Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading – Tips

You should read this as a story, that is, dramatically, making the voices of the speakers sound like real dialog. I don’t mean this irreverently, but think of how you would tell a child a story about a beachcomber who finds a brass lamp; a genie emerges and offers the finder three wishes … Today’s first reading has a similar dramatic character, although theologically it’s miles above anything in The Arabian Nights. Your reading should make wisdom sound like the most desirable thing on earth. Make God sound absolutely delighted to grant Solomon’s wish. Make your listeners want to ask God for wisdom. Make them want wisdom more than they want a winning lottery ticket or a brass lamp.

Second Reading – Tips

There are two sayings here that might fall on some eager ears.

  • “All things work for good for those who love God.” Say that deliberately, and pause afterward. Give it a chance to sink in. Someone there needs to hear this, even if they’ll make of it something other than Paul intended.
  • “And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.” This means God is calling people through stages of spiritual growth, whatever the meaning of the technical terms for each stage. Name the stages (speak the clauses) rhythmically, suggesting that they’re progressive (and implying that it’s OK to have progress still to make). That those called are plural is also significant. God calls individuals to holiness only in the community context. (And the plural number of the verb “predestined” excuses everyone from another dreary discussion of individual predestination.)
Intro to Readings

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

A set of histories in the Hebrew Scriptures tell of a long-repeated cycle of virtue and decline, punishment, repentance, and forgiveness. The cycle applies to the people, to their priests and their kings. This is the story of a high point in the life of Judah’s third king.

Second Reading

Earlier in the letter to the Romans, Saint Paul described revolutionary changes in the ways God deals with his people. Paul gives repeated assurances that the changes don’t endanger our salvation, they enhance it.

Gospel

Jesus describes some moments of unbelievably good fortune, for which people will pay the greatest price possible. He asks how that compares to our desire for the kingdom of God.

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Study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12

Luca Giordano: The Dream of Solomon: God promises Solomon wisdom
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The dream of Solomon

FIRST READING—As this chapter in the Book of Kings opens, Solomon consolidates the power he inherits from his father, David. God asks Solomon what gift (what pearl of great price) he desires most of all? He answers:“Wisdom and understanding heart.”

God gives Solomon wisdom and a discerning heart. In Israelite tradition, wisdom has to do with having the ability to attain success in any field of endeavor. Solomon illustrates this very well as he flourishes in governance, in construction, in foreign trade and diplomacy, and in writing proverbs.

Solomon is an example of the ‘wise scribe’ spoken about in the Gospel. Unfortunately, Solomon’s reign as king does not conclude as well as it began, which shows that God’s gifts are not bestowed automatically and permanently, but require continual tending and cooperation on the part of the one to whom they are given.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Recognizing God’s gifts

FIRST READING—The story from 1 Kings gives us a picture of a man who sought to understand God’s ways. Solomon, a man whose name is now synonymous with wisdom had a dream in which he was in conversation with God. God said, “Ask for anything and it is yours.” Solomon acknowledges that he has already many gifts from God so asks for a gift that would benefit God’s people. He asks for wisdom, the gift of discernment.

The hidden treasure and the pearl [in today’s Gospel] show us that the gifts of God are all around us. Sometimes they are not immediately obvious. Ask for help to recognise and use yours.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God is pleased that Solomon asks for wisdom

FIRST READING—God sometimes communicates with people in dreams (Genesis 20:3; 28:12; 31:11; Joseph in the Second Testament). Solomon has a dream: God says to him, “Ask for whatever!”But Solomon is already wise. He knows how to be modest and humble before God. So, he asks not for wealth or for power, nothing for himself, only for what he needs to be God’s worthy servant as king of God’s people. He asks for the kind of knowledge that will make him effective in his service of God. Solomon will forever be known as the one who knew the treasure worth pursuing.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The meaning of biblical wisdom

FIRST READING—All my life I’d heard about the “wisdom of Solomon.” But only when I seriously began to study Scripture did I understand the meaning of biblical wisdom. It has nothing to do with winning at Jeopardy or becoming a trivia expert. On the contrary, it’s the ability to see the things in our lives that God expects us to see. The author of I Kings supplies us with a classic definition. When Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, is asked what he wants from Yahweh, he simply responds, “An understanding heart.”

At the time this passage was written most people believed they thought with their heart, not their mind. The heart didn’t get involved with feelings. (Those were relegated to a person’s kidneys!) So Solomon is basically asking Yahweh for the ability to think the right way: to judge things and people as Yahweh judges them. Quite a task.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Wisdom that comes from God

FIRST READING—A young King Solomon realizes the wisdom that comes from God is greater than all earthly treasures. When the Lord offers to give Solomon whatever he asks, the young king wisely chooses the spiritual over the material.

God speaks to His elect in visions

Yahweh comes to young King Solomon, the son of David, in a dream.  Sometimes God speaks to His elect in visions, sometimes through an emissary like a prophet or an angel, and sometimes in dreams (for example: Gen 15:1; 28:10-16; Ex 3:2-4; Num 24:4; Josh 5:13-15; 2 Sam 7:4-17; Mt 1:19-24; 2:14; Lk 1:11-20; 26-38; etc.).  Yahweh tells Solomon to make a petition that He promises to grant.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Solomon's refers to himself as a little child
7 Solomon answered: “O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth [a little child] …

In the Hebrew text, Solomon refers to himself as “a little child”; it is a rhetorical phrase expressing inexperience and is a sign of humility.  The first century AD Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, gave Solomon’s age as 14 years old when he became king (Antiquities of the Jews, 8.211), but the average age of the Davidic kings when they ascended to the throne was 22 years.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Hebrew expressions of leadership
not knowing at all how to act [not knowing how to lead out and to come in]. 

The Hebrew text is: “not knowing how to lead out and to come in.”  It is the same Hebrew expression of leadership found, for example, in Numbers 27:17 when Moses asked God to appoint a leader to succeed him and in 1 Samuel 5:2 when the elders of Israel asked David to be their king.  Jesus uses the same expression in His Good Shepherd discourse when He says, in the Greek text, that He will lead His sheep “out and in” (Jn 10:3).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Solomon's request for a heart that listens
9 Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart [a heart that listens] to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.  For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

Solomon’s literal request is for a “heart that listens.”  The Israelites and other cultures of the ancient Near East considered the heart to be the organ of comprehension and the seat of moral judgment.  They saw the ability to truly listen as a source of wisdom for discerning the truth of a person’s words and in judging the right action in a situation.  Because sound judgment is a divine attribute (Dt 1:17; Ps 72:1-2; etc.), Solomon petitions Yahweh to bless him with this ability.  That Solomon describes God’s people as “a vast people,” literally “too numerous to count,” is hyperbole, expressing how overwhelmed the young king feels being responsible for so many of God’s people.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God is pleased with Solomon
10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.  11 So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this, not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right, 12 I do as you requested.  I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you, there will come no one to equal you.”

