Saturday, October 15, 2005

Gospel for Oct 15, Memorial: St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church

From: Luke 12:8-12

Various Teachings of Jesus (Continuation)

(Jesus said to His disciples,) [8] "And I tell you, every one who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; [9] but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. [10] And every one who speaks a word againstthe Son of Man will be forgiven; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. [11] And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; [12] for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."


8-9. This follows logically from Christ's previous teaching: worse than physical evils, worse even than death, are evils of the soul, that is, sin. Those who out of fear of temporal suffering deny our Lord and are unfaithful to the demands of the faith will fall into a greater evil still: they will be denied by Christ Himself on the Day of Judgment; whereas those who are penalized in this life because of their faithfulness to Christ will receive the eternal reward of being recognized by Him and will come to share His glory.

10. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists in maliciously attributing to the devil actions which have God as their origin. A person who does that prevents God's pardon from reaching him: that is why he cannot obtain forgiveness (cf. Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:28-30). Jesus understands and excuses the weakness of a person who makes a oral mistake, but He is not similarly indulgent to someone who shuts his eyes and his heart to the wonderful things the Spirit does; that was the way these Pharisees acted who accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul; it is the way unbelieving people act who refuse to see in Christ's work a sign of the goodness of God, who reject the invitation God offers them and who thereby put themselves outside the reach of salvation (cf. Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31). See the note on Mark 3:28-30.

[The note on Mark 3:28-30 states:
28-30. Jesus has just worked a miracle but the scribes refuse to recognize it "for they had said `He has an unclean spirit'" (verse 30). They do not want to admit that God is the author of the miracle. In this attitude lies the special gravity of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit--attributing to the prince of evil, to Satan, the good works performed by God Himself. Anyone acting in this way will become like the sick person who has so lost confidence in the doctor that he rejects him as if an enemy and regards as poison the medicine that can save his life. That is why our Lord says that he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not forgiven: not because God cannot forgive all sins, but because that person, in his blindness towards God, rejects Jesus Christ, His teaching and His miracles, and despises the graces of the Holy Spirit as if they were designed to trap him (cf. "St. Pius V Catechism", II, 5, 19; St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae", II-II, q. 14, a. 3).]
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gospel for Friday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Luke 12:1-7

Various Teachings of Jesus

[1] In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, He (Jesus) began to say to His disciples first, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. [2] Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. [3] Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops."

[4] "I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. [5] But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into Hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! [6] Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. [7] Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."


3. Most Palestinian houses had a roof in the form of a terrace. There people would meet to chat and while away the time in the hottest part of the day. Jesus points out to His disciples that just as in these get-togethers things said in private became matters of discussion, so too, despite the Pharisees' and scribes' efforts to hide their vices and defects under the veil of hypocrisy, they would become a matter of common knowledge.

6-7. Nothing--not even the most insignificant thing--escapes God, His Providence and the judgment He will mete out. For this same reason no one should fear that any suffering or persecution he experiences in following Christ will remain unrewarded in eternity.

The teaching about fear, contained in verse 5, is filled out in verses 6 and 7, where Jesus tells us that God is a good Father who watches over every one of us--much more than He does over these little ones (whom He also remembers). Therefore, our fear of God should not be servile (based on fear of punishment); it should be a filial fear (the fear of someone who does not want to displease his father), a fear nourished by trust in Divine Providence.


Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Gospel for Thursday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 11:47-54:

The Hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees (Continuation)

(Jesus said to the Pharisees,) [47] "Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. [48] So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. [49] Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, `I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' [50] that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, [51] from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of this generation. [52] Woe to you lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering."

[53] As He went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press Him hard, and to provoke Him to speak of many things, [54] lying in wait for Him, to catch at something He might say.


51. Zechariah was a prophet who died by being stoned in the temple of Jerusalem around the year 800 B.C. because he accused the people of Israel of being unfaithful to God's law (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:20-22). The murder of Abel (Genesis 4:8) and that of Zechariah were, respectively, the first and last murders reported in these books which the Jews regarded as Sacred Scripture. Jesus refers to a Jewish tradition which, in His own time and even later, pointed out the stain of the blood of Zechariah.

