Sunday by Sunday

Stephen Boyle FAITH Magazine March - April 2008

Our regular guide to the Word of God in the Sunday Liturgy

4th March: 4th Sunday of Lent

 Samuel anoints David the Son of Jesse. He is to forward the plan of God as king of Israel. The importance of King David is shown to us at the very beginning of the New Testament. At the annunciation the angel says: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David”. Zechariah also speaks of David in the Benedictus: “He has established for us a saving power in the House of his servant David”.

 At baptism, we were anointed by the priest with the chrism of salvation. All of us are marked with the indelible seal of Christ, and belong forever to Him. And just as David was specifically chosen for a great vocation, so is every baptised person. In the Lord of the Rings Frodo, when discouraged in his quest, is informed: “This task was appointed to you, Frodo of the shire. If you do not find a way, no one will”. God knows each of us by name and we are chosen by Him for a specific vocation. Just as each one of us is unique, with our own DNA, so each Christian, each “anointed one”, has a unique calling in the plan of God.

 Jesus takes on the throne of David when he is born. Jesus confirms his kingship to Pilate “Yes I am a king...”. Pilate himself writes out a notice and fixes it to the cross; ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews’. As we come close to celebrate the events of the Passion, we are reminded that the kingship of Christ is a kingship of sacrificial love.

 9th March: 5th Sunday of Lent

 “I am the resurrection and the life”. To day we have one of the seven I am saying of Christ. This saying is a clear indication of the divinity of Christ and his personal consciousness of his divinity. I amwas the manner in which the Lord referred to himself when he spoke to Moses from the burning bush. That he possessed the absolute sovereignty over life and death was a prerogative that was believed to belong only to God.: “ God gives death and life, brings down to Sheol and draws up”(1Sam 2:6)

 This saying, and the event that confirms it, the resurrection of Lazarus, also indicates the centrality of Christ in the economy of salvation. Jesus places all hopes for future resurrection on himself. The resurrection of the dead was a doctrine current in Judaism: “Of those who are sleeping in the land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace”. (Dan 12: 2-3), It formed part of theological debate at the time, as can be seen the debate with the Sadducees.( Mt 22:23). Christ in person exercises the divine saving work of God on behalf of his people. He is God our Saviour in person, carrying out the works of God because he himself is God.

 “That they may have life and have it to the full”. ( Jn10:10) This life is transmitted to us through the sacraments, and it is in the Eucharist that Jesus truly is our resurrection and our life: “If anyone eats this bread he will live for ever...he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”. (Jn 6: 51,54). We are called to contemplate the eternal life on offer in our Holy Communion.

 16th March: Palm Sunday

 The Gospel readings this Palm Sunday are from Matthew’s Gospel, the most semitic of the Gospels. Matthew points to Jesus as the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. He quotes from the prophet Zechariah indicating the peaceful claims of this king riding on a donkey. It is worth giving the full context: “Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious humble and riding on a donkey on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem, the bow of war will be banished. He will proclaim peace to the nations, his empire will stretch from sea to sea, from the River to the limits of the earth”.(Zechariah:9: 9-10)

 The Kingship of Christ is one of peace and humility. This is even confirmed when he is given the title, “Jesus of Nazareth”, since Nazareth had no claim to fame. A few days later Jesus shows the true nature of his kingship on the Cross. The prophet also indicates the universal nature of the kingship. At the Urbi et Orbi next week we see the fulfilment of this prophecy as Pope Benedict, the vicar of Christ, gives his Easter Blessing to all the nations of the world.

 The success of the Mel Gibson film in 2004 was a wake up call to remind us of the astonishing nature of the Passion. No matter how many times we hear it , something new should always strike us. It is truly the greatest story ever told. We ask for the grace of generous hearts as we listen to the Passion on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday

 Sunday23rd March: Easter Sunday

Our earthly death cannot be the end. The sadness at the loss of our loved ones shows that death does not seem natural to us. We are made to live, not to end up as dust and ashes. The discovery of the empty tomb is the full revelation of the vocation of mankind. All that is to be seen is a rock and some linen cloths. Jesus Christ is risen, and in him is our hope of resurrection. The promise of immortality written into our very nature is fulfilled through Him. It is through Him that we have a firm hope that our loved ones have an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

 In one preface of Easter, we have the following: In him a new age has dawned, the long reign of sin is ended, a broken world has been renewed, and man is once again made whole. In our world it may seem difficult to see the dawning of this “new age”. Yet this would be wrong. The message of Christ has reached the ends of the earth. It is not noted in the media but in each of our Catholic Churches there are young and old attending, and in each town in our country Jesus is present and adored in the tabernacle and at Mass.

 In preparation for the new millennium Pope John Paul put it thus: “He is not a weak and ineffective Christ but a Christ who has triumphed throughout twenty centuries and who remains the power of God and the wisdom of God... the Christ of the millennium is the man who has entered into the history of nations, has uplifted cultures by His message, transformed the destinies of peoples and who, in revealing God to man, has revealed all humanity to itself”.

 30th March: Second Sunday of Easter

 In our relationship with God we need to know first of all it he is merciful. Due to our sinfulness we cannot have a friendship with God unless he forgives our sins. It has to be his first gift, his first initiative. In the events of Holy Week we have seen that in Jesus, God has been revealed as a Father who loves, and who desires to reconcile all human beings to Himself.