God is pleased with Solomon’s humility.   He not only grants Solomon’s petition for wisdom but multiplies the blessing so that no other ruler will be Solomon’s equal in wisdom and understanding.  Solomon will also receive the other gifts for which he did not ask: riches, safety from his enemies, and long life.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The lesson for us

The lesson for us is that when we come to God in humility and submit our lives into His hands, He is both merciful and generous in giving us gifts that are more valuable than silver and gold. His rewards are imperishable and will sustain us on our earthly journey to His heavenly kingdom.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-13

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Lord, I love your commands

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm glorifies the wonder, beauty and wisdom of God’s law.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

The treasure of God’s Law

PSALM—The psalmist declares that the Law of Yahweh is his covenantal inheritance from the Lord that he treasures more than silver or gold. He hopes to live in God’s mercy with the commandments of God’s Law as his guide and his comfort. The psalmist expresses his love for God through his obedience to the Law. Therefore, he is hopeful that the Lord will show him favor by giving him the understanding he needs to live more fully in the light of God’s Law.

Introduction to the Psalm

This Psalm is entitled:  A Prayer to God, the Lawgiver.  Psalm 119 is an alphabetical Psalm with the first letter of the first word of each section being a letter of the Hebrew alphabet from the first letter, “aleph,” to the last letter, “tau.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Obedience to the Law
57 I have said, O LORD, that my part [portion] is to keep your words.

The Law of Yahweh is the psalmist’s “part,” literally his “portion;” it is his covenantal inheritance from the Lord that he treasures more than silver or gold (verses 57 and 72).  He hopes to live in God’s mercy with the commandments of God’s Law as his guide and his comfort (verses 76-77).  He loves the word of God found in the Law, which he values as his greatest treasure.  Therefore, he is obedient to it, and he is hopeful that the Lord will show him favor and give him the understanding he needs to live more fully in the light of God’s Law (verses 127-130).   The psalmist expresses his love for God through his obedience to the Law (verse 127).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Loving God and obedience

Jesus taught about the connection between loving God and obedience to the word of God when He told His disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments … Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn 14:15, 21).

St. John repeated Jesus’ link between a loving relationship with God and obedience to His commandments when he wrote: The way we may be sure we know him is to keep his commandments (1 Jn 2:30), and Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit that he gave us (1 Jn 3:24).

Obedience to the commandments is the guide that keeps us on the “narrow path” to salvation and the hope of union with God in the heavenly Kingdom.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Rom 8:28-30

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

God has a plan for our lives

SECOND READING—God has a plan for our lives and he is in control of everything. It is his desire that we be refashioned in the image of Christ in a progressive process which he himself directs.

When Paul speaks about those whom God has predestined, he does not mean that God whimsically chooses some to be saved and others to be lost. God’s plan is for all to be saved. This means it is God’s active will that all be saved, but God’s passive will permits each individual to accept or reject God’s salvation.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Our unfolding journey into Christ

SECOND READING—This passage from Romans has been presented as a kind of fatalistic approach to life. It doesn’t matter what you do everything is already decided. We are a kind of ROM computer disk; the text is set— it cannot be altered. This of course is not true.

The Jews understood God as a God of Order. The universe has wondrous patterns which cause us to marvel at the connections within and among all creation. Paul outlines in a series of steps the unfolding of the journey into the likeness of Christ which he sees as our imaging of God. Paul believes that, no matter what happens in our life, God can use it for good. In other words God will always cooperate with love, no matter how feeble our efforts.

This is an extension of the previous idea [from last Sunday] about us not being good judges of people. What we might judge as a physical or moral disaster in our lives can be used for good if we keep on trying to be faithful.

God’s sustaining love has always surrounded us: before we were born, in our calling to be Gospel people; in our faltering responses; in our efforts to be faithful; therefore God will be with us in the final stage as well, that is our entering into glory.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God will not default on plans of salvation

SECOND READING—Perhaps,some do not yet know for certain that God is in charge of the universe, in control of all the circumstance of our lives. God also protects and guides those who belong to God. The same God is the one who knows all things and who loves supremely.

Surely, there can be no more reassuring words in the whole Bible. In the plan of salvation that God has for all persons, we find comfort and consolation. God will make it happen on our behalf. (The verb tense indicates that God has already made it happen!) Ours is not like the lives of the pagans who are at the mercy of the whims and fatalities of the “fates”or blind powers.

The fact that God has already planned for our salvation does not mean that we have no part to play, nor that we have no choice now. God always respects the freedom given us in creation.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The privilege of being Christian

SECOND READING—Today’s Romans periscope contains one of the most consoling lines in all of Scripture: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Paul uses this entire passage to stress the importance of each individual Christian. He’s certain every one of us is “conformed to the image of (God’s) Son.” No wonder he constantly reminds his communities that we together make up the body of the risen Christ in this world. All of us are other Christs. The only condition for being so privileged is that we love God, and show that love by giving ourselves for those around us. That’s the essential part of the metanoia Jesus expects of his followers. Because of a complete reversal of our value system, we’ve come to believe that to experience good in our lives, we’ve got to become a force of good in other people’s lives.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

God has called the Christian to share in His glory

SECOND READING—God calls us to share in the glory of His eternal Son, and the Kingdom of the Church is the vehicle Jesus gave us to bring us to that glory when, one day, we reach God’s heavenly Kingdom. Saint Paul wrote that all who demonstrate their love for God by seeking His divine will in their lives, believing in all He has taught, and living according to that teaching have received a unique promise. No matter what happens for good or for ill and in success or suffering, all that we experience on our journey of faith is part of God’s divine plan of salvation for our lives. God will turn every experience, even suffering, to the benefit of our salvation if we persevere in faith and obedience and trust God with our lives.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
All things work for good
28 We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

What a wonderful promise God makes to all Christians through His servant St. Paul in verse 28. All who love God, believing in all His commandments and living according to them, thereby seeking God’s will in their lives, have received a unique promise.  No matter what happens: for good or for ill and in success or suffering, all that they experience on their journey of faith is part of God’s divine plan of salvation for their lives.  Every experience will be turned to the benefit of their salvation if they preserver in faith and trust God.

Paul writes about those who love God, using the same Greek verb agapan, which by the Christian definition came to mean “self-sacrificial love.”  It is the kind of love Jesus commanded us to give to one another just as He has loved us (Jn 13:34).  For Paul, it is “agape love” that defines what it means to be a Christian.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God's love for those justified
29 For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  30 And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

In Romans 5: 5-11, St. Paul wrote about God’s justifying action in Jesus Christ as a declaration of peace.  The crucifixion of the Christ displays God’s action in certifying humanity for unimpeded access into the divine presence.

