Friday, November 24, 2017

Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Optional Memorial for Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin, Martyr)
(Optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Alternate Readings for the Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria may be taken from the Common of Virgins or the Common of Martyrs

On Saturdays in Ordinary Time when there is no obligatory memorial, an optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary is allowed.[1] Mass texts may be taken from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from a Votive Mass, or from the special collection of Masses for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“The Resurrection” by El Greco, 1577-79


Reading 1: 1 Maccabees 6:1-13

Commentary on 1 Mc 6:1-13

The historical events published in this selection set the stage for the final battle between the Gentiles of the Seleucid Kings and the Jews.  This passage paints a picture of the evil king being thwarted in his plans for domination. He recognizes, according to the chronicler, that he had wronged the Hebrews. He nonetheless sent his forces against Maccabeus (Judas).

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 9:2-3, 4 and 6, 16 and 19

R. (see 16a) I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord.

Psalm 9 is a song of thanksgiving. In these strophes, thanks is given to God for his support in the face of oppression. The psalmist's enemies are thrown down and the faithful triumph through God’s grace.

Gospel: Luke 20:27-40

Commentary on Lk 20:27-40

The Sadducees' question, based on the law of levirate marriage recorded in Deuteronomy 25:5 ff, ridicules the idea of the resurrection. Jesus corrects their grave misunderstanding of the resurrection. He then argues on behalf of the resurrection of the dead on the basis of the written law that the Sadducees accept. He uses Exodus 3:2, 6 as an example of the Heavenly Father being God of the living who have passed from this life to the next.

This passage also relates the idea that the risen body is glorified. He states that the body is brought to a glorified state, free of the burdens of age or deformity (“…for they are like angels”). No longer is there earthly need for marriage, that purpose being the continuation of the species. It is not necessary because there is no death in the Heavenly Kingdom.

CCC: Lk 20:36 330; Lk 20:39 575

As we look at the whole picture of our celebration this day we see the nearly infinite combinations of scripture and saintly examples that provide us daily with a different lesson.  The reading from Maccabees tells us the story of the evil King Antiochus.  His attempts to spread his domination of the region by force are stopped in the East as he tries to take Persian treasure.  He then learns that the Hebrews to his West, whose cities he had conquered and whose Temple he had sacked, had also risen up unexpectedly and thrown back his armies.  The king, we are told, was so depressed over these defeats that he sank into an illness that would ultimately take his life.  He recognized that what he had done was wrong (we remember this is a Hebrew recalling these events) and even so lashes out one more time against them.  God strengthens Judas and Antiochus’ designs are turned back as well.  God supports his faithful, even against staggering odds.

This has happened many times throughout the history of the children of Israel The psalm response sings about it in earlier times, how God’s salvation is always at hand for those who are faithful to him and trust in his strength.  How many times has he shown this?  Yet still there are those who would believe that he does not exist, that his promises are hollow.  Look at the Sadducees in the Gospel.  They challenge Jesus using their narrow understanding of Mosaic Law. 

Unlike some who would use this as a story about divorce, the meaning behind this story is our belief in the resurrection.  The resurrection is our great hope and the promise made by God, sealed in the Blood of his only Son.  It is the final promise, the ultimate gift, and the lasting proof of God’s great love for us.

We couple all of these lessons and place on top of them the example of strength that faith in the promise of the resurrection can give to those who believe.  We pray today that we may also have that strength and faith in the face of any obstacles we encounter.


[2] The picture is “The Resurrection” by El Greco, 1577-79

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

“Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and His Companions, Martyrs” 
Artist and Date are UNKNOWN

Alternate readings for this memorial may be taken from the Common of Martyrs


Commentary on 1 Mc 4:36-37, 52-59

The war with the Gentiles who were trying to destroy the Hebrew faith and traditions was started by Mattathias. In this passage it is won by his son Judas (who was called Maccabeus). This final victory in Jerusalem required the cleansing and rededication of the Temple. We hear a feast declared toward the end of the passage. That feast is celebrated by the Jewish people today as Hannukah, also called the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22). The ancient historian, Josephus Flavius, calls it the Feast of Lights.


