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Mark Jacks

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

MATTHEW 25:13

Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Full Gospel Passage: Matthew 25:1-13

I remember the shock: it was 1995 and I was in college. A classmate with whom I had many classes in high school died at the age of 20. When you are young, you think you are going to live forever; as you get older, you realize time goes quicker than you think. Jesus’ words are just as true today as they were back then: “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” When I come before the Lord at the end of my life – which could be any day – what will I tell him that I did with all the earthen treasures that he entrusted to my care?

After all, he created the world; everything ultimately belongs to him. Did I freely and gladly return to him what is already his? Did I give of my treasure to the poor and to the Church? It is one thing to bequeath my money after I die and it is no longer any good to me, it is another to lovingly give it away now. I hope to love Jesus intensely now by giving back my treasure so that I may ultimately have treasure in heaven.

- Fr. Paul Stein

Reflection

  • How am I presently stewarding the earthly treasures entrusted to me by God, considering the transient nature of life?
  • How can I more actively share my treasures with the needy and support the Church, embodying a spirit of selfless generosity in the present?

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

MATTHEW 23:10

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Full Gospel Passage: Matthew 23:1-12

We read today Christ rebuking the Pharisees and the practice of their priestly work for the gratification of themselves to be seen by others as being holy. They took the opportunity to show their piousness by expanding their phylacteries (small leather pouch or box that carried the law) and lengthening their tassels. They wore the façade of holiness yet were all too eager to accept places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ They were not living their purpose to shepherd the people of Israel back to God but expand their influence and status, as well as their material comfort and benefit. As a result, there were factions within the Jewish community that purported to know the fullness of the law and that if the Jewish people wanted to be truly faithful they should follow them.

Christ shows us how we are to avoid those pitfalls and look to Him and His Church: Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Following Christ and knowing Him personally is what we long for. He is the way the truth and the life and He’s given us a Church that provides us with Sacraments, moments to experience an outward sign of inward graces, to experience Him and His unending love for us. We are called to move towards Him, not to tie ourselves to worldly vices that detract from Him. To move as siblings in Christ building up His church and inviting souls outside the Christian family to join us. The parish today is the primary vehicle we can achieve that, and providing the parish with our talent, treasure, and time and seeing that those three “t’s” belong to God helps us move the mission of the Church forward, to make disciples of all nations.

Reflection

  • When have you placed appearances and worldly recognition ahead of genuine faith and service, as the Pharisees did?
  • How can you invest your time, talents, and resources to strengthen your Christian community and the Church’s mission?
  • In what practical ways can you ensure your material wealth is used to strengthen the Church’s mission and deepen your connection with Christ while avoiding worldly distractions?

Hierarchy is Good

Hierarchy is Good

Fr. Paul Stein

So often in today’s culture, we presume that hierarchy is bad: it’s oppressive, unfair, etc. Yet, are not parents hierarchically above their children? Is a mom being oppressive when she insists that her children eat their vegetables? Those hierarchically above can indeed abuse, mistreat, or fail those below them; but does that make hierarchy intrinsically bad? If so, scrap the following: families, civic organizations with their “presidents,” armies, and corporations.[1] Effectively, you would scrap society into anarchy.

Hierarchy is built into creation. You can see it in families, you can see it in mammal behavior. It is also how angels are created. A hierarchy as created by God, is a chain or ladder of persons:

A contemporary reader may wonder if an angel in the lower part of the hierarchy is somehow “less” than an angel higher up in the order. In a sense, no. Granted, angels higher up have more power, but that does imply less dignity or less importance. (H)ieros means holy (a hierus was a priest, a holy one) and archia means to rule. The one above you is empowered by God to elevate you toward him, to lift you up. God empowers or capacitates a hierarchy to look after and be responsible for the one(s) below. Thus, while our guardian angels are “above” us, yet they take care of us.

Hierarchy is built into creation.

… hierarchy is not an oppressive thing, but to the contrary, a responsibility to God and others in the hierarchy. Fans of Spiderman may appreciate the idea that: “with great power comes great responsibility.” This applies to any hierarchy: the military, the family, or the Church. When lived authentically, it is a reflection of the God who took on our humanity in Christ and suffered and died on the cross to save us, in service of humanity. The Church, as the Body of Christ, is supposed to be like a human chain that extends from earth up to heaven, with anyone above, a hierarch, lifting up (the chain) the one below him. Hence, one title of the Pope is the servant of the servants of God.[2]

The Church’s hierarchy is meant for sanctification, raising someone up to heaven. It is true, that the structure would place the pope at the “top,” bishops coming next, then priests, deacons, and then laity.[3] But the Pope is serving faithfully when he is lifting the bishops and everyone else “below.” The purpose of the Pope’s authority is to fulfill his responsibility. For example, Papal Infallibility exercised ex-cathedra – which has only been used twice in history – to provide doctrinal clarity for the sake of salvation.