The altar referred to here was the altar of holocausts, located outside, in the courtyard of the priests, in front of the temple proper.

52. Jesus severely reproaches these doctors of the Law who, given their study and meditation on Scripture, were the very ones who should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah, since His coming had been foretold in the sacred books. However, as we learn from the Gospel, the exact opposite happened. Not only did they not accept Jesus: they obstinately opposed Him. As teachers of the Law they should have taught the people to follow Jesus; instead, they blocked the way.

53-54. St. Luke frequently records this attitude of our Lord's enemies (cf. 6:11; 19:47-48; 20:19-20; 22:2). The people followed Jesus and were enthusiastic about His preaching and miracles, whereas the Pharisees and scribes would not accept Him and would not allow the people to follow Him; they tried in every way to discredit Him in the eyes of the people (cf. John 11:48).

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Brief Defense of Corporal Mortification

As reported recently about the acts of mortification practiced by some members of Opus Dei, Fr. Michael Giesler wrote an article for Crisis Magazine in defense of the practice. That article can be found here:
The Body’s Forgotten ally: A Brief Defense of Corporal Mortification
By Rev. Michael Giesler

It’s an interesting question. Did Leonardo wear a cilice or use a discipline? Though not mentioned in Dan Brown’s fantasy novel, The Da Vinci Code—with its bizarre and misleading description of corporal mortification—and granting Leonardo a certain religious fervor, it’s possible.

The cilice, a sharp chain worn around the leg, is really a derivation of the ancient hair shirt, which originated in the region of Cilicia in Asia Minor. It was used for many centuries in the medieval and Renaissance Church as a means of purifying the senses, atoning for sin, and winning grace for others.
For those who are familiar with Fr. Corapi's Catechism Series, you may well remember his discussion of "hair shirts" and acts of penance and mortification.

This article by Fr. Giesler is a well reasoned and thorough one which everyone should be encouraged to read. In our age of instant gratification and our general fear and loathing of anything contrary to pleasure, this article should bring us back to a certain sense of reality that the practice of acts of mortification and penance can be something which allows us to grow closer to our Lord.

Please read and share the full article which can be found here.

Kudos to Marc P. for providing the link!

Gospel for Wednesday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Luke 11:42-46

The Hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees (Continuation)

(Jesus said to the Pharisees,) [42] "But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. [43] Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. [44] Woe to you! for you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it."

[45] One of the lawyers answered Him, "Teacher, in saying this You reproach us also." [46] And He said, "Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers."


42. The Law of Moses laid down that the harvest had to be tithed (cf. Leviticus 27:30-33; Deuteronomy 12:22ff; etc.) to provide for the worship offered in the temple. Insignificant products were not subject to this Law.

Rue is a bitter medicinal plant used by the Jews in ancient times. Did it have to be tithed?: the Pharisees, who were so nit-picking, said that it did.

44. According to the Old Law, anyone who touched a grave became unclean for seven days (Num 19:16), but with the passage of time a grave could become so overgrown that a person could walk on it without noticing. Our Lord uses this comparison to unmask the hypocrisy of these people He is talking to: they are very exact about very small details but they forget their basic duty--justice and the love of God (verse 42). On the outside they are clean but their hearts are full of malice and rottenness (verse 39); they pretend to be just, appearances are all that matters to them; they know that virtue is held in high regard, therefore they strive to appear highly virtuous (verse 43). Duplicity and deceit mark their lives.

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Reading for Wednesday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Romans 2:1-11

The Jews Also are Guilty

[1] Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. [2] We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things. [3] Do you suppose, 0 man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? [4] 0r do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? [5] But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. [9] There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, [10] but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. [11] For God shows no partiality.


