Feast of All Saints (Year B)

I had an acquaintance who once used to say, ‘our job as Catholics is to get to heaven, and to take as many people with us as we can’. I think this would be a fair definition of the baptismal calling that we all have; and that fundamental call is to holiness, to sanctity. Each one of us, by our very baptism, is called to be holy, to be a saint.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2683) begins to define saints as, ‘the witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints’. Yet the church also says there are many who have lived lives of heroic virtue who are with God, known to Him, yet remain unknown to most of humanity. It is not to receive honours and praise from people that we strive to live a holy life, to be saints – it is so that we can be part of that great multitude that we read about in our first reading at Mass from the Book of Revelation – the great multitude from every nation that stands before the throne of God. This is the great gift of salvation that we receive through Jesus Christ, a gift we enter into through the sacrament of baptism, and become part of the communion of saints.

To often we give a kind of ‘caricature’ representation to saints; we consider them after their ‘conversion experiences’ and stories about them after their deaths and canonizations, and we forget they were real people with real concerns; often they were people who struggled much as we do with their own human weakness, and yet, through their prayer and faith and the grace of God, they grew to deepen their relationship and love of God in their day-to-day circumstances; we think of St. Augustine as a great doctor of the church, and forget that his youth was spent in a life of self-gratification; we think of St. Jerome translating the sacred scriptures and forget he was notorious for having a quick and violent temper; we speak of St. Francis of Assisi hugging the leper and forget he was petty and self-indulgent as a young man.

But through the gift of baptism, we become adopted children of God, and through the continuous gifts He gives us– as long as we are open to receiving them – we grow deeper in that relationship. As St. John says in his first letter, when God is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is, and as long as we have this hope in God, we purify ourselves. This is where we run into conflict with the ‘world’ because we see ‘purifying’ ourselves for God meaning to ‘give up’ things, to do without all the world offers – and our human nature tends to push back against this. This though, is a distorted mindset, because to grow deeper in love and closer to God is not to ‘lose’ anything; it is gaining everything – to be part of that great multitude seeing God as He is because we have become like Him.’ How could any worldly experience top that?

Jesus gives us a ‘blueprint’ if you will, for deepening this relationship, this love – it is recounted for us in today’s gospel account of the Beatitudes from St. Matthew -we learn that we are blessed, becoming more holy, more sanctified when we deepen these virtues; being poor in spirit, being meek, being merciful, being pure in heart… yet Jesus also states the result of our being more ‘blessed’ in God’s eyes; when choosing God’s ways over the world’s ways, we are reviled and persecuted, and ridiculed. We see that repeatedly in our own culture – in popular entertainment, in politics, and even sadly amongst those who claim to be people of faith.

Jesus doesn’t say being a saint is easy; in fact he says it can be the opposite – but if we truly desire to spend eternity with God, we need to begin living like we mean it in the here and now, starting today, in this moment, rather than waiting until some point in the distant future when we have had our fill of ‘the world’ and realize there is something more than the gratification of our senses in this life. We receive strength and glimpses of this eternity in the Sacraments, which is why the Church constantly reminds us to receive them, particularly Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

We need to be concerned about our own sanctity, to pray for the grace to live a life of virtue, and for others to be strengthened with this same grace; we need to ask others to pray for us, particularly the saints who have gone before us,, ‘the witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom’.

There is a story that Pope St. John Paul II, in the midst of his pastoral travels that took him all over the world, fell ill between two of these trips. Doctors ordered him to rest in bed, but he was insistent that God had entrusted him with the mission to shepherd the people of this world to a closer union with God. When he decided to get up and resume his travels – which many thought was too soon – one of the nursing sisters entrusted with his medical care protested that he should set aside this mission and return to bed; she explained her concern saying, “I am worried about Your Holiness”, to which he replied, “I too, am worried about my holiness.”

On this feast of All Saints, may we too be as worried about our own holiness and the holiness of those we hold dear.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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30th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year B)

Imagine living in a world where everytime you recognize the need for something crucial in your life, and you ask for it, people around you suggest you don’t know what you’re asking for, shout you down, or tell you to ‘be quiet’.

Try imagining that you have a serious problem; you’re in a crowd, and you need help. You know someone in authority is near,and you call to them to help you; the people in the crowd tell you to stop shouting and making a fuss.