Reconciliation with God through Jesus’ self-sacrifice is God’s gift of pardon, in Paul’s words, “justification” (being made just/righteous before God), to the entire human race.  God’s love for those justified by His Son’s sacrifice for their sins is poured into their hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Assurance of God's faithful love

The reason good can come from everything experienced in the Christian’s life is that this promise is not dependent on the Christian.  Good comes because it is God Himself who takes the initiative, and it is His intervention that turns everything to their benefit.  It is a promise that is repeated by St. James who wrote in his letter to the universal Church: Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers: all that is good, all that is perfect, is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him, there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow caused by change (Jam 1:16-17, NJB).

St. Paul’s promise of God’s love and faithfulness to the Christian who is obedient to the word of God and His assurance of working for their good in all aspects of the faithful Christian’s life would have been familiar to his Jewish audience.  It was one of the themes in the writings of the Old Testament prophets concerning God’s love and faithfulness to His covenant people:

  • Deuteronomy 7:9 ~ From this you can see that Yahweh your God is the true God, the faithful God who, though he is true to his covenant and his faithful love for a thousand generations as regards those who love him and keep his commandments (underlining added for emphasis, NJB).
  • 1 Kings 8:22-23 ~ Then, in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel, Solomon stood facing the altar of Yahweh and, stretching out his hands towards heaven, said, “Yahweh, God of Israel, there is no god like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, as loyal to the covenant and faithful in love to your servants as long as they walk wholeheartedly in your way” (underlining added for emphasis, NJB).

(Also see Ex 15:13; Dt 7:12-13; 2 Chr 6:14; Neh 1:5; etc.).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Trials and suffering of the Saints

This assurance of God’s faithful love, however, does not keep us from trials and suffering.  Yet, there is the promise that good can come from these adverse experiences, if not to us then to others who are working out their salvation.  The saints who have suffered for Christ understood this promise:

  • Saint Catherine of Siena advised those who rail against God for the trials that befall them: “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man; God does nothing without this goal in mind.”
  • Saint Sir Thomas More consoled his daughter shortly before his martyrdom writing to her: “Nothing can come but that that God wills.  And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.”
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Mystery of God's plan in the lives of believers

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on the mystery of God’s plan in the lives of believers and the world in CCC# 314: “We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history.  But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us.  Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face’, will we fully know the ways by which, even through the dramas of evil and sin, God has guided his creation to that definitive Sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Mystery of God's plan in the lives of believers

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on the mystery of God’s plan in the lives of believers and the world in CCC# 314: “We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history.  But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us.  Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face’, will we fully know the ways by which, even through the dramas of evil and sin, God has guided his creation to that definitive Sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Predestination Doctrine of John Calvin in error
29 For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  30 And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

St. Paul does not mean to suggest (as some Christians attracted to the Protestant Reformation doctrine of John Calvin have interpreted this passage) that God has decided beforehand who will be saved and who will be damned, and that our free will has no effect in cooperating with our salvation.  According to Calvin’s false doctrine, the elect are predestined [Latin prae = “before” + destinare = “to destine, ordain”] to receive irresistible grace, while others are predestined by God to receive the impulse of the will to sin and so are not given salvific grace.  This teaching is in error.  Every human being cooperates in God’s divine plan through his free will to accept or reject God’s planned destiny of his soul.  However, since God is all-knowing and not bound by time or space, He knows which choice each of us will make.  St. Paul is affirming this fore-knowledge of God in Romans 8:29-30Paul does not mean nor does Catholic teaching hold that predestination by God denies human free will.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Free Choice

Sacred Scripture teaches it is God’s desire that every person makes the free will choice to come to salvation.  If this is indeed God’s desire, then He would not predestine anyone to the Hell of the damned; therefore, our eternal destiny is in our hands to choose everlasting life in the presence of God or eternal damnation.

St. Paul wrote: First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.  This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:1-4, emphasis added).

St. Peter wrote concerning the delay in Christ’s return in glory: The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pt 3:9).

It was God’s plan from the time of the fall of Adam that Christ’s death would be for all humanity and not just for a predestined group.  God sent God the Son to be Savior of the world and everyone in it:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ~ For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died.  He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
  • Romans 5:15, 18 ~ But the gift is not like transgression.  For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many … In conclusion, just as through one transgression, condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all.

Jesus, the New Adam, died for the sins of humanity.  Just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all who, in their free will, accepted His sacrificial death on their behalf:

  • 1 John 2:1-2 ~ My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.  He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
  • 1 Peter 3:18 ~ For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.  Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.

Jesus’ death was the one perfect sacrifice for all humanity and for all time (see Heb 7:27; 9:27-28; 10:10; Jn 1:29; 12:30-32; 1 Jn 4:14; Rev 21:5).  But because Jesus is God, He knows the mind and heart of all people.  He knows who will respond in faith to His universal call to salvation: but Jesus knew all people and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about anyone; he could tell what someone had in him (Jn 2:24-25, NJB).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Our Destiny

The Catechism addresses the destiny of humanity for salvation: “Such is the ‘plan of his loving kindness,’ conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: ‘He destined us in love to be his sons’ and ‘to be conformed to the image of his Son,’ through ‘the spirit of sonship.’ This plan is a ‘grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,’ stemming immediately from Trinitarian love. It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church” (CCC 257 with references to Eph 1:4-5, 9; Rom 8:15, 29 and 2 Tim 1:9-10).

The Catechism also teaches that it is our destiny to be reborn in the image of God the Son: “Man is predestined to reproduce the image of God’s Son made man, ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), so that Christ shall be the firstborn of a multitude of brothers and sisters (CCC 381, cf. Eph 1:3-6; Rom 8:29).”

That it is the destiny of redeemed humanity to image Christ is what St. Cyril taught in the 4th century to the newly baptized: “God, indeed, who has predestined us to adoption as his sons, has conformed us to the glorious Body of Christ.  So then you who have become sharers in Christ are appropriately called ‘Christs” (Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechism mystogogia, 3,1). 

Addressing this tension between the exercise of our free will and God’s foreknowledge, the Catechism teaches: “To God all moments of time are present in their immediacy.  When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination,’ he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace” (CCC# 600).  The Catholic Church teaches that God calls all humanity to cooperate in His divine plan of salvation.  All who respond to that call (known as “the elect”) are justified according to God’s plan.  They are united to the image of God the Son, fulfilling their destiny as “justified” believers and receiving a share in the glory of His presence.

Catholic scholars down through the centuries have dedicated themselves to trying to reconcile the tension between free will and God’s foreknowledge.  However, all agree in the end with St. Paul’s assessment in Romans 11:33-34 that God’s knowledge of human destiny is an unfathomable mystery, Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways.  For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Mt 13:44-52 or 13:44-46

Parable of the Hidden Treasure by Rembrandt (c. 1630).
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The Kingdom of God is like…

GOSPEL—This Gospel offers three more parables which are intended to give the listener some insight into the Kingdom of God. Jesus does not give us a definition of the reign of God. Instead, he offers some images of what the Kingdom of God is like.