1. The Apostle now addresses the Jews to make them see that, despite their privileged position, they too are unrighteous. He does this by setting up an imaginary conversation with a person representing the Jewish people, whose attitude is like that of those who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others" (Lk 18:9). If the pagans, who could only know God through the use of natural reason, cannot be excused for not worshipping him and for committing sin, how much more inexcusable is the behavior of Jews who, despite receiving supernatural Revelation, commit the very same sins as those for which they reproach the Gentiles. St Paul's invective against the Jews (vv. 17-24) is reminiscent of our Lord's criticism of the scribes and Pharisees (cf. Mt 23:13-33).

2-11. These verses contain the following truths: 1) God rewards and punishes, and therefore there is a close connection between a person's behavior in this life (meritorious or blameworthy) and what happens to him or her in the next life (cf. especially vv. 2, 5, 7-10). 2) God is a just and impartial Judge; he does not look to whether a person is Jew or Gentile but simply to how he lives. 3) The passage also tells us when this judgment will take place (v. 5, elaborated on by v. 16).

In the course of speaking about God as rewarding the good, St Paul describes the glorious state of the blessed in heaven ("eternal life", "glory", "honor", "peace": vv. 7, 10) and the fact that it will last for ever ("immortality": v. 7). He also teaches that in order to attain this state one must persevere in good works ("patience in well-doing": v. 7); this echoes what our Lord said: "he who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt 10:22; cf. 24:13).

Parallel with this, St Paul speaks of how God will punish sinners ("wrath and fury": v. 8) and of the unhappy fate of those condemned to hell ("tribulation and distress": v. 9).

The meaning of this passage becomes clearer in the light of many other passages of Sacred Scripture and, also, of the Church's teaching about the Judgment and when it will take place. There are two different occasions "when everyone must appear in the presence of the Lord to render an account of all his thoughts, words and actions [...]. The first takes place when each of us departs this life; for then he is instantly placed before the judgment seat of God, where all that he has ever done shall be subjected to the most rigid scrutiny. This is called the particular judgment. The second occurs when on the same day and in the same place all men shall stand together before the tribunal of their judge, that in the presence and hearing of all human beings of all times each may know his final doom and sentence" ("St Pius V Catechism", 1, 8, 3).

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

The Synod: The Eucharist Determines the State of the Church’s Health

A diary of the first nine days of discussion. The two extremes: the loss of faith and martyrdom. Objections to the ordination of married men. The open case of divorced and remarried persons. The push for intercommunion with Protestants and Orthodox.

by Sandro Magister
Cardinal Edmund Szoka, for example, went so far as to decry the fact that “some of our priests, and even some bishops, have lost their faith in the Holy Eucharist, an celebrate Holy Mass as if it were simply a professional duty.” The result, as other European and Western synod fathers in particular have complained, is a dramatic decline in Mass attendance.
...Cardinal Cláudio Hummes of San Paolo in Brazil said he was more concerned:
“The number of Brazilians who declare themselves Catholics has diminished rapidly, on an average of 1% a year. In 1991 Catholic Brazilians were nearly 83%, today and according to new studies, they are barely 67%. We wonder with anxiety: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country? In conformity with this situation, it has been found that in Brazil there are two Protestant pastors for each Catholic priest, and the majority from the Pentecostal Churches. Many indications show that the same is true for almost all of Latin America and here too we wonder: how long will Latin America remain a Catholic continent? The response of the Church in Brazil is, in the first place, the missions including the permanent home missionary visits. A missionary Church must be deeply eucharistic, for the Eucharist is the source of the mission.”
On the subject of the decline of the number of priests and the possibility of ordaining married men:
Various persons on various occasions have suggested that the shortage of priests be addressed by ordaining married men in the Latin Rite Church, as is already done in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.
In any case, at the present synod the cardinal relator [Angelo] Scola mentioned the hypothesis only in order to reject it...

...the most serious criticisms of ordaining married men came from exponents of the Eastern Rite Churches, in which married priesthood is the norm.
The subjects of "intercommunion" and Holy Communion for those who are divorced and remarried were also discussed.
But it is possible that something may change in regard to another question that has arisen during the synod discussions: communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
Another question discussed at the synod is that of “intercommunion,” or the sharing of the Eucharist between Catholic Christians and those of other denominations, which is generally permitted only in exceptional cases.

