If one knows that the thief’s action is imminent, one remains watchful. As Christians, we know that our Lord is coming even if we cannot know the precise timing. Jesus calls us to be watchful and vigilant, like the homeowner. If we become lax in our Christian living, we may be caught unprepared.

Family Connection

Many of us feel the pressure early in the holiday season to be ready for Christmas. But today’s Gospel challenges us to be ready for something other than the gift-giving of Christmas.

Read together today’s Gospel reading. As a family, talk about what it means to be ready for the day of the Lord. One of the roles of the family, the domestic church, is to be a school of faith leading one another to salvation. Reflect together as a family on how your family helps one another to be better Christians. Commit to one thing that your family will do this Advent season to help one another be better Christians. You might choose to write this commitment down and post it in a prominent place in your home, perhaps near your family’s Advent wreath.

Pray together that God will help you in this Advent commitment. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer or today’s Psalm.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe November 24, 2019

First Reading
2 Samuel 5:1-3
David is anointed king.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 122:1-2,3-4,4-5
Enter the house of the Lord rejoicing.

Second Reading
Colossians 1:12-20
Hymn to Jesus as the first-born of all creation.

Gospel Reading
Luke 23:35-43
Jesus is crucified under the title King of the Jews.

Gospel LK 23:35-43

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today as a Church, we conclude our liturgical year and celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The Gospel we proclaim shows the great mystery of our faith: In the moment of his crucifixion, Jesus is shown to be King and Savior of all.

Luke’s Gospel has been loaded with surprises: the poor are rich, sinners find salvation, the Kingdom of God is found in our midst. Here we see the greatest surprise of all. We are confronted with the crucified Jesus, whom faith tells us is King and Savior of all. The irony is that the inscription placed on the cross, perhaps in mockery, contains the profoundest of truth. As the leaders jeer, the thief crucified by his side recognizes Jesus as Messiah and King, and finds salvation.

Jesus is King, but not the kind of king we might have imagined or expected. His kingship was hidden from many of his contemporaries, but those who had the eyes of faith were able to see. As modern disciples of Jesus, we, too, struggle at times to recognize Jesus as King. Today’s Gospel invites us to make our own judgment. With eyes of faith, we, too, recognize that Jesus, the crucified One, is indeed King and Savior of all.

Family Connection

Understanding today’s Feast of Christ the King may be particularly challenging. While we may not have a direct experience of kings or royalty, we have some sense of what these mean. We know that royalty have sovereignty over their kingdom. We know that those who are subjects to royalty offer them allegiance and honor. Christ is King in a way that is different from traditional understandings of royalty. Christ’s kingship extends to all places, all people, and all times. Christ manifests his kingship through his death on the Cross, in which he offers salvation to all.

Recall with your children stories that you may have read about royalty. Talk with your children about what they have learned from these stories about what it means to be a king. Talk about what they have learned from these stories about what it means to be a subject.

Tell your children that this Sunday is the last Sunday in the Church Year, and on this Sunday, we celebrate a special feast called the Feast of Christ the King. Read today’s Gospel, Luke 23:35-43. Reflect together on how the various people in this Gospel respond to Jesus on the Cross. Who in this Gospel recognizes Jesus as King? (the thief) What does Jesus promise the thief as a result? (The thief will be with Jesus in paradise.)

Talk about how your family will recognize and honor Christ the King. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer and ask God to help your family to act in ways that show you recognize and honor Christ as King.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C November 17, 2019

First Reading
Malachi 3:19-20
The day of justice is coming, says the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 98:5-6,7-8,9
Sing praise to God, who rules with justice.

Second Reading
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Paul urges the community to follow his example and to earn their keep.

Gospel Reading
Luke 21:5-19
Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and warns his followers that persecution will come before the end time.

Gospel LK 21:5-19

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

“Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”


Background on the Gospel Reading

In the context of Luke, today’s Gospel appears near the end of Jesus’ teaching in Jerusalem, just prior to the events that will lead to his crucifixion. His warnings and predictions are ominous but can be read in many ways.


To those who first heard Luke’s Gospel, those may have been words of encouragement. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans was history (70 A.D.); Luke’s Gospel, Catholic scholars propose, was written between 80 and 90 A.D. His audience was probably Gentile Christians. Luke here tries to interpret the fall of Jerusalem for them and to locate it in God’s plans for humankind (salvation history). At the same time, Luke is suggesting to his audience that there will be a considerable elapse of time before Jesus’ final coming. Luke’s listeners have likely seen much upheaval and are anxious to know if these are the signs of Jesus’ coming. Luke is urging greater patience.

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus warns that his followers will face persecution for their beliefs. Luke presents persecution as an opportunity for the followers of Jesus for “It will lead to your giving testimony” (Luke 21:13). In persecution God’s wisdom and power will be shown in the example of followers of Jesus. Perseverance in the face of persecution will lead to their salvation.

