Monday, September 1, 2014

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 7, 2014

First Reading Commentary
This Reading makes it quite clear what the gift Giver expects of those who are the recipients of His gifts.  Fast-forward to the New Testament and recall what Jesus said: “Much will be asked of the man to whom much has been given; more will be expected of him because he was entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48). 

Some soul searching may be needed to determine if the gifts God has given to us are being used for His purpose.  In other words: Am I using my gifts for the Kingdom or for my own benefit; or am I not even making use of God’s gifts?  If you’re truly uncertain about your gifts, it may be helpful to ask someone close to you.  Among the many vocational stories, there are plenty in which someone else has said to another: “I think you have the heart of a priest” – or – “you should consider the diaconate.”  Sometimes a person’s talents are more recognizable through the eyes of other people. 

If Sacred Scripture is a part of your daily life, then like the Prophet Ezekiel in this Reading, you are familiar with the word of God, what God has to say.  What a great treasure to have in this world of mixed and often confusing messages having an agenda attached.

The words “son of man” are quite familiar to us.  Jesus fulfilled these words and still was held responsible willingly for our guilt because that unusual twist was also part of God’s will because of His love for the guilty.

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul connects love with the Commandments.  In other words, where love abounds, then there also is where the Commandments are being obeyed.  Scholarly objections have been raised because Saint Paul fails to mention love for God in conjunction with love for neighbor as Jesus did (cf. Matthew 22:37-39).  The best response to those objections is that Paul equates love for God with love for neighbor; that is, love for God and hatred for others are incompatible. 

Saint John Chrysostom teaches that love for neighbor is a debt we are always paying, and yet the debt always remains, and is to be paid again.

Consider the “you shall not” Commandments which Saint Paul mentions in this Reading.  They are abusive acts towards our fellow human beings; therefore they are incongruous with love. 

Gospel Commentary
“The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion” (CCC 1829). 

Censuring and publicly embarrassing someone is not fraternal correction.  Fraternal correction is done out of love - love for God, and therefore love for the offended and the offender.  Fraternal correction seeks the peace that only Christ can give and thus attempts to resolve bitterness. 

Saint Leo the Great, in his homily on the Beatitudes, said: “Care of our neighbor is closely linked with love of God.  Christian man, recognize the great worth of the wisdom that is yours.  Recognize too the discipline you must exercise, and the great prize you are called to.  Mercy demands that you be merciful, righteousness that you be righteous, so that the Creator may be shown forth in the creature and that, in the mirror of man’s heart as in the lines of a portrait, the Image of God may be reflected.” 

Saint Augustine teaches that “love is itself the fulfillment of all our works.  There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.” 

Our modern day world of political correctness and the new age teaching that there’s no such thing as sin may be cramping the style of fraternal correction, but the popularity of a “sin does not exist” philosophy doesn’t make it correct. 

Jesus intimates here in this Gospel that He will not always be physically walking among us in the world and therefore makes it clear that the Church is the final authority.  As He no longer walks with us physically, He does, however, promise to be present mystically where two or three gather in His Name.  This may suggest the superiority of public prayer over private prayer, namely, the Mass and the daily Office of the Church.  Jesus is saying that when we gather together agreeing in His Name, our agreement also has the support of heaven.  Private prayer, however, is also valuable and is to be commended, especially for seeking personal intimacy with our Lord.

Where two or three or many are gathered, more times than not, translates into “liturgy”.  The Church’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium clearly states that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.”

That same document, however, also points out that it is important for the faithful to come to the liturgy with “proper dispositions” by cooperating “with divine grace”.  Plain and simple: come to the liturgy with a heart of love – love for God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and being with others who share that same love. That is the Mystical Body of Christ at its very best!