After arguing that the very term “intercommunion” is “ambiguous and self-contradictory,“ cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, said that in this regard “Vatican Council II talks about two principles: the unity of the Church and the participation in the means of grace, asserting that the unity of the Church, on the most part, forbids the access of a non-Catholic to the Eucharist, but participation in the means of grace perhaps recommends it.”
More here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Opus Dei Topic of Dicussion for the Post Dispatch

Here is one article briefly explaining some of the things Opus Dei members do in living one's life for God: Opus Dei is unique in Catholic world

and this article about Mortification: Opus Dei's practice of corporal mortification
It is one of the more dramatic and controversial aspects of the Catholic movement Opus Dei: corporal mortification.

Mortification, which literally means "to make death," is a method of killing everyday temptations that distract from God. When a Christian gives up something for Lent, that is a form of mortification.
It's controversial, I suppose, because it seems that very few people (including Catholics) practice acts of mortification these days.
The Rev. Michael Geisler, spiritual director of Opus Dei in St. Louis, has written two articles this summer attempting to explain the theological purpose behind corporal mortification.
"Self-denial helps a person overcome both psychological and physical weakness, gives him energy, helps him grow in virtue and ultimately leads to salvation," wrote Geisler in a defense of corporal mortification in the July/August issue of Crisis magazine. "It conquers the insidious demons of softness, pessimism and lukewarm faith that dominate the lives of so many today."
It's nice to see articles explaining Opus Dei in a fairly positive light - especially in the Post.

Is Evolution Compatible with the Faith?

From Catholic Culture comes this latest email:
In my latest Highlights column on I address the furor caused by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn's recent blast against the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. It turns out that the Cardinal's remarks were based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the term "random" in science and mathematics.

If you're concerned about evolutionary theory, this column is must-reading: Evolution: Thinking Clearly about Randomness

I'd also like to report that we have significantly improved the Catechism portion of our search engine. Originally, both footnotes and headings were returned along with regular Catechism paragraphs, and this was confusing. Now, if a chapter or section heading contains your search word, the entire section is returned. Moreoever, the order of the results is more sensible: sections first, then individual paragraphs, then footnotes.

As we enter Fall and prepare for Advent, please consider Trinity Communications in your end-of-year giving. We continue to need your support. Thanks!

Jeff Mirus
Trinity Communications

A Poignant Commentary on Today's Reading

Especially notable today considering our excessively self-indulgent, materialistic, and lusful society.

From: Romans 1:16-25

The Theme of the Epistle

[16] For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."

The Fault and Punishment of the Gentiles

[18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; [21] for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

[24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.


16. St Paul continues to speak about the "Gospel". The proclamation of the saving power of Christ's death on the Cross is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, whereas a Christian is proud of the Cross and draws strength from it. When writing to the Romans, the Apostle, who was quite familiar with the noise of triumphal marches and the divinization of emperors, simply says that "he is not ashamed; he does so to encourage them also not to be ashamed but, rather, to boast as he did. If today someone approaches you and asks you, ' you adore a crucified man?', far from hanging your head and blushing with confusion, use this reproach as an opportunity to boast and let your eyes and your face show that you are not ashamed. If they come back and ask you aloud, 'What, adore the crucified?', reply: 'Yes, I adore him [...]. I adore and boast of a crucified God who, by his Cross, reduced the demons to silence and did away with all superstition: for me his Cross is the ineffable trophy of his benevolence and of his love"' (St John Chrysostom, "Hom. on Rom", 2).

17. The _expression "righteousness of God" refers to the state of righteousness or justice (= justness) in which a person is placed when God gives him grace. It is called the righteousness of God because man cannot attain it through his own efforts: it is a free (gratuitous, hence "grace") gift of God. The fact that "righteousness" comes from God does not mean that it is something external to man, for righteousness does not mean merely that we are called "righteous" but that we really are righteous in God's eyes. The Magisterium of the Church has given solemn teaching on this matter in the context of explaining the various factors which cause man's justification; "Finally", says the Council of Trent, "the only formal cause is 'justice of God, not the justice by which he is himself just, but the justice by which he makes us just' (St Augustine, "De Trinitate", XIV, 12, 15), namely, the justice which we have as a gift from him and by which we are renewed in the spirit of our mind. And not only are we considered just, but we are truly said to be just, and we are just" ("De Iustificatione", chap. 7).

