THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for January 9th, 2014
Liturgical texts here
JUST when you would perhaps expect God to send prophets wielding thunderbolts warning that this generation will be destroyed unless we repent… He instead raises up a young Polish nun to deliver a message, timed for this very hour:
In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so… My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners… Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to me… A soul’s greatest wretchedness does not enkindle Me with wrath; but rather, My Heart is moved towards it with great mercy. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1588, 367, 1485, 1739
Jesus moves our hearts to repentance, not by force, not by threat, but by His love and mercy—when we least deserve it. We are called to imitate and incarnate His merciful Heart. This “evangelistic method” is outlined in today’s Gospel and summarized in the first reading:
Beloved, we love God because he first loved us… This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother… For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.
Love is what opens the heart to truth, to the commandments. Love gives truth credibility. Love anchors doctrine.
Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth. —BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Varitate, n. 2
Doctrine anchors love. So, in no way is Pope Francis suggesting that the truth is not necessary, that the commandments are irrelevant, as so many have assumed and misinterpreted. For God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:4 Thus, Pope Paul VI taught:
There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed…
But he adds,
Do you preach what you live? The world expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, obedience, humility, detachment and self-sacrifice. —POPE PAUL VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, n. 22, 76
What Pope Francis is proposing is not new in content, but fresh in approach. Is it a coincidence that John Paul II called for a “new evangelization” that is “new in its ardor, new in its methods, new in its expressions” while he was in Latin America from whence Pope Francis comes? JOHN PAUL II, Homily during the mass celebrated in the “Parque Mattos Neto” of Salto (Uruguay), May 9, 1988, in OR, 11-5-1988, p.4. On this occasion the Pope recalled and commentated in some way his first speech in Haiti in 1983: Cf. John Paul II, Speech to the XIX Ordinary Assembly of CELAM, Port-au-Prince (Haiti), in “Teachings,” VI, 1, 1983, pp.696, 699; cf. vatican.va For now, this new pontiff has given us the “blueprint” in Evangelii Gaudium that outlines in precise terms the ardor, methods, and expressions appropriate for this hour in history.
The world is in darkness. It no longer hears our doctrine. Rather, it is the voice of mercy that can lead souls out of the darkness into the truth “which sets us free.”
On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 164
Love is the anchor. As Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Colorado recently said,
Do not be afraid to love in this way, to evangelize with the strength of charity. Nothing is impossible for God. He can take your love, which could be as small as a mustard seed, and turn it into something beautiful that changes the course of history and eternity. —Address to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Dallas, Texas, January 7th, 2014; Catholic News Agency
In today’s Gospel, Jesus lays out four stages of a complete “program” of evangelization and discipleship summarized in the words, “a year acceptable to the Lord.” This “jubilee” year was a reference to the Jewish tradition that after seven times seven years, or in the 50th year, debts would be forgiven and slaves set free.
He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Here, then, is Christ’s unchanging program, to be taken up by the Church in virtue of the Great Commission she has been given, Matt 28:18-20 which begins and ends… and is anchored in love.
JUBILEE EVANGELIZATION & DISCIPLESHIP
I. GLAD TIDINGS: We are to repeat the “glad tidings” of Jesus: “the Kingdom of God is at hand” cf. Mk 1:15 by announcing cf. Rom 10:14-15 that “God is with us” through Jesus, cf. Matt 1:23 that He loves us, cf. Jn 3:16 and making the Kingdom present by washing the feet of others, particularly the poor, Matt 25:31-46 with our presence and actions. cf. Jn 13:14-17
III. RECOVERY OF SIGHT: We are to continue the proclamation of Jesus: “…believe in the Gospel” cf. Mk 1:15 by imparting the truths, teachings, and commandments Christ taught that open our eyes and lead us out of the darkness into a new way of living. cf. Matt 28:18-20; Jn 14:6
IV. LET THE OPPRESSED GO FREE: We are to grow in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God cf. Gal 5:1 through prayer, cf. Lk 18:1; 1 Tim 4:7-8; Rom 12:12 the practice of virtue, cf. Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 15:53 partaking frequently in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, cf. 1 Cor 2:24-25; Ja 5:16 and building communities of love. cf. Jn 13:34; Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9
Don’t postpone your evangelization mission.
—POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, N. 201)
From fraud and violence he shall redeem them,
and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
(Today’s Psalm, 72)
- Not either or, but Love and Truth
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|↑1||1 Tim 2:4|
|↑2||JOHN PAUL II, Homily during the mass celebrated in the “Parque Mattos Neto” of Salto (Uruguay), May 9, 1988, in OR, 11-5-1988, p.4. On this occasion the Pope recalled and commentated in some way his first speech in Haiti in 1983: Cf. John Paul II, Speech to the XIX Ordinary Assembly of CELAM, Port-au-Prince (Haiti), in “Teachings,” VI, 1, 1983, pp.696, 699; cf. vatican.va|
|↑4||cf. Mk 1:15|
|↑5||cf. Rom 10:14-15|
|↑6||cf. Matt 1:23|
|↑7||cf. Jn 3:16|
|↑9||cf. Jn 13:14-17|
|↑10||cf. Mk 1:15|
|↑11||cf. Jn 8:34; Rom 6:23|
|↑12||cf. Mk 1:15|
|↑13||cf. Matt 28:18-20; Jn 14:6|
|↑14||cf. Gal 5:1|
|↑15||cf. Lk 18:1; 1 Tim 4:7-8; Rom 12:12|
|↑16||cf. Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 15:53|
|↑17||cf. 1 Cor 2:24-25; Ja 5:16|
|↑18||cf. Jn 13:34; Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 4:9|