Our Response to God’s Blessing and Call, 28th Thursday (II), October 16, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
October 16, 2014
Eph 1:1-10, Ps 98, Lk 11:47-54

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in today’s homily: 

  • Today we begin two weeks of study of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, which is one of the most uplifting and synthetic of all the great apostle’s teaching of the early Church, in which he makes plain God the Father’s plan and will to bring all things into a union of love through the work of Christ his Son continued and carried out in his body the Church. At the very beginning of the letter, which we have today, St. Paul describes what God has done for us and what he asks of us. It’s important for us to ponder these truths often, especially when we are having a bad day or are tempted to forget who we are.
    • St. Paul begins by reminding us of how blessed we are to be Christians: the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” God held nothing back. There are no blessings we haven’t been given. And we’ve been given those blessings not just through Christ but in Christ who is the greatest blessing of all.
    • He then reminds us of our vocation: God chose us in Christ, “before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.” Before God said, “Let there be light” and “Let us make man in our image,” he not only had us in mind but chose us and he gave us the vocation to be saints, to be holy and immaculate before him. If he’s given us this vocation, he will provide the means, and those means are the every spiritual blessing in Christ his Son.
    • He then reminds us of our filiation and inheritance: “In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.” In St. Paul’s day, when someone was adopted, he was treated identically to a biologically child; if he were older than the oldest biological child, he received all the rights of primogeniture. For St. Paul to talk about our being adopted, he means that we have received the full inheritance of Jesus! How can we not praise the glory of this grace?
    • But obviously we’re sinners and fallen, but God has taken that into consideration as well from before the creation of the world. “In Christ, we have redemption by his Blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he has lavished upon us.” He has lavished his mercy upon us in Christ as part of every spiritual blessing.
    • And he has also made plain his plan so that we can cooperate freely and fully with it: “In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.” The mystery is now an open secret: God wants to bring us into communion, communion with God, communion with each other. He wants us to grasp that all of creation is part of God’s plan of love. Christ’s mission is to restore to unity the various divisions that entered through sin.
  • That’s God’s blessing, calling, help and plan, but he has made us free and we need to respond to that plan by embracing it and letting our whole life develop in accordance with it. As we prayed in the Psalm, “The Lord has made known his salvation,” but we’re called to “sing a new song to the Lord for he has done wondrous deeds.” That’s obviously what the Blessed Virgin did and so many of the saints have done, letting God’s blessing in Christ develop within them so that, redeemed and forgiven by his blood, they might become holy and immaculate. But unfortunately not everyone has received the Lord’s love in that way. Others have rejected it. We glimpse that rejection in the rejection of Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel.
  • Jesus says to them, “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.” God never ceases to send prophets to his people to reveal “the mystery of his will,” but Jesus was saying that the people that God had chosen to be his own, the people he had prepared in order to accomplish his plan in the fullness of time to bring his salvation as a light to the nations, only would honor prophets after they rejected and killed them. A dead prophet was safe; a live prophet was a challenge. In building these memorials, they would delude themselves into thinking they had embraced God and his messenger, whereas they were repeating the same faults by rejecting those whom God continued to send, something seen in the life of St. John the Baptist and especially in Jesus’ own life as they “began to act with hostility toward him” and “were plotting to catch him at something he might say.”
  • It’s important for us, however, not just to build memorials for the prophets the Jews killed, or even to build a memorial for Jesus. It’s still quite possible for us, like those in Jesus’ generation, not to receive God’s spiritual blessings, not to be holy and without blame before him, not to behave as his children, not to bathe in his blood, not to enter into communion and let our whole life be summed up by Christ. It’s a perennial temptation. Today on this feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom Jesus appeared in the 1670s to reveal to her the mystery of his Sacred Heart, it’s important for us to ponder whether we’ve just build memorials to him or whether we’re really responding as he wants to the mystery of his love. Jesus appeared to her with his heart on fire with love for us but with his heart also enveloped by a crown of thorns, which both symbolizes that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for us out of love but at the same time that we’ve placed a crown of thorns not just on his head but on his heart. Pointing to his heart one day, Jesus said, “Behold the heart that has so much loved men that it has spared nothing, even exhausting and consuming itself in testimony of its love.” He’s given everything out of love. But he lamented that, for the most part, his love was ignored and rejected. “Instead of gratitude, I receive from most only the difference, irreverence, sacrilege, and the coldness and scorn that men have for me in the sacrament of love.” The sacrament of love to which he is referring is the Holy Eucharist. That’s why Pope Benedict back in 2007 when he gave us his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist called it, “Sacramentum Caritatis,” or “the Sacrament of Love.” Jesus said that in response to his pouring out his heart for us in the Eucharist, he received from most only apathy, impiety, frigidity, contempt, and desecration. These are unbelievable words! But Jesus got even more pointed. “What I feel the most keenly,” Jesus continued, “is that it is hearts that are consecrated to me that treat me in this way.” This obviously applies to priests and religious who take Jesus for granted. But it applies to every baptized Christian, who through baptism has been consecrated to the Lord. It’s one thing when so many in the world take Jesus’ gift of himself for granted, but when Christians, all the more Catholics, who know that the Eucharist is Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity, neglect him, who prioritize soccer games, or Sunday cartoons, or work over him, it wounds him. That’s why in reparation for the offenses against his heart, he asked through St. Margaret Mary for three different Eucharistic devotions. The first would be the feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after Corpus Christi, to unite the Sacred Heart specifically to the feast of Jesus’ Body and Blood. Second he asked for people to come to Mass and receive him worthily on first Fridays, a day especially dedicated to the Sacred Heart. And on the Thursday before, he asked for us to spend time in Eucharistic adoration as he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • So instead of building memorials, Jesus wants us to “do this in memory of” him. He is the one who is every spiritual blessing in the heavens, the one who transforms us into “sons in the Son,” the one who seeks to redeem us by his precious blood, the one who wishes to bring us in communion and confirm us in our vocation and mission to the praise of his glory. But we need to respond to this loving, exhaustive action of the Lord differently from those in the Gospel who reject God’s action. We need to respond like St. Margaret Mary did.  Today through her intercession we ask for that gift so that through the Eucharistic transformation that Jesus wishes to work within us, we may become holy and without blemish before him and come at last with her to that place that God has planned for us since before the foundation of the world.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 eph 1:1-10

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
to the holy ones who are in Ephesus
and faithful in Christ Jesus:
grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In Christ we have redemption by his Blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

Responsorial Psalm ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

R. (2a) The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

Gospel lk 11:47-54

The Lord said:
“Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets
whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent
to the deeds of your ancestors,
for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said,
‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles;
some of them they will kill and persecute’
in order that this generation might be charged
with the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world,
from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah
who died between the altar and the temple building.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!
Woe to you, scholars of the law!
You have taken away the key of knowledge.
You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”
When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees
began to act with hostility toward him
and to interrogate him about many things,
for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.