Today’s readings find us out on the road with St. Philip where, filled with the Holy Spirit he is instructing the Eunuch in his chariot and then Baptising him.
Gone are the days where the disciples are blundering about, three stooges-like in their encounters with Jesus, gone are the days of cowering in fear after his Ascension. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles are on the go! Here the Word is spreading to Ethiopia, then Philip travels over to the Mediterranean coast, and up past the Sea of Gallilee into Ceaserea Philippi to continue the work of salvation history there. They are all over the place!
Divinely fitting too, the words we read in today’s Gospel, “They shall all be taught by God.”
The Apostles are taught by Jesus Christ, who is God; the Eunuch is taught by the Holy SPirit, who is God; Philip is filled with the Holy Spirit and following the promptings of spirit when he is led to the Eunuch’s carriage, engages him while the Scripture from Isaiah is being read, and then gets in an instructs him, and opens the Eunuch’s mind to the Truths of Scripture.
Interesting to note that all Philip really does, we read is ‘opened his mouth.’ We’re directly called back to many of the prophets, who wanted not to speak, yet God said he would ‘put the words on [their] lips’, in their mouths.
The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets; and in Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist we are further strengthened through grace to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We’re all prophets now.
So a thought for the day; before you open your mouth today, pray for an outpouring of the Hoy Spirit. You may not end up baptizing a eunuch, but you just may offer a prophetic word, a healing voice, or be an instrument of God’s love to someone.
Here is my Homily from this weekend. Or at least, here are notes from my Homily this weekend. As usual I enjoy your feedback and comments! And as usual it writes out much longer than it speaks. So if you have a half hour to read through my five minute Homily, God bless you!
This weekend we celebrate Catechetical Sunday, which goes to the heart of our mission as Christians to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We read in Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
We have the concept of the high way of God, which is often repeated in Scripture. (Prepare a highway for our God.) Through prayer, through meditation on the law of the Lord, our minds and our ideas are lifted. The uplifted ideas and ideals of our Church are what we are called to share from one generation to the next.
The US Bishops write of Catechetical Sunday:
This year, the Church will celebrate Catechetical Sunday on September 18, 2011, and will focus on the theme “Do This in Memory of Me.” Those whom the community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith.
We read especially “The role each person plays in handing on the Faith and being a witness to the Gospel.”
If we don’t pass on the truths of our Faith, we can often end up with empty traditions. For example, some people may not have been to Mass in 30 years, yet they refuse to eat meat on Fridays in Lent, because, “it’s what we do.”
But the reasons it is “what we do,” is because we’re Catholic, and we’re uniting with the Lord’s Passion by an act of sacrifice, which we’re actually called to do every Friday throughout the year.
And, if you’re not even going to Mass regularly, what does it matter if you do or do not eat meat on Friday? Our traditions often become devoid of meaning when we fail to catechize properly.
Catechetical Sunday and the New Roman Missal
Another focus this week is brought out on the Bishop’s site:
The theme for 2011 Catechetical Sunday is “Do This in Memory of Me” (Lk 22:19). By reflecting on this theme, we are also preparing to receive the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. The Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis hopes that these materials will provide the opportunity not only to reflect on the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist, as found in the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church, but also to be moved to a more intense participation in the Sunday celebration of Mass, worthy reception of Holy Communion, and a more intentional embrace of the Church’s sacramental life and mission.
The new missal is coming in Advent, with new translations of the prayers of Mass. This is a good thing! We’re implementing this by introducing Mass cards the first week after the fair (the second week in October.) Also, there are handouts being published with the bulletins, and near the entrances which help to explain this more.
Catechesis and Viaticum
With the idea of catechesis in mind, we now turn our gaze to the Gospel.
“Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
During seminary we had a theoretical discussion about Adolph Hitler. If, for example, Adolph Hitler had had a deathbed conversion with true sorrow and repentance, would he have ended up in heaven?
The answer of course is that yes, he probably would have. But what do I know? (You don’t know either.)
Discussions of purgatory aside, we look at the example of the good thief. Jesus said unto him, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” So we know that it’s entirely possible to wait until the ver last minute, and then receive absolution and pardon.
That’s great and wonderful. And we should rejoice in those who come to the Lord for salvation after a life of spiritual wandering.
A problem with this though, is that many people decide it’s OK to wait until the last minute.
Which leads us to the notion of Last Rites.
Many people use the term “last rites”, though technically the term is archaic, and is not truly an accurate depiction of the theology of today’s rite.
We’ve all heard of Extreme Unction. An anointing which many people received at the hour of death. But what happened realistically is that many people would do whatever they wanted, wait until the hour of death and then receive a Sacramental absolution, almost as if it were magic, so they could have remission of sins and a direct pathway to heaven.
But that’s not what the Christian life is all about.
The Christian life is a daily commitment to live the Gospels of Jesus Christ: to conform ourselves to His will, to be mindful of both sin and virtue, and to seek through prayer and meditation to live a life of authentic holiness, which is simple and conducive to joy and peace.
Many people use the term “last rites”, though technically the term is archaic, and is not truly an accurate depiction of the theology of today’s rite.
“Last Rites” was on my mind, because the other morning I received a phone call from a sheriff’s chaplain letting me know that one of our parishioners had passed away, and I needed to come give last rites. I thought to myself, “Well, it’s a little late for that.” Nonetheless, I went to visit and pray with the family. But it reminded me of the need for catechesis on the role of Viaticum and the Anointing of the Sick.
Anointing of the Sick
Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament of the Catholic Church that is administered to Catholics who are sick, or who, through old age or sickness are in danger of death, even if the danger is not immediate. It gives comfort, peace, and even forgiveness of sins.
Notes from the Catechism:
1514 The Anointing of the Sick “is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.”130
1515 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.
” . . . let him call for the presbyters of the Church”
1532 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:
– the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
– the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
– the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
– the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
– the preparation for passing over to eternal life.
And then, another gift of the Church is Viaticum.
1524 In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”140 The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.141
1525 Thus, just as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist form a unity called “the sacraments of Christian initiation,” so too it can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life “the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland” or the sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage.
Among the ancient Greeks the custom prevailed of giving a supper to those setting out on a journey. This was called hodoiporion “Convivium, quod itineris comitibus præbetur” (Hedericus, “Lex. græc-lat.”). The provision of all things necessary for such a journey, viz. food, money, clothes, utensils and expense, was called ephodion. The adjectival equivalent in Latin of both these words is viaticus, i.e. “of or pertaining to a road or journey” (Facciolati and Forcellini, “Lexicon”). Thus in Plautus (Bacch., 1, 1, 61) we read that Bacchis had a supper prepared for his sister who was about to go on a journey: “Ego sorori meæ coenam hodie dare volo viaticam”, and (Capt. 2, 3, 89), “Sequere me, viaticum ut dem trapezita tibi”, and in Pliny (VII, ep. 12, in fine), “Vide ut mihi viaticum reddas, quod impendi”. Subsequently the substantive “viaticum” figuratively meant the provision for the journey of life and finally by metaphor the provision for the passage out of this world into the next. It is in this last meaning that the word is used in sacred liturgy.
Not everyone is able to recieve Viaticum. But if you are preparing for the death of a loved one, Anointing of the Sick, or Viaticum, is both be referred to as “Last Rites” in this day and age.
In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum.
And they do not have to happen at the last minute! Planning ahead is the best way to go. Viaticum should be done while the elderly or frail person still has consciousness. An anointing can be done at any time.
And a gentle reminder, if you want to wait until the last minute, and hope and pray that a Preist might be available for all of this at the last moment, the best way to ensure that is to encourage your children to become Priests, Sisters or Brothers.
And again, waiting until the last minute to strive for holiness is not the best way to go. But, what is necessary?
• Live a life of discipleship
• Day, by Day…. Try to do our part to remain in a state of grace
• Try to live as an example, so that others may perceive the peace and integrity that come from living the Gospel
To Dwell in the light of Jesus Christ; To learn the High Ways of the Lord; To teach and witness to others, the High Way for our God… these things lead to wholeness and Truth.
Here’s my Homily for this week. As always, I appreciate the prayers and feedback. God bless!
The Church has many symbols of expression, and some of these include a sheepfold, a cultivated field, a family; the Mystical Body of Christ, the People of God. And in today’s readings we look at yet another aspect, that of the Church as communio, or communion.
Jesus tells us today, that where two or three are gathered, there will he be in their midst. That more or less sums up communio in a nutshell; one could certainly find more theologically profound definitions. But, communio is, more or less, amMovement of community in the Holy Spirit; we experience relationships with one another, and with God, both personally, and as a group.
When we gather together in community to worship: the founding principle is love; of God, and of neighbor. In addressing the Christians of Rome, Saint Paul has no doubt in asserting peremptorily “Love is the fulfillment of the Law.”
So, The Church as communion is first and foremost the sacrament of the intimate union of humans with God. And, this communion with God is the purpose of the Church.
The idea is ever ancient, and goes back to the very beginning where we find it in the books of Genesis.
In the Beginning…
In Genesis I, man is created male and female, and man and woman are to subdue and be victorious over the world; they have dominion over it. They are created male and female, separately and as coworkers in this great movement of God’s will. There is a desire to create; to build new and bigger; to get to the moon; to build the tallest building; to achieve great things.
In Genesis II we find a very different story.
Eve said to Adam… “Adam, Do you Love me?” And Adam said, “Honey, Who else?”
In Chapter Two, man is created in humility, from the dust. God breathes life into him, in a very intimate connection; Yahweh is the most intimate name for God. Man’s job is to tend to the garden of life … to life giving things. And everything is good.
Except for one little thing, which is really bugging him: man is alone.
So, woman is created from a rib of Adam, again a very intimate union. They are together; “Ah, at last!: flesh of my flesh, bone of my bones.”
They are only ultimately fulfilled in togetherness, and moreso, they are only fulfilled in togetherness with each other and with GOD. I + Thou, + God. That’s communio.
As an aside: Eve said to Adam… “Adam, Do you Love me?” And Adam said, “Honey, Who else?”
Josiah Royce and a Philosophical Dimension
Josiah Royce was an American philosopher of the 18th and 19th centuries. Interestingly enough, his philosophy mirrors the entire idea of Communio.
Also, interestingly enough, his house was later purchased by Julia Child, and was used in filming many of her TV shows; it’s kitchen is now in the Smithsonian.
Royce said that man is most fully realized in community with others.
For instance: I’m Joe, and I show up on a bike…. You look at me strangely and say, “What?!”
But when you start asking me, what schools did I go to? Where did you grow up? Do you know so and so? What Parish are you in? What diocese? Etc…
All of these community associations help you to understand who I am, and what I am about.
In Genesis, when Cain kills Abel, his punishment is to walk alone amongst the tribes of the earth. He says No! Such a fate is cruel; cruel and unusual punishment, so he is given some sort of marking; something. But to be alone, to not have a tribe, a clan, a community: that’s a fate worse than death.
The challenge is to take to heart the message of Jesus Christ: Love God; love your neighbor as yourself.
Josiah Royce looked at Rugged Individualism (for example, Thoreau on Walden Pond, a country club, with the Alcott sisters bringing him dinner, living on an inheritance…) and said,
“If this continues, in 100 years people will no longer be willing to pay income taxes; divorce will sky rocket, the family will fall apart.” Very Prophetic.
Nihilistic Trends – To Each His Own
John Paul II, in Fides et Ratio wrote of the prevailing philosophical currents in the world today, one of which is an unhealthy sense of indiviualism: unhealthy in that it promotes isolation.
We’re called to be fully formed individuals, and to have independence, of course. But in community with others and with God.
In the world today we find a great sense of separatism and isolation. Each in his own room, own TV, own music, own computer, own world. Each is his own demi-urge…. Or small god unto his or herself
The challenge is to take to heart the message of Jesus Christ: Love God; love your neighbor as yourself.
Take to heart the writings of St. Paul and look up how to live a life of authentic fraternal love: Love is patient, kind, not jealous, not blind, honest, it is noble and true.
Living in a world of Faith, we find one another in Jesus Christ; we gather in His name; we grow through communion with others.
Editor’s Note: This is basically from my notes, please pardon the large section of blockquotes included ostensibly for your convenience. The Homily was in actuality about five minutes long.
A Pearl of Great Price
The Gospel today speaks to us of the Kingdom of Heaven; Jesus was always trying to instruct us in the ways of holiness and personal sanctity. Here we learn about the zeal with which we should pursue the Kingdom of Heaven.
We learn that it is not just going to happen, it comes at a great price.
Here we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Holy Eucharist. The Catechism teaches us that the Eucharist is the “ Source and Summit of Our Faith”.
We can look at it as the Source of our Faith, simply throughout the week, as we come to Mass at the beginning of the week to be nourished by it. The spiritual affects are very real, though sometimes we may not be aware of them.
We receive the remission of venial sin, are infused with supernatural grace, and are able then to go out and live our Faith in the world throughout the week.
Friday, we know, is a penitential day in the Universal Church; and throughout the world the penance is to eat no meat. While in the US we have permission to eat meat on Friday’s, every country has some permission or other, we are obligated to observe some form of other penance if we do eat meat.
The reason for a penitential day is, of course, the Lord died on a Friday and we recall his passion in a special way. Moreover, we pause to reflect on our actions during the week and to come to contrition for any sins, any way in which we have ‘missed the mark’, during the week, so that we might be in a state of grace to receive the Eucharist again at Mass on Sunday.
The summit of our week is again directed to Mass, and the Eucharist.
A reflective life, given to considering and praying for discernment of God’s will for our life, and nourished by His grace, will give us rejuvenation of spirit and allow us to more fully focus on the will of GOd for us.
The Gospel tells us that one ‘sells all that he has,’ and pursues the purchase of the field, or of the pearl of great price. Do our actions in life exhibit such zeal for the kingdom of Heaven?
St. Paul writes in the second reading today, that “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, …those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.”
Which introduces us to several concepts worth considering today:
All of us are desired, by God, to enter heaven, even the most unlovable person you know… But – only God knows who will enter Heaven.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1917 edition, has a very thorough, and wonderful article on pre-destination. It tells us:
“Predestination (Latin præ, destinare), taken in its widest meaning, is every Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man’s free will. It includes all historical facts, as for instance the appearance of Napoleon or the foundation of the United States, and particularly the turning-points in the history of supernatural salvation, as the mission of Moses and the Prophets, or the election of Mary to the Divine Motherhood. Taken in this general sense, predestination clearly coincides with Divine Providence and with the government of the world, which do not fall within the scope of this article (see DIVINE PROVIDENCE).”
Cath encyclopedia, 1917
Pardon me while I’m blockquoting from my notes here, but the article goes on to say…
“Theology restricts the term to those Divine decrees which have reference to the supernatural end of rational beings, especially of man. Considering that not all men reach their supernatural end in heaven, but that many are eternally lost through their own fault, there must exist a twofold predestination: (a) one to heaven for all those who die in the state of grace; (b) one to the pains of hell for all those who depart in sin or under God’s displeasure.”
God’s unerring foreknowledge and foreordaining is designated in the Bible by the beautiful figure of the “Book of Life” (liber vitæ, to biblion tes zoes).
This book of life is a list which contains the names of all the elect and admits neither additions nor erasures. From the Old Testament (cf. Exodus 32:32; Psalm 68:29) this symbol was taken over into the New by Christ and His Apostle Paul (cf. Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23), and enlarged upon by the Evangelist John in his Apocalypse [cf. Apocalypse 21:27: “There shall not enter into it anything defiled … but they that are written in the book of life of the Lamb” (cf. Revelation 13:8; 20:15)]. The correct explanation of this symbolic book is given by St. Augustine (City of God XX.13): “Præscientia Dei quæ non potest falli, liber vitæ est” (the foreknowledge of God, which cannot err, is the book of life).
However, as intimated by the Bible, there exists a second, more voluminous book, in which are entered not only the names of the elect, but also the names of all the faithful on earth. Such a metaphorical book is supposed wherever the possibility is hinted at that a name, though entered, might again be stricken out [cf. Apocalypse 3:5: “and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” (cf. Exodus 32:33)]. The name will be mercilessly cancelled when a Christian sinks into infidelity or godlessness and dies in his sin. Finally there is a third class of books, wherein the wicked deeds and the crimes of individual sinners are written, and by which the reprobate will be judged on the last day to be cast into hell (cf. Revelation 20:12): “and the books were opened; … and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books according to their works”.
It was this grand symbolism of Divine omniscience and justice that inspired the soul-stirring verse of the Dies irœ according to which we shall all be judged out of a book: “Liber scriptus proferetur: in quo totum continetur”. Regarding the book of life, cf. St. Thomas, I, Q. xxiv, a. 1—3, and Heinrich-Gutberlet, “Dogmat. Theologie”, VIII (Mainz, 1897), section 453.
And I paraphrase here…
The first quality, the immutability of the Divine decree, is based both on the infallible foreknowledge of God that certain, quite determined individuals will leave this life in the state of grace, and on the immutable will of God to give precisely to these men and to no others eternal happiness as a reward for their supernatural merits.
The second quality of predestination, the definiteness of the number of the elect, follows naturally from the first. For if the eternal counsel of God regarding the predestined is unchangeable, then the number of the predestined must likewise be unchangeable and definite, subject neither to additions nor to cancellations.
The third quality of predestination, its subjective uncertainty, is intimately connected with its objective immutability. We know not whether we are reckoned among the predestined or not. All we can say is: God alone knows it.
Essentially, God already knows who will end up going to heaven, and who will end up going to hell. He is omniscient, and knows all.
However, this does not negate our own free will in living our lives. God created us with free will, and the ability to choose, which means that we make a free and conscious decision to love God, and to follow his ways. If we did not have free will, our love would be less meaningful, and hardly as profound. We’re free to love God and live in his ways (which along with God’s grace helps us to be justified,) and we’re also free to choose any other way of life we desire.
Our society today is greatly influenced by popular notions of heaven and hell, through media imagery. Also, we live in a country which is a fairly Protestant country and which often portrays the idea that anyone, and just about everyone, is heading to heaven, no matter how they live their life.
Jesus Christ never tells us that. He says the way is narrow; he says he will turn to many and say to them “I do not know you.”
(That being said, he also turned to the repentant thief and promised him that ‘this day’ the thief would be with Christ in Paradise.)
So, not everyone chooses to live in a state of grace. Not everyone who thinks they are going to heaven, is going to go to heaven. Many people fear hell, but not as many love God with all their heart, their mind and their soul.
We have a choice in the matter, and our choice affects are lives. Our choices affect our actions, which directly reflect our beliefs.
We Don’t Earn our Way to Heaven
In the Second Letter of Peter, verse 1:10, we read: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble.” St. Paul also tells us to work all the harder to as to make our election permanent.
This implies, as does Jesus in the Gospel, that our actions should result from our belief in God, and should reflect a desire for the Heavenly Kingdom. We don’t work so as to earn our way into Heaven; we rely on God’s grace of course.
But if our actions are devoid of Faith, and demonstrate that instead we are given over to works and deeds of darkness, then something is amiss in our world if we truly desire Heaven.
Prayer and reflection according to our state in life are key.
Living a life of Faith on a daily basis calls for prayer, meditation on God’s Word, and some level of sacrifice.
We discern His will for our lives, for our day, and let that help to inform our plans. We confess our sins to one another. And that is raised to the level of a Sacrament in the Church so we go to Confession at least once a year, preferably much more often.
Repentance for our sins implies first and foremost an awareness of sin in our life. Where we ‘miss the mark’ of holiness. And prayer, fasting and almsgiving are key aspects of penance.
Our actions during the week should be informed by the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, and to living a life conformed to Jesus Christ, in his discipline, in discipleship.
Signs of Desire for the Kingdom
Selling all we have and buying pearl of great price, and selling all we have to buy the field of buried treasure; giving up those things which bind us in ignorance; giving up a life lived entirely for ourselves; letting go of our own notions and trusting that God will reveal His notions of our life; are all signs of desire for the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, for all whom God calls. He wants for us all to choose to live with him in glory. Do we respond with fervor, as if it’s a pearl of great price? Or do we simply ask our God to bless our lives, and go about our business entirely unaffected by the inspirations of grace?