 “For whose sins you forgive they are forgiven...”. (Jn 20: 23). In the Rosary, the third mystery of light is the ‘Proclamation of the Kingdom of God’. We also pray in the Our Father, ‘thy kingdom come’. If the kingdom of God is at hand, then the forgiveness of sins is a prerequisite for this Kingdom. Jesus’ ministry of mercy and forgiveness must continue after the Ascension. This Divine power of the forgiveness of sins given to the apostles and passed down to the bishops and priests of our day is a fundamental part of the life of Christ’s Church.

 The Feast of the Divine Mercy originates from the apparition of Jesus to St. Faustina. It is an opportunity to experience the full mercy of God: Jesus said to St. Faustina, “No soul will be justified until it turns with confidence to my mercy... this is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the feast of mercy. On that day priests are to tell every one about my great and unfathomable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. The soul that will go to confession within 8 days and receive communion and spend some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament on this day shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment”.

 6th April: Third Sunday of Easter

 One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage. That this is truly a gift is confirmed in St. Peter’s address to the crowd. It is only two weeks ago that his threefold denial of Jesus had been recounted to us. Yet now he is fearless in his proclamation of Jesus and his resurrection. He will give his life as a martyr. Today we remind ourselves of the graces given to us at our confirmation. We maybe are not called to be martyrs, but in our secular society we are called to be no less courageous in the defense and expounding of our faith.

 He explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself”. (Acts 24: 28) Fr. Holloway, the founder of the Faith movement, puts it thus: “The whole of the Old Testament is one great season of Advent for the coming of the Messiah. The greatest of the rabbis were convinced that everything in the Law and prophets spoke only of fulfilment in the days of the Messiah”. St. Peter himself indicates that the miracle of Pentecost is the fulfilment of the prophesy of Joel 3:1-5

. “He made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them”. (Lk 24:29) Jesus does not force himself on the two disciples. He respects their free will. The generosity of the two disciples is amply rewarded with the recognising of Christ in the breaking of the bread. How different the story would be if they had not pressed him to stay! We press Jesus to stay with us in our hearts, and pray that we may always recognise him in the breaking of bread, the Holy Eucharist.

 13th April: Fourth Sunday of Easter

 This Sunday is known is Good Shepherd Sunday. “The Lord is my shepherd” is a well known Psalm and hymn. The Psalmist expresses his total trust in God as the Good Shepherd. All that he desires is given to him. God will never desert him and will give him the best of things. Best of all, he will dwell in the Lord’s own house for ever.

 The Psalmist has no inkling that this Good Shepherd will lay down his life for his sheep and heal them. St Peter informs us: “Christ suffered for... through his wounds you have been healed”. (Pt 2:20-25) He is a Shepherd who searches for the lost sheep. He willingly gives his life for them, and offers them the fullness of life eternal. “I am the gate of the sheepfold.... Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture”. (Jn 10: 8,9) Yet even with this expression of God’s love for us we can lack the total trust so beautifully expressed by the psalmist. It is a salutary lesson for us to be inspired by the faith of one who did not have the knowledge of the crucified one.

 Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It is the day the Holy Father ordains priests in St. Peter’s Basilica for the diocese of Rome. Let us join the Holy Father in his prayer: “Let us pray that in every parish and Christian community attention to vocations and to the formation of priests will increase: it begins in the family, continues at the seminary and involves all who have at heart the salvation of souls”.

 20th April: Fifth Sunday of Easter

 “I am the way, the truth and the life”. (Jn 14: 7) This is the last of the seven “I am” sayings. Christ is our environer. The spiritual life is not just for those that way inclined. Praying is as natural as breathing. Grace is truly the sunshine of the soul. In Him we are called to live and move and have our being. We cannot exaggerate our dependence on Him. Our secular world has it so wrong. In its attempt to run a world without reference to the spiritual it ends up with a world without hope.

 Pope Benedict puts it thus in his latest encyclical Spe Salvi: “In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf.Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God – God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished”.

 “Whoever believes in me... he will perform even greater works”. (Jn 14:12) So many have helped us in other ways in our lives, but it is to those who have guided us in the practice of our Catholic faith that we will be eternally grateful. This is surely the greatest work. Parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. We thank them and pray that, they may treasure their vocation, as the baptismal rite puts it, “to be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord.“

 27th April: Sixth Sunday of Easter

 Jesus promises the apostles the Holy Spirit who will be with them for ever. This confirms that it is by the action of the Holy Spirit that the Church is apostolic. The Church is faithful to the teachings of the Apostles, but it is the Spirit who brings them to life, saving them from the fate of being abstract truths. They are ‘spirit and life,’ revealing the face of Christ, and bringing true joy and fulfilment to our lives.

 There is always a wish by the magisterium to be sensitive to all that the Spirit is saying to the Church and the Churches (cf. Rev 2:7). Both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict recognised the significance of the movements in the Church. Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger noted their “essential criterion” of being rooted in the faith and teaching of the universal Church and unwaveringly loyal to the Pope. He urged the movements to submit to the guidance of local bishops in order to ensure they are not dividing parishes or diocese. But he also told bishops that they must respect the gifts of the Holy Spirit expressed in the movements and allow themselves to be surprised at what God can accomplish through them.

 All movements acknowledge the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making them instruments of God in this time of the Church’s history. They concur with the Holy Father that through them God has accomplished so much, and in God’s providence will continue to do so. They are a potent force for good in our world and a reminder that the Spirit is always working.  

Faith Magazine

March - April 2008