R. (13b) We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.

This great hymn of praise from First Chronicles directs our thoughts toward the power and majesty of God the Father. It rejoices in his omnipotent reign over all the earth. It is called "David's Prayer," and consists of three parts.  This selection is the first part which is a solemn praise for God's sovereignty and power.

Gospel: Luke 19:45-48

Commentary on Lk 19:45-48

Following the lament for Jerusalem, the Lord proceeds directly to the Temple in Jerusalem and there displays his power and zeal for “His Father’s House.” He drives out the vendors who had set up business in the outer precincts so that he would have a purified place to continue his teaching mission.

This episode, also captured in Mark 11:11, 15-19Matthew 21:10-17, and John 2:13-22 with different emphasis for each, is best understood, according to scholars, in conjunction with the words of the Prophet Malachi (Malachi 3:1-3).  “And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek.” Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 synthesizing it with Jeremiah 7:11 as in St. Luke’s Gospel. This is done to create an environment of holiness in which his mission of prayer and teaching may continue.

CCC: Lk 9:45 554

If we follow the news on a daily basis it is easy to see that we are in the midst of a great war that is raging around the world. We might even call it (as the King of Jordan did some time back) World War III. In some parts of the world, the Middle East, Northern India, and to some degree in China, the Christian forces are barely holding on. In some of these regions, specifically Iraq, Syria, and Egypt (not to mention Israel and Palestine) Christians are losing, being driven out or killed. ISIS has tilted many middle-eastern countries toward more radical and less inclusive sects of Islam where persecution of Christians is on the rise.  In other places we seem to be making inroads – Africa most notably (although Islamic forces are also pushing in there). In all areas of the world, the battle for the souls of mankind is being fiercely waged. The enemies are various, wearing different uniforms, some with no uniforms at all; call them insurgents who blend in and claim to be on “our side,” Jesus’ side.

When we look at this war from 10,000 feet as it is described above we can feel the relevance of the reading from Maccabees in which the Temple is finally re-taken and Judas (ironic as that name might seem) fulfills the wishes of his father Mattathias by reestablishing the Law of Moses and re-consecrating the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem.

In a smaller but more important skirmish, the Gospel of St. Luke describes Jesus’ entry into that same temple, driving out those who would commercialize the sacrifices of the people and profit by the Law of Moses. (We recognize that in doing this, the Lord is gaining the enmity of the Sanhedrin who sold the franchises to those vendors.)

These two examples demonstrate that this war that is being fought is epic in the span of time, continuing through the millennia. It actually started at the beginning of history, when St. Michael won the first battle casting Lucifer out of heaven. The human race lost the second major battle as Adam and Eve were deceived and failed their own test, being thrown out of paradise and allowing death to enter the world.

Here is the surprise that should be no surprise. We are all drafted into the army of God which is fighting this war. We are in the trenches, willingly or not. We are either pushing back the forces that would destroy us or we are sitting passively by waiting for the battle to find us. Even now, there are those who ask us to surrender, to give our parol (using the archaic understanding – in an earlier age, when a combatant surrendered he would give his word of honor not to resist further) and go over to the enemy.

The question (prayer) we must answer (offer) today is whose side are we on and what will we do in this conflict that rages? The great weapon we have is Christ’s love. We must pick up this weapon and use it as both shield and sword, striking the enemies of Jesus where we find them. It was out of love for the Father that he cleansed the Temple; it must be out of love that we cleanse our hearts and offer his love to those we meet.


[1]  The picture is “Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and His Companions, Martyrs” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Options for Thursday, November 23, 2017

“The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus” by  Wilhelm von Kaulbach,1846

Thanksgiving Day

Dioceses of the United States
“First Thanksgiving” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1863–1930

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Optional Memorial for Saint Clement I, Pope and Martyr)
(Optional Memorial for Saint Columban, Abbot)
(Optional Memorial for Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, Priest and Martyr) [In the United States]

For this optional memorial readings may be selected from the Common of Martyrs.

