GOSPEL: Mark 6:7-13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

GOSPEL: Mark 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.

He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.

He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”

So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

GOSPEL: Saint Mark 6:1-6.
He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.

GOSPEL: Saint Mark 6:1-6.

He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!

Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.

He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.

GOSPEL: (Third Sunday of Easter) Luke 24:35-48 
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them  in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

GOSPEL: (Third Sunday of Easter) Luke 24:35-48 

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them  in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

GOSPEL: Mark 1:21-28
Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Speaking the Word of God with Authority
At the beginning of Mark’s story of the Son of God, we read of the calling of the first disciples (1:16-20) and the confrontation with evil (1:21-28). The calling, influenced by the compelling calls of the prophets (e.g., Isaiah 6:1-13; Jeremiah 1:14-19), is a model of discipleship. Jesus is not a solitary prophet but one who calls companions “to be with him” (Mark 3:14); he enters the lives of four people engaged in their ordinary occupations, simply says, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17), and they immediately leave everything to follow him.The story of Jesus in the Capernaum synagogue inaugurates the first day of his ministry which consists of exorcisms and healings. The story reflects contemporary Jewish thought that the coming of God’s kingdom would mark the defeat of evil, which is personified in an array of demons and unclean spirits. Jesus’ word is so powerful that people abandon their occupations and follow him, and even demonic powers are powerless before it. Jesus summons people to a change of heart, to take a new look at their lives and put their trust in the good news. This is not simply a story from the past, but one that continues to speak powerfully and prophetically to people today.On this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary time, both the first reading (Deuteronomy 18:15-20) and the Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) raise the issue of the authority of those who speak the Word of God. Authentic prophets taught with authority because God put his own words into their mouths. In the first reading, Moses tells the people that God will send a prophet from the line of the Israelites. God commands everyone to listen to this prophet, whom we come to recognize as Jesus.Jesus astonishes the people in the Capernaum synagogue with his teaching and authority. He taught with authority because he is the living Word of God. We are all witnesses to this living Word who is Jesus. We have no authority of our own; we simply proclaim his Word. Each member of the Church, by virtue of baptism and confirmation, has a prophetic role, and echoes the Word of God himself, both by words and example. We must walk our talk!Authentic prophets were strident opponents of the status quo. They recognized and felt the injustice that kings and priests and false prophets wanted to whitewash. They shared the groans of the oppressed poor, of widows, orphans and the dispossessed, and articulated those groans in cries of woe. They denounced the system, but denounced a system in which they were often enmeshed. They experienced deeply what was wrong with that system, and did everything they could to bring about change from within the system.Authentic prophets spoke the truth face-to-face with power, to powerful men and women whom the prophets knew intimately, frequently from their own position of power. And often, the prophets were in the employ of those whom they challenged!Finally, I offer a word on our own “prophetic” efforts to bring about change in the Church. I will be forever grateful to the late Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles for having instilled these ideas in my mind and heart years ago. The then Father Dulles said that reformers ought to speak prophetically. This may well be true, provided that the nature of prophecy be correctly understood. Father said that St. Thomas Aquinas made an essential distinction between prophecy as it functioned in the Old Testament and as it functions within the Church. The ancient prophets were sent for two purposes: “To establish the faith and to rectify behaviour.” In our day, Father Dulles continued, “the faith is already founded, because the things promised of old have been fulfilled in Christ. But prophecy which has as its goal to rectify behaviour neither ceases nor will ever cease.”

GOSPEL: Mark 1:21-28

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

GOSPEL REFLECTION: Speaking the Word of God with Authority

At the beginning of Mark’s story of the Son of God, we read of the calling of the first disciples (1:16-20) and the confrontation with evil (1:21-28). The calling, influenced by the compelling calls of the prophets (e.g., Isaiah 6:1-13; Jeremiah 1:14-19), is a model of discipleship. Jesus is not a solitary prophet but one who calls companions “to be with him” (Mark 3:14); he enters the lives of four people engaged in their ordinary occupations, simply says, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17), and they immediately leave everything to follow him.

The story of Jesus in the Capernaum synagogue inaugurates the first day of his ministry which consists of exorcisms and healings. The story reflects contemporary Jewish thought that the coming of God’s kingdom would mark the defeat of evil, which is personified in an array of demons and unclean spirits. Jesus’ word is so powerful that people abandon their occupations and follow him, and even demonic powers are powerless before it. Jesus summons people to a change of heart, to take a new look at their lives and put their trust in the good news. This is not simply a story from the past, but one that continues to speak powerfully and prophetically to people today.

On this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary time, both the first reading (Deuteronomy 18:15-20) and the Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) raise the issue of the authority of those who speak the Word of God. Authentic prophets taught with authority because God put his own words into their mouths. In the first reading, Moses tells the people that God will send a prophet from the line of the Israelites. God commands everyone to listen to this prophet, whom we come to recognize as Jesus.

Jesus astonishes the people in the Capernaum synagogue with his teaching and authority. He taught with authority because he is the living Word of God. We are all witnesses to this living Word who is Jesus. We have no authority of our own; we simply proclaim his Word. Each member of the Church, by virtue of baptism and confirmation, has a prophetic role, and echoes the Word of God himself, both by words and example. We must walk our talk!

Authentic prophets were strident opponents of the status quo. They recognized and felt the injustice that kings and priests and false prophets wanted to whitewash. They shared the groans of the oppressed poor, of widows, orphans and the dispossessed, and articulated those groans in cries of woe. They denounced the system, but denounced a system in which they were often enmeshed. They experienced deeply what was wrong with that system, and did everything they could to bring about change from within the system.

Authentic prophets spoke the truth face-to-face with power, to powerful men and women whom the prophets knew intimately, frequently from their own position of power. And often, the prophets were in the employ of those whom they challenged!

Finally, I offer a word on our own “prophetic” efforts to bring about change in the Church. I will be forever grateful to the late Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles for having instilled these ideas in my mind and heart years ago. The then Father Dulles said that reformers ought to speak prophetically. This may well be true, provided that the nature of prophecy be correctly understood. Father said that St. Thomas Aquinas made an essential distinction between prophecy as it functioned in the Old Testament and as it functions within the Church. The ancient prophets were sent for two purposes: “To establish the faith and to rectify behaviour.” In our day, Father Dulles continued, “the faith is already founded, because the things promised of old have been fulfilled in Christ. But prophecy which has as its goal to rectify behaviour neither ceases nor will ever cease.”