"Through faith for faith": Sacred Scripture tends to use this kind of phrase to indicate on-going growth in something that is living (cf. Ps 84:8; 2 Cor 2:16; 3:18; Rom 6:19). What is being spoken about here is a steady progression from the imperfect understanding of divine truths possible in this life to the perfect understanding that is experienced in heaven. The full meaning of the phrase can be seen from St Paul's statement that in the Gospel justice is made manifest: it begins and is nourished and grows through faith, until the believer at last attains eternal salvation.

The statement that "he who through faith is righteous shall live" comes from Hab 2:4; St Paul here applies it to the position of the Christian. What the prophet meant was that those Jews who kept the Law and trusted in its promises would not succumb when the Babylonians invaded. St Paul applies the test to the righteous of the New Testament: if they stay firm in their faith in the Gospel, they will continue in the life of grace and will attain everlasting beatitude. The faith of good Israelites was a prefiguring of the faith of good Christians. The just man will live by faith, which "faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and source of all justification, 'without which it is impossible to please God' (cf. Heb 11:6) and to be counted as his sons" (Council of Trent, "De Iustificatione", chap. 8).

St Paul's statement can also be understood as meaning that he who through faith is just will live. This puts the emphasis on the fact that faith is the beginning of the process of justification, and that a person who is justified will attain salvation.

18-32. The Apostle is saying that the righteousness of God (= justness) can only come about through faith in Jesus Christ--and that neither Jews nor Gentiles possess this righteousness. He develops this point up as far as 3:20.

In the present passage he describes two stages in the position of the Gentiles. In the first (vv. 18-23) he points out their blameworthiness, and then in the second he goes on (vv. 24-32) to speak about the punishment of their sins. Justice as the righteousness of God refers to God's action of saving sinful man by pouring his grace into him; God's "wrath" is the punishment which the Almighty inflicts on him who persists in sin. For, as St Thomas says, "Anger and the like are ascribed to God by an analogy drawn from their effects. Because it is characteristic of anger that it stimulates men to requite wrong, divine retribution is analogically termed anger" ("Summa Theologiae", I, q. 3, a. 2 ad 2).

There is a connection between faith and righteousness, on the one hand, and sin and God's wrath, on the other. This Pauline teaching ties in with the last thing St John the Baptist is recorded as saying in bearing witness to Christ: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (Jn 3:36).

Christian teaching often points out how God's desire that all sinners be saved (the "righteousness of God" as instrument of salvation) combines with his punishment of sin (the "wrath of God"). How perfect justice interfaces with perfect mercy is ultimately a mystery.

18. "Who by their wickedness suppress the truth": commenting on these words St Thomas writes: "Genuine knowledge of God has the effect of inclining a person to goodness. However, this knowledge of God can be frustrated, as if enchained, by a person's attachment to vice" ("Commentary on Rom, ad loc.").

Clearly St Paul is speaking here of those Gentiles who do know about God but who fail to appreciate their good fortune; their knowledge of God does not produce the result which should naturally flow from it--an upright life. We can see from what Paul says that man is naturally religious. He has a knowledge of God which is not just theoretical: it has implications for his whole life because it implies that he is intimately united to God. When a person does not follow the impulse of his very nature he is guilty of unrighteousness, for he should render God homage for being his Creator.

"All men, because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore bearing personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth" (Vatican II, "Dignitatis Humanae", 2).

Our dependence on God does not mean that we are less than free; on the contrary, it is rejection of all religious duties that leads to the shameful slaveries which Paul now goes on to list, for "religion is the greatest rebellion of a person who does not want to live like an animal, who is not satisfied and will not rest until he reaches and comes to know his Creator" ([St] J. Escriva, "Conversations", 73).