We see that scenario played out in our Gospel passage this week from St. Mark, where Jesus encounters Bartimaeus, the blind man. Jesus is ministering and moving about, generating a lot of interest and crowds. People are coming to see him, to touch him, to hear what he has to say. And in the midst of this, we are told, a blind man is aware of Jesus moving by and shouts ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’

Something profound is happening here. Bartimaeus, living in his blindness, recognizes that someone in authority, with great power, is nearby. He doesn’t simply shout out ‘Jesus help me’ or ‘Jesus son of Joseph heal me’ – he utters the messianic ‘Son of David’ cry; even in his physical blindness, Bartimaeus recognizes Jesus as the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets, of the coming of a messiah in the line of David. He acknowledges (perhaps in a limited way) that Jesus is more than ‘just’ another prophet. He acknowledges Jesus is the completion of God’s promise to Israel; a promise of a deliverer – and even in his blindness he can see that Jesus is there to deliver from darkness. But the crowd around Bartimaeus tells him to be quiet.

No one takes up the cry of ‘Son of David’. No one offers to help draw Jesus’ attention to Bartimaeus, or to help Bartimaeus move closer to Jesus. No one affirms him in his desire to have Jesus’ healing touch free him from his darkness.

They tell him to be quiet.

Thankfully, Bartimaeus is made of stronger stuff, and he calls out again to Jesus, and this time, Jesus tells the bystanders, ‘bring him to me.’

That one line could be taken as a command to his disciples; as a command to all who hear and claim to be followers of Jesus; ‘bring him to me’

Isn’t that what we are all called to do, through our own baptism? Are we not all invited to live a life in union with God and with each other? Are we not called to bring others to come to know, love and serve God?

Of course when Bartimaeus is ‘brought’ to Jesus, there is a verbal exchange, in which Bartimaeus confirms his belief that Jesus can indeed heal him; the fact that he repeated his cry ‘Son of David have mercy on me’ when those around him tried to stifle him, shows determination and perseverance in his faith in Jesus on some level.

And it is because of that faith, that Jesus heals Bartimaeus; and the gospel says Bartimaeus followed Him.

This particular passage gives us a very clear example of the choices we can make in our own lives in bringing about the Kingdom of God. This is what the ‘New Evangelization’ that we hear so much about means – reaching out and drawing others into this deep friendship of healing, of mercy, of compassion and love with Christ.

There are two groups of people presented here: on one hand, those who, when they hear Bartimaeus seeking healing, crying out to Jesus in his need, tell him to ‘be quiet’; on the other hand are those who obey when Jesus says, ‘bring him to me’.

It’s quite easy to see our own modern world reflected in this Gospel story. When those who recognize the emptiness of their own lives; those who suffer; those who are isolated; those who know that material wealth and power and privilege can never totally satisfy – when they cry out to Jesus, society tells them to ‘be quiet’ .

When others recognize the downward spiral in our culture, that abortion and euthanasia are intrinsically evil and speak out against these evils for the love of God, they are told to ‘be quiet’.

When still others suggest that all people should be treated with the respect and dignity that is theirs simply because they were created in the image and likeness of God, they are told to ‘be quiet’.

That’s the voice of the crowd that does not recognize the strength and power of hope, of faith and of trust in God. That demand to ‘be quiet’ is spoken by those who are truly blind to the beauty and love of God all around them.

On the other hand, we can thank God that we still have in our own modern society, those who respond to Jesus’ command to ‘bring him to me’; ‘bring to me’ those who are in need of healing; ‘bring to me’ those who have lost hope; ‘bring to me’ those who suffer, who are isolated, who know that relying on things and wealth and prestige will only leave you empty and alone. ‘Bring them all to me…’

The challenge for each one of us then, is to reflect on this passage and honestly ask ourselves which group we find ourselves in – the crowd that says ‘be quiet’ or those who respond when Jesus says ‘bring him to me’

The truth is, we don’t really have a choice which group we belong to – if we really and truly call ourselves disciples of Christ. It should be readily apparent that we must belong to the second group, the group that evangelizes, the group that, by a lived example, draws others to the healing love of Jesus.