GOSPEL: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called  Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of  David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,  “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly  troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might  be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have  found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a  son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called  Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David  his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of  his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can  this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to  her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the  Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be  called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has  also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her  who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary  said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me  according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Gospel Reflection:
“How do we solve a problem like Maria?”By Fr. Thomas Rosica CSBThe Sound of Music stage play and I are the same age – both from that vintage year of 1959 – and the film version was the first motion picture I saw as child in the mid 1960’s with my family. God alone knows how many times I have seen it since on stage, at the theatre and on television!A few years ago, the Rodgers and Hammerstein famed musical The Sound of Music delighted audiences in Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre in the downtown theatre district. The city was “alive” with the sound of music. This magnificent production first opened in England under the direction of Andrew Lloyd Weber. The Toronto version of the show did justice to the musical that arguably contains some of the best-loved songs of all time.Solving the problem of Maria von TrappOne of the memorable songs of the play is “Maria,” some-times known as “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” It is sung brilliantly by Sister Berthe, Sister Sophia, Sister Margaretta and the Mother Abbess as portrayed at the Benedictine Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg, Austria. The nuns are exasperated with Maria for being too frivolous, flighty and frolicsome for the decorous and austere life at the abbey. It is said that when Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics for this song, he was taken by the detail of her wearing curlers in her hair under her wimple!When older Austrians in Salzburg speak of Maria, it is the “Gottesmutter,” the Mother of the Lord! When the foreigners, especially North Americans, arrive in Salzburg and speak about Maria, it is usually the other one: Maria Augusta Kutschera, later Maria Augusta von Trapp, who was a teacher in the abbey school after World War I and whose life was the basis for the film “The Sound of Music.”Because of this Maria, the abbey acquired international fame, to the consternation of some of the sisters! Having visited Nonnberg Abbey on several occasions while I was studying German in nearby Bavaria, I spoke with a few of the elderly sisters about the impact of “The Sound of Music” on their life. The prioress told me that they have no plaques up about Maria von Trapp and her escapades neither at the abbey nor in Salzburg! One elderly sister said to me, with a smile, “Das ist nur Hollywood!” (That is only Hollywood!)Solving the problem of Maria von NazarethThe Gospel story of the Annunciation presents another Maria, the great heroine of the Christmas stories – Mary of Nazareth – the willing link between humanity and God. She is the disciple par excellence who introduces us to the goodness and humanity of God. She received and welcomed God’s word in the fullest sense, not knowing how the story would finally end. She did not always understand that word throughout Jesus’ life but she trusted and constantly recaptured the initial response she had given the angel and literally “kept it alive,” “tossed it around,” “pondered it” in her heart (Luke 2:19). At Calvary she experienced the full responsibility of her “yes.” We have discovered in the few Scripture passages relating to her that she was a woman of deep faith, compassion, and she was very attentive to the needs of others.Maria von Trapp followed the captain and his little musical family through the Alpine mountain passes of Austria, fleeing a neo-pagan, evil regime that tried to deny the existence of God and God’s chosen people. Some would say that they lived happily ever after in Vermont in the United States, and that their musical reputation lives on through the stage production that enchanted Toronto audiences. The hills are still alive with their music!The “problem” of Maria of Nazareth began when she entertained a strange, heavenly visitor named Gabriel. The young woman of Nazareth was greatly troubled as she discovered that she would bear a son who would be Saviour and Son of the Most High.“How can this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”“Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” Mary answered. “let it be with me according to your word.” The angel left her and then the music began: “Magnificat anima mea Dominum.” It would become a refrain filling the world with the sound of its powerful music down through the ages.The message Mary received catapulted her on a trajectory far beyond tiny, sleepy Nazareth and that little strip of land called Israel and Palestine in the Middle East. Mary’s “yes” would impact the entire world, and change human history.Problem solvedMary of Nazareth accepted her “problem” and resolved it through her obedience, fidelity, trust, hope and quiet joy. At that first moment in Nazareth, she could not foresee the brutal ending of the story of this child within her. Only on a hillside in Calvary, years later, would she experience the full responsibility of her “yes” that forever changed the history of humanity.Although there are no plaques commemorating Maria von Trapp’s encounter with destiny at Nonnberg Abbey, there is one small plaque commemorating Mary of Nazareth’s life-changing meeting in her hometown. Standing in the middle of the present day city of Nazareth in Galilee is the mammoth basilica of the Annunciation, built around what is believed to be the cave and dwelling of Mary. A small inscription is found on the altar in this grotto-like room that commemorates the place where Mary received the message from the angel Gabriel, that she would “conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). The Latin inscription reads “Verbum caro hic factum est” (Here the word became flesh).I can still remember the sensation I had when I knelt before that altar for the first time in 1988. That inscription in the grotto of the Annunciation is profound, otherworldly, earth shaking, life changing, dizzying and awesome. The words “Verbum caro hic factum est” are not found on an ex-voto plaque in the cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem, nor engraved on the outer walls of the Temple ruins or on governmental tourist offices in Jerusalem. They are affixed to an altar deep within the imposing structure of Nazareth’s centrepiece of the Annunciation. “This is where the word became flesh.” This is where history was changed because Mary said “yes.”Could such words be applied to our own lives, to our families, communities, and churches – “Here the word becomes flesh”? Do we know how to listen to God’s Word, meditate upon it and live it each day? Do we put that word into action in our daily lives? Are we faithful, hopeful, loving, and inviting in our discourse and living? What powerful words to be said about Christians – that their words become flesh!However beautiful and catchy are the tunes of Maria of Salzburg, the music of the other Maria, the one from Nazareth, surpasses anything I have ever heard.

GOSPEL: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Gospel Reflection:

“How do we solve a problem like Maria?”
By Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB

The Sound of Music stage play and I are the same age – both from that vintage year of 1959 – and the film version was the first motion picture I saw as child in the mid 1960’s with my family. God alone knows how many times I have seen it since on stage, at the theatre and on television!

A few years ago, the Rodgers and Hammerstein famed musical The Sound of Music delighted audiences in Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre in the downtown theatre district. The city was “alive” with the sound of music. This magnificent production first opened in England under the direction of Andrew Lloyd Weber. The Toronto version of the show did justice to the musical that arguably contains some of the best-loved songs of all time.
Solving the problem of Maria von Trapp

One of the memorable songs of the play is “Maria,” some-times known as “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” It is sung brilliantly by Sister Berthe, Sister Sophia, Sister Margaretta and the Mother Abbess as portrayed at the Benedictine Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg, Austria. The nuns are exasperated with Maria for being too frivolous, flighty and frolicsome for the decorous and austere life at the abbey. It is said that when Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics for this song, he was taken by the detail of her wearing curlers in her hair under her wimple!

When older Austrians in Salzburg speak of Maria, it is the “Gottesmutter,” the Mother of the Lord! When the foreigners, especially North Americans, arrive in Salzburg and speak about Maria, it is usually the other one: Maria Augusta Kutschera, later Maria Augusta von Trapp, who was a teacher in the abbey school after World War I and whose life was the basis for the film “The Sound of Music.”
Because of this Maria, the abbey acquired international fame, to the consternation of some of the sisters! Having visited Nonnberg Abbey on several occasions while I was studying German in nearby Bavaria, I spoke with a few of the elderly sisters about the impact of “The Sound of Music” on their life. The prioress told me that they have no plaques up about Maria von Trapp and her escapades neither at the abbey nor in Salzburg! One elderly sister said to me, with a smile, “Das ist nur Hollywood!” (That is only Hollywood!)
Solving the problem of Maria von Nazareth

The Gospel story of the Annunciation presents another Maria, the great heroine of the Christmas stories – Mary of Nazareth – the willing link between humanity and God. She is the disciple par excellence who introduces us to the goodness and humanity of God. She received and welcomed God’s word in the fullest sense, not knowing how the story would finally end. She did not always understand that word throughout Jesus’ life but she trusted and constantly recaptured the initial response she had given the angel and literally “kept it alive,” “tossed it around,” “pondered it” in her heart (Luke 2:19). At Calvary she experienced the full responsibility of her “yes.” We have discovered in the few Scripture passages relating to her that she was a woman of deep faith, compassion, and she was very attentive to the needs of others.

Maria von Trapp followed the captain and his little musical family through the Alpine mountain passes of Austria, fleeing a neo-pagan, evil regime that tried to deny the existence of God and God’s chosen people. Some would say that they lived happily ever after in Vermont in the United States, and that their musical reputation lives on through the stage production that enchanted Toronto audiences. The hills are still alive with their music!

The “problem” of Maria of Nazareth began when she entertained a strange, heavenly visitor named Gabriel. The young woman of Nazareth was greatly troubled as she discovered that she would bear a son who would be Saviour and Son of the Most High.

“How can this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” Mary answered. “let it be with me according to your word.” The angel left her and then the music began: “Magnificat anima mea Dominum.” It would become a refrain filling the world with the sound of its powerful music down through the ages.

The message Mary received catapulted her on a trajectory far beyond tiny, sleepy Nazareth and that little strip of land called Israel and Palestine in the Middle East. Mary’s “yes” would impact the entire world, and change human history.
Problem solved

Mary of Nazareth accepted her “problem” and resolved it through her obedience, fidelity, trust, hope and quiet joy. At that first moment in Nazareth, she could not foresee the brutal ending of the story of this child within her. Only on a hillside in Calvary, years later, would she experience the full responsibility of her “yes” that forever changed the history of humanity.

Although there are no plaques commemorating Maria von Trapp’s encounter with destiny at Nonnberg Abbey, there is one small plaque commemorating Mary of Nazareth’s life-changing meeting in her hometown. Standing in the middle of the present day city of Nazareth in Galilee is the mammoth basilica of the Annunciation, built around what is believed to be the cave and dwelling of Mary. A small inscription is found on the altar in this grotto-like room that commemorates the place where Mary received the message from the angel Gabriel, that she would “conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). The Latin inscription reads “Verbum caro hic factum est” (Here the word became flesh).

I can still remember the sensation I had when I knelt before that altar for the first time in 1988. That inscription in the grotto of the Annunciation is profound, otherworldly, earth shaking, life changing, dizzying and awesome. The words “Verbum caro hic factum est” are not found on an ex-voto plaque in the cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem, nor engraved on the outer walls of the Temple ruins or on governmental tourist offices in Jerusalem. They are affixed to an altar deep within the imposing structure of Nazareth’s centrepiece of the Annunciation. “This is where the word became flesh.” This is where history was changed because Mary said “yes.”

Could such words be applied to our own lives, to our families, communities, and churches – “Here the word becomes flesh”? Do we know how to listen to God’s Word, meditate upon it and live it each day? Do we put that word into action in our daily lives? Are we faithful, hopeful, loving, and inviting in our discourse and living? What powerful words to be said about Christians – that their words become flesh!

However beautiful and catchy are the tunes of Maria of Salzburg, the music of the other Maria, the one from Nazareth, surpasses anything I have ever heard.

GOSPEL:Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples: «When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Gospel Reflection by Father Rosica:
During my graduate studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in the late 1980s, I had the privilege of teaching Scripture on several occasions to the Missionaries of Charity at their formation house on the outskirts of Rome. Several times when I was with the sisters, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was visiting the formation community. I will never forget that little, bent-over, Albanian-born woman sitting on the floor of the chapel as I led the sisters in biblical reflections. It was a daunting experience for me to be expounding on Sacred Scripture to someone many considered even back then a living saint; one who, without exegetical skills and ancient biblical languages in her repertoire, understood far better the meaning of God’s Word than I ever would. One evening after I had finished the lecture and was gathering my books together to begin the trip back to the Canadian College in Rome, Mother came over to speak with me. At the end of the conversation, I asked her: “How do you do it day in and day out? How do you deal with the crowds of people trying to see you when you are out in public.” She raised her hand before my face and shook her five fingers at me. “Five words,” she said; “five words: You did it to me.”“You did it to me.”On this final Sunday of the liturgical year, also known as the Solemnity of Christ the King, we are presented with the great scene of the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), peculiar to Matthew’s Gospel. The final judgment will accompany the parousia (second coming of Christ) and is the last teaching of Jesus before he goes to Jerusalem to face his crucifixion and death. The stirring refrain of today’s Gospel is found precisely in these words: “You did it to me.”The crux of today’s Gospel is not so much trying to identify who are sheep and who are goats. The sheep that are at the Son of Man’s right hand are those that recognized and accepted the messenger and the message. The goats on the left did not recognize or accept the messenger or the message.Christ the Lord of history and king of the universe will separate the sheep from the goats at the end of time based on whether or not they have accepted the Word of God by accepting the ambassadors who were sent to proclaim that Word. Such acceptance or rejection is ultimately acceptance or rejection of the God who sent Jesus. To reject Jesus the Son is to reject God the Father. To reject a disciple sent by Jesus is to reject Jesus himself.Inclusion in the Royal KingdomThe Son who “sits upon his glorious throne with all the nations gathered before him” (31-32) is the same one who, at the very peak of his cosmic power, reveals that the universe turns upon a cup of water given to the little ones in his name. Jesus tells us that whenever we practice works of mercy, forgiveness, kindness, we are doing these things to him. He fully identifies himself with the needy, the marginalized and the dependent; the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. Everyone is included in the Royal Kingdom of the humble Jesus. His reign completely overturns our notions of earthly kingship. The kingship and royalty of Jesus are of ultimate service, even to the point of laying down his life for others.The righteous will be astonished that in caring for the needs of those who suffer, they were ministering to the Lord himself (25:37-38). The accursed (25:41) will also be astonished that their neglect of those suffering was neglect of the Lord and they will receive from him a similar answer.When God will be all in allIn today’s second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, (1 Cor 15:20-26, 28), Paul describes Christ’s relations to his enemies and his Father. Paul’s vision includes cosmic dimensions as he attempts to describe the goal of all history. The reading is theological and Christological for God is the ultimate agent in and culmination of history. In the end we are all saved by this God who has entered human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. When God finally rules, there will be no further resistance to his saving power. God will be all in all. This is what lies at the heart of the word “subjection” (28): that God may fully be God and accomplish his saving acts on our behalf.Three final thoughts on the kingship of God’s SonAt the end of the liturgical year, and in light of the majestic scene of the final judgment, let us first consider two texts of Pope Benedict XVI. First, from his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011 “Porta Fidei” for the Indiction of the Year of Faith:“Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1).”The Kingdom of Christ cannot be built by forceNext, let us consider Pope Benedict’s moving reflection on Christ’s kingship, spoken on October 26, 2011 during the celebration of the Word on the eve of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World: Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace” held in Assisi the following day.In his homily during the celebration of the Word, Pope Benedict quoted from the prophet Zechariah 9 in which God promises salvation through a king.But the announcement does not refer to a king with human powers and force of arms. It does not refer to a king who dominates with political and military might. This is a gentle king who reigns with humility and gentleness before God and man, a king quite different from the great sovereigns of the earth.The Apostles recalled the prophet’s words particularly “following Christ’s passion, death and resurrection when, … with the eyes of faith, they reconsidered their Master’s joyful entry into the Holy City. He rode a donkey which had been lent to Him, … not a horse as the powerful did. He did not enter Jerusalem accompanied by a mighty army of chariots and horsemen. He is a poor king, the king of the poor of God, … of those who have inner freedom enabling them to overcome the greed and selfishness of the world, of those who know that God alone is their treasure. … He is a king who will make the chariots and steeds of battle disappear, who will break the weapons of war, a king who brought peace on the Cross, uniting heaven and earth and building a bridge between all mankind. The Cross is the new arch of peace, the sign and instrument of reconciliation, … the sign that love is stronger that any form of violence or oppression, stronger than death. Evil is overcome through goodness, through love”.The kingdom that Christ inaugurates is universal. The horizon of this poor and meek king is not the territorial horizon of a State, it is the confines of the world. He creates communion, He creates unity. And where do we see His announcement take concrete form today? In the great network of Eucharistic communities covering the earth, wherein the prophecy of Zechariah re-emerges in splendour. … Everywhere, in all cultures, … He comes and is present; and by entering into communion with Him, mankind is united into a single body, overcoming divisions, rivalry and rancour. The Lord comes in the Eucharist to divest us of our selfishness, our fixations which exclude others, to make us a single body, a single kingdom of peace in a divided world.…How can we build this kingdom of peace in which Christ is king? … Like Jesus, the messengers of peace of His kingdom must begin a journey. …They must journey, but not with the might of war or the force of power. … It is not with power, force or violence that Christ’s kingdom of peace grows, but with the giving of self, with love carried to its extreme consequences, even towards out enemies. Jesus does not conquer the world by force of arms but by the power of the Cross, which is the true guarantee of victory.Viva Cristo Rey!Finally, let us remember the life of a young martyred Mexican Jesuit who was deeply devoted to Christ the King: Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. (1891-1927). Born January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe Zacatecas, Mexico, Miguel “Miguelito” Pro was the son of a mining engineer and a pious and charitable mother. From his earliest days, Miguel had a special affinity for the working classes which he kept all of his life. At age 20, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and shortly thereafter was exiled because of the Mexican revolution. He traveled to the United States, Spain, Nicaragua and Belgium, where he was ordained a priest in 1925. Father Pro suffered from chronic stomach ailments and when, after several operations his health did not improve, his Jesuit superiors allowed him to return to Mexico in 1926 despite the horrible religious persecution underway in Mexico.Churches were closed and priests fled into hiding. Father Pro spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to Mexican Catholics. He strengthened people in their faith and was deeply involved in serving the poor in Mexico City. He was known for wearing all kinds of disguises that enabled him to work quietly among the poor. Miguel would dress as a beggar and go during the night to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to wealthy neighborhoods to provide for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable executive with a fresh flower on his lapel. His was the stuff of a modern spy movie or award winning television series! However in all that he did, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.He was falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president and declared a wanted man. Handed over to the police, he was sentenced to death without recourse to any legal process. On the day of his execution by a firing squad, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey”, “Long live Christ the King!”The image of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta standing before me and raising those five fingers before my face is engraved on my memory, especially when I listen to today’s Gospel of the last judgment. “You did it to me.” The image of Blessed Miguel Pro, boldly kneeling before his executioners and forgiving them, before proclaiming the real kingship of the non-violent Lord is also deep within me.Vindicated in the court of heavenWhen we listen attentively to today’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17, and today’s powerful Gospel, how could we not have the image of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed Miguel Pro before our eyes, as well as all of those women and men like them throughout history who tend the Lord’s scattered sheep, rescuing them when it was cloudy and dark, pasturing them and giving them rest? Their work of shepherding, binding up the sick and healing them gives flesh and blood to today’s Gospel. “You did it to me.” Today we have the consolation that our acts of mercy toward God’s little ones are vindicated already in the court of heaven, because God sees everything from above, and is the ultimate beneficiary of any of our poor yet sincere efforts to care for the needy, the marginalized and the dependent, the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned citizens of God’s kingdom.Our faith is rooted firmly in Jesus of Nazareth who was declared a king at his execution. He was not a king who craved for power, nor a dictator who dominated and trampled underfoot those who encountered him. In his kingdom, his poor subjects were cherished and loved; they were his friends, the little ones, his brothers and sisters who partook in his very life. Worldly kingdoms will come and go. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will never pass away. Together with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, let us acclaim our King: Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King, now and forever.

GOSPEL:Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: «When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Gospel Reflection by Father Rosica:

During my graduate studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in the late 1980s, I had the privilege of teaching Scripture on several occasions to the Missionaries of Charity at their formation house on the outskirts of Rome. Several times when I was with the sisters, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was visiting the formation community. I will never forget that little, bent-over, Albanian-born woman sitting on the floor of the chapel as I led the sisters in biblical reflections. It was a daunting experience for me to be expounding on Sacred Scripture to someone many considered even back then a living saint; one who, without exegetical skills and ancient biblical languages in her repertoire, understood far better the meaning of God’s Word than I ever would. One evening after I had finished the lecture and was gathering my books together to begin the trip back to the Canadian College in Rome, Mother came over to speak with me. At the end of the conversation, I asked her: “How do you do it day in and day out? How do you deal with the crowds of people trying to see you when you are out in public.” She raised her hand before my face and shook her five fingers at me. “Five words,” she said; “five words: You did it to me.”

“You did it to me.”

On this final Sunday of the liturgical year, also known as the Solemnity of Christ the King, we are presented with the great scene of the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), peculiar to Matthew’s Gospel. The final judgment will accompany the parousia (second coming of Christ) and is the last teaching of Jesus before he goes to Jerusalem to face his crucifixion and death. The stirring refrain of today’s Gospel is found precisely in these words: “You did it to me.”

The crux of today’s Gospel is not so much trying to identify who are sheep and who are goats. The sheep that are at the Son of Man’s right hand are those that recognized and accepted the messenger and the message. The goats on the left did not recognize or accept the messenger or the message.

Christ the Lord of history and king of the universe will separate the sheep from the goats at the end of time based on whether or not they have accepted the Word of God by accepting the ambassadors who were sent to proclaim that Word. Such acceptance or rejection is ultimately acceptance or rejection of the God who sent Jesus. To reject Jesus the Son is to reject God the Father. To reject a disciple sent by Jesus is to reject Jesus himself.

Inclusion in the Royal Kingdom

The Son who “sits upon his glorious throne with all the nations gathered before him” (31-32) is the same one who, at the very peak of his cosmic power, reveals that the universe turns upon a cup of water given to the little ones in his name. Jesus tells us that whenever we practice works of mercy, forgiveness, kindness, we are doing these things to him. He fully identifies himself with the needy, the marginalized and the dependent; the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. Everyone is included in the Royal Kingdom of the humble Jesus. His reign completely overturns our notions of earthly kingship. The kingship and royalty of Jesus are of ultimate service, even to the point of laying down his life for others.

The righteous will be astonished that in caring for the needs of those who suffer, they were ministering to the Lord himself (25:37-38). The accursed (25:41) will also be astonished that their neglect of those suffering was neglect of the Lord and they will receive from him a similar answer.

When God will be all in all

In today’s second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, (1 Cor 15:20-26, 28), Paul describes Christ’s relations to his enemies and his Father. Paul’s vision includes cosmic dimensions as he attempts to describe the goal of all history. The reading is theological and Christological for God is the ultimate agent in and culmination of history. In the end we are all saved by this God who has entered human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. When God finally rules, there will be no further resistance to his saving power. God will be all in all. This is what lies at the heart of the word “subjection” (28): that God may fully be God and accomplish his saving acts on our behalf.

Three final thoughts on the kingship of God’s Son

At the end of the liturgical year, and in light of the majestic scene of the final judgment, let us first consider two texts of Pope Benedict XVI. First, from his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011 “Porta Fidei” for the Indiction of the Year of Faith:

“Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1).”

The Kingdom of Christ cannot be built by force

Next, let us consider Pope Benedict’s moving reflection on Christ’s kingship, spoken on October 26, 2011 during the celebration of the Word on the eve of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World: Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace” held in Assisi the following day.

In his homily during the celebration of the Word, Pope Benedict quoted from the prophet Zechariah 9 in which God promises salvation through a king.

But the announcement does not refer to a king with human powers and force of arms. It does not refer to a king who dominates with political and military might. This is a gentle king who reigns with humility and gentleness before God and man, a king quite different from the great sovereigns of the earth.

The Apostles recalled the prophet’s words particularly “following Christ’s passion, death and resurrection when, … with the eyes of faith, they reconsidered their Master’s joyful entry into the Holy City. He rode a donkey which had been lent to Him, … not a horse as the powerful did. He did not enter Jerusalem accompanied by a mighty army of chariots and horsemen. He is a poor king, the king of the poor of God, … of those who have inner freedom enabling them to overcome the greed and selfishness of the world, of those who know that God alone is their treasure. … He is a king who will make the chariots and steeds of battle disappear, who will break the weapons of war, a king who brought peace on the Cross, uniting heaven and earth and building a bridge between all mankind. The Cross is the new arch of peace, the sign and instrument of reconciliation, … the sign that love is stronger that any form of violence or oppression, stronger than death. Evil is overcome through goodness, through love”.

The kingdom that Christ inaugurates is universal. The horizon of this poor and meek king is not the territorial horizon of a State, it is the confines of the world. He creates communion, He creates unity. And where do we see His announcement take concrete form today? In the great network of Eucharistic communities covering the earth, wherein the prophecy of Zechariah re-emerges in splendour. … Everywhere, in all cultures, … He comes and is present; and by entering into communion with Him, mankind is united into a single body, overcoming divisions, rivalry and rancour. The Lord comes in the Eucharist to divest us of our selfishness, our fixations which exclude others, to make us a single body, a single kingdom of peace in a divided world.

…How can we build this kingdom of peace in which Christ is king? … Like Jesus, the messengers of peace of His kingdom must begin a journey. …They must journey, but not with the might of war or the force of power. … It is not with power, force or violence that Christ’s kingdom of peace grows, but with the giving of self, with love carried to its extreme consequences, even towards out enemies. Jesus does not conquer the world by force of arms but by the power of the Cross, which is the true guarantee of victory.

Viva Cristo Rey!

Finally, let us remember the life of a young martyred Mexican Jesuit who was deeply devoted to Christ the King: Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. (1891-1927). Born January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe Zacatecas, Mexico, Miguel “Miguelito” Pro was the son of a mining engineer and a pious and charitable mother. From his earliest days, Miguel had a special affinity for the working classes which he kept all of his life. At age 20, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and shortly thereafter was exiled because of the Mexican revolution. He traveled to the United States, Spain, Nicaragua and Belgium, where he was ordained a priest in 1925. Father Pro suffered from chronic stomach ailments and when, after several operations his health did not improve, his Jesuit superiors allowed him to return to Mexico in 1926 despite the horrible religious persecution underway in Mexico.

Churches were closed and priests fled into hiding. Father Pro spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to Mexican Catholics. He strengthened people in their faith and was deeply involved in serving the poor in Mexico City. He was known for wearing all kinds of disguises that enabled him to work quietly among the poor. Miguel would dress as a beggar and go during the night to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to wealthy neighborhoods to provide for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable executive with a fresh flower on his lapel. His was the stuff of a modern spy movie or award winning television series! However in all that he did, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.

He was falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president and declared a wanted man. Handed over to the police, he was sentenced to death without recourse to any legal process. On the day of his execution by a firing squad, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey”, “Long live Christ the King!”

The image of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta standing before me and raising those five fingers before my face is engraved on my memory, especially when I listen to today’s Gospel of the last judgment. “You did it to me.” The image of Blessed Miguel Pro, boldly kneeling before his executioners and forgiving them, before proclaiming the real kingship of the non-violent Lord is also deep within me.

Vindicated in the court of heaven

When we listen attentively to today’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17, and today’s powerful Gospel, how could we not have the image of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed Miguel Pro before our eyes, as well as all of those women and men like them throughout history who tend the Lord’s scattered sheep, rescuing them when it was cloudy and dark, pasturing them and giving them rest? Their work of shepherding, binding up the sick and healing them gives flesh and blood to today’s Gospel. “You did it to me.” Today we have the consolation that our acts of mercy toward God’s little ones are vindicated already in the court of heaven, because God sees everything from above, and is the ultimate beneficiary of any of our poor yet sincere efforts to care for the needy, the marginalized and the dependent, the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned citizens of God’s kingdom.

Our faith is rooted firmly in Jesus of Nazareth who was declared a king at his execution. He was not a king who craved for power, nor a dictator who dominated and trampled underfoot those who encountered him. In his kingdom, his poor subjects were cherished and loved; they were his friends, the little ones, his brothers and sisters who partook in his very life. Worldly kingdoms will come and go. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will never pass away. Together with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, let us acclaim our King: Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King, now and forever.

GOSPEL:Matthew 25:14-30
It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter;so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Gospel Reflection by Father Thomas Rosica
Today’s Gospel story presents us with the last of the three parables that form Jesus’ final discourse in Matthew’s Gospel. Each of the three parables relates a different kind of accountability required of Christians as they prepare for their glorious encounter with Christ. The well-known Gospel text of the master, the slaves and their talents (25:14-30) addresses what we do with the native abilities or talents that we have been given, those things which we hold most dear and that we have a tendency to possess too tightly. The central message of today’s Gospel parable concerns the spirit of responsibility with which to receive God’s Kingdom: a responsibility to God and to humanity.Why Jesus taught the parablesWe must not forget that Jesus taught the parables based on the way he saw life being lived out before his very eyes. As he taught the different parables, he neither blessed nor condemned the behavior he described in each story. Rather he used the way that his contemporaries were carrying out their every day lives and activities, to teach and model appropriate behavior in view of God’s in-breaking kingdom.Today’s parable raises several questions and problems for us. The story seems to endorse a highly capitalistic mode of living regarding the use of one’s wealth and appears to be at odds with Jesus’ teaching on the use of money elsewhere in the gospels. A second problem surfaces regarding the master’s method of reckoning upon his return. His behavior with his servants has some allegorical reference to the final judgment.Through this parable, was Jesus illustrating differing human capacities regarding God’s gift of the kingdom? The first two slaves understand the gift that is freely given by a God who is so generous, and they therefore try to imitate the giver of all good gifts in the very ways that they live out their daily lives. Does God conform to the master as described by the unhappy third slave: a harsh man who reaps where he did not sow and gathers where he did not scatter (24)?The poverty of the cautious slaveI have always been intrigued by the reaction of the third slave whom I consider to be the “cautious” or “careful” slave. He seems to be an upright, honest man. He was not the smartest of the three, for he got the least amount of money, but if he weren’t a decent person, his master would have hardly entrusted him with a share of his money at all. The first and second slaves were shrewd operators; they knew how to play the market and doubled their investment. The third slave lived in fear because his master was a greedy, demanding man who liked his money and did not look kindly upon the foolishness and failure of those in his employ. Deciding to play it safe, the third slave refused to take any risks and thus buried his money. The rabbinical tradition taught that burying one’s money was the best security measure against theft or loss. I know many people who behave like this thirdThe problem with this third slave is that he refused to take risks; he would not step out into the unknown. Filled with anxiety and fear, he projected his guilt upon his own master. In the end, he loses everything he owned. Had he acted with some degree of innocence, he may have received a much more understanding treatment from his master.
The moral of the story for usThose who have a poor, limited, negative or miserly image of God and God’s dealings with human beings, will end up treating their fellow human beings in the same poor, limited and miserly ways. Such people are incapable of seeing the kingdom of God unfolding before their very eyes and in their own time. Is this not the poverty and blindness of the third slave? He was incapacitated by fear, and was impeded from reaching out to those in need around him. Fear paralyzes each one of us and prevents us from reaching out to those in need around us.The Good News of Jesus Christ is that we must abandon fear and be industrious, reliable and creative in doing God’s will, lest we turn out to be like the third slave, “worthless, lazy louts”! To be a disciple of Christ, we have to lose our life in order to find it. If we risk ourselves to a Christ we cannot see, we risk perhaps more in committing ourselves to a Church we can see. If our faith is seen as something that has to be protected, it is probably not genuine – and it certainly will not grow and mature if its fundamental approach is to “play it safe.”Next Sunday’s magnificent Gospel scene of the last judgment presents us with the opposite example of the third slave. It will teach us that we find the deepest truth about ourselves when we move beyond our own fears and limitations and feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.
The element of surprise in today’s parableFrom the beginning of today’s parable, we are told that the master gave each slave a certain amount of money as pure gift. The master demonstrated a gratuitous generosity. The third slave pigeonholed his master and simply could not fathom that the master was being so generous. The slave seems to be basing his actions on some kind of strict or literal justice that enables him to justify his own miserly actions. In the end, the third slave loses everything.When we apply this concept to God and Jesus, a lesson emerges for us. When we truly understand and appreciate the greatness of God’s gift to us in his Son Jesus, we experience a special freedom and gratitude, and we are willing to take risks. To do God’s will becomes an enterprising, risk-taking adventure, based on God’s gratuitous generosity, justice, mercy and boundless trust in human beings. Today’s parable emphasizes actions and enterprise, and helps us to prepare the way for the great works of mercy and justice in the final judgment scene of Matthew’s Gospel.A treasure made to be spent, invested and sharedIn his Angelus address of Sunday November 16, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI referred to today’s parable and provides a rich teaching for us:

    The “talent” was an ancient Roman coin, of great value, and precisely because of this parable’s popularity it became synonymous with personal gifts, which everyone is called to develop. In fact, the text speaks of “a man going on a journey [who] called his servants and entrusted to them his property” (Mt 25: 14). The man in the parable represents Christ himself, the servants are the disciples and the talents are the gifts that Jesus entrusts to them. These gifts, in addition to their natural qualities, thus represent the riches that the Lord Jesus has bequeathed to us as a legacy, so that we may make them productive: his Word, deposited in the Holy Gospel; Baptism, which renews us in the Holy Spirit; prayer the “Our Father” that we raise to God as his children, united in the Son; his forgiveness, which he commanded be offered to all; the Sacrament of his Body sacrificed and his Blood poured out; in a word: the Kingdom of God, which is God himself, present and alive in our midst.    This is the treasure that Jesus entrusted to his friends at the end of his brief life on earth. Today’s parable stresses the inner disposition necessary to accept and develop this gift. Fear is the wrong attitude: the servant who is afraid of his master and fears his return hides the coin in the earth and it does not produce any fruit. This happens, for example, to those who after receiving Baptism, Communion and Confirmation subsequently bury these gifts beneath a blanket of prejudice, beneath a false image of God that paralyzes faith and good works, thus betraying the Lord’s expectations. However, the parable places a greater emphasis on the good fruits brought by the disciples who, happy with the gift they received, did not keep it hidden with fear and jealousy but made it profitable by sharing it and partaking in it. Yes, what Christ has given us is multiplied in its giving!    It is a treasure made to be spent, invested and shared with all, as we are taught by the Apostle Paul, that great administrator of Jesus’ talents. The Gospel teaching that the liturgy offers us today has also had a strong effect at the historical and social level, encouraging an active and entrepreneurial spirit in the Christian people.

GOSPEL:Matthew 25:14-30

It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ (Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’

His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

Gospel Reflection by Father Thomas Rosica

Today’s Gospel story presents us with the last of the three parables that form Jesus’ final discourse in Matthew’s Gospel. Each of the three parables relates a different kind of accountability required of Christians as they prepare for their glorious encounter with Christ. The well-known Gospel text of the master, the slaves and their talents (25:14-30) addresses what we do with the native abilities or talents that we have been given, those things which we hold most dear and that we have a tendency to possess too tightly. The central message of today’s Gospel parable concerns the spirit of responsibility with which to receive God’s Kingdom: a responsibility to God and to humanity.

Why Jesus taught the parables

We must not forget that Jesus taught the parables based on the way he saw life being lived out before his very eyes. As he taught the different parables, he neither blessed nor condemned the behavior he described in each story. Rather he used the way that his contemporaries were carrying out their every day lives and activities, to teach and model appropriate behavior in view of God’s in-breaking kingdom.

Today’s parable raises several questions and problems for us. The story seems to endorse a highly capitalistic mode of living regarding the use of one’s wealth and appears to be at odds with Jesus’ teaching on the use of money elsewhere in the gospels. A second problem surfaces regarding the master’s method of reckoning upon his return. His behavior with his servants has some allegorical reference to the final judgment.

Through this parable, was Jesus illustrating differing human capacities regarding God’s gift of the kingdom? The first two slaves understand the gift that is freely given by a God who is so generous, and they therefore try to imitate the giver of all good gifts in the very ways that they live out their daily lives. Does God conform to the master as described by the unhappy third slave: a harsh man who reaps where he did not sow and gathers where he did not scatter (24)?

The poverty of the cautious slave

I have always been intrigued by the reaction of the third slave whom I consider to be the “cautious” or “careful” slave. He seems to be an upright, honest man. He was not the smartest of the three, for he got the least amount of money, but if he weren’t a decent person, his master would have hardly entrusted him with a share of his money at all. The first and second slaves were shrewd operators; they knew how to play the market and doubled their investment. The third slave lived in fear because his master was a greedy, demanding man who liked his money and did not look kindly upon the foolishness and failure of those in his employ. Deciding to play it safe, the third slave refused to take any risks and thus buried his money. The rabbinical tradition taught that burying one’s money was the best security measure against theft or loss. I know many people who behave like this third

The problem with this third slave is that he refused to take risks; he would not step out into the unknown. Filled with anxiety and fear, he projected his guilt upon his own master. In the end, he loses everything he owned. Had he acted with some degree of innocence, he may have received a much more understanding treatment from his master.


The moral of the story for us

Those who have a poor, limited, negative or miserly image of God and God’s dealings with human beings, will end up treating their fellow human beings in the same poor, limited and miserly ways. Such people are incapable of seeing the kingdom of God unfolding before their very eyes and in their own time. Is this not the poverty and blindness of the third slave? He was incapacitated by fear, and was impeded from reaching out to those in need around him. Fear paralyzes each one of us and prevents us from reaching out to those in need around us.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that we must abandon fear and be industrious, reliable and creative in doing God’s will, lest we turn out to be like the third slave, “worthless, lazy louts”! To be a disciple of Christ, we have to lose our life in order to find it. If we risk ourselves to a Christ we cannot see, we risk perhaps more in committing ourselves to a Church we can see. If our faith is seen as something that has to be protected, it is probably not genuine – and it certainly will not grow and mature if its fundamental approach is to “play it safe.”

Next Sunday’s magnificent Gospel scene of the last judgment presents us with the opposite example of the third slave. It will teach us that we find the deepest truth about ourselves when we move beyond our own fears and limitations and feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.


The element of surprise in today’s parable

From the beginning of today’s parable, we are told that the master gave each slave a certain amount of money as pure gift. The master demonstrated a gratuitous generosity. The third slave pigeonholed his master and simply could not fathom that the master was being so generous. The slave seems to be basing his actions on some kind of strict or literal justice that enables him to justify his own miserly actions. In the end, the third slave loses everything.

When we apply this concept to God and Jesus, a lesson emerges for us. When we truly understand and appreciate the greatness of God’s gift to us in his Son Jesus, we experience a special freedom and gratitude, and we are willing to take risks. To do God’s will becomes an enterprising, risk-taking adventure, based on God’s gratuitous generosity, justice, mercy and boundless trust in human beings. Today’s parable emphasizes actions and enterprise, and helps us to prepare the way for the great works of mercy and justice in the final judgment scene of Matthew’s Gospel.
A treasure made to be spent, invested and shared

In his Angelus address of Sunday November 16, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI referred to today’s parable and provides a rich teaching for us:

    The “talent” was an ancient Roman coin, of great value, and precisely because of this parable’s popularity it became synonymous with personal gifts, which everyone is called to develop. In fact, the text speaks of “a man going on a journey [who] called his servants and entrusted to them his property” (Mt 25: 14). The man in the parable represents Christ himself, the servants are the disciples and the talents are the gifts that Jesus entrusts to them. These gifts, in addition to their natural qualities, thus represent the riches that the Lord Jesus has bequeathed to us as a legacy, so that we may make them productive: his Word, deposited in the Holy Gospel; Baptism, which renews us in the Holy Spirit; prayer the “Our Father” that we raise to God as his children, united in the Son; his forgiveness, which he commanded be offered to all; the Sacrament of his Body sacrificed and his Blood poured out; in a word: the Kingdom of God, which is God himself, present and alive in our midst.

    This is the treasure that Jesus entrusted to his friends at the end of his brief life on earth. Today’s parable stresses the inner disposition necessary to accept and develop this gift. Fear is the wrong attitude: the servant who is afraid of his master and fears his return hides the coin in the earth and it does not produce any fruit. This happens, for example, to those who after receiving Baptism, Communion and Confirmation subsequently bury these gifts beneath a blanket of prejudice, beneath a false image of God that paralyzes faith and good works, thus betraying the Lord’s expectations. However, the parable places a greater emphasis on the good fruits brought by the disciples who, happy with the gift they received, did not keep it hidden with fear and jealousy but made it profitable by sharing it and partaking in it. Yes, what Christ has given us is multiplied in its giving!

    It is a treasure made to be spent, invested and shared with all, as we are taught by the Apostle Paul, that great administrator of Jesus’ talents. The Gospel teaching that the liturgy offers us today has also had a strong effect at the historical and social level, encouraging an active and entrepreneurial spirit in the Christian people.

GOSPEL: And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son,and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come.Again he sent other servants, saying, `Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.Then he said to his servants, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

GOSPEL: And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son,and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come.

Again he sent other servants, saying, `Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

Then he said to his servants, `The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.

Then the king said to the attendants, `Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

GOSPEL: Matthew 21: 33 - 43 (The Lord’s Vineyard)
"Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.
When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them.
Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”

GOSPEL: Matthew 21: 33 - 43 (The Lord’s Vineyard)

"Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.

When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them.

Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”

GOSPEL: Matthew 21:28-32
What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.
Gospel Commentary: by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Obedient to the Father in the footsteps of the Son
Your will be done! (Mt 6,10). This was the content of the Savior’s life. He came into the world to fulfill the Father’s will, not only to atone for the sin of disobedience through his obedience (Rom 5,19), but also to lead people back to their destiny by the way of obedience.The created will is not destined to be free to exalt itself. It is called to come into unison with the divine will. If it freely submits itself to this unison, then it is permitted in freedom to participate in the perfection of creation. If a free creature declines this unison, it lapses into bondage. The human will continues to retain the possibility of choice, but it is constrained by creatures that pull and pres­sure it in directions straying from the development of the nature desired by God, and so away from the goal toward which it itself was directed by its original freedom. With the loss of this original freedom, it also loses security in making decisions. It becomes unsteady and wavering, buf­feted by doubt and scruples or obdurate in its error.There is no other remedy for this than the following of Christ, the Son of Man, who not only promptly obeyed his heavenly Father, but also subjected himself to people who imposed the Father’s will on him. The obedience enjoined by God releases the enslaved will from the bonds of creatures and leads it back to freedom. Thus, it is also the way to purity of heart.

GOSPEL: Matthew 21:28-32

What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

Gospel Commentary: by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Obedient to the Father in the footsteps of the Son

Your will be done! (Mt 6,10). This was the content of the Savior’s life. He came into the world to fulfill the Father’s will, not only to atone for the sin of disobedience through his obedience (Rom 5,19), but also to lead people back to their destiny by the way of obedience.

The created will is not destined to be free to exalt itself. It is called to come into unison with the divine will. If it freely submits itself to this unison, then it is permitted in freedom to participate in the perfection of creation. If a free creature declines this unison, it lapses into bondage. The human will continues to retain the possibility of choice, but it is constrained by creatures that pull and pres­sure it in directions straying from the development of the nature desired by God, and so away from the goal toward which it itself was directed by its original freedom. With the loss of this original freedom, it also loses security in making decisions. It becomes unsteady and wavering, buf­feted by doubt and scruples or obdurate in its error.

There is no other remedy for this than the following of Christ, the Son of Man, who not only promptly obeyed his heavenly Father, but also subjected himself to people who imposed the Father’s will on him. The obedience enjoined by God releases the enslaved will from the bonds of creatures and leads it back to freedom. Thus, it is also the way to purity of heart.