We can ultimately see the Church’s hierarchical structure in what is above the Pope: Christ himself. “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:18-20). He is the ultimate “top” of the hierarchy who gave his life to save everyone in the Church. The head of the Church serves all its members.

That is why a bishop’s threefold office to sanctify, teach, and govern – which comes from Christ himself who is priest, prophet, and king – is all aimed at salvation. The bishop is empowered sacramentally through ordination to fulfill these responsibilities. The “power” is not meant for self-service. If the bishop is to be saved, it is through being a faithful shepherd of the flock and father to the people. He cannot even absolve himself from sins, he must go to the sacrament of penance/reconciliation with another bishop or priest!

What This Means For Us

If we spend some time thinking about it, the Church’s hierarchy is ultimately familial. Just as we expect a father to be available to his children even in the middle of the night when they are sick, we expect a priest to be available at all hours of the day to anoint the sick and dying. For a pastor in particular, the responsibility for others and the hierarchical authority as the head of the community are two sides of the same coin. May our family homes be domestic churches where parents exercise their hierarchical authority with great love for their children, being willing to give their lives if necessary for their children.

Footnotes

[1] The Soviet Union, starting in 1918, tried to abolish nuclear families; they had to backtrack, particularly in the Family Code of 1936. The Chinese Communist Party tried abolishing hierarchy in the army (the PLA); in 1988, they wound up reinstituting a system of ranks. Socialism, in essence, is anti-hierarchical; it has never worked out well… and yes, to all those who insist that it hasn’t really been tried: socialism has been tried and it’s a miserable failure.

[2] See the Behold article on The First Hierarchy: Angels.

[3] A clarification: Cardinals are considered clergy of Rome and advisors to the Pope. Most Cardinals are bishops, but not necessarily; the pope has, on occasion, named a priest as a cardinal, though that person is usually beyond voting age for any papal conclave where they elect the next Pope/Bishop of Rome. Religious may be either clergy or laity, depending. A Jesuit priest is both a religious and clergy. A Jesuit brother (not ordained) is religious, but not clergy.

For Further Reading On This Topic

Hierarchy is Good

| Behold-The Church | No Comments
So often in today’s culture, we presume that hierarchy is bad: it’s oppressive, unfair, etc. Yet, are not parents hierarchically above their children? Is a mom being oppressive when she…

Can I Start My Own Church?

| Behold-The Church | No Comments
It seems like anybody and everybody is starting their own “church.” You can find them in storefronts and sometimes using a public school gym before they can afford to construct…

The Church Is A Democracy

| Behold-The Church | No Comments
Now and again, the news will report a survey on what Catholics think about a controversial issue inside the Church: divorce and remarriage, women “priests,” abortion, etc. The mainstream media’s…

Church is She. Period.

| Behold-The Church | No Comments
Did you ever wonder why we have never called the Church, “he?” We most certainly don’t call the Church zie, ze, xe, or one of the other gender-neutral “pronouns.” The…

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

MATTHEW 22:37

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

In the gospel passage from Matthew 22:34-40, we are presented with a profound encounter between Jesus and a scholar of the law, who, in a quest to test the Lord, inquires about the paramount commandment within the divine law. In response, Jesus imparts divine wisdom, offering a succinct yet deeply profound answer: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

These words encapsulate the very heart of Christian spirituality. The first commandment underscores the supreme importance of our sacred connection with God, emphasizing that loving Him with the entirety of our being is a call to complete surrender, unwavering devotion, and steadfast faith. It's a reminder that our talents and gifts are divine blessings that should be used to serve Him and His Church.

The second commandment redirects our focus to the world around us, admonishing us to extend the love we bear for ourselves to our fellow siblings in Christ. In doing so, we're also called to share our talents and gifts with others, providing Christ and His Church with our unique abilities and skills. By serving our neighbors and the Church, we become instruments of God's love in the world.

Reflection

  • How am I currently utilizing my God-given talents and gifts to serve both the Church and my fellow siblings in Christ?
  • In what ways can I deepen my love for God with the entirety of my being, and how does this devotion influence the use of my talents in His service?
  • As I consider the call to love my neighbor as myself, what specific actions can I take to better share my unique abilities and skills with others, becoming a more profound instrument of God’s love in the world?
Put This Reflection Into Action

Give of your talents by contributing to the Liturgy of the Mass by joining a choir or serving as an usher or a greeter.

Contact Tamaron Conseur, Director of Music and Liturgy to get involved

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