Each Sunday, I like to explore why the Church selects the readings for a given Sunday. In most cases, there is a connection, or common theme. I think there is a clear connection between the first reading and the Gospel. In the first reading Elijah has retreated to the mountains and is hiding out in a cave hoping to have an encounter with God. He experiences powerful phenomenons such as "a great and strong wind," an earthquake, and fire. 1 Kings 19:11-12. God was not to be found in any of these. Rather, it was in a "still small voice" (RSVCE) or a "whispering sound" (NAB) that God was found.
There are many tenets of our Catholic faith that make us unique from other Christian denominations. The Communion of Saints, Purgatory, the Sacraments, Sacred Tradition are just a few examples. But nothing is more central to being Catholic than the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In fact, this truth is polarizing. It has been this way up and down the centuries.
I read the story of Pentecost in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and I think back to my Confirmation in eighth grade. I read about the Apostles and their amazing response to the Holy Spirit. They were given the gift of courage to boldly proclaim the Gospel and they were given the gift of language so that the Gospel could be proclaimed to the Gentiles. I sometimes wonder why I did not have a similar response to the outpouring of the Spirit at my Confirmation.
Men and women of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, "why do you stand looking into heaven"? Of course this is the question posed by the two men in white robes standing by the disciples on the mount called Olivet. Acts 1:11. These angels were bringing the apostles back to reality, as if they were saying, "enough of the cloud gazing - it is time to get to work." It is a question that is meant for each of us. What are we waiting for? It is time to get to work. What is this work?
I will be the first to admit that I did not know what the word “beatitude” meant. I could have probably rattled off most of the beatitudes, since I helped my kids learn them for school. I suppose I saw them as Christian ideals. I never considered them as rules for true happiness. Beatitude simply means happiness, or joy. Bishop Barron’s homily from Sunday really helped me view the Beatitudes in a new way. There are eight Beatitudes in total. Bishop Barron divides them into the four “positive” beatitudes and the four “negative,” or confounding, beatitudes. Here are the positives:
This was the subject of the video teaching Thursday night. On Friday morning, I went through my usual prayer morning prayer routine, which includes praying over the daily Mass readings. The Gospel from Friday was from Mark 3. The passage tells us that Jesus "appointed twelve, whom he also named disciples, that they might be with him . . . ." Mark 3:14.
If today's Gospel did not stop you in your tracks, please take a moment and consider this text: "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26. Let that sink in for a moment.
In his book, Divine Renovation, Father James Mallon explains that the origin of the word "disciple." In Greek, the word "disciple" is mathetes, which is derived from the verb manthanein, meaning "to learn. Thus, to be a disciple is to be a learner. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, Father Mallon explains that this involves being engaged in a lifelong process of learning from and about Jesus the master. Dave Nodar, the Executive Director of ChristLife, explains it this way: "To be a disciple of Jesus today means to not only profess certain views about Christianity, but apply the teaching of the Lord Jesus and his Church to every aspect of our lives (24/7)." (emphasis added). From the word "disciple" is derived discipline. The learning process is not accidental. There is an intentional element to being a disciple. It involves a choice to follow Jesus.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Matthew 9:36-37.
Have you ever considered yourself a laborer for Christ? Dorothy Day was the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement and was a true laborer for Christ. She urged that along with the works of mercy, feeding, clothing, and sheltering our brothers, we must also indoctrinate and give reason for the faith that is in us. If we do not, Day stated that we were scattered members of the body of Christ and not all members of one another. Christ calls us to reach out to others and to help with the harvest. Day said that keeping our religion to ourselves makes it an opiate for us alone, for our own comfort and individual safety. This certainly goes against the culture, where the expectation is that religion is something private and should not be a subject of public discourse. The harvest is all around you. Will you answer the call?