Here Jesus is assuring his followers that God is present to all believers, even in times of trouble. Ultimately, Jesus will witness to this with his own death. As disciples of Jesus, we try to follow his example, trusting in God’s mercy and protection, even when we are facing difficulties.


Family Connection

Children, while innocently naïve about most world events, are also profoundly sensitive to the concerns felt by adults. We can help children interpret adult concerns by sharing information about current events in appropriate ways. We can also put these concerns in the light of God’s kingdom and the assurance of God’s care for us.


Discuss with your children one or more current events or a situation in your family which shows difficulties that may challenge our trust in a God who cares for us. Then read together today’s Gospel, Luke 21:5-19. Notice how Jesus said that even when his disciples are persecuted, God would be with them.

Together with your children, talk about ways in which God might bring good out of the difficult events you discussed. Talk together about some actions you might take as a family to make better the situations you discussed. Conclude by praying for the needs of the people involved in the events you named. In prayer, place each of these difficult situations into God’s hands.


Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C November 10, 2019

First Reading
2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14
Jewish martyrs give witness to their faith, even unto death.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 17:1,5-6,8,15
The just person will live in God’s presence.

Second Reading
2 Thessalonians 2:16—3:5
Paul encourages the Thessalonians and asks for their prayers.

Gospel Reading
Luke 20:27-38
Jesus answers a question from some Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead. (short form Luke 20:27, 34-38)

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out ‘Lord, ‘
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

In today’s Gospel, we hear about an encounter between Jesus and some Sadducees. The Sadducees were a party of Judaism active in Jesus’ time, descended from the priestly family of Zadok. They were literal interpreters of the written Law of Moses, which means that they were in disagreement with the position of the Pharisees, who offered an oral interpretation of the Law of Moses.

The Sadducees are described in this Gospel as opponents to the belief in resurrection. In the dialogue presented here, we see an example of the means of disputation that was common in first century Judaism. The Sadducees use the example of Levirate marriage, found in the Law of Moses, to disprove belief in the resurrection. According to Deuteronomy 25:5-10, if a man died without producing an heir, the man’s brother should marry his wife and the offspring of this union would inherit the property and carry on the name of the man who had died. The Sadducees use this as an example to challenge belief in the resurrection.

Jesus argues from the same written Law of Moses to show that there is resurrection. Using the texts from the Book of Exodus (Chapter 3) that describe Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, Jesus shows that God is the God of the living, not the dead. Here Jesus uses the same method and texts of the Sadducees to counter them. As the Gospel text suggests, he beat them at their own game!

More importantly, in this discourse Jesus shows the limits of our imaginations when it comes to eternal life. The Sadducees argued against resurrection because of the limits of earthly existence. They did not imagine another possibility for existence and relationship with God. Jesus proposes that the possibilities of resurrected life are beyond our imaginations. Jesus’ conclusion suggests something else as well: To spend time worrying about resurrected life is to miss the point. The point is eternal relationship with God is possible, for God is the God of the living, “. . . for to him all are alive.”

Family Connection

Children in our culture often know very little about death, dying, and eternal life. Take this opportunity to talk with your children about their thoughts, beliefs, maybe even their fears, about death and dying.

In the Gospel this week, Jesus tells us that after we die, we will not need the same things we did when we were alive, but we will continue to have a relationship with God. You could use the example of a tree to help your children understand what Jesus tells us. When a tree is alive it needs water, soil, and sunlight. When the tree is used to make a table, a toy, or something else it has a new purpose. The tree no longer needs water, soil, or sunlight. Read together the short form of the Gospel, Luke 20:27, 34-38. Tell your children about your hope and faith in the resurrection of the body and eternal life with God. Pray together for those in your family who have died and conclude by praying today’s Psalm.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 27, 2019

1st READING

In the Scriptures, the prayers that reach the presence of God are the ones from the poor. God’s attention is drawn to those who need Him most. Sadly, the wealthy and powerful in the world ignore this. Let us remember that God is drawn to the meek and humble of heart, not the arrogant and proud.

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18

12 The Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. 13 Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. 14 The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint. 16 The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. 17 The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, 18 nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.

Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23

R: The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

2 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. 3 Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R) 17 The Lord confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. 18 When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. (R) 19 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. 23 The Lord redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him. (R)

2nd READING

Paul is arrested and is brought to Rome where he will eventually be martyred. His fate does not concern him but the fate of the communities he has established in his ministry. He writes to them, and the communities send envoys to ask for advice from him. This challenges us to examine our focus and motivations in life. How committed are we to the work of the Church? Are we committed only for as long as it is convenient to us?

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

6 Beloved: I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. 8 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. 16 At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them! 17 But 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. 18 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.

GOSPEL

Prayers like that of the rich man in today’s Gospel will not reach the ears of the Lord. He will listen to us only if we stand before Him in humility and truth. The poor man does this honestly, but the rich man is more interested in announcing his accomplishments than thanking God for the blessings he has received.

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION 

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of salvation.