Is it easy? Of course not – nobody ever said it would be; but we can always ask for perseverance in our faith, even in the face of a hostile world, as Bartimaeus had in the hostile crowd; supported in our baptismal calling, we can bring others to Christ as he commands; blessed by the Sacraments, we can always reach out and rely on the healing touch of Christ, crying out in our own darkness, if only to hear those merciful, healing words of Jesus, ‘your faith has made you well’ .

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

29th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year B)

There is a common bit of wisdom in a phrase that most of us have heard at one time or another; sometimes it is spoken in relation to our jobs, or our homes, or even our families. It often centres on our personal wants or desires, our goals or even our prayers: That bit of wisdom is, be careful what you ask for – you just might get it.

This expression suggests that often, there are implications to everything we wish or ask for, and quite often, we don’t understand those implications.   It also suggests that with thing or situation we want, we also receive additional work, or duties or responsibilities or difficulties.

Our Gospel illustrates this in the request of the apostles Sts. James and John to Jesus. These two brothers, the Sons of Zebedee ask Jesus to grant them seats at his right and his left when he enters into his glory.

In Jesus time, whenever anyone held a banquet, the places of honour were the seats next to the host. If the person hosting the banquet was someone particularly important, say royalty or a high official, the seats at his right and left hand were reserved for guests of the highest importance; it would be a way for all the others at the feast to see these particular guests and recognize how important (at least in the public eye) they were. James and John are asking for this particular place of honour, of high regard, of Jesus who they believe will come into glory as the Messiah; but the fact that they make this request at all shows they don’t fully grasp the meaning that Jesus is trying to teach them about the true nature of the Messiah; they are apparently caught in the notion of worldly importance and rank and prestige, assuming that this even applies to the Kingdom of God; that the Messiah will be a political and social leader and will establish a kingdom in a similar fashion to a worldly kingdom.

Even the way they make this request shows they don’t really yet understand who Jesus is: they start with ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”…in other words, they aren’t coming to Jesus in humility and offering themselves to His service; they are making a demand – trying to have Jesus bend to their wishes.

He follows with a question of His own; ‘are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Of course, they jump right in and answer this with yes….they say ‘we are able’. Without taking the time to understand what it is that Jesus has even asked them, and without considering what sharing the cup or sharing His baptism really means.

Again in this culture, at a great feast, if a person of high rank hosted it, he would have a special cup, a prized possession. To be invited to drink from this cup was reserved to the most important guests, and was a sign of a high honour being bestowed by the host. It may be that this was the image of sharing the cup that James and John were thinking of.

Biblical scholars and historians tell us that James and John were once disciples of John the Baptist, likely present when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. They would have been aware of the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus and the Father’s voice ‘This is my beloved Son’, so of course, the image of Jesus’ baptism to them could have been one of identifying His greatness as God’s Son.

If these are the two images that were in their minds, and they were asking for recognition and honour, then it’s easy to see why they answered so quickly. It’s easy to see why the other apostles were a bit upset; likely because they were hoping for the same honours themselves. While they have committed themselves somewhat to Jesus at this point in His ministry, they still don’t seem to have understood much of his teaching , or even the prophets who pointed to Him; one of the more notable references to the true mission and nature of the Messiah comes from the prophet Isaiah, who lived about 500 years before Jesus, and who we read in the first reading: ‘it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain, when you make his life an offering for sin,…”…the righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” These passages describe what has come to be known as the ‘suffering servant’; that the Messiah, Jesus, is that suffering servant.

But the cup that Jesus is talking about is the cup of his suffering, of service, and the baptism is an entering into His passion and death; because without the passion and crucifixion, there cannot be a resurrection. Without the suffering and the service, there cannot be a place in the Kingdom. This is the sharing of the cup and the baptism that Jesus is referring to; and he makes this point quite clearly when He tells the Apostles as a group, “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.”

And he really clarifies it with the next sentence: ”the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve; and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It’s a life that all Christians are called into; and quite often we are okay with the first part of that last sentence…not to be served, but to serve’…but we have some difficulty with the second part ‘to give His life as a ransom for many.’

We know that as Christians, when we serve others, it is without expectation of being repaid, or without consideration of gaining some type of advantage over another. Sometimes this is difficult (especially in our materialistic culture) – to simply serve others completely for their benefit, not our own, because this is what is expected of those who ‘put on the mind of Christ’.   But the giving of our lives as a ransom for others takes some deeper consideration; maybe it even makes us a little afraid because it sounds like something so far beyond our experience. It sounds like something that is only in the realm of martyrs or great Saints in history. St. James from our Gospel was the first of the Apostles martyred, under Herod Agrippa in 44 AD, and his brother St. John would outlive all the other Apostles, ancient traditions tell us he survived two attempts on his life for witnessing to Jesus.

