Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

God. Not God. These are the Only Choices!

“The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires, all of which are governed by the will. Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the will toward God, and turned away from all that is not God, then the strength of the soul is kept for God, and thus the soul is able to love God with all its strength.”

— St. John of the Cross, p. 259 of “Ascent of Mt. Carmel.”

Not everyone is going to heaven.  Let’s get that out of the way.  And, there are probably people who are going to hell who, at this moment, don’t think that it is possible for them.  After all, they were baptized and received their First Holy Communion (especially if they are Catholic) or they have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (if they are Protestant.)  It’s not enough, though.

We have to make the choice to act like we are baptized or Jesus is our Savior every single minute of our existence on this life.

Dr. Italy likens this to a door.  On one side is Jesus (who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to the Father) and on the other is not-Jesus.  The idea is at the end of our life the door will close and depending upon which side of the door we are standing when it slams shut and locks will determine where we spend eternity.

I don’t know about you, but I tremble when I think about it.  St. Paul told us that we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Pretty scary words.  I mean, have you read Matthew, Chapter 5 and 25?  We all fall short of the beatitudes.  Oh, and by the way, the door is narrow that leads to heaven.  More complications.

And, yet, there is so much hope if (and this is a big “if”) we trust Jesus.  Trust Him in everything, everyday.  Put our daily lives into His loving Hands.  Sometimes, I feel like the woman with the hemorrhage and I touch the hem of His garment and hold on for dear life.  Everyday, we make the choice for God because we don’t know when that door is going to shut.

Choose wisely, friends.

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Have to Get It Right!

Matthew 5:48   “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Want to know what you need to do (and, if you are anything like me, you’re probably not doing it very well at all.)  Read Matthew Chapter 5.  You know, the one with the beatitudes, plucking out eyes and cutting off hands, and anger, and adultery, and divorce, and swearing, and retaliation, and loving one’s enemies.  One can’t read this Chapter without realizing what little worms we are when it comes to the whole perfection thing.  I read Chapter 5 before and after going to confession.  This and Chapter 25 are all I need to trot myself off to the confessional.  Add the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and I can go all gooey on the inside contemplating my long stay in Purgatory.

And yet. . .

God gives us grace and forgiveness and mercy to help us to prioritize the pursuit of holiness in our lives.  Pursuing holiness begins with having a strong, true, and ardent love for God and for our neighbor.  It means praying and fasting and making each word and act and little daily sacrifice the means of proving our love for our Savior who died on the cross for Love of us.  An effective love can transform a dry, cold heart into a furnace of charity.  Then we can burn with Love of God even while we must live here below.  I hope you, like myself, pursue this ardent charity.

We got to get this right.

“Lord, with your loving care, guide the penance we have begun.  Help us to persevere with love and sincerity.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”  Liturgy of the Hours: Evening Prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday.

 

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So, Who can be saved?

After reading Leviticus and Matthew at Mass today, I am really wondering, who can be saved?

The ten commandments are really hard to obey, but then add Matthew 5 and Matthew 25, and it seems like living an authentic, holy Catholic life is near to impossible.

Thankfully, we have Jesus.  and with Him all things are possible.  Even me getting to heaven someday.  Whew!

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Transmitting the Faith

41.  The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism.

As St. Paul says, “we were buried with Him by baptism into death. . .”  We are meant to become a new creation and God’s adopted children through baptism so that we “might walk in the newness of life.”  (Rom 6:4)

Baptism is something we receive.  It is both a teaching to be professed and a specific way of life that “sets us on the path to goodness.”Baptism helps us to understand that faith must be received by entering into the Church (ecclesial communion) which transmits the gift of faith from God.

42.  From the outset our journey of faith beginning in Baptism is revealed.  First Baptism is bestowed by invoking the Trinity.

Our new identity as a brother/sister to Christ is clearly seen by our immersion in water.

Water is at once a symbol of death, inviting us to pass through self-conversion to a new and greater identity, and ka symbol of life, of a womb in which we are reborn by following Christ in His new life.

Baptism should change us profoundly.  It changes our relationships, our place in the universe, and opens us to living in Communion with the Trinity.

To appreciate this link between baptism and faith, we can recall a text of the prophet Isaiah, which was associated with baptism in early Christian literature: “Their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks. . .their water assured” (Is 33:16.)

The waters of baptism flow with the power of Jesus’ love.  He is faithful and trustworthy, so we can trust our faith.

43.  This passage speaks of the importance and meaning of infant baptism.  This is a beautifully written passage well worth reading in Papa Francis’ own words.

Parents are called, as Saint Augustine once said, not only to bring children into the world but also to bring them to God, so that through Baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.

