August 1, 2008
Saint Alphonsus Liguori, bishop. Memorial
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, "Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?" And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house." And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, don’t ever become so familiar to me that I lose faith in you, like your fellow Nazarenes in today’s Gospel. Help me to deepen my faith in this time of prayer alone with you. May this time I spend with you be a sign of my love for you.
Petition: Mary, help me to be an instrument of the new Pentecost Pope Benedict has called for in the Church in America.
1. At a Crossroads Christ’s appearance in the synagogue of his native village was a crossroads for the people of Nazareth. They had heard of the miracles he had done throughout Palestine. Now, confronted with the Lord face-to-face and astonished by his preaching, they had either to step forward in faith, accepting him as the promised Messiah, or reject him. And they rejected him. For these small-town villagers, in the end he could be nothing more than just one of their own. The Church in America arrived at a crossroads with the apostolic visit of Christ’s vicar, Pope Benedict. How deeply will his message take root in the lives of Christians? In his homily at Nationals Stadium, the Holy Father boldly proclaimed: “Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2) … The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole?” (April 17, 2008).
2. A New Pentecost through the Sacrament of Reconciliation Pope Benedict’s message was nothing less than a call for a new Pentecost, a phrase he himself used in his homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country” (Homily, Nationals Stadium, Washington, D.C., April 17, 2008). What is the key to being open to receive the Holy Spirit? It is conversion of heart and life, which comes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope Benedict could not have stressed its key role more strongly. “Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes” (Ibid.)
3. Proclaiming Christ’s “Mighty Deeds” What will be the fruit if we Catholics respond to the Holy Father’s appeal and make confession an integral part of our lives, receiving this transforming sacrament frequently? The result will be just the opposite of what happens in today’s sad Gospel. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we will boldly announce Christ’s mighty deeds to all those willing to hear. Pope Benedict concludes: “In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim ‘the great works of God’ and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit” (Homily, Nationals Stadium, Washington, D.C., April 17, 2008).
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I long to experience you personally in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. May the healing power of your forgiveness and your grace transform me into a convinced apostle of your Kingdom.
Resolution: I will be open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in helping to bring someone closer to Christ today, doing my part to help establish Christ’s Kingdom and the new Pentecost.
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