But parents who set aside their life’s personal ambitions or desires to dedicate themselves to raising their children should be familiar with this ideal. People who put aside their own wants and goals to care for an aging parent have touched on this ideal. Anyone who sets aside their own wants and comforts and dedicates themselves to the service of others as a lifestyle are definitely in touch with this ideal. In their own way, they have given their lives as a ransom for someone else. The goal though, is not to do it so that we are ‘owed’ something – not so that our children or parents or the poor or marginalized somehow are indebted to us, or that they or the Church or God are somehow obligated to us: we do it because we want to – we do it for the love of God and our neighbour as Jesus taught: and in doing that, in that service and giving of self, we enter into the mind of Christ:

This sharing of the cup and baptism of Jesus will not be without trials: Jesus never promised that it would be easy: but he led by example for each of us, and continues to teach and to lead us: in our second reading, St. Paul tells the Hebrews Jesus is able to sympathize with us in our weakness because he is like us in every way except sin: he was tested and hurt as we can be. But he is always there to approach, so that we may receive the grace to help us in times of need; the strength we need to persevere in sharing that cup and baptism. And if we really understand that in our heart of hearts, then it’s okay to ignore that conventional wisdom

We don’t have to be careful what we ask for: because if we ask for the grace and strength to follow Christ, we just might get it;

And we’ll get far more than we could possibly hope for.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

28th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year B)

There was a phrase that made the ‘rounds’ on t-shirts and bumper stickers for a while, that read, ‘whoever has the most toys when he dies, wins.’ Hardly a surprising sentiment in our materialistic world; but when we really think about that statement, it’s really quite sad. As if the sum total of our life and existence is the amount of material wealth we have or have not accumulated. As people of faith, we know that this mindset is very narrow; our hearts and our souls tell us that there is much more to our life and our passage from it than a bank statement or a list of possessions.

In our Gospel passage this week, we read of an encounter between Jesus and a rich man; we are given an insight into the reaction of the human heart when we deny ourselves a deeper, closer relationship with Jesus.

The man asks Jesus what he has to do to gain eternal life – which is an eternity with God. St. Mark tells us this was a person who practiced his religion, but only to a certain point; Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, and then lists some major ones – no murdering, stealing, committing adultery – And in response to this list, the man says , “ I have kept all these things since my youth,” as if simply by not killing or stealing or committing adultery is sufficient to enter into the Kingdom of God. He’s proud, it seems, in being able to hold up a checklist of ‘major’ offences and presenting a clean slate.

But the words St. Mark uses to describe what happens next are so crucial to understanding just what kind of exchange is happening here between Jesus and the man. It says, ‘Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said, ‘You lack one thing,’…” That phrase is very important – ‘Jesus, looking at him, loved him…’ It suggests to us something deeply personal and intimate is happening here; Jesus is now telling the rich man to go beyond a simple observance of ‘major’ commandments; that he needs to consider an attitude like ‘just because I haven’t killed anyone’ is not sufficient when it comes to being united to God.

Because Jesus, ’loved him’, it tells us that Jesus is inviting him, in love, to move even closer – that the rich man has potential, but he still needs to detach himself from his wealth, his prestige, his privileged position, his social and political views – anything that keeps him from entering more deeply into relationship with Christ. The depth of that relationship is reflected in Jesus’ instruction to sell what he owns, give the money to the poor, and come follow Him.

It isn’t sufficient to give away some of his belongings, or to make a small donation, and leave his journey of faith at that and assume that’s enough. Jesus says, ‘it’s not enough.’ He invites the rich man and all of us to completely put Him first – to stop placing priority on power, property and privilege ahead of our love of God and love of neighbour.   If we truly want to gain eternal life, then that is the path we must follow, the gate we have to enter through; it’s not a popular gate, it’s not an easy gate – but it’s the gate that Christ Himself invites us to take.

Two interesting things happen when this ‘unpleasant reality’ is presented to the rich man.

One is Jesus’ reaction; the other is the man’s reaction.