In the first two parables, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a buried treasure or a set of fine pearls. When one finds a treasure of pearls and realizes it is the ‘real thing,’ he/she thinks: “This is what I have been looking for all my life.” Stumbling upon the buried treasure of pearls brings great joy. Discovering a “pearl of great price” calls for great commitment symbolized by a willingness to sell all of one’s possessions to purchase the treasure. In the story, both men are willing to joyfully sacrifice all to purchase their new found treasure. No one is pushing them to do this. They want to do it. Message: we must be willing to risk everything in order to join the fellowship of Jesus’ disciples.

The third parable about the dragnet hauling all kinds of things, good and bad, is similar to the wheat and weeds parable. Judgment will happen at the end. Only then will the good be separated from the bad. Like the allegory on the wheat and weeds, this parable is a warning against premature judgment, but also a warning that judgment will take place. Matthew finishes this section of his Gospel by saying: “Every scribe who is learned in the Kingdom of God is like the head of a household who can bring from his store both the new and the old.” Jesus has been speaking in parables to the Pharisees and his disciples. Those who grasp their meaning are like a wise scribe who appreciates not only the old revelation in Moses, but also the new revelation in Jesus. Both shed light on each other, but the new is definite and the fulfillment of the old.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

God’s vision revealed

GOSPEL—Jesus was first born of a large family. A family comprising people of all nations who believe in a world based on God’s vision, the reign of God. It is by our attentive reading of the scriptures that we are able to increase our understanding of how we might share in this vision.

We do not engage in this search alone, but in the company of those who have studied, discussed, prayed and shared over many centuries and across many cultures. We are blessed today because there are so many good resources available to enhance our hearing of the Word. In the gospels Jesus hints at the vision of God through stories and images. Today two are given.

The treasure and the pearl are linked as they carry a similar theme. The reign of God is like pounamu, opals or diamonds. These are gifts of the earth. It takes a practiced eye to discern the true from the false. Cutting reveals the beauty which lies beneath the dross. The reign of God is like a dealer’s search for that one really rare and valuable pearl.

These parables speak of a strong commitment, a passion which can override other considerations. The person who shares God’s vision for a just, cooperative, kind world will learn to search for ways to bring this vision to light.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.
Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

The Kingdom of Heaven is worth more than all else

GOSPEL—These three parables, found only in Matthew, are addressed to the disciples after Jesus has entered into the privacy of a house. They need to know something special. There will be a cost to discipleship that will not be charged to those who are not disciples! So, the disciples need to be comforted in a particular way.

Matthew himself exemplifies the “scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven.” He knows how to bring forth everything needed for the good of his community. He reaches into the living heritage of the community within which has been preserved the stories of Jesus. That is the old. He knows how to apply it to the years of the 80s when he is writing. That is the new.

Our translations are very weak: “the kingdom of heaven is like ….” The Aramaic which lies behind the Greek words here says, “It is the case with the kingdom of heaven as with a buried treasure …, a pearl of great price ….” The focus is with the conclusion of the story rather than with the specific item in the story.

One story has to do with private life: “a buried treasure.” The other has to do with one’s public life or business: “a merchant dealing in pearls.” The kingdom of heaven is about both the private and the public life, what is seen and what is unseen. Politics or public affairs are not exempt from God’s concern.

Parables sometimes contain an element that is not quite ethical, if not downright illegal! The “buried treasure” obviously belonged to someone else. The one who found it goes out and buys the field without disclosing to the owner all that lies in that field. Parables do not have to work in all their elements. Some facts may be extraneous to the point which the speaker wants to make (See Luke 16:1-13; 18:1-8).

The “Net Cast into the Sea” resembles the “Wheat and the Weeds” parable. It emphasizes that only at the end of the world should there be a sorting out of the good and the bad. Again, the fate awaiting those who have not repented is a horrible one. Weeds were used as fuel for cooking meals in a place where there were few trees. Here,Matthew goes beyond reporting what Jesus said: That the bad fish would be thrown out. He adds, “The angels will come; they will deal, not with fish but with evil people. They will throw those into the furnace of fire!”

Philosophers tell us that values are constructs of the human heart and of the human intelligence. A dog does not know the worth of the expensive shoe which he is chewing to pieces. Only persons can evaluate and appreciate that which is valuable. Made in the image and likeness of God, we have the ability to see and to assign value to things. We make judgments. And we go after what we value. We spend our time and our energies pursuing what we perceive to be good for us. The ultimate value has to be what God values.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Changing people’s value systems

GOSPEL—In the June 2012 issue of St. Anthony Messenger, I wrote about not appreciating how natural it is to see what we expect to see and nothing more. I stated that all that changed for me after having read Chabris and Simons’ bestselling book The Invisible Gorilla. The two psychologists conducted an experiment in which people were instructed to count the number of passes a specific basketball team made. While the passes were taking place, a person dressed in a gorilla outfit walked among the players, at one time even standing in front of them. When the experimental time expired, the people were asked two questions: How many passes did the team make, and, did anyone see the gorilla. Most participants nailed the exact number of passes, but almost no one noticed the gorilla! Though the gorilla was right in front of their eyes, they didn’t see it. It left no doubt that we usually see what we’re programed to see, not what’s actually taking place in front of us.

Scholars like the late Raymond Brown constantly reminded us that the itinerant preacher we follow never intended to found a church as we know it. He certainly wasn’t concerned with setting up an institution. The reason he preached was to help his disciples see things others never noticed, not because they were bad people, but because they didn’t know what to look for. All of us experience the same reality, but each of us experiences it in different ways.

Matthew believes that, more than anything else, Jesus of Nazareth was concerned with what his followers saw, not with what they knew. As I look back on the “religion classes” of my youth, the emphasis was always on gaining more knowledge. The Baltimore catechism we faithfully used simply got thicker by the year. More pages were added to make certain the older we were as Catholics, the more we knew about Catholicism.

With that knowledge-oriented frame of mind, it bothered me to eventually discover that the historical Jesus never preached to any one community for more than a couple of days. What could they learn in such a short time? I probably knew much more about my faith after just a month of studying my grade school catechism than they’d ever know from such a short period of instruction, especially if a former carpenter from Capernaum was their teacher. I’m no doubt blessed today with much more time and recourses to share the old and new with my community than Jesus ever had with any of his communities.

Perhaps some of us preachers must work at changing our own frames of mind. What are we trying to accomplish by the accumulated hours we spend in preparing our homilies and the environment in which they’re delivered? Are we content to give our communities only an experience of the institutional church instead of God’s kingdom among us? Our sacred Christian authors would certainly contend that if we’re not into helping people change their value systems — to see what Jesus helped his followers to see,  we’re wasting our (and their) time.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

The Kingdom parables continued

GOSPEL—Jesus tells the last three of the seven “Kingdom Parables.”  The focus of the last three parables is the Last Judgment at the end of the Age of Humanity, which brings to a close the Messianic Era, the Age of the earthly New Covenant Church in Salvation History (see the chart on the twelve periods of salvation history).  Jesus promises that His Kingdom is a treasure for which we should be willing to give up all earthly pursuits and attachments.  The Church welcomes all people to join the community of Jesus’ earthly Kingdom (the good and the bad).  However, only the righteous souls who fully submit themselves to God and offer Him their undivided love demonstrated by obedience to His commandments will inherit the promise of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.  Living forever in the presence of God is the unequaled treasure Jesus promises those who live by what St. Paul called “the obedience of faith.”

