Category Archives: Gospel

“Let the dead bury the dead” – a call to fill the void

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” -Matt 18:22

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we are called to something greater than our responsibilities here on Earth. We are called to Him and nothing here on earth can fill that void.

Church of the Gesu in Rome, Italy
It is the mother church of the Jesuits and is attached to the home where St. Ignatius of Loyola died.

It sounds shocking and insensitive to tell a mourning man to let the business of his father’s funeral be left alone, but the back-story is that this man was genuinely looking for a reason to delay his service to Christ. It’s something we do a lot in our daily lives, and even more especially if the commitment to Christ is a life long vocation to marriage or  religious life.

Two weeks ago, I heard a friend say, “You know, I’m Catholic but I’m just not sure there really is something after death.” I asked her if she ever feels like there is something more to life or if she feels totally satisfied all of the time? Of course, she responded no. Philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft tells us that we are unable to reach complete satisfaction in this life because we are made for something more.  The argument from desire states that our desires correspond to something which can satisfy it. Hunger corresponds to food. Sexual desires correspond to sex. But we never feel fully satisfied to the point of never feeling need again. That is because our ultimate end is not death of the body, but life after.

I proposed that my friend and I take a walk down to the Church of the Gesu (pictured above) which is attached to the home of St Ignatius of Loyola. I told her that St. Ignatius, a man who fearlessly dedicated his life to the conversion of Protestants back to Catholicism, died on that top floor. There was something very real about being present at that location which gave us both strength. For we knew that a man of great honor and certitude entered into death happily from that very spot.

In today’s Gospel, we are called to Christ without delay. That decision can be to follow him today by avoiding sin, or it can be the call to a specific vocation in life at the time God calls us to enter into that. When Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead,” He is calling that man to leave behind the empty void in his life and to fill it with his true calling.

A.M.D.G.

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Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Today is the great Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles. The readings today inspire humility and to a life of constant conversion toward Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel, we receive confirmation from Jesus Christ that Peter is the head of His Church here on earth.

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.” – Today’s Gospel from Matthew 16

The statue of St. Peter was decorated this morning in Rome’s Basilica of St. Peter for the Papal Mass. He can be seen wearing the Papal Tiara and, stole, and red cope.

But this story would not be as great as it is without first recalling Peter’s denial of Jesus during the Passion. Recalling Peter back to His true mission, He asked Peter to reaffirm three times, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. For even great sinners, as we all are, can be fully reconciled with God and be given the keys to the kingdom.

In 64 A.D., Peter was jailed in Rome. (His jailers, Sts. Processus and Martinian later converted). To Saint Peter’s own disbelief, angels led him out of prison on the eve of his trial. Peter then began to flee the city to avoid further persecution but saw Jesus along the way. Jesus told Peter that He would return to Rome to be crucified again essentially saying ‘if you won’t, I must do it again’ – thus giving Peter the strength to go back and continue converting people to Christianity even at the risk of crucifixion, which happened later that year.

The tomb of St Paul can be seen between the base of the two candles just above the railing.

Saint Paul who was once a great persecutor of Christians, converted and became an unashamed promoter of Jesus Christ.  We are called to be the light of the world, but it is not without consequence. In today’s second reading, Paul tells us of his impending martyrdom

“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.” II Timothy 4:6

The faith in Jesus Christ is a sustaining one. And even in the hardest of times, these men found their courage in Christ and remind us to do the same. Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

A.M.D.G.

Reflection on Ascension Thursday Mass

“and then the altar-server extinguishes the Paschal Candle to signal that the Lord Jesus has ascended to heaven.”

Can you imagine being present on Mount Olivet on that day? Can you imagine the confusion and fear knowing that God incarnate, who in great shock to the Apostles, actually rose from the dead but is now leaving?

In the Gospel for Ascension Thursday, we heard, “He upbraided them with their incredulity and hardness of heart” (Mark 16:14). Following Jesus’ death, the Apostles hid in fear until they saw the risen Christ. Once they knew He had risen from the dead, their fervor returned.

Knowing that this Easter courage by itself was unsustainable, He warned them to prepare their hearts for the tough times ahead and promised them an Advocate(the Holy Spirit). Jesus also warns us against getting caught up in the excitement of being a Christian. The courage to proclaim the Gospel must lie deep in our hearts. We are instructed to transform our hearts and then to go out and share the Good News with the world.

The Gospel according to Mark ends right after the Ascension, “But they going forth preached every-where, the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed” (Mark 16:20). In the Tridentine Rite, the minister of the Gospel proclaims in Latin, “The Gospel of the Lord”, and then the altar-server extinguishes the Paschal Candle to signal that the Lord Jesus has ascended to heaven.

A.M.D.G.

Gospel Reflection from Sunday – “I am the vine, you are the branches”

Whenever you hear someone say, “I am spiritual but not religious”, they are likely expressing the idea that religion takes away from our freedom to think and act for ourselves. But that is not true! We are made to live for God, so to be able to follow Him is in itself a great freedom.

In the Gospel according to John, Jesus tells us that He sustains all life. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Father Peter, the Chaplain of Catholic Campus Ministry at George Mason University always gives great homilies, and this week it included a short demonstration! He pulled a leaf from a plant(which we will pretend is a branch of a vine) and waved it through the air. “Look, I am free!” But that branch is dying. The leaf on the right is the one he waved at the 10PM Mass on Sunday, but look at the one to its left. “He got away just before the 5:30 the day before.”

