July 31, 2008
Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Memorial
Matthew 13: 47-53
Jesus said to his disciples: "The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. "Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes." And he replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, it is easy for me to lose sight of the “last things” and be caught up in “present things.” Help me in this time with you, so that I become ever mindful of your last judgment in the events of the present day.
Petition: Mary, help me to be an instrument of the new Pentecost Pope Benedict has called for in the Church in America.
1. Christ’s Parables: an Eschatological Perspective How many are the parables of the Kingdom! Surely there is something more at play here than the simple pedagogy Jesus uses. The truth is that all the realities of human life speak to Christ about the Kingdom, about his mission, about the eternal life he has come to bring all people, and about the drama of their acceptance or rejection of that life. The eschatological perspective, the reality of the last things — judgment, hell, and heaven — can always be found behind Christ’s words. In his April, 2008, visit to the U.S., Pope Benedict spoke to the bishops about the danger of losing awareness of life’s ultimate realities. “We need to acknowledge with concern the almost complete eclipse of an eschatological sense in many of our traditionally Christian societies” (Address, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., April 16, 2008).
2. The Good and the Bad: Scandal in the Church As he interprets the parable of the fishing net, Christ speaks clearly of the last judgment. He emphasizes in no uncertain terms “the fiery furnace” of hell, “where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Why does he do so? To overwhelm us with fear? Christ realizes that as the days and years pass, with the good and the bad seeming to flourish side by side, we are in need of a constant reminder that their fates will not be the same. So, too, Pope Benedict, in his visit, was not afraid to confront directly the abuse scandal. His private meeting with victims and their families helped bring healing to many. As we confront the reality of the bad coexisting alongside the good, even among members of the Church, let us ask Christ’s help to focus not so much on those who cause scandal, but on what more we ourselves can do to build the Church, Christ’s Kingdom, and so be found worthy of eternal life.
3. From the “Last Things" to Present Things The more aware we are of the “last things,” the more ardently we will work to help shape present things. With God’s judgment ever before our eyes, we will strive mightily to establish his Kingdom, not only in our own lives, but in the midst of society as well. Pope Benedict spoke about this transforming reality to the U.S. bishops: “Faith and hope are the inspiration and basis of our efforts to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. In Christianity, there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ is the Savior of the world, and, as members of his Body and sharers in his prophetic, priestly and royal munera [missions], we cannot separate our love for him from our commitment to the building up of the Church and the extension of his Kingdom. To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul” (Address, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., April 16, 2008).
Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for giving me a role in your mission to establish your Kingdom in society and to save souls. Help me to be courageous and to be a true missionary of your cause.
Resolution: I will be open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in helping to bring someone closer to Christ today, thereby doing my part to help establish Christ’s Kingdom and the new Pentecost.
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