Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


At first glance, “typology” looks like one of those big, scary theology words you'd really rather not know about. Actually, it's a term everyone should be familiar with because it helps us understand the Bible and the plan God has designed for our salvation.

God is the Author of Sacred Scripture, which is His inspired Word written in human language. Because of God's authorship, the Bible, even though it was composed by many different human authors in many different times and places, tells one story, the story of God's love for humanity, a love so strong that God Himself became Man to save people from their sins and give them eternal life.

Typology shows us how the parts of the love story between God and humanity fit together. A “type” is an event, idea, thing, or person in salvation history that foreshadows or prefigures another event, idea, thing, or person (called the antitype) in a later chapter of salvation history.

The Church helps us identify Biblical types and antitypes by organizing our daily and Sunday lectionaries in such a way that the foreshadowing and fulfillment in Scripture stand out clearly.

Today's readings offer a prime example of typology in the Bible.

In the First Reading, the prophet Elisha feeds one hundred people with twenty barley loaves and still has some left over. This miraculous event foreshadows or becomes a type of the miracle narrated in today's Gospel, in which Jesus feeds five thousand men with five barley loaves and two fish and has twelve wicker baskets of food left over. We can also identify Elisha as type or prefiguration of Jesus.

In both events, God miraculously feeds His people, satisfying their needs in abundance. Going further, we can see that these miracles foreshadow (or are types of) another miracle that we are personally involved in today: the Holy Eucharist. In the Eucharist, God miraculously feeds His people, satisfying our needs in abundance with His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Let's go one step further. In the Eucharist, we receive a foretaste of Heaven, of that eternal life of intimacy with God. In a sense, then, we can say that the Blessed Sacrament is a type that prefigures the relationship we will have with God in Heaven, even as it allows us to begin to participate in that relationship here on earth.

One thing to keep in mind here... Even though an event, idea, thing, or person is a type or foreshadowing, that event, idea, thing, or person is still real and meaningful in its own right. Elisha was truly a prophet who communicated God's word even though he was also a type of Jesus. The miraculous feeding of the five thousand was still a real, historical event even though it pointed to something beyond itself. And the Eucharist, of course, is a real encounter with God here and now even as it prefigures Heavenly intimacy.

Typology, then, allows us to glimpse the “big picture” of the Scriptures. By identifying types and antitypes, we can see how God's plan of salvation history unfolds throughout the generations as God gradually prepares His people for the coming of the Messiah and for eternal life with Him.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 2

The first part of Gaudium et Spes, entitled “The Church and Man's Vocation,” discusses four main themes in four chapters: the dignity of human beings, the community of mankind, human activity, and the Church's role in the modern world.

Here are a few topics and ideas you'll find in Part I, Chapter I, of Gaudium et Spes.

Part One – The Church and Man's Vocation

We Must Respond to the Promptings of the Holy Spirit

* The Holy Spirit allows the people of God to see the world in the light of faith, to grasp God's ideal for humanity, and to discover solutions that are “fully human.”

* People are religious by nature even though their values are often corrupted by the disorder of sin.

Chapter 1 – The Dignity of the Human Person

Man as the Image of God

* Human beings are made in the image of God that they may exist in a loving relationship with Him and with each other.


* People abuse their freedom and bring about darkness and disorder through sin, harming their relationships with God and other people and becoming divided and incomplete within themselves.

The Essential Nature of Man

* Human beings are unities of body and immortal soul. The body is good even though it is wounded by sin and must be brought under the control of discipline.

* Designed to know and love God, all people have self-knowledge and freedom.

Dignity of the Intellect, of Truth, and of Wisdom

* Through their intellect, people discover the truth and actually share “in the light of the divine mind.”

* Wisdom allows people to know what is true and good, and there is a special need for wisdom in today's world.

Dignity of Moral Conscience

* Conscience helps human beings do good, avoid evil, and maintain their human dignity; it is a meeting place with God deep within the soul.

* There are objective moral truths that all people must adhere to.

The Excellence of Freedom

* Human beings have free will because they are created in the image of God. They must use that free will to choose what is good with the help of God's grace.

The Mystery of Death

* Because of Christ's victory, human beings, who have long been tormented by death, have hope for eternal life.

Kinds of Atheism and Its Causes

* Human dignity depends on communion with God, and full human life is only possible through relationship with God.

* Atheism, the rejection of God, is “one of the most serious problems of our time.” It arises from empiricism, relativism, extreme humanism, misunderstandings, apathy, misuse of modernity, and/or a “violent protest against the evil in the world.”