44.  As important as Baptism is, the sacramental nature of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions.  On the one hand, there is the dimension of history:  the Eucharist is an act of remembrance, a making present of the mystery in which the past, as an event of death and resurrection, demonstrates its ability to open up a future, to foreshadow ultimate fulfillment. . .On the other hand, we also find the dimension which leads from the visible world to the invisible.

Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Christ becomes present to us and moves us body and soul to our fulfillment in His Father.

45.  In the celebration of the sacraments the Church hands down her memory especially through the profession of faith.

We are speaking about the Creed here.  The Creed has a Trinitarian structure.  When we recite the Creed we are stating the the core and inmost secret of all reality is the divine communion of the three Persons in One God.

We are taken through all the mysteries of Jesus’ life and finally, we are taken up, as it were, into the Truth that we are professing.  Reciting the Creed truthfully and thoughtfully should change us, too.

All the truths in which we believe point to the mystery of the new life of faith as a journey of communion with the living God.

Two other essential elements in the faithful transmission of the faith are the Lord’s prayer and the 10 commandments.

The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by His mercy and then to bring that mercy to others.

This path of gratitude to faith receives new light when we study Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  (There is a complete study of the Sermon on the Mount on this blog.)  

So the four elements around which the Church’s catechesis is structured are the Creed, the Sacraments, the Decalogue, and prayer (especially how Jesus taught us to pray.)  This is our storehouse of memory of faith that the Church is empowered by apostolic succession to pass down through history.

47.  “there is one body and one Spirit. . .one faith” (Eph 4: 4-5)

Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring.  This is also the great joy of faith: a unity of vision in one body and one spirit.  Saint Leo the Great could say, “If faith is not one, then it is not faith.”

Faith is One!  First, it is one because of the oneness of the God Who is known and confessed.  Second, Faith is one because it is directed to the one Lord; to the life of Christ.  Finally, it is one because it is shared by the whole Church which is one body and one Spirit.

48.  Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity.  Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole.

49.  The Lord gave His Church the gift of apostolic succession.  It is through this that the continuity of the faith is ensured.  The Church depends upon the faithfulness of the Magisterium chosen by the Lord.

In Saint Paul’s farewell discourse to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, which Saint Luke recounts for us in the Acts of the Apostles, he testifies that he had carried out the task which the Lord had entrusted to him of “declaring the whole counsel of God” (acts 10:27.)

Thanks to the Magisterium of the Church, this “counsel” is preserved in all its integrity and joy for us.  Praise the Lord!

 

So ends Chapter Three of Lumen Fidei.  We will take up Chapter Four, next week.  Hope you all are staying with me through this study as we approach the end of this glorious Year of Faith.

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Putting the Word into Practice: James 1: 19-27

Memory Verse

James 1: 22  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Notes on Content

1: 19-25:  Two kinds of hearing are distinguished.  In conversation, listening is more important than speaking.  In responding to the Gospel, obeying is more important than merely listening.

1:20  the anger of men:  When one reads the Wisdom literature it is apparent that anger is vented by the foolish.  Meekness is the virtue of gentleness and the inner strength to restrain anger.

1:21 implanted word:  The Gospel is likened to a seed planted in the soul that sprouts for the salvation of our soul.  This may be an allusion to the parable of the Sower and the Seed in Matthew 13: 1-9; 23.

1:23 a mirror:  If one hears the word only, she is like someone who glances at her reflection in the mirror and soon forgets what she has seen.  On the other hand, one who hears and obeys the Gospel is one who gazes into the law of Jesus and sees there the path to blessing and the life she desires to live.

1:26 bridle his tongue:  This is a warning that will be treated in detail in 3: 1-12.

1:27 Religion:  The Greek term is thresheia which generally denotes religious acts of worship.  For James, proper service to God is not reduced to a set of beliefs or liturgical rites.  It also includes prudent speech as well as practical service to others: visit orphans and widows.

CCC 2208:  “The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor.  There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help.  It devolves then on other persons, other families, and in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.'”

Sermon on the Mount References

1.  Hearing and Doing  Matthew 7:24-27

2.  Anger and Wrath  Matthew 5: 22

3.  The Perfect Law of Freedom  Matthew 5: 17-19

4.  Religious deception  Matthew 7: 21-23

St. James

St. James

Next time:  Pastoral Wisdom from St. James

@Home Work:  Have you ever:

  • been so angry that you said something you instantly wanted to take back?
  • struck by a point in a homily only to go home and forget it?
  • found yourself laughing at an inappropriate joke and afterward feeling badly inside?

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Trials and Temptations – James 1: 1-8

(If you haven’t done so, please read James 1: 1-8)

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Notes on Content

1:1-4 James:  is a Greek form of the Hebrew name “Jacob.”  servant:  or “slave.”  this title is used for other apostolic writers (Peter and Paul) and for earlier biblical figures (Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David and the Prophets.)  Jesus Christ:  mentioned only twice in the letter; here and in 2:1.  the twelve tribes:  descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

It is interesting to note that this opening address recalls the Greek version of Is 49: 1-6 where Jacob is the servant of the Lord who calls out to the tribes of Israel in their dispersion with a message of salvation.