Matthew's Seven Kingdom Parables

Like the Old Testament prophets, in the seven “Kingdom Parables” in Matthew Chapter 13, Jesus, God’s Supreme Prophet, taught in parables, using topics of everyday life to make comparisons and emphasize His teaching points that reveal “the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 13:11):

  1. Parable of the Sower (Mt 13: 3b-9, Mt 13: 18-23)
  2. Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat (Mt 13: 24-30, 36-43)
  3. Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mt 13: 31-32)
  4. Parable of the Yeast (Mt 13: 33)
  5. Parable of the Hidden Treasure (Mt 13: 44)
  6. Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Mt 13: 45-46)
  7. Parable of the Sorting of Good and Bad Fish (Mt 13: 47-50)
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl without Price
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

Jesus’ disciples are like the person who found the hidden treasure and the merchant who found the pearl.  When they discovered the Messiah who came to announce the Kingdom of God, they left everything worldly behind to follow Christ and to possess the Kingdom.  The theme of both parables is the value of the Kingdom of Heaven and the joy of those who discover the treasure of eternal life.  Both the laborer, who found the treasure in the field, and the merchant, who discovered a valuable pearl, had the wisdom to understand the value of what they found and the determination to give up everything worldly to keep it.  The Old Testament Scriptures imparted wisdom (see Prov 2:1-4 and Is 33:6), but the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ gives a new form of wisdom in the revelation of God the Son and His gift of eternal life.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Parable of the Sorting of the Good and Bad Fish'
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  48 When it is full, they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets.  What is bad, they throw away.”

Like Jesus’ other discourses, the Kingdom Parables come to an end with the subject of the Last Judgment at the end of the age.  All people are welcomed into the Kingdom of the earthly Church (the good and the bad), but only the righteous/good souls who love God and are obedient to His commandments will be set aside and kept for eternal life.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' summary statement

49 “Thus it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
The angels, who were the “harvesters” in the parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat (Mt 13:30, 39-43), will separate the wicked from the righteous.  These last parables compare the conditions of the righteous and the wicked.  The righteous are the ones who treat the kingdom like a precious treasure worth more than anything earthly life can offer.  They are the “good fish” who are separated from the “bad fish” and destined for eternal glory.  The wicked treat the kingdom as though it has no value for them.  They are like the “bad fish,” and the choices they have made destine them for eternal damnation.

The description of the place of eternal damnation is the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  Jesus used the same expression, “wailing and grinding of teeth,” to describe the unfaithful Old Covenant people’s expulsion from the Kingdom in Matthew 8:12.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus concludes his discourse
51 “Do you understand all these things?”  They answered, “Yes.”

The significance of this verse is the ability to understand Jesus’ teachings.  He asks His disciples if they have understood His parables.  It is not only a question for them but for all generations of those who call themselves His disciples.  Their affirmative answer is significant because it identifies them as the “seed that fell on good soil” (Mt 13:23), and “understanding” is what Jesus said the crowds and the Pharisees lacked (Mt 13:13-15).

52 And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”  When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.

Jesus uses the example of two kinds of men in describing the way His disciples should work to understand the mysteries of the kingdom in verse 52.  The scribes were the theologians of Jesus’ time, those trained to interpret the Law and to understand the other books of Sacred Scripture written by the Holy-Spirit-inspired writers of what we call the Old Testament.  Ben Sirach describes a true scribe as one who treasures the discourses of famous men, and goes to the heart of involved sayings; he studies obscure parables, and is busied with the hidden meanings of the sages … He will show the wisdom of what he had learned and glory in the law of the LORD’s covenant (Sir 39:2-3, 8).  Jesus teaches that the scribe is like the head of a household.  Like the scribe, who draws his knowledge from the books of Sacred Scripture, the head of a household has items in his storeroom that he amasses over time and uses when needed.  Some scholars count this passage as an 8th parable.

The scribe and the householder are alike because they both make use of what is old and what is new.  To correctly interpret the Sacred Scriptures, the scribe must be knowledgeable about all the sacred writings, from the oldest texts of the Pentateuch beginning with the Book of Genesis to the later writings of the prophets and the wisdom literature.  The wise householder makes use of everything in his storeroom: older items/foodstuffs and newer produce/products.  In verse 52, Jesus instructs His disciples (and us) on how to study His teachings to receive the fullness of understanding.  He says one must study His teachings like the scribe who uses all of Sacred Scripture and the head of a household who uses all that is available to him (also see Mt 5:17; 13:11).  Everything must be brought forth from the “storehouse” of God’s word: both the old and the new.

We must study the Old Testament readings in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ and His word/teaching that reveals “knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” if we want to understand how He fulfilled the Law and the prophets (Lk 24:44-47).  This teaching has always been the foundation of Catholic Biblical studies, as expressed by St. Augustine: For the New [Testament] is hidden in the Old [Testament], and the Old is unveiled in the New (Quaestiones in Heptateuchum, 2.73; see CCC 129)It is the plan of study present in our readings from the Liturgy of the Word where we study the Old Testament passages in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament readings and the New Testament readings as a fulfillment of God’s promises in Old Testament Scripture.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Responding to God’s Word

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

If your “pearl of great price” is someone or something other than God, do something to make God your pearl of great price. St. Augustine says: “Christ is not valued at all if he is not valued above all.”

Life Messages

by Fr. Anthony Kadavil

We should live every moment in view of our precious goal

Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, status or pleasure.  Often, we are locked into regrets over the past, or focused too much on the future.  As a result, the enriching present passes us by, and the treasure is never discovered.  Thus, the really valuable pearl of sharing in God’s life through Jesus here on earth and later in Heaven is never found.

Let us always remember that Heaven is within the reach of all of us who try to do the will of God, following the ordinary vocations of life and enjoying this world’s joys and pleasures within the framework of God’s Commandments. Right now, it is for us to use the time given to us to go in search of the pearl of great price and to help others in their search. We are challenged to search and discern where the Lord is calling us so that we may know what path to take.

Let us remember that whenever we fight against discrimination, whenever we trust completely in God, whenever our selflessness conquers selfishness, whenever our love overcomes sin and our Faith overcomes suffering, whenever we render humble service to others, we are doing the will of God as it is done in Heaven; Hence, we are already living in the Kingdom of Heaven while we are still on earth.

The pearl of great price in this life is also found in our human relationships: a happy family, good friends, and people who love and accept us, even if neither we nor they are perfect. We must give all we have to possess this great pearl because, through selfishness and self-worship, we can destroy entirely the bond of love joining us to God and each other, a bond that otherwise would flourish, surviving in spite of sickness, disease or geographical distance, and growing stronger when death divides us.