* Believers are sometimes partly at fault for the spread of atheism because they are careless about their religion and do not practice or present it faithfully.

Systematic Atheism

* Atheism in today's world is often systematic, promoting human autonomy without dependence on God and claiming that “man is an end to himself.”

The Attitude of the Church Towards Atheism

* The Church rejects “harmful teachings and ways of acting” like atheism, which is “in conflict with reason and with common human experience” and deprives people of their dignity.

* True human dignity is always “grounded and brought to perfection in God.” People are made to be in relationship with Him, and only He can answer humanity's deepest questions.

* In order to combat atheism, Christians must present the truth faith in deed and word, love and unity. They must be witnesses to the truth in all situations. The Church, with the guidance of the Spirit, works to make God visible in the world even as she constantly seeks renewal and purification.

* The Christian message is “in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart” and helps people attain true dignity, freedom, truth, and life.

Christ the New Man

* Christ Incarnate “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.” All truth has its source and perfect embodiment in Him.

* Human nature is restored through Christ, Who assumed it and raised it up to “a dignity beyond compare.”

* Through Christ, God reconciled humanity to Himself and opened the way to renewal, holiness, and meaning.

* Jesus is the only answer to the mystery of humanity.

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Come Away...

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."

The disciples had just returned from the mission we heard about in last Sunday's Gospel. They had traveled around in pairs, preaching about repentance, curing the sick, driving out demons, and actively participating in Jesus' saving ministry. When they returned, they were beyond excited. Can you picture them tumbling over each other and pouring out a stream of words as they tried to tell Jesus all the wonderful things that had happened?

Now envision Jesus' response. Did He smile indulgently at their enthusiasm? Might He even have chuckled as they all spoke at once, each one trying to tell his story first? He probably let them chatter on for a while, enjoying their eagerness and complimenting them on their successes.

But Jesus knew that His disciples needed something more. They needed an opportunity to calm down and to experience the peace and quiet that would balance the activity of their ministry. They needed to prayerfully settle back into the Father's loving arms.

They certainly wouldn't get what they needed where they were. Word had spread about Jesus and His disciples. People were talking, telling one another about the miracles and about this strange and wonderful message spread by these traveling men. Many were coming and going around them, trying to see for themselves what was going on. Some were curious, some hopeful, some even desperate. They were all looking for something.

Jesus wanted to help these people, but He knew that the disciples needed rest, so He told them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."

The crowds surrounding Jesus and the disciples were persistent. When they saw the men climb into a boat to make their way across the lake to a deserted place, they hit the trail on foot, hurrying around the lake, picking up more people in nearby villages. They arrived at the deserted place (which was no longer deserted) even before Jesus and the disciples made it there in the boat!

When Jesus looked toward the shore, He saw a vast crowd. But He wasn't angry. He didn't get upset that His plan for a little down time hadn't worked out. He gazed upon all those people, all with needs and problems and fears and heartache, and He pitied them. They were like sheep without a shepherd, searching for someone to guide and protect them. He began to teach them many things.

As you meditate on today's Gospel, try to answer the following questions:

1. Have you ever been filled with enthusiasm to spread the Gospel? If so, think about that experience. What led to your excitement? How did you express it?

2. When do you take time to come away from your busy life and be quiet with Jesus?

3. What are you looking for in your life? What are you seeking from Jesus?

4. Are you persistent in following Jesus? Why or why not?

5. Do you bring Jesus all your needs, problems, fear, and heartache?

6. What do you need to learn from Jesus?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 1

One of the primary goals of Vatican II was to reach out to the modern world, recognize its trials and tribulations, and offer the best and only solution to every problem: Jesus Christ. In Gaudium et Spes or the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the Vatican II Fathers strive to meet this goal as they discuss everything from the nature of human work and culture to the arms race and the political community. Because this document is so long and complex, I will present it in several parts, beginning with the preface and introduction, which set the stage for the Church's outreach to the modern world.

Here are a few of the topics and ideas you'll find in the preface and introduction of Gaudium et Spes.


Solidarity of the church with the whole human family

* Christians care deeply about everything that is genuinely human, experiencing the joys, hopes, griefs, and anguish of the modern world in deep solidarity with the whole human family.

The council addresses all men

* In this document, the Church speaks to all people in order to explain “the presence and function of the Church in the world today.” The Church strives to see the human family in the context of its history, culture, and work but also as it is created by God and saved by Christ.