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Like the leaf that got away just before the 5:30, Jesus said, “Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither.”

But there is good news too. Father Peter invited us to be regrafted to the vine through Confession and the frequent reception of Holy Communion. We are welcome back into the fullness of Christ’s love as soon as we are ready to come back.

A.M.D.G.

Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

The previous post was about The New Evangelization, but how did it all start?

St. Mark, one of Jesus’ seventy Disciples, joined St. Peter in Rome to serve as a scribe of his homilies and a Greek interpreter and translator. The sermons that he wrote down recalled the life of Jesus and are now known as the Gospel according to Mark.

Later, St. Mark went to Alexandria to evangelize where he founded the Church there circa 43 A.D. He was martyred circa 68 A.D. according to tradition.

A.M.D.G.

Deacons in the Catholic Church

A deacon is an ordained member of the clergy in the Catholic Church, although he is not a priest. The word deacon comes from the Greek word for messenger or servant. He can impart blessings, administer Baptism, and preside at weddings. He also takes on a special role in serving the priest at Mass and can even give the homily; however, his most important duty at Mass is to proclaim the Gospel. By tradition, the ministry of preaching the Gospel belongs to the Deacons. He cannot consecrate the bread or wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and he cannot hear confession or absolve sins.

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A longstanding sacred tradition

In the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke writes about the ordination of the first seven deacons,

“In those days, as the number of disciples was increasing, there occurred a murmuring of the Greeks against the Hebrews, because their widows were treated with disdain in the daily ministration. And so the twelve, calling together the multitude of the disciples, said: “It is not fair for us to leave behind the Word of God to serve at tables also. Yet truly, we will be continually in prayer and in the ministry of the Word.” Therefore, brothers, search among yourselves for seven men of good testimony, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom, whom we may appoint over this work. And the plan pleased the entire multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit, and Philip and Prochorus and Nicanor and Timon and Parmenas and Nicolas, a new arrival from Antioch. These they set before the sight of the Apostles, and while praying, they imposed hands on them.”  -Acts 6:1-6

Proclaiming the Word

When the pope is celebrating the Mass and a deacon is with him, the deacon proclaims the Gospel. That is how important this tradition is! It is spelled out for us in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

By tradition, the function of proclaiming the readings is ministerial, not presidential. The readings, therefore, should be proclaimed by a lector, and the Gospel by a deacon or, in his absence, a priest other than the celebrant. –USCCB G.I.R.M. paragraph 59

As Clergy

Every pope, bishop, and priest was first a deacon through Holy Orders. In fact, all priests serve one year(sometimes more, sometimes slightly less in grave circumstances at the discretion of the local bishop) as an ordained transitional deacon. Others are permanent deacons who are ordained to the diaconate but are not going to be ordained to the priesthood.

As pope, bishop, or priest, each of those men hold the fullness of the diaconate already. So then, it raises the question, why does the deacon have to proclaim the Gospel if a priest is celebrating the Mass?” There are two points to that. The priest does proclaim the Gospel in the absence of a deacon. However, the priest’s main duty is to preside at Mass and the function of proclaiming the Gospel is ministerial in nature(Linked is an example of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois reaffirming the Deacon’s role). Continue reading

“Eight Days Later” – A Gospel Reflection

The Gospel yesterday, Divine Mercy Sunday and the 2nd Sunday in Easter, came from John 20:19-31.

This Gospel tells the story of the establishment of the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the evening of that first Easter Sunday. There is a post from March on this topic.  Jesus appeared to the Apostles who were gathered together in hiding and greats them with “Peace be with you”. He then transformed them by breathing on them as he gave them the power to forgive sins.

The Gospel notes that Thomas was not with the Apostles when Jesus appeared to the Apostles the first time, but he was with them the following week.

Interestingly enough, the bridge between the meetings of the Apostles is translated in English as, “a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.” In Latin, it does not say “a week later”, it actually specifically says, “et post dies octo” which is “eight days later.” So why does it seem to be a day off? The term eighth day was the way that the many of the early Christians referred to Sunday. Jesus died on the 6th day, Friday, and rose on the eighth day, Sunday. Therefore; the Gospel of John makes a point of stating that Jesus was appearing for the second time on a Sunday. This is one way that Christians explain why the Lord’s Day became known as Sunday.

The bishops of the Church are the direct successors of the 12 Apostles. In the Gospel of John 20:19-31, Jesus appears to the Apostles on Easter Sunday and the Sunday after Easter, which is referred to as "eight days later" in the Latin translation.

This Gospel passage is so rich. We often are consumed and fixated on the doubting Thomas, but that is not the heart of this passage. Like the Apostles, we are often scared to preach His message to the public, to which Christ responds, “Peace be with you.” It is also encouraging to know that Jesus both of His first two appearances to the Apostles after the Resurrection on a Sunday – He was giving us a model to follow. Sunday is the Lord’s Day.

“For certainly God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not charging them with their sins. And he has placed in us the Word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, so that God is exhorting through us. We beseech you for Christ: be reconciled to God. For God made him who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the justice of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:19-21

A.M.D.G.