19-20. It is possible to know about God without his having to reveal himself in a supernatural way; we know this from the book of Wisdom (Wis 13:1-9), which says that pagans, who, led astray by the beauty and power and greatness of created things, took these things for gods, should have known that all this perfection etc. came from their Author, for "from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator" (Wis 13:5).

This knowledge of God, which we term "natural", is not something easy to attain; but it can be attained and it is the best form of preparation for accepting supernaturally revealed truths, and for disposing us to honor and worship our Creator. Moreover, Revelation confirms the certainty which natural knowledge gives: "The heavens are telling the glory of God", the Psalmist exclaims, band the firmament proclaims his handiwork" (Ps 19:2). St Augustine reminds us that traces of the Creator are to be found in man, and, as we all know from experience, we have been made to know and love God and therefore our heart is restless until it rests in him (cf. "Confessions", I, 1, 1).

To sum up, we can say with St Thomas Aquinas that, in the natural order, man has two ways of discovering the existence of God--one, through reason that inner light by means of which a person acquires knowledge; the other, through certain external pointers to the wisdom of God, that is, created things perceivable through the senses: these things are like a book on which are imprinted traces of God (cf. "Commentary on Rom", 1:6).

Whichever of these routes is taken, "God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason from the things that he created" (Vatican I, "Dei Filius", chap. 2).

Recalling the core of Christian teaching about the nature of man, the Second Vatican Council states that "sacred Scripture teaches that man was created 'in the image of God' as able to know and love his Creator", and that "the dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence" ("Gaudium Et Spes", 12 and 19). The human mind, therefore, even when relying on its own resources can grasp various truths concerning God--first of all, his existence, and secondly, certain of his attributes, which St Paul sums up here as his "invisible nature", "eternal power" and "deity". By reflecting on the created world, we can learn about some of God's perfections; but, St Thomas Aquinas comments, only in heaven will we be able to see that these various perfections are all one with the divine essence. This is why St Paul talks about God's "invisible nature". Contemplation of the works of creation leads us to posit the presence of an ever-existing Creator, and brings us to discover his "eternal power". Finally, the word "deity" implies that God is transcendent: he is the Cause, superior to all other causes, and in him everything finds its explanation and ultimate purpose.

The fact that it is possible to know God by the use of natural reason means that pagans who chose not to worship him were blameworthy. Their position is comparable to that of contemporary atheists and unbelievers who deny or doubt the existence of God despite the fact that as human beings they do know him in some way in the depths of their conscience. The culpability of pagans as of modern unbelievers ("they are without excuse") derives from the fact that they fail to accept that God is knowable through the use of human reason; they both commit the same fault--that of refusing to render worship to God.

Of course, to some degree the attitude of atheists can be explained by historical, environmental, personal and other factors. However, it should not be forgotten that these do not justify atheism. However, "those who willfully try to drive God from their heart and to avoid all questions about religion, not following the biddings of their conscience, are not free from blame" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 19).

21-23. The Gentiles knew God but they failed to give him his due--to worship him in a spirit of adoration and thanksgiving. As a result they fell into polytheism (belief in a multiplicity of gods) and idolatry, as St Paul vividly describes: they worshipped images depicting men and women (the Greeks gave their gods human form) or animals (as was the case in Egyptian and other eastern religions).

In our own time idolatry does not take that form, but there are practices which can properly be called idolatrous. Man is naturally religious and if he does not worship the true God he necessarily has to find other things to take God's place. Sometimes it is himself that man makes the object of worship: the Second Vatican Council points out that "with some people it is their exaggerated idea of man that causes their faith to languish; they are more prone, it would seem, to affirm man than to deny God [...]. Those who profess this kind of atheism maintain that freedom consists in this, that man is an end to himself and the sole maker, with supreme control, of his own history" ("Gaudium Et Spes", 19 and 20). It also happens that people, by becoming enslaved to them, make gods out of the good things created by God for man's benefit--money, power, sensuality.