An offer of service to mankind

* Human beings ask important questions about the meaning of their lives in the world and what happens after they die. The Church reaches out to humanity in dialogue to help them answer these questions according to the Gospel.

* The Church, led by Christ and the Holy Spirit, seeks to save individual people while renewing humankind.

Introduction – The Situation of Man in the World Today

Hope and anguish

* The Church must read and interpret the signs of the times and answer questions in a “language intelligible to every generation.”

* Rapid changes in the modern world have led to “serious problems” and great perplexity among people who do not know how to respond to the paradoxes of modernity and the loss of traditional values.

* The Church must understand these issues and teach the truth about humanity with all its hope and anguish.

Deep-seated changes

* Today's world offers a mixture of “spiritual uneasiness,” scientific and technological progress, an increasing human “mastery over time,” and “greater self awareness.”

Changes in the social order

* Communities are changing rapidly due to industrialization, urbanization, media, and emigration. These kinds of changes can also lead to a loss of personalization in society as well as a loss of traditional structures and relationships.

Changes in attitudes, morals and religion

* Traditional values, morals, and institutions are often called into question in the modern world, and many people have fallen away from religious faith and practice.

* Many modern people claim that God and religion are not compatible with “scientific progress.” Many others are highly disturbed by this idea.

Imbalances in the world of today

* Several imbalances exists in the modern world including 1. that between practicality and morality; 2. that between group demands and individual needs; and 3. that between specialization and “an overall view of reality.”

* Tensions in families and between races and social classes are rampant in the modern world.

Broader aspirations of mankind

* Even amidst the troubles and tensions in the modern world, humankind still aspires to the dignity of full humanity and to social and economic justice.

* People today are actively claiming their human rights and “cultural benefits” and craving a life that is full, independent, and worthy of their nature as human beings.

* There is, however, a dichotomy in the modern world, which is “at once powerful and weak, capable of doing what is noble and what is base, disposed to freedom and slavery, progress and decline, brotherhood and hatred.” This is the “modern dilemma.”

Man's deeper questionings

* There is also a dichotomy in human beings. Humans are “the meeting point of many conflicting forces.” They suffer great anxiety and weakness and are affected by the “discords in social life.” At the same time, humans cling to the hope that there are answers to the fundamental questions they continue to ask.

* The Church shows humanity the answer to all its questions: Jesus Christ, in Whom humans find the meaning and purpose of their whole lives and their whole history.

* Through Gaudium et Spes, the Church speaks to all people “in order to unfold the mystery that is man and cooperate in tackling the main problems facing the world today.”

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Book of Amos

Today's First Reading comes from the Book of the Prophet Amos. To fully understand this reading, and the prophet's message, it helps to know something about the historical background of Amos' time.

About 931 B.C., the kingdom of Israel, which had been united by King David, split into two kingdoms. Several years earlier, David's son Solomon had become king and placed a heavy tax burden on the people to finance both the building of the Temple and Solomon's luxurious lifestyle. When Solomon's son Rehoboam assumed the throne, the people of Israel's northern tribes asked him to relieve them of some of that tax burden. The old men who were advisers to Rehoboam told him to do so that he might be a servant to the people and earn their loyalty. Instead, Rehoboam foolishly chose to listen to his young friends, who advised him to tax the people even more and threaten them with harsh language. The people successfully rebelled under the leadership of Jeroboam. Israel was split into the kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) in the south and the kingdom of Israel (the other ten tribes) in the north (see 1 Kings 12).

A change in worship accompanied the change in leadership in the northern kingdom of Israel. The people no longer went to the Temple in Jerusalem, which was the central sanctuary designated by God as the place for worship. Instead, Jeroboam made two golden calves and told the people that these idols were their “gods.” He set up sanctuaries for worship in Bethel and Gilgal and high places throughout the kingdom, and he appointed priests for himself who were not Levites (the priestly tribe chosen by God). He even set up his own festivals. Under Jeroboam's guidance, then, the people abandoned the true worship of God.

Amos was called to the prophetic ministry during the reign of Jeroboam II (c. 788-747). Amos was born in Judah, where he worked as “a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” Unlike many prophets of his day, he did not come from a family of prophets; he was essentially a farmer, who cared for his livestock and harvested the wild figs of his sycamore trees. But he received God's call, and he obeyed. He went to the northern kingdom of Israel to speak God's word.