In the United States: Thanksgiving Day

“The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus” 
by Wilhelm von Kaulbach,1846


Reading 1: 1 Maccabees 2:15-29

Commentary on 1 Mc 2:15-29

We are given the story of how Mattathias began his rebellion in defiance of the king’s order for all in that land to become apostate. He demonstrates his fidelity by not only defying the order to sacrifice in contravention of Mosaic Law, but kills the first of the Jews in Modein who attempt to do so. He continues inviting all those in that town who are faithful to the Covenant of Moses to follow him and his family in rebellion against the King.

We are told that the area Mattathias and many of these followers fled to was “the desert: the sparsely inhabited mountain country southward from Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea. It was an arid region with some perennial springs and a fair amount of rain in winter.”[4]

There are two basic lessons that come from this story.  First, the upright Mattathias and his kinsmen remained faithful to the Law of Moses in the face of adversity.  Second, they did so at great material loss “…leaving behind in the city all their possessions.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 50:1b-2, 5-6, 14-15

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Commentary on Ps 50:1b-2, 5-6, 14-15

Psalm 50 recalls the sealing of the covenant with sacrifice. It gives praise to God remembering his promise to the faithful that He would be with them as long as they kept the precepts of the Law – their part of the covenant of Moses. “Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” This verse from the second strophe of Psalm 50 reminds us that God supports those faithful to him in their distress.

Gospel: Luke 19:41-44

Commentary on Lk 19:41-44

This lament for Jerusalem is found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. It is predictive of the destruction of that city in 70 A.D. by the Romans. “Jesus clothes his solemn words with the language and imagery of OT prophecy (Isaiah 29:1-3Jeremiah 6:6Ezekiel 4:1-3). Because Jerusalem has become a repeat offender, it will again suffer the devastation that befell the city in 586 B.C. with the Babylonian invasion.”[5] The clear meaning here is this event was a result of Jerusalem not accepting Christ the mediator of peace.

Mystically: (St. Gregory the Great, Hom. In Evan. 39) Christ continues to weep for sinners who, like Jerusalem, run after evil and refuse to make peace with God. Their sins hide from their eyes the judgment that is coming; otherwise they would weep for themselves. When it arrives, demons will besiege the soul and the Lord will visit them with his dreadful punishment.”[6]

CCC: Lk 19:41-42 558

It is so much easier for us to be “flexible” when it comes to the precepts of our faith than it is to rigorously follow them.  It is easier to accept that the hedonistic attitudes and mores that have become the societal norms than to speak out against them.  This hedonism is at the foundation of most of the actions that we as Christians are taught as being wrong, opposed to all our teaching.

Why, for instance, does society castigate the Church for her stand on the immorality of abortion and contraception?  Is it because they think we want to dominate the lives of others, as some claim?  No, it is because those who want abortion on demand and contraceptives to be handed out in schools believe that the human person is no better than an animal, unable to control the baser instincts.

At a very basic level, what the hedonistic society favors is simply a rejection of the idea that a person can or should control their urges and desires when it comes to sex. Ironically, as we are seeing in the media, they are shocked when iconic producers, politicians, or other celebrities demonstrate this lack of control. It’s just too hard and therefore not something they care to do. They see abortion as remedy for mistakes rather than the destruction of human life, and contraception as a preventive measure that allows uncontrolled sexual urges to be acted upon with impunity and without “biological” consequences.

Christ looks upon this situation and weeps for those who cannot find peace because they will not accept the more difficult path.  He weeps, because, in their idyllic folly, they destroy the happiness they seek.  Indeed, the unrepentant will find worse destruction than Jerusalem did for rejecting the Son of God.

For those who embrace the sins of the flesh and refuse to turn away, we pray that God in his mercy will continue to call out to them through our example.  We pray that one day, before it is too late, they will see the destruction of the human spirit embodied in their attitudes and come home to the Lord.


[1] The picture is “The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus” by  Wilhelm von Kaulbach,1846

[4] See NAB Footnote for 1 Mc 2:29
[5] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. pp.144-145
[6] ibid