24-32. The sin of idolatry leads to the kind of moral disorder described by St Paul: every time man knowingly and willingly tries to marginalize God, that religious aberration leads to moral disorder not only in the individual but also in society.

God punishes the sin of idolatry and impiety by withdrawing his graces: that is what the Apostle means when he says that he "gave them up to the lusts of their hearts" (v. 24), "gave them up to dishonorable passions" (v. 26). St John Chrysostom, explaining these words, says: "The Apostle shows here that ungodliness brings with it violation and forgetfulness of every law. When Paul says that God gives them up, this must be understood as meaning that God leaves them to their own devices. God abandons the evildoer but he does not impel him towards evil. When the general withdraws in the thick of the battle, he gives his soldiers up to the enemy, not in the sense of physically shackling them but because he deprives them of the help of his presence. God acts in the same way. Rebels against his law, men have turned their back on him; God, his goodness exhausted, abandons them [...]. What else could he do? Use force, compel them? Those means do not make men virtuous. The only thing he could do was let them be" ("Hom. on Rom", 3).

It may be that God counts on the experience of sin to move people to repentance. In any event, we should not read into this passage unconcern, much less injustice on God's part: he never abandons people unless they first abandon him (cf. Council of Trent, "De Iustificatione", chap. 11).

25. When describing the blasphemous behavior of Gentiles who worship created things rather than the Creator, St Paul cannot but utter an ejaculation, in a spirit of atonement. This should teach us to do the same whenever we witness offense being offered to God.

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Gospel for Tuesday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Luke 11:37-41

The Hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees

[37] While He (Jesus) was speaking, a Pharisee asked Him to dine with Him; so He went in and sat at table. [38] The Pharisee was astonished to see that He did not first wash before dinner. [39] And the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. [40] You fools! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? [41] But give for alms those things which are within; and behold everything is clean for you."


39-52. In this passage (one of the most severe in the Gospel) Jesus determinedly unmasks the vice which was largely responsible for official Judaism's rejection of His teaching--hypocrisy cloaked in legalism. There are many people, who under the guise of doing good, keeping the mere letter of the law, fail to keep its spirit; they close themselves to the love of God and neighbor; they harden their hearts and, though apparently very upright, turn others away from fervent pursuit of God--making virtue distasteful. Jesus' criticism is vehement because they are worse than open enemies: against open enemies one can defend oneself, but these enemies are almost impossible to deal with. The scribes and Pharisees were blocking the way of those who wanted to follow Jesus: they were the most formidable obstacle to the Gospel. Our Lord's invective against the scribes and Pharisees is reported even more fully in chapter 23 of St. Matthew. See the note on Matthew 23:1-39.

[The note on Matthew 23:1-39 states:
1-39. Throughout this chapter Jesus severely criticizes the scribes and Pharisees and demonstrates the sorrow and compassion He feels towards the ordinary mass of the people, who have been ill-used, "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). His address may be divided into three parts: in the first (verses 1-12) He identifies their principal vices and corrupt practices; in the second (verses 13-36) He confronts them and speaks His famous "woes", which in effect are the reverse of the Beatitudes He preached in Chapter 5: no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven--no one can escape condemnation to the flames--unless he changes his attitude and behavior; in the third part (verses 37-39) He weeps over Jerusalem, so grieved is He by the evils into which the blind pride and hardheartedness of the scribes and Pharisees have misled the people.]

40-41. It is not easy to work out what these verses mean. Probably our Lord is using the idea of cleaning the inside and outside of dishes to teach that a person's heart is much more important than what appears on the surface--whereas the Pharisees got it the wrong way round, as so many people tend to do. Jesus is warning us not to be so concerned about "the outside" but rather give importance to "the inside".
Applying this to the case of alms: we have to be generous with those things we are inclined to hoard; in other words, it is not enough just to give a little money (that could be a purely formal, external gesture); love is what we have to give others--love and understanding, refinement, respect for their freedom, deep concern for their spiritual and material welfare; this is something we cannot do unless our interior dispositions are right.