The northern kingdom was experiencing a period of prosperity during Amos' time, and with prosperity came corruption. Amos delivered a message to the people of Israel that contained the following elements: 1. a condemnation of social injustice and corruption, especially the oppression of the poor by the rich and powerful; 2. an admonition against the empty religious practices of the northern kingdom (for the rich and powerful, worship was all about show; they took part in opulent liturgies and extravagant festivals at Bethel and Gilgal that they thought were enough to please God); 3. a call for true religion that blended external worship with internal devotion and social justice (i.e.,care for the poor); 4. a warning that if Israel didn't mend its ways and follow God's law, it would be subject to divine judgment and punishment; 5. a hopeful promise that even with this darkness, God would bring salvation.

Israel didn't accept Amos' message, as we see in today's reading where Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, essentially tells Amos to get lost, to take his message and go back to Judah. Amaziah was upset that Amos had dared to speak against the corruption of King Jeroboam II and to predict that the northern kingdom of Israel would go into exile.

But Amos was right. Israel did go into exile. In 721 B.C., the Assyrians overran the northern kingdom. Many Israelites were slaughtered. Others were carried off into a foreign land never to return. God's word, spoken through His prophet, had been fulfilled.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Notes on the Gospel of Matthew – Matthew 1:1

A couple weeks ago, I began an in-depth study of the Gospel of Matthew. Even though I've read this Gospel numerous times, I am constantly discovering aspects of the text that I've never noticed before. Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing some of those discoveries.

My primary English translation for this study is the New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. I am also using the Greek text of the Gospel so I can delve into the meanings and nuances of the original language. Further, I have been consulting several commentaries including those in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and The Navarre Bible as well as several resources available online and through e-Sword (free Bible study software available at I will cite my sources as necessary.

The notes I will be posting are by no means a thorough commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. They are merely facts and meditations I've found interesting and useful as I strive to grow closer to God by studying His Word.

Let's start with the very first verse of Matthew's Gospel: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Here's a transliteration from the Greek (a transliteration uses English letters to write Greek words): Biblios geneseōs Iēsou Christou huiou Dauid huiou Abraam.

There are a couple interesting things to notice about the Greek words. First, the word biblios, translated as “account” in the NRSV-CE, actually means “book.” It refers to the papyrus that was used for writing in the ancient world, and we get our English word “Bible” from this Greek term. Second, the word geneseōs is the possessive form of the word genesis. Look familiar? It can mean “genealogy,” as it is translated in the NRSV-CE, but it can also mean “source,” “origin,” “nativity,” or even “existence” or “life.”

So what we have could certainly be “An account of the genealogy of Jesus...” but it might also read “A book of the origin of Jesus...” or “A book of the life of Jesus...” This verse, then, might introduce the genealogy that follows, but it also might introduce the entire Gospel, which is, of course, a book about the life of Jesus Christ.

This verse also emphasizes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christos, or the Anointed One. In the Old Testament, priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with holy oil that signified their roles and symbolically cleansed and strengthened them so they could fulfill their duties. As the Messiah, the Anointed One, and the Christ of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ is priest, prophet, and king, and He is anointed not by the oil of olives but by the supernatural oil that is the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the verse makes it clear that Jesus is a descendent (huios,“son,” or in this case great, great, great, etc. grandson) of King David and the patriarch Abraham. Both of these men entered into covenants (unconditional bonds of self-giving love) with God and both received a promise that someday God would enact a new covenant that would extend to the whole world. As the Messiah, Jesus did exactly that.

I'm merely scratching the surface of this verse. Anyone desiring more depth could study the term christos in all its Old and New Testament meanings; read about the lives of David and Abraham and take note of how they foreshadow or point to Jesus (a technique called typology); or search for parallels between the Book of Genesis (i.e., the first book of the Old Testament) and “A book of genesis of Jesus Christ...” (as the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, begins). There are countless possibilities...and all from eight Greek words. Such is the depth and richness of the Word of God.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Fourteen Sunday in Ordinary Time

Power in Weakness

Let's take a closer look at today's Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, focusing specially on the background of these verses and the depth of meaning in the Greek words Paul uses to express his ideas.

At the beginning of today's reading, Paul mentions an “abundance of revelations.” In Greek, this is huperbolē apokalupseōn. The word huperbolē suggests an excess or exceedingly great number, and apokalupseōn, most commonly translated as “revelations,” has connotations of uncovering or unveiling something that is hidden. So Paul has come to know a large number of hidden mysteries. How did this happen?