We need to learn the lesson of the dragnet

This parable offers us a lesson in tolerance and compassionate understanding. In this, it resembles the parable of the weeds growing up with the wheat, for both parables teach us that the kingdom is a mixed body of saints and sinners (wheat and weeds; good and rotten fish).

There will be always a temptation for those who feel they are more “faithful” to separate themselves from the “weeds”/” bad fish.” But Jesus reminds us that the final judgment resulting in reward or punishment is God’s work.  Thus, we must   learn to be patient, compassionate and understanding with those who seem to fall far below the requirements of the Gospel and the Kingdom.

Let us humbly admit the fact that there are only a very few of us who are not a mixture of good and evil and that the good is the result of God’s work within us, while we are responsible for the evil. Let us gratefully declare as St. Paul did, “I am what I am with the grace of God.”

Visit Fr. Tony’s Homilies each week for an introduction to the Sunday readings, scripture lessons, homily starter anecdotes, a summary of each of the scripture readings, and Gospel exegesis. Fr. Tony’s Life Messages have be used with permission.
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Connections

Drinkable water, please

by Fr. Anthony Kadavil

Anthony De Mello tells a story about some people who were on a raft off the coast of Brazil. They were perishing from thirst, for as you know, ocean water is undrinkable. What they did not know, however, was that the water they were floating on was fresh water. The Amazon River was coming out into the sea with such force that it went out for a couple of miles, so they had fresh water right there where they were. But they had no idea.

“In the same way,” says De Mello, “we’re surrounded with joy, with happiness, with love of the kingdom of God in our midst. Most people,” he concludes, “have no idea.” [Anthony De Mello, Awareness (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1992), p. 26, Warner Press] (Fr. Tony)

God worked all things for the good of St. Camillus

by Fr. Anthony Kadavil

There was a man whom God brought low in order to raise him up. His life dramatically illustrates how God can use all things, even physical ailments, for someone’s ultimate good. This man was a physical giant – six foot, six inches tall. He entered the Venetian army dreaming of military glory. He fell into the vices common to soldiers, especially drinking and gambling. In the war against the Turks he suffered a leg infection. He received poor medical treatment and became partially crippled.

A giant brought low, he heard the preaching of a Franciscan Friar and made the decision to give his life to God. He went on to form the Servants of the Sick – a congregation of male nurses. They cared for plague victims and the wounded on battlefields. He founded eight hospitals. He was a good administrator, but he also had the ability to focus on each patient as if the patient were the only person that mattered.

This physical giant whom God transformed into a spiritual giant had the name, Camillus. We celebrated his feast day on July 18. He’s a darn good saint to help you if you are suffering from an addiction or if you have a disease or an ailment that won’t go away. St. Camillus illustrates how God can make all things work for good for those who love him. (Fr. Phil Bloom). (Fr. Tony)

Visit Fr. Tony’s Homilies each week for an introduction to the Sunday readings, scripture lessons, homily starter anecdotes, a summary of each of the scripture readings, and Gospel exegesis. Fr. Tony’s Life Messages have be used with permission.
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Opening Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Jesus, you are our ‘pearl of great price.’ Help us to always remember that and push back against all that seeks to replace you as the top priority in our lives.

Questions

Three sets of questions suitable for individual or group use. Choose one to best fit your purpose and time restraints: Faith Sharing Questions (by Fr. Eamon Tobin), Discussion Questions (by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau), and Scripture Study Questions (by Vince Contreras).

Faith Sharing Questions

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?

2. If God said to you what he said to Solomon, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you,” what gift would you ask for? What is the deepest desire of your heart?

3. In the second reading, Paul says, “All things work for the good for those who love the Lord.” Is this your experience? Can you recall a bad experience out of which God brought some good?

4. What are the priorities in your life? What do you value the most? What is most important to you? Does the way you spend your time, treasure and talent reflect these priorities?

5. What is the “pearl of great price” in your life?

6. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Discussion Questions

1. Do you have one of those computer programs for personal finances that lets you see at the end of the year exactly what you have spent your money on? Do you keep track of the amount of energy you devote to the various segments of your life? Are we sleeping our lives away? What kindsof persons do we spend most of our time with?

2. What are your parish priorities? Is the whole Church engaged in ministries that really matter? Where would you shift some of the energies of the Church if you were in charge? Do you feel you have a responsibility to say something about where the parish is putting its money? Will your voice be heard?

3. Do you value contemplative prayer? Do you believe that after you retire you should spend the rest of the years allotted to you as a contemplative? Are you now in training for the eternal Beatific Vision?Are you exercising your spiritual muscles for a better performance in God’s sight? What Olympic record are you trying to set?

© 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thibodeau. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Scripture Study Questions

1. In the 1st Reading, when God offers to give Solomon whatever he asks, what does the young king ask for? What is God’s response? Can you see yourself asking for the same thing of God? Why or why not?

2. What does the 2nd Reading tell us about placing our trust in God? How does God reward that trust?

3. In the Gospel Reading, what do the parables in verses 44-50 teach about the value of the kingdom? With what emotion and energy should it be pursued?

4. What does the parable of the net teach about the kingdom of heaven? How does it compare with the parable of the weeds (verses 24-30)?

5. Who are the teachers of the old Law who have been instructed in the new Gospel (verse 52)?

6. Compared to the man and the merchant, how valuable is the kingdom to you and why: (a) It’s worth more than anything else. (b) I think I’d miss too much of the other things. (c) I’m not ready to put all my eggs in one basket.

7. Examine how you spend your time, talent and treasure and ask yourself: “What would I sacrifice for the kingdom of heaven?”

© 2017 Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Closing Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Holy Spirit, fill us with heavenly wisdom. Help us to see what really matters. Give us the strength to follow where you are. Amen.

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Present-Day Voices

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.

Can scripture help us determine who to vote for?

EXCERPT — In August, the Democratic and Republican parties will officially confirm their nominees for the presidential election. We need thoughtful leaders who will govern with the interests of all people in mind, not only a select base. Today’s readings provide insights into governance that can inform how we think about elected officials and whom we elect in November… As we prepare for election season, Scripture reminds us of the wisdom required for leaders to consistently promote the good and care for diverse communities. We similarly need wisdom to choose such leaders.