Jesus doesn’t diminish or reduce the radical nature of what He has just said. He doesn’t say, ‘oh, is that too hard? Well okay, I was only kidding. You can keep all your wealth and just say a couple of extra prayers.’ He doesn’t say,’ okay, if that doesn’t work for you, just sell half of your possessions and give some of the money to the poor, and visit me when I’m in town.” He says give it all away and follow Him. He emphasizes the point made time and again in the Scriptures, that God is not a god of percentages – ‘give fifty per cent of your heart to me’ or ‘surrender thirty per cent of your life to me’ or ‘give me seventy per cent of your love’; God expects all – all of our heart; all of our life; all of our love – because He has given all. Everything we have, everything we are, all has been given to us by God in the first place.

As for the man’s reaction, he leaves saddened; although it is not a violent reaction, he rejects Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, to come closer to Him and to continue to journey with Him, rather than ‘holding onto’ his possessions. The man chooses material wealth and privilege over a deep and intimate union with Christ. If he has a lot of money, and this has kept him happy up to now, why is he suddenly saddened? Because on the most basic level, his soul knows it has come close to God, has been very close to a deep friendship with God in Jesus, and has turned back to cling to ‘things’ that can never satisfy the soul’s longing for union with God through Christ. His wealth will never completely satisfy him, and on some level, he knows it. But he cannot stop clinging to ‘things’ long enough to open his heart to accept the real treasure – he’s afraid that if he opens his heart he will lose what he has accumulated; he focuses on what he might lose, rather than what he will gain. And what he stands to gain is a personal union with God; he stands to gain eternal life.

It’s worthwhile for each and every one of us to reflect on the two reactions – both from Jesus and the rich man; we need to reflect on how uncompromising Jesus is in calling us to deepen our relationship with Him. Just as important, though, we need to reflect on those times when we have chosen to cling to those things and situations that distance us from Christ, and consider how, in the depth of our own souls, we too may have walked away, like the rich man, ‘saddened and grieving’.

The great news is that the story does not end like that for us, unless we choose that ending. That if we surrender everything to follow Christ, then we can turn that ‘bumper sticker’ mentality around, because the truth is, when it comes to a deeper relationship with Jesus, and to eternal life with God, ‘whoever lives without the most toys, wins.’

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

27th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year B)

People of a particular ‘vintage’ will be familiar with a response received from our parents when we asked if we could participate in a particular activity or go to a certain place with friends or classmates; we had to go, we would tell them, because everyone else was going, and we wanted to be ‘just like everybody else’. Often this was met with the response, ‘and if everybody else jumps off a bridge, will you too?’ This response was given because our parents were looking out for our best interests – perhaps the activity or place was not conducive to our well-being, our safety, or our health. It was meant out of concern and love. But the one thing I recall from this response, was that they never apologized for it. They never apologized for expressing their concern and love.

Our readings today, particularly the Gospel and first reading, deal with marriage, with the union of man and woman on a number of levels; it is from these readings among others, that the Church receives her understanding of what marriage is all about, particularly as a Sacrament, and what Church teaching is based upon. The Gospel, for example, seems to deal specifically with the question of divorce, and how Jesus speaks on the permanence of marriage – the connection St. Mark makes in relating Jesus answer to the question of divorce and in the example of openness of little children to the Kingdom of God is easily recognizable and obvious in the connection between the sanctity of marriage and the family.

But as with every passage of Scripture, there is always a greater depth that we can explore – a better understanding that each of us can take from the Living Word of God that speaks to our hearts and minds and helps us better appreciate what Jesus tells us through the teachings of our Catholic faith. Today we have a culture of disposability; we are bombarded by the media and a popular cultural myth that the way to happiness and fulfilment is to do what you want, when you want; enter into relationships without worrying about permanence or commitment because if things don’t work out the way we want them, then we can just bail out or walk away. Our faith tells us that the Sacrament of Marriage is a lifetime commitment; the intent when we enter into it, is an intent to a lifetime commitment; a permanence; a covenant – that’s what the Church teaches; yet our culture of disposability questions that; even sometimes ridicules it as an outdated or old-fashioned unrealistic concept; and often many Catholics feel (for some reason that I personally can’t understand), that they somehow need to apologize for the Church’s teaching on marriage, a teaching which comes directly from Jesus Himself.

The Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage ask Jesus about divorce based on a ‘permission’ that was handed down by Moses; they say to Jesus ‘Moses said a man could divorce his wife given certain conditions – what do you have to say about that?’ First off, they hold Moses as the great lawgiver, so they want to see if Jesus will contradict someone who handed down most of the laws on which their whole tradition is based; their question is not so much to understand really what Jesus teaches; their question is designed to ‘trip’ Jesus up – not so much a desire to honestly learn on their part, but to ridicule Jesus or discredit his teaching; to diminish his mission, and show that they know better. We see this time and again in the gospels; and we see it time and again in our society, even amongst Catholics who want Church teaching on faith and morals and the Sacraments to bend in their favour. This is the hardness of heart Jesus talks about.

The permission that the Pharisees speak of is from the book of Deuteronomy, in which Moses is trying to keep the children of Israel on track with God’s intent that they live righteous lives and remain pure and dedicated to him. But they live amongst numerous pagan cultures, cultures which embrace divorce as just another phase of relationships. The children of Israel, even after all that God has done for them, show their hardness of heart; they say to Moses ‘we want to be like everyone else…okay, granted God has given us alot; has blessed us abundantly, but that’s not enough…we want that and more, and we want it our way – just like everybody else.’ The truth is though, as God’s chosen people, they’re not like everybody else; but in order to diminish this demand to a lesser evil, and to give time for people to think before they act on a divorce, MOSES gives them permission, saying that they have to write up a writ or a legal document of divorce; and the grounds for this are ‘if the woman fails to find favour in her husband’s eyes’; the more conservative or orthodox groups interpret that as solely on the grounds of adultery – the more liberal groups, which were prevalent in Jesus time, interpret that to mean if she doesn’t please her husband for whatever reason, then he can divorce her.

Jesus totally rejects this, calls the Pharisees and the people on it, saying it was because of their hardness of heart that Moses made this provision in the law. Jesus tells them from the beginning, reflected in our first reading from Genesis, God created man and woman for each other; that they were intended by God to be united in a complementary relationship of mutual support and self-giving and caring; the words God uses for woman in relation to man as husband and wife in this creation account are helper and partner; REMEMBER this is before the fall – before humanity made a mess of everything and disrupted the purity and order that God established; before there was a need for the salvation brought by Jesus: even in this relationship, God gave humanity everything, and it still wasn’t enough; humanity displayed again this ‘hardness of heart’ and even damaged this mutual sharing partnership of marriage that God had established.

But Jesus reminds the Pharisees of God’s original intent in marriage between man and woman; and he reminds them, and us, that what God has united, people must not divide; He states the ideals here that God set out and makes no apologies for them. He uses the little child to tell the Pharisees, and us, that it is not in hardness of heart, but in opening our hearts to trust in what God has stated time and again through Scripture and through His prophets; that’s what being childlike is all about; that accepting what God has taught in open trust and wonder like a little child is how we enter into the Kingdom – not by demanding that we can be ‘like everybody else’ – not just on the question of Marriage, but in everything God has set out; everything that Jesus has passed onto His Church in the areas of faith and morals.

The great irony in this whole exchange is that, the Pharisees consider Jesus to be a product of his culture – a Galilean from a region where pagan culture may have polluted His ideas about God; that this carpenter’s son thinks he can interpret Moses’ teaching better than they can.

The reality that they don’t realize (and many in our own society overlook) is that Jesus is God; He is the second person of the Holy Trinity, and as God, He knows the mind of God; He knows what God intended; and when He speaks of what God meant from the beginning, He is speaking as the One in the beginning through whom all things were made. And it is from this exchange that Jesus, who is God, emphasizes the ideal of marriage between a man and a woman (as helpers or partners) and raises or elevates it to a Sacrament, not just a civil union or a contract. He made marriage sacred; he made it a sign which grants special graces from God; that He- Jesus-God – is present in the Sacrament of Matrimony; that’s why we celebrate the Sacrament of marriage in a Church; that’s why the Church teaches the ideal of the permanence of marriage; that’s why the Church teaches the family is sacred; and it is with the openness of a little child’s heart that Christ invites us to trust in the wisdom and the Divine intent of this teaching; handed down through His Church; He invites us to be open to the graces He gives to uphold this ideal, to live and support and proclaim this ideal, and like Him, like Jesus, to make no apologies for it.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!