In an address to young people, Pope John Paul II explains what almsgiving really means: "The Greek word for alms, "eleemosyne", comes from "eleos", meaning compassion and mercy. Various circumstances have combined to change this meaning so that almsgiving is often regarded as a cold act, with no love in it. But almsgiving in the proper sense means realizing the needs of others and letting them share in one's own goods. Who would say that there will not always be others who need help, especially spiritual help, support, consolation, fraternity, love? The world is always very poor, as far as love is concerned" (28 March 1979).

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Gospel for Monday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Luke 11:29-32

The Sign of Jonah

[29] When the crowds were increasing, He (Jesus) began to say, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. [30] For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. [31] The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. [32] The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."


29-32. Jonah was the prophet who led the Ninevites to do penance: his actions and preaching they saw as signifying that God had sent him (cf. note on Matthew 12:41-42).

[Note on Matthew 12:41-42 states:
41-42. Nineveh was a city in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) to which the prophet Jonah was sent. The Ninevites did penance (John 3:6-9) because they recognized the prophet and accepted his message; whereas Jerusalem does not wish to recognize Jesus, of whom Jonah was merely a figure. The queen of the South was the queen of Sheba in southwestern Arabia, who visited Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10) and was in awe of the wisdom with which God had endowed the King of Israel. Jesus is also prefigured in Solomon, whom Jewish tradition saw as the epitome of the wise man. Jesus' reproach is accentuated by the example of pagan converts, and gives us a glimpse of the universal scope of Christianity, which will take root among the Gentiles.

There is a certain irony in what Jesus says about "something greater" than Jonah or Solomon having come: really, He is infinitely greater, but Jesus prefers to tone down the difference between Himself and any figure, no matter how important, in the Old Testament.]

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Gospel for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 22:1-14

The Parable of the Marriage Feast

[1] And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, [2] "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, [3] and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. [4] Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.' [5] But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, [6] while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. [7] The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. [8] Then he said to his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. [9] Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.' [10] And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

[11] "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; [12] and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. [13] Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' [14] For many are called, but few are chosen."


1-14. In this parable Jesus reveals how intensely God the Father desires the salvation of all men--the banquet is the Kingdom of heaven--and the mysterious malice that lies in willingly rejecting the invitation to attend, a malice so vicious that it merits eternal punishment. No human arguments make any sense that go against God's call to conversion and acceptance of faith and its consequences.

The Fathers see in the first invitees the Jewish people: in salvation history God addresses himself first to the Israelites and then to all the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).

Indifference and hostility cause the Israelites to reject God's loving call and therefore to suffer condemnation. But the Gentiles also need to respond faithfully to the call they have received; otherwise they will suffer the fate of being cast "into outer darkness".

"The marriage", says St Gregory the Great ("In Evangelia Homiliae", 36) "is the wedding of Christ and his Church, and the garment is the virtue of charity: a person who goes into the feast without a wedding garment is someone who believes in the Church but does not have charity."

The wedding garment signifies the dispositions a person needs for entering the Kingdom of heaven. Even though he belongs to the Church, if he does not have these dispositions he will be condemned on the day when God judges all mankind. These dispositions essentially mean responding to grace.

13. The Second Vatican Council reminds us of the doctrine of the "last things", one aspect of which is covered in this verse. Referring to the eschatological dimension of the Church, the Council recalls our Lord's warning about being on the watch against the wiles of the devil, in order to resist in the evil day (cf. Eph 6:13). "Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed (cf. Heb 9:27), we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed (cf. Mt 25:31-46) and not, like the wicked and slothful servants (cf. Mt 25:26), be ordered to depart into the eternal fire (cf. Mt 25:41), into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth'" ("Lumen Gentium", 48).

14. These words in no way conflict with God's will that all should be saved (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). In his love for men, Christ patiently seeks the conversion of every single soul, going as far as to die on the cross (cf. Mt 23:37; Lk 15:4-7). St Paul teaches this when he says that Christ loved us and "gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph 5:2). Each of us can assert with the Apostle that Christ "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). However, God in his infinite wisdom respects man's freedom: man is free to reject grace (cf. Mt 7:13-14).

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.