Earlier in Chapter 12, Paul says he knows someone who fourteen years before “was caught up to the third heaven,” i.e., into Paradise. This person heard unspeakable words that no one may utter, words that signify mysteries, truths still hidden from the people on earth. Paul is, of course, referring to himself even though his humility does not allow him to say so outright. In any case, Paul has glimpsed something unearthly, something wonderful, something divine.

Paul could easily have grown arrogant because of these special revelations. He might have boasted and adopted an “I'm better than you are” attitude. But, although Paul firmly maintains that he is telling the truth about what happened to him, he does not exalt himself. He does not become “too elated” (the Greek word here is huperairomai, which means becoming haughty or lifting oneself up). Why doesn't Paul go on an ego trip? He tells us as our reading continues.

Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh,” something he also calls an “angel of Satan” that beats him. What is this thorn or angel of Satan? We don't really know. Saints and scholars have suggested numerous possibilities. St. Augustine thought that Paul might have been suffering from a very painful physical complaint. St. John Chrysostom wondered if Paul was referring to the constant persecution that seemed to follow him everywhere. St. Gregory the Great speculated that Paul was plagued by temptations. Any or all of these might be correct. The Greek text doesn't tell us. What it does indicate is that this ailment, whatever it was, was striking Paul violently (from the Greek verb kolaphizō, which refers to pummeling with a closed fist).

In his suffering, Paul begged the Lord three times to remove this thorn. Jesus said in reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” The Greek verb for “is sufficient” here is arkeō, which can also mean “defend” or “assist.” Jesus' grace will defend or assist Paul; it will give him all he needs to get him through his suffering.

Further, Jesus tells Paul, and us, that “power is made perfect in weakness.” At first this seems like a contradiction in terms. How can power (Greek dunamis, meaning inherent moral and physical power in action) be made perfect in weakness (Greek astheneiai, meaning weakness, infirmity, or lack of power)? We have to remember, though, that real power is the power of Christ, and if we are to access that power, we have to become small and weak. We have to surrender ourselves to God and get out of His way so that He can use His power in us.

That's why Paul boasts (Greek verb kauchaomai, which can also mean to speak loudly, to glory in, or to rejoice) in His weakness. For the sake of Christ, he is content with all the infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints that come his way. The Greek verb translated here as “is content” is actually eudokeō, which could be translated as “to take pleasure in” something. Paul can go so far as to take pleasure in his weakness, in the thorn in his flesh, in the beatings from the angel of Satan, because he knows that when he is weak, then he is strong. When he cannot do anything on his own, when he surrenders himself and relies on God to do all things for him, then he is truly strong with God's power working and active in him.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Presbyterorum Ordinis – Part 2

In the second half of Presbyterorum Ordinis, the Vatican II Fathers offer priests deep insights into their special call to holiness, lay out the spiritual requirements of the priesthood, and offer advice to help priests live their vocation.

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in the second half of Presbyterorum Ordinis.

Chapter III – The Life of Priests

Priests' Call to Perfection

* By their ordination, priests are “configured to Christ the priest as servants of the Head” in order to “build up the Body of Christ, the Church.” They are, therefore, obliged to “seek perfection” according to their call, and they are given special grace to be “living instruments of Christ the eternal priest.”

* Priests are specially consecrated by and for God that they may service the people of God. They strive toward perfection through their ministry as they mortify themselves, listen closely to the Holy Spirit, and live in holiness.

* Sharing as they do in Christ's priesthood, prophetic office, and kingship, priests must be immersed in Sacred Scripture, which they read, study, and teach in humility and under the guidance of the Spirit. They must also imitate Christ, Whom they handle in the Eucharist; “offer themselves completely to God” and teach others to do the same; and lead the faithful in faith, hope, love, and self-sacrifice.

* Because they are often caught up in many different duties, priests run the risk of losing their internal and external harmony. To maintain that unity of internal life and external ministry, they should follow the example of Christ and entrust themselves to Him that He may always be the source of their lives of prayer and service. The Eucharist, especially, must be the center of priestly life.

Special Spiritual Requirements in the Life of the Priest

* Priests must always seek the will of God in all things. In humility, they recognize their weaknesses and offer service to others. In obedience, they maintain unity with their bishops and fellow priests and are willing to go where they are sent and sacrifice their own wills in service to God and neighbor.

* Celibacy is “a sign of pastoral charity and an incentive to it as well as being in a special way a source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world.” Celibacy allows priests to cling to Christ with “an undivided heart and dedicate themselves more freely in Him and through Him to the service of God and of men.”

* Celibacy is a gift from God, a sign of the world to come, an a symbol of the mystical marriage between Christ and the Church.” Priests should pray that God pours out this gift upon them even as they embrace it through “rules of ascetical practice.”

* Priests live in the world, but “they are not of the world.” They should, therefore, accept voluntary poverty that they may be “freed from all inordinate anxiety” and “docile to the divine voice in their daily life.” In this way, they will form proper attitudes toward earthly things, use them correctly, and “become more clearly conformed to Christ.”

Helps For the Priest's Life

* Scripture and the Eucharist are the preeminent spiritual aids that help priests foster their interior lives and grow in union with Christ. Priests should also frequently receive the sacrament of Penance, engage in spiritual reading, foster a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and pray deeply in a variety of ways.

* Study is important for priests that they may become “mature in knowledge” and be able to teach others. They should study the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, traditional spiritual classics, the teachings of the Magisterium, theology, and pastoral methods. Priests should have access to a variety of courses, libraries, congresses, centers for pastoral studies, and other aids to learning.

* Priests must receive a just wage for their work that will allow them to maintain a decent standard of living and have some left over to give to the poor. Priests should also take advantage of an annual vacation.

* Bishops should create a common fund to support “priests who suffer from sickness, ill health or old age.”

Conclusion and Exhortation

* Priesthood in the modern world offers a whole range of challenges, difficulties, and obstacles but also great joy.

* The Church cares for the world, for God loves it, and priests assume a position of leadership in providing that care.

* Priests trust in God's powerful assistance in carrying out their work. They are never alone as they cooperate in “God's saving plan” and dispense the mysteries of Christ.

The full text of Presbyterorum Ordinis is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Today's First Reading from the Book of Wisdom reminds us that we are mortal. Death isn't something we like to think about. It isn't pleasant or comfortable, but sometimes we have to remember our own mortality in order to gear our lives in the right direction, namely, toward God.

Death is the first of what Catholic scholars label the “Four Last Things,” death, judgment, Heaven, and hell. In his class on Eschatology, the study of the Four Last Things, Dr. Regis Martin of Franciscan University of Steubenville says that death is both one of the most commonplace events in the world and one of the most terrifying. We human beings fear death because we fear the unknown, and when we die, we stare the unknown directly in the face.

Where did death come from? Today's excerpt from the Book of Wisdom tells us firmly that God did not make death. Instead, He made His creatures to share in His own Being, in His own divine life. But our first parents sinned, and sin has a terrible consequence: death. Adam and Eve sinned and died, and they passed down that original sin and that consequence of death to every generation, every person, that came after them.

Thankfully for us, God had a plan. He didn't leave Adam and Eve and their descendents to be overcome by death, at least not forever. He sent a Savior, His Son, Jesus Christ, Who died on the Cross for us. God Himself entered into death that we might once again share in His divine life.

Christians, then, have a different view of death than other people. For Christians, who place their hope in Jesus, death is, to quote Dr. Martin, “an opening onto something else, a thing greater and larger than anything we heretofore thought of as life...Death is a door through which a man enters upon everlasting life.”

In death, God calls us to come to Him. We leave our bodies behind, but our souls live on, and we meet God face-to-face in the Judgment (the second of the Four Last Things and a topic for another time).

How must we, as Christians, face death? How do we experience what Catholics call “a good death?” Dr. Martin says, “Dying well first of all means living well.” It means living with death in mind, knowing that someday we will face our final moment and that we must be prepared for it. We must take advantage of all the graces and means of salvation God gives us through the Catholic Church: the Eucharist, Confession, the Anointing of the Sick, the other sacraments, prayer, and the moral life. All of these help us grow closer to God, more ready to meet Him when the time comes. For many Catholics, “a good death” also means being conscious until the end, being able to join one's suffering to that of Christ, to pray, to say goodbye to family and friends, to receive the last sacraments, to let go of fear, reach out to God, and embrace everlasting life.

A Prayer for a Good Death: O Jesus, while I adore Your dying breath, I beg You to receive mine. Since I do not know whether I shall have command of my senses when I depart from this world, I offer You even now my last agony and all the sorrows of my passing. I give my soul into Your hands for You are my Father and my Savior. Grant that the last beat of my heart may be an act of perfect love for You. Amen.