Chapter 1:  This chapter is an overview of the themes developed in the rest of the letter:

  • encouragement during trial
  • the need for wisdom
  • the necessity of faith
  • the treatment of the rich and the poor
  • the call to put faith into action
  • the need for a controlled tongue

1: 2  my brethren:  Nineteen times James addresses his readers as spiritual brothers.  (CCC 1655 “The Church is nothing other then ‘the family of God.'”various trials:  a reminder that these trials are part of God’s plan to make our faith stronger, help us prove our faithfulness, and bring us closer to perfection.  Let us rejoice in them.

1:5  wisdom:  not human ingenuity but the heavenly gift that gives us a right understanding of life in relation to God.  If we ask for wisdom with sincere faith, God will give it to us abundantly.

1: 8 double-minded:  literally “having two souls.”  If I am “double-minded” I am holding myself back from complete trust in God.  I waver between conviction and doubt.  Not a good thing because I will pray less fervently because I will doubt that the answers to my prayers are certain.

1: 1-8  While going through this study, take note of how you have typically dealt with adversity and temptation.  Have you met some trials with a “hope for the best” attitude?  We will learn in this lesson, that trials are meant for something and temptations can be met head on.  Resignation is passive.  “Whatever will be will be” is not what God expects from us.  He wants us to persevere to triumph.

Parallels to the Sermon on the Mount:    (1) Perfect:  James 1:4  (2) How the Father gives:  James 1: 5   (3) How to pray:  James 1: 5-8

 

St. James

St. James

 

Next time:  What is the Catholic teaching on Redemptive Suffering?

( If you would like to share some of the answers to the following questions, please feel very free to do so.  I will share one of my answers tomorrow in the comments.)

 

 

@Home Work: 

  • Based on your observations, how does society deal with trials and temptations?
  • When faced with difficult situations, who or what do you turn to first?
  • When it comes to trials, what areas do we seem to be most vulnerable in?  Why?
  • In dealing with trials, what is the area that you need to improve on most?
  • Reread the Memory Verse.  Do you know of somebody in your life who “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing?”  What is it about them that impresses you?  Have you ever persevered steadfastly through a difficulty and “come out the other side” to peace?

 

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James: An Introduction

In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in days of old; that they may possess the remnant of E’dom and all the nations who are called by my name, says the Lord who does this. Amos 9: 11-12

 

Letter of St. James Authorship

The most likely author is a relative of Jesus usually called “the brother of the Lord.” (Matthew 13: 15; Mark 6: 3) He is clearly writing with recognized authority, yet he does not identify himself as an apostle.  He seems to be a figure of great importance in the early Christian community.

James was an eyewitness of the Resurrection, a leader in Jerusalem whom St. Paul identified as one of the “pillars.” (Galatians 2: 9)  He appears as leader and elder of the Jerusalem community at the Council of Jerusalem and as a peacemaker during the circumcision controversy.  According to some ancient sources, he prayed so much, he was known as “camel-knees.”  According to history, he was stoned to death by the Jews in 62 A.D.

Date and Place of Composition

The letter was likely composed in Jerusalem.  Scholars debate the date.  A majority place it toward the end of James’ life; probably late 50s or early 60s.

The Audience

The letter is addressed to “the twelve tribes in the dispersion.”  It is not unreasonable to think that James felt a particular responsibility for outreach to Israel.  Israel as a united nation was an ideal; not a reality.  And, yet, God foretold that, in Jeremiah’s words, “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”

The question that occupies many of the New Testament is how in the world is God going to do this.  James sees it as his duty to explain the mystery of uniting the 12 tribes of Israel with the Gentiles under the Son of David, Jesus Christ.

Form

James concerns itself almost exclusively with exhortation to ethical conduct.  It consists of sequences of didactic proverbs discussing responsible Christian behavior.  His letter is a very Jewish work written in very good Greek.  James, a Galilean, probably had many opportunities to learn Greek from the Gentiles there; however it’s more likely that James used a secretary as Paul frequently did.

Parallels between James and the Sermon on the Mount

This fact is one of the reasons I chose the Letter of St. James as the study.  I really love the Sermon on the Mount and reread it quite frequently; especially when my confessor suggests that I do it again.  There are approximately 50 parallels between them.  We will point them out as we go along.

James the LessNext time:  Trials and Temptations (James 1: 1-8)

Meditation:  1.  Have you ever been in a situation where you needed wisdom but didn’t know where to turn?  2.  Have you ever faced a trial and didn’t think you could endure it?  3.  Have you struggled with temptations?

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