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


Searching for pearls

EXCERPT A 17-year-old boy was playing basketball in his driveway with his friends. In the course of the game he lost one of his contact lenses. He searched up and down the driveway to find it without success. So he gave up and he went in the house to tell his mother. She undertook the cause and went out to look. In just a few minutes she came in holding the contact lens in her hand. “I don’t get it,” said the boy. “I looked everywhere. How did you do that?” “Well,” she explained, “we were looking for different things. You were looking for a small piece of plastic. I was looking for $300.” What we value determines the search. This truth is captured in today’s gospel parable of the merchant…

BUILDING ON THE WORDFr. George Sigma


The “pearl of great price” in the parish

EXCERPT — A parish has its own “pearl of great price.”What is your greatest treasure at St.So-and-So? The oldest person in the parish? The youngest person in the parish? Those preparing to bereceived into the Church? The poor among us? Those who gave an anonymous gift for the repair of the church steeple? The man or woman who started a ministry for alienated Catholics? Perhaps your parish priest or deacon? Perhaps our greatest treasure is not really a person butratherthe love that binds us all to one another! …We can tell what is important to the parish when we look at the annual pastoral plan: How much of personal and financial resources do we assign to each segment of our responsibilities? Do we value buildings more than we do persons? A spiritual inventory will do us all some good!

ECHOING GOD’S WORDRev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017)


Buried treasure, costly pearls, nets full of fish — are these parables about becoming wealthy?

EXCERPT — Yes, but not as one could think. Jesus tells his disciples about the man who found a buried treasure. It is really all about Discipleship, and when you have the opportunity, you have to do everything that is necessary to possess it. It’s a very subtle point, but notice that the owner of that field isn’t aware that he has a Great Treasure within his grasp! Matthew’s community needed to hear this parable because they were being ostracized by the Jewish community, and had to give up family and friends to be a disciple of Jesus. But if you want the treasure, you have to be willing to pay the price!

MASS HOMILIESDeacon Joseph Pasquella (Confraternity of Penitents)


The higher wisdom of Solomon

EXCERPT — The billions spent on advertising presume, quite successfully, that the foundations of all value and meaning are things, privilege, and self-indulgence…Reformulations of Descartes’s “Cogito ergo sum,” appear as “I want, therefore I am,” “I shop, therefore I am,” “I win, therefore I am. …Some seek pleasures in every variation imaginable. They fall away sated but restless. Some build shrines to the ego’s power. They die alone, unloved, and uncaring. Others collect their things, like the movies’ Citizen Kane, empty of substance. Solomon dreamed long ago that a higher wisdom and deeper joy might be found… For the treasures of his heart, not earthly, Solomon is rightly remembered.

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ

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The Catena Aurea Commentary

by St. Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas uses:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to show/hide an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary of the Gospels.

Matthew 13:44

44. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

CHRYSOSTOM. The foregoing parables of the leaven, and the grain of mustard-seed, are referred to the power of the Gospel preaching, which has subdued the whole world; in order to shew its value and splendour, He now puts forth parables concerning a pearl and a treasure, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field. For the Gospel preaching is hidden in this world; and if you do not sell your all you will not purchase it; and this you ought to do with joy; wherefore it follows, which when a man hath found, he hideth it.

HILARY. This treasure is indeed found without cost; for the Gospel preaching is open to all, but to use and possess the treasure with its field we may not without price, for heavenly riches are not obtained without the loss of this world.

JEROME. That he hides it, does not proceed of envy towards others, but as one that treasures up what he would not lose, he hides in his heart that which he prizes above his former possessions.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xi. 1.) Otherwise; The treasure hidden in the field is the desire of heaven; the field in which the treasure is hidden is the discipline of heavenly learning; this, when a man finds, he hides, in order that he may preserve it; for zeal and affections heavenward it is not enough that we protect from evil spirits, if we do not protect from human praises. For in this present life we are in the way which leads to our country, and evil spirits as robbers beset us in our journey. Those therefore who carry their treasure openly, they seek to plunder in the way. When I say this, I do not mean that our neighbours should not see our works, but that in what we do, we should not seek praise from without. The kingdom of heaven is therefore compared to things of earth, that the mind may rise from things familiar to things unknown, and may learn to love the unknown by that which it knows is loved when known. It follows, And for joy thereof he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. He it is that selleth all he hath and buyeth the field, who, renouncing fleshly delights, tramples upon all his worldly desires in his anxiety for the heavenly discipline.

JEROME. Or, That treasure in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3.), is either God the Word, who seems hid in Christ’s flesh, or the Holy Scriptures, in which are laid up the knowledge of the Saviour.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. in Ev. i. 13.) Or, He speaks of the two testaments in the Church, which, when any hath attained to a partial understanding of, he perceives how great things lie hid there, and goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that; that is, by despising temporal things he purchases to himself peace, that he may be rich in the knowledge of God.

Matthew 13:45-46

45. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:

46. Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

CHRYSOSTOM. The Gospel preaching not only offers manifold gain as a treasure, but is precious as a pearl; wherefore after the parable concerning the treasure, He gives that concerning the pearl. And in preaching, two things are required, namely, to be detached from the business of this life, and to be watchful, which are denoted by this merchantman. Truth moreover is one, and not manifold, and for this reason it is one pearl that is said to be found. And as one who is possessed of a pearl, himself indeed knows of his wealth, but is not known to others, ofttimes concealing it in his hand because of its small bulk, so it is in the preaching of the Gospel; they who possess it know that they are rich, the unbelievers, not knowing of this treasure, know not of our wealth. Jerome; By the goodly pearls may be understood the Law and the Prophets. Hear then Marcion and Manichæus; the good pearls are the Law and the Prophets. One pearl, the most precious of all, is the knowledge of the Saviour and the sacrament of His passion and resurrection, which when the merchantman has found, like Paul the Apostle, he straightway despises all the mysteries of the Law and the Prophets and the old observances in which he had lived blameless, counting them as dung that he may win Christ. (Phil. 3:8.) Not that the finding of a new pearl is the condemnation of the old pearls, but that in omparison of that, all other pearls are worthless.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xi. 2.) Or by the pearl of price is to be understood the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom, which, he that hath found it, selleth all and buyeth. For he that, as far as is permitted, has had perfect knowledge of the sweetness of the heavenly life, readily leaves all things that he has loved on earth; all that once pleased him among earthly possessions now appears to have lost its beauty, for the splendour of that precious pearl is alone seen in his mind.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. in Matt. q. 13.) Or, A man seeking goodly pearls has found one pearl of great price; that is, he who is seeking good men with whom he may live profitably, finds one alone, Christ Jesus, without sin; or, seeking precepts of life, by aid of which he may dwell righteously among men, finds love of his neighbour, in which one rule, the Apostle says, (Rom. 13:9.) are comprehended all things; or, seeking good thoughts, he finds that Word in which all things are contained, In the beginning was the Word. (John 1:1.) which is lustrous with the light of truth, stedfast with the strength of eternity, and throughout like to itself with the beauty of divinity, and when we have penetrated the shell of the flesh, will be confessed as God. But whichever of these three it may be, or if there be any thing else that can occur to us, that can be signified under the figure of the one precious pearl, its preciousness is the possession of ourselves, who are not free to possess it unless we despise all things that can be possessed in this world. For having sold our possessions, we receive no other return greater than ourselves, (for while we were involved in such things we were not our own,) that we may again give ourselves for that pearl, not because we are of equal value to that, but because we cannot give any thing more.

Matthew 13:47-50

47. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:

48. Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.

49. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the just,

50. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

CHRYSOSTOM. In the foregoing parables He has commended the Gospel preaching; now, that we may not trust in preaching only, nor think that faith alone is sufficient for our salvation, He adds another fearful parable, saying, Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net cast into the sea.

JEROME. In fulfilment of that prophecy of Hieremias, who said, I will send unto you many fishers, (Jer. 6:16.) when Peter and Andrew, James and John, heard the words, Follow me, I will make you fishers of men, they put together a net for themselves formed of the Old and New Testaments, and cast it into the sea of this world, and that remains spread until this day, taking up out of the salt and bitter and whirlpools whatever falls into it, that is good men and bad; and this is that He adds, And gathered of every kind.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xi. 4.) Or otherwise; The Holy Church is likened to a net, because it is given into the hands of fishers, and by it each man is drawn into the heavenly kingdom out of the waves of this present world, that he should not be drowned in the depth of eternal death. This net gathers of every kind of fishes, because the wise and the foolish, the free and the slave, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, are called to forgiveness of sin; it is then fully filled when in the end of all things the sum of the human race is completed; as it follows, Which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting down on the shore gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away. For as the sea signifies the world, so the sea shore signifies the end of the world; and as the good are gathered into vessels, but the bad cast away, so each man is received into eternal abodes, while the reprobate having lost the light of the inward kingdom are cast forth into outer darkness. But now the net of faith holds good and bad mingled together in one; but the shore shall discover what the net of the Church has brought to land.

JEROME. For when the net shall be drawn to the shore, then shall be shewn the true test for separating the fishes.

CHRYSOSTOM. Wherein does this parable differ from the parable of the tares? There, as here, some perish and some are saved; but there, because of their heresy of evil dogmas; in the first parable of the sower, because of their not attending to what was spoken; here, because of their evil life, because of which, though drawn by the net, that is, enjoying the knowledge of God, they cannot be saved. And when you hear that the wicked are cast away, that you may not suppose that this punishment may be risked, He adds an exposition shewing its severity, saying, Thus shall it be in the end of the world; the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Though He elsewhere declares, that He shall separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; He here declares, that the Angels shall do it, as also in the parable of the tares.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) To fear becomes us here, rather than to expound for the torments of sinners are pronounced in plain terms, that none might plead his ignorance, should eternal punishment be threatened in obscure sayings.

JEROME. For when the end of the world shall be come, then shall be shewn the true test of separating the fishes, and as in a sheltered harbour the good shall be sent into the vessels of heavenly abodes, but the flame of hell shall seize the wicked to be dried up and withered.

Matthew 13:51-52

51. Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.

52. Then said he unto them, Therefore every Scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.

GLOSS. (non occ.) When the multitude had departed, the Lord spoke to His disciples in parables, by which they were instructed only so far as they understood them; wherefore He asks them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.

JEROME. For this is spoken especially to the Apostles, whom He would have not to hear only as the multitude, but to understand as having to teach others.

CHRYSOSTOM. Then He praises them because they had understood; He saith unto them; Therefore every Scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like unto an householder who bringeth out of his treasure things new and old.

AUGUSTINE. (De Civ. Dei, xx. 4.) He said not ‘old and new,’ as He surely would have said had He not preferred to preserve the order of value rather than of time. But the Manichæans while they think they should keep only the new promises of God, remain in the old man of the flesh, and put on newness of error.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. in Matt. q. 16.) By this conclusion, whether did He desire to shew whom He intended by the treasure hid in the field—in which case we might understand the Holy Scriptures to be here meant, the two Testaments by the things new and old—or did He intend that he should be held learned in the Church who understood that the Old Scriptures were expounded in parables, taking rules from these new Scriptures, seeing that in them also the Lord proclaimed many things in parables. If He then, in whom all those old Scriptures have their fulfilment and manifestation, yet speaks in parables until His passion shall rend the vail, when there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed; much more those things which were written of Him so long time before we see to have been clothed in parables; which the Jews took literally, being unwilling to be learned in the kingdom of heaven.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But if by things new and old in this passage we understand the two Testaments, we deny Abraham to have been learned, who although he knew indeed some deeds of the Old Testament, yet had not read the words. Neither Moses may we compare to a learned householder, for although he composed the Old Testament, yet had he not the words of the New. But what is here said may be understood as meant not of those who had been, but of such as might hereafter be in the Church, who then bring forth things new and old when they speak the preachings of both Testaments, in their words and in their lives.

HILARY. Speaking to His disciples, He calls them Scribes on account of their knowledge, because they understood the things that He brought forward, both new and old, that is from the Law and from the Gospels; both being of the same householder, and both treasures of the same owner. He compares them to Himself under the figure of a householder, because they had received doctrine of things both new and old out of His treasury of the Holy Spirit.

JEROME. Or the Apostles are called Scribes instructed, as being the Saviour’s notaries who wrote His words and precepts on fleshly tables of the heart with the sacraments of the heavenly kingdom, and abounded in the wealth of a householder, bringing forth out of the stores of their doctrine things new and old; whatsoever they preached in the Gospels, that they proved by the words of the Law and the Prophets. Whence the Bride speaks in the Song of Songs; I have kept for thee my beloved the new with the old. (c. 7:13.)

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Otherwise; The things old are, that the human race for its sin should suffer in eternal punishment; the things new, that they should be converted and live in the kingdom. First, He brought forward a comparison of the kingdom to a treasure found and a pearl of price; and after that, narrated the punishment of hell in the burning of the wicked, and then concluded with Therefore every Scribe, &c. as if He had said, He is a learned preacher in the Church who knows to bring forth things new concerning the sweetness of the kingdom, and to speak things old concerning the terror of punishment; that at least punishment may deter those whom rewards do not excite.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000
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Catechism Excerpts

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.” From the Homiletic Directory

Cannot ignore wound of sin in discerning human situation

A hard battle. . .

407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world. By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”.298 Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action299 and morals.

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Moral decision making in rapport with God’s wil

I. THE JUDGMENT OF CONSCIENCE

1777 Moral conscience,48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.49 It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:

Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.50

1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:

Return to your conscience, question it. . . . Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.51

1780 The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed. The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment.

1781 Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God:

We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.52

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”53

II. THE FORMATION OF CONSCIENCE

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55

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Seeking will of God in divine law in difficult circumstances

III. TO CHOOSE IN ACCORD WITH CONSCIENCE

1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.

1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

1789 Some rules apply in every case:

– One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

– the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”56

– charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.”57 Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”58

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Separation of good and evil at Judgment

V. THE LAST JUDGMENT

1038 The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,”623 will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”624 Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him. . . . Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”625

1039 In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare.626 The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life:

All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When “our God comes, he does not keep silence.”. . . he will turn towards those at his left hand: . . . “I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father – but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence.”627

1040 The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.628

1041 The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them “the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation.”629 It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s return, when he will come “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.”630

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God predestines no one to hell

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:621

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.622

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