Luke 18:9-14

9 Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity— greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 
OUR DISPOSITION IN PRAYER


When bad things happen, the good that comes from them is people learn to pray. In last Sunday’s parable about the persistent widow, prayer is an expression of our faith. Next to that, we must be humble before God. Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else like the Pharisee who despised the tax collector in our Gospel today.

Humility is not degrading ourselves or putting ourselves down before others. St. Teresa of Avila said humility is “walking in truth” or being truthful. Humility is from the Latin word humus, which means ground or soil. Humility is admitting who we really are and rejoicing in God in our giftedness, such that we are able to humbly accept even our weaknesses and failures, asking for His mercy like the tax collector in the Gospel. The Holy Mass teaches us a lot of things about humility and prayer, especially the importance of self- knowledge that leads to right relationships. Sometimes, like the Pharisee, we forget that we are able to do good things only because of God’s grace. This is why St. Luke declared at the start of today’s Gospel that “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” Jesus said that the tax collector went home justified because he was the one who had the right relationship with God, as he could not enter the temple nor look up to heaven except beat his breast for his sinfulness. He knew where he stood. Fr. Nick Lalog

——- REFLECTION QUESTION ——-

 

Strip yourself naked before God in prayer. How do you see yourself?
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to see myself as the Father sees me—a forgiven sinner and a beloved child. Amen.
 
All content 2006 Shepherd’s Voice Radio and Television Foundation, Inc.

 

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C October 13, 2019

First Reading
2 Kings 5:14-17
Naaman is cleansed of his leprosy and chooses to serve the God of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4
Rejoice! The salvation of God is made known to all.

Second Reading
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Those who remain faithful to Christ will share Christ’s glory.

Gospel Reading
Luke 17:11-19
Jesus heals 10 lepers, and one, the Samaritan, returns to give thanks

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we hear about how Jesus, continuing on his journey to Jerusalem, heals 10 lepers. This story is a lesson about faith and reminds us that faith is sometimes found in unlikely places. Ten people afflicted with leprosy cry out to Jesus. Struck with pity, Jesus heals all 10. However, only one is described as glorifying God and returning to thank Jesus. The one who returns is a Samaritan, a foreigner. In the Jewish circles in which Jesus lived, Samaritans were looked down upon because of the differences between the two communities in their observance of Judaism. It is significant, therefore, that Jesus commends the Samaritan for his faith, which has been his salvation. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, faith is found in surprising places.

Another lesson for us in this Gospel has to do with salvation. All 10 of the lepers were given the gift of healing, but in his gratitude to God for this gift, the Samaritan found salvation. Our salvation is found in recognizing the gifts we have been given and knowing to whom we must offer our thanks.

Family Connection

Children fluctuate between moments of deep, heartfelt gratitude and an attitude of entitlement. These fluctuations are normal. Among our tasks as parents is to help foster the gift of gratitude, particularly gratitude to God for all God’s goodness to us.

Read today’s Gospel, Luke 17:11-19. Make a poster showing some of the gifts from God to your family. Display this poster in a prominent place and, as a family, write a prayer of thanksgiving for all of God’s goodness to you.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C October 6, 2019

First Reading
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
The patience of the just man shall be rewarded when he sees the vision fulfilled.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,8-9
Sing joyfully to God, our salvation.

Second Reading
2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14
Paul urges Timothy to remain strong in the Spirit of faith Timothy received.

Gospel Reading
Luke 17:5-10
Jesus teaches the apostles the importance of faith and service to God.

Gospel LK 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

Background on the Gospel Reading


In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus teach about faith and service to God. The context is a continuing dialogue between Jesus and his followers about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus has just finished an instruction on sin and forgiveness. There are two related teachings that Jesus offers to his disciples when they cry out for an increase in faith. The first is the familiar reminder that faith, even just a little, will enable the followers of Jesus to do wondrous things. But this uplifting and inspiring teaching is quickly followed by the second teaching, a caution about knowing one’s place in God’s plans. The disciples of Jesus are to understand themselves as servants to God and his plans. Even when God works wonders through us, with our mustard seed-sized faith, we must not seek praise. Our participation in God’s plans is God’s grace to us—nothing more, nothing less. When we are graced enough to cooperate with God, the work we do is nothing more than our obligation to God as faithful stewards. And yet, our faith enables us to believe that what we have offered in service to God, as his servants, can be made to produce a hundredfold.

Family Connection

There is much in today’s Gospel that resonates in family life. In our daily attempts as parents to live up to the confidence and trust that our children place in us, we come to know the wonders that God can do with just a little faith. In family life we also learn about obligations that are their own rewards. The daily tasks that family members do for one another and for the household are simply the manifestations of our responsibilities to one another.

Take a turn with each member of the family and identify some of the little things that each family member does that make a big difference in your family life.

Read today’s Gospel, Luke 17:5-10. Talk about how each person is called upon by God to believe that God can work miracles in our lives, that God can use us to make a difference in our world.

Together as a family, pray Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer of Generosity. Ask that God will work through your family to make a difference in the lives of those around you.

Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings