TENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Wonder and Awe Before the Eucharist
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Year B)
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Mark 14:22–24
At the holy Mass, as soon as the priest pronounces the words of the consecration, transforming the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord, he genuflects, rises, and then says, “The mystery of faith.” What is “the mystery of faith?” Oftentimes, when we say that something is a mystery, we mean that the conclusion is hidden but that there are certain clues to help solve the mystery. And once the mystery is solved, everything is clear and it is no longer a mystery.
“The mystery of faith” is much different. Those words are spoken at Mass immediately after the consecration as a way of drawing the faithful into a holy awe and amazement of what just took place. But this mystery can only produce wonder and awe if the reality of what just took place is understood through the gift of faith. Faith is knowing and believing without perceiving the reality before us with our five senses or through logical deduction. In other words, faith produces true knowledge of a spiritual reality that can only be known, understood and believed through spiritual insight. Therefore, if we attend the Mass and have been gifted with the knowledge of faith, then as soon as the consecration of the bread and wine take place, we will cry out interiorly, “My Lord and my God!” We will know that God the Son is present before us in a veiled way. Our eyes do not perceive, nor do any of our senses reveal to us the great reality before us. We cannot rationally deduce what just took place. Instead, we come to know and believe that the Son of God, the Savior of the World, is now present before us in His fullness, under the veil of mere bread and wine.
In addition to the divine presence of our Lord and our God, the entire Mystery of our Redemption is made present. Saint Pope John Paul II tells us that in this moment there is a “oneness in time” that links the Paschal Mystery, that is, the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, to every moment that the Eucharist is celebrated and made present through the words of consecration. And that unity between each Mass and the Paschal Mystery “leads us to profound amazement and gratitude” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #5). Do you sense and experience this profound amazement and gratitude each time you attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Do you realize as you attend the Mass and as the words of consecration are spoken that the entire Mystery of your redemption is made present before you, hidden from your eyes but visible to your soul by faith? Do you understand that it is God the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity Who descends to us to dwell with us in that moment of time in this glorious Sacrament?
Reflect, today, upon the hidden but real Mystery of Faith. Allow yourself to be drawn into a wonder and awe at what you are privileged to attend. Let your faith in the Most Holy Eucharist grow by being open to a deepening of this gift of faith through spiritual insight and belief. Behold this great Gift of the Eucharist with the eyes of faith, and you will be drawn into the wonder and awe that God wants to bestow upon you.
My ever-glorious Eucharistic Lord, I do believe that You are here, made present in our world under the form of bread and wine, every time the Holy Mass is celebrated. Fill me with a deeper faith in this Holy Gift, dear Lord, so that I may be drawn into wonder and awe every time I witness this holy Consecration. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Heights of Holiness
Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1–3
Today we are given the incredibly high calling of the Beatitudes to ponder. These lessons were taught by Jesus on a hill just north of the Sea of Galilee. Many were coming to Jesus to listen to Him preach and to witness His many miracles. They flocked to Him in this remote location, and Jesus had them recline as He preached what is now referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” This sermon is found in Chapter 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel and takes place shortly after Jesus began His public ministry.
What a way to begin His public ministry! This teaching of Jesus was brand new and must have left many people mesmerized. Jesus no longer taught only the precepts of the Old Testament, such as the Ten Commandments; He now elevated the moral law to a level never conceived of before.
As the people listened to this new teacher speak with new authority and wisdom, they may have been excited and confused at the same time. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful and clean of heart, and to be a peacemaker could have been accepted. But why was it that being poor, mournful, and meek were considered blessings? And even more challenging, why was it good to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness or insulted and falsely accused because of Jesus?
When Jesus’ new and radical teaching is clearly understood, it is not only His first disciples who may have been confused and excited at the same time. You, too, if you truly listen to His teachings and understand what He means, will find that you are challenged to the core of your being. Jesus’ teaching must be embraced, fully, and without hesitation.
The Beatitudes are our call to perfection. They lay out for us the path by which we travel to the heights of holiness and obtain the glory of Heaven. They are our fine-tuned and detailed road map to the fullness of happiness and joy. But they also call us to a radical transformation of our minds and in our actions. They are not “easily” embraced, in the sense that they require that we turn from every selfish tendency we have and choose to live free of every earthly temptation, attachment and sin. Perfection awaits those who listen to, understand, and embrace the Beatitudes.
Reflect, today, upon the beginning of this challenging Sermon on the Mount. Try to find time to take each Beatitude to prayer. It is only through prayer and meditation that the full meaning of each of these invitations to holiness will be understood. Start with the call to interior poverty of spirit. This Beatitude calls us to complete detachment from all that is not part of God’s will. From there, consider the importance of mourning over your sin, of seeking purity of heart and humility in all things. Ponder each Beatitude and spend time with the one most challenging to you. Our Lord has much to say to you through this sermon. Don’t hesitate to allow Him to lead you to the heights of holiness through it.
Lord of all holiness, You are perfect in every way. You lived every virtue and Beatitude to perfection. Give me the grace to open myself to You so that I may hear You call me to perfection of life and so that I may respond generously with my whole life. Make me holy, dear Lord, so that I will find the happiness and fulfillment You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.
Salt and Light for the World
Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:13–14
Every Christian has two primary duties in life. First, we must strive for personal holiness. And second, we must work to help others achieve this same degree of holiness. This is what it means to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”
Consider salt. Salt is a preservative, and it also adds flavor to food. It does so by entering the food and, in a sense, disappearing. So it must be with us. First, our Lord must enter our lives and preserve us from the corruption of sin. But as He does so, He will also bring out our goodness in a way that the “flavor” of holiness is evident to others. In this way, we will be used as salt for others. This is especially done by our works of charity.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said in her autobiography, “I see now that true charity consists in bearing with the faults of those about us, never being surprised at their weaknesses, but edified at the least sign of their virtue.” She believed that this was especially the way we act as salt and light to others. We help to preserve others from sin by being merciful to them when they are weak. We enrich their lives by seeing their goodness and rejoicing in it. And we do so in a hidden way. By our gentleness and compassion, our kindness and mercy, we preserve others and help them to grow in God’s abundant grace. And we do so, many times, without them even realizing how God used us.
Consider, also, light. The world in which we live is oftentimes quite dark and despairing. There is corruption all around us and temptations abound. Thus, the light of Christ must be made manifest far and wide. Those all around us need to see clearly the path to holiness and happiness. Again, this is possible if we first work to become light itself. Christ, the true Light of the World, must so permeate our lives that we find it almost automatic to shine brightly in a fallen world. When Christ is alive in us, we will radiate joy and peace, calm and conviction, moral goodness and determination. And when we live this way, we will not have to “impose” the Gospel on others; rather, God’s light will simply shine and be a beacon of hope to those who come into our presence.
Reflect, today, upon these two missions in life. First, ponder your call to holiness. How does God want to bring light into your own life, preserve you from all sin and add spiritual flavor for holy living? Second, who does God want you to love with His love? Who needs hope and joy, mercy and kindness, words of wisdom and encouragement? Be holy and then allow that holiness to shine forth to others and you will indeed be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
My Jesus, the true Light of the World, please shine brightly in my life so that I will see clearly and will be preserved from the darkness of sin. As You fill me with Your light, please use me as an instrument of Your love and mercy to a world filled with chaos and confusion. Dispel the darkness, dear Lord, and use me as Your instrument as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.
The New Law of Grace
Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Matthew 5:17–18
The law and the prophets, as found in the Old Testament, consists of three types. First, there are the moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments, that are primarily based on the natural law of God. By “natural law,” we mean that our human reason can understand their truthfulness, such as with “Thou shall not kill, steal,” etc. Second, there were many liturgical precepts that were laid down and practiced as a preparation for and prefiguration of their ultimate liturgical fulfillment. The fulfillment is now found in the sacramental life of the Church. Third, there were various legal precepts that gave specific directions on daily living. These laws include instructions on food, relations with others, how to treat foreigners, cleansings, purifications of utensils, tithing, and much more.
In our Gospel today, Jesus essentially says two things. First, regarding the legal and liturgical precepts, He says that He came to “fulfill” them. Thus, Christians are no longer bound by these Old Testament legal and liturgical laws, in that we are now called to a much higher fulfillment of them all. But as for the moral laws, especially those found in the Ten Commandments, not a single precept taught is abolished. Instead, these Commandments are deepened, and the call to moral perfection is now much clearer. It is for this reason that Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
It’s important to understand that those who lived before the time of Christ were not held to the same standard as we are today. That’s because they did not enjoy the gift of grace that was won by the Cross and is bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Today, we have so much more and, for that reason, are called to a much greater life of holiness. For example, we no longer celebrate the Passover as a mere remembrance of what God did by setting the Israelites free from slavery to the Egyptians. Today, we celebrate the New Passover through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, and our “remembrance” goes beyond the simple recalling of a memory of old. Our remembrance is one that enables us to actually participate in the saving sacrifice of Christ. We share in the actual event and are partakers of the grace won on the Cross each time we celebrate the Holy Mass. And as for the moral laws of the Old Testament, they become the bottom line of morality. The upper limit is now much higher. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to lay down our lives for others and take up our crosses daily to follow Jesus. We are called to the perfection of sacrificial love, and that is only possible by our sharing in the very life, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon the very high calling you have been given by our Lord. It’s not enough to simply do the bare minimum in our worship and moral life. Doing so may permit you to be “least in the Kingdom of heaven,” but God wants you to share in His greatness. He calls you to be among the “greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” Do you understand your high calling? Do you have the perfection of holiness as your goal? Commit yourself to the full participation in the New Law of Christ and you will be eternally grateful that you did.
My most glorious Lord, You came to bring our lives to the fullness of grace and holiness. You call us to the heights of Heaven. Help me to see my high calling, dear Lord, and to work diligently to embrace all that You now command by Your New Law of grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Burden of Anger
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” Matthew 5:21–22
The passage quoted above gives us three deepening levels of sin that we commit against another. These sins were new teachings not contained in the Old Testament. By this teaching, Jesus’ call to radical holiness and love of neighbor is made very clear.
The first level of sin is simply to be “angry” interiorly. The sin of anger is an interior attitude of disgust toward another. Jesus says that the consequence of having anger toward another is that you will be “liable to judgment.” The second level of sin is when you say to another “Raqa.” This Aramaic word is difficult to translate but would include some form of expression of one’s anger toward another. It would be a derogatory way of saying to another that they are unintelligent or inferior. The third level of sin Jesus identifies is when you call another “fool.” This word is an even stronger expression of Raqa and would be a verbal criticism of them, indicating that the person is a lost soul in a moral sense. It’s a strong moral condemnation of another that is expressed.
So, do you struggle with anger? Jesus’ calling to freedom from all levels of this sin is a high one. There are many times in life when our passion of anger is stirred up for one reason or another, and that passion leads to one of these levels of sin. It’s a common temptation to want to condemn another with whom you are angry in the strongest way possible.
It’s important to understand that this new teaching of Jesus is truly not a burden when understood and embraced. At first, it can seem that these laws of our Lord against anger are negative. That’s because lashing out at another gives a false sense of satisfaction, and these commands of our Lord, in a sense, “rob” us of that satisfaction. It can be a depressing thought to think about the moral obligation to forgive to the point that disordered anger disappears. But is it depressing? Is this law of our Lord a burden?
The deep truth is that what Jesus teaches us in this passage is, in many ways, more for our own good than that of others. Our anger toward another, be it interior, verbally critical or all-out condemning, can be hurtful toward the person with whom we are angry, but the damage these forms of anger do is far worse for us than them. Being angry, even interiorly, even if we put on a happy face, does great damage to our soul and our ability to be united to God. For that reason, it is not this new law of our Lord regarding anger that is the burden, it is the anger itself that is a heavy burden and a burden from which Jesus wants you free.
Reflect, today, upon the sin of anger. As you do, try to see your disordered anger as the real enemy rather than the person with whom you are angry. Pray to our Lord to free you from this enemy of the soul and seek the freedom that He wants to bestow.
My merciful Lord, You call us to perfect freedom from all that burdens us. Anger burdens us. Help me to see the burden that my anger imposes upon me and help me to seek true freedom through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation. Please forgive me, dear Lord, as I forgive all who have hurt me. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Font of Mercy
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. John 19:33–34
John’s Gospel is filled with deep spiritual imagery and symbolism. It is clear that this imagery and symbolism was divinely inspired so as to give us spiritual food for reflection and meditation. One such image is given to us today as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As Jesus and the two criminals on either side of Him hung upon their crosses, the soldiers came to hasten their deaths by breaking their legs to cause them to more quickly suffocate. But when they came to Jesus, He had already died. So one of the soldiers, traditionally known as Longinus, thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, and blood and water flowed forth. Some traditions identify Longinus with the centurion who cried out after Jesus’ death, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (See Matthew 27:54.) Other traditions state that he converted at that moment, making him the first convert to Christianity. And still other traditions state that Longinus could not see well, and the blood and water from Jesus’ side poured upon his eyes, healing him. Regardless of whether these traditions are true, we know that Jesus’ side was pierced and blood and water flowed forth.
The symbolism of this act was more than a mere human symbol. It was an instrument of the profound spiritual reality that was taking place at that moment. As Jesus’ Sacred Heart was pierced, the blood and water that poured forth was the new sacramental life of the Church. The Blood was the Most Holy Eucharist and the Water was the gift of Baptism. And when Jesus had previously “breathed His last” and “handed over His Spirit,” the Sacrament of Confirmation was bestowed.
When we celebrate those Sacraments today, it is easy to see them as mere symbols of what we partake in. But in our Christian Tradition, the Sacraments are so much more. The symbol is also the reality. It is the instrument of what it symbolizes. Therefore, every time we witness a Baptism or partake in the Holy Eucharist, we are mystically present with Longinus, receiving the grace and mercy of our redemption, pouring forth from Jesus’ wounded side, so as to heal us and make us whole.
The human heart is, physically speaking, a bodily organ responsible for pumping blood throughout. But from a spiritual perspective, given that we are both body and soul, the human heart is also the source of our life. Without it, we physically and spiritually die. So it is with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was not only a physical heart that was physically pierced by the lance long ago. It is now also the source of our ongoing spiritual life, and, without Jesus’ Sacred Heart of Mercy, we will die in our sins.
Reflect, today, upon the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. See His Heart as the ongoing source of your new life in grace. Understand that His Heart is more than a symbol of His grace and mercy, it is the spiritual source and the font of that mercy. Prayerfully place yourself before His Cross, this day, and allow the blood and water, flowing from His wounded side, to cover you so that you, too, may believe.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, You poured out upon the world the love and mercy of Your transforming grace through the instrument of the blood and water pouring forth from Your wounded side. Help me to gaze upon this font of mercy and to be covered with it through the gift of the Sacraments. May I always be open to all that You wish to bestow upon me by these precious and transforming instruments of Your love. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Heart of Perfect Love
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51
Over and over, the Scriptures reveal to us that the Blessed Virgin Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” What things? She continually pondered the great mystery of the life of her Son as His sacred life unfolded before her eyes.
A mother’s love is strong. Many times, a mother is more aware of the details of her child’s life than even the child itself. She is attentive, consoling, present, tender and loving. This was who Mary was to her divine Son, Jesus.
Mother Mary did not have full knowledge of every divine reality. She did not gaze upon the Most Holy Trinity with her eyes as she walked the earth. She did not have the full knowledge of the plan of the Father. But she did walk through life with the perfection of faith. She also knew the many truths of Heaven and earth through her Immaculate Heart. Her heart was a heart filled with every virtue. She loved with a love that was indescribable. And what she especially pondered in her Immaculate Heart, over and over throughout life, was the pure and perfect love she had for her Son. To her, this love left her in amazement. She was continually in a state of holy awe as she interacted with her Son, gazed upon His sacred life, and watched Him advance in “wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (John 2:52). The love in her heart was a lesson to herself. She continually deepened her knowledge of God through the pondering of the perfect love placed in her heart by her God. And this God, her Savior, was her Son.
We celebrate today the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Though there are many feasts throughout the year in which we honor this holy daughter of God, this celebration is an opportunity for us all to ponder her pondering heart.
A human heart is not just physical, it is also spiritual. It is the spiritual source of our love of God and others. From our heart flows either virtue or vice, love or hate, generosity or selfishness. As we honor the Immaculate Heart today, we are called to look at the ideal of what should live within our own hearts and what should flow forth from them. The perfection of all virtue is what must ideally flow from every human heart throughout time. And it is the heart of our Blessed Mother that will teach us how to internalize those virtues so as to become an instrument of the love of God to others.
Reflect, today, upon the spiritual perfection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Perfection is difficult to comprehend in our fallen state. But the more we look to the ideal, the more we will desire that ideal. And the more we desire that ideal, the more we will obtain it. Allow yourself today to ponder the ideal heart as it resided in the Mother of God and ask for her to intercede for you so that you will more fully imitate her.
Most Immaculate Heart of Mother Mary, you reveal to us the perfect way to love your Son and to be devoted to Him. Fill me with the love you had for your Son by interceding for me. Thank you for the witness you gave to us all and help us to imitate the countless virtues that flowed from your heart. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.