Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 15, SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION
On November 1, 1950, the Feast of All Saints, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven as a dogma of the Catholic Faith. “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” This definition of Mary’s Assumption into heaven was not a new idea. It had been a common belief for centuries that Mary had been assumed into heaven after the course of her earthly life.
Sacred Scripture does not give any account of Mary’s assumption into heaven, but it sure comes close with many implications. The whole 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation is about the Woman and the Dragon and the Woman’s eventual victory over the Dragon. The Dragon was unable to harm her or her child. “Satan was thrown down to the earth and its angels were thrown down with it.” Good triumphs over evil – the main truth of the whole of revelation. And if Mary is completely victorious over the Devil, it is easy to imply that she was free of sin and that her body did not undergo the corruption of death.
The Gospel for today also sheds a little light on the Assumption of Mary. This Gospel contains what we now refer to as the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary sung at Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. In this Canticle we read: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. All generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.” Practically speaking, the favors given to the lowly servant, Mary, and the great things done for her amount to the two great favors or privileges attributed to Mary by the Church: Her Immaculate Conception and he bodily Assumption into the glories of heaven.
Theologians went back and forth for years on this idea of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Actually some hints of this doctrine go back as far as the 4th century. When the magnificent theologians of the 13th century got into this, they had a ball. They were on the horns of a dilemma. According to the Church all human beings had sinned and were in need of redemption. The two great privileges of Mary contradicted this idea of universal redemption until John Duns Scotus (1265-1308), the great subtle Doctor of the Franciscans, came along. Scotus concluded that Mary was indeed redeemed, but in advance, before the fact of sin, by the merits of Christ’s crucifixion yet to come. I always remember here the argument from reason given by Scotus for these privileges of Mary. His argument consists of three words, the shortest argument in theology: Potuit, Decuit, Fecit. (God was able to do these things, it was fitting for him to do them, therefore he did them.) Clever man, this Scotus.
So, this is a little on the Feast we celebrate this Sunday. Let it be a reminder to us of the greatness of Mary in the sight of our God. She is indeed blessed. Let us imitate her devotion to her Son and her humility in doing his will. Let us pray to her for her intercession and assistance in our lives.
Mary, assumed into heaven, pray for all your children.
Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 16, Mt. 19: 16-22
As we live and grow we all encounter the different aspects of life and we have to learn to deal with them in order to be perfect (teleios), complete, fulfilled, whole, holy human beings. These basic aspects of life include the physical and temporal as well as the spiritual and eternal. We first encounter the physical and temporal. The human body knows intuitively that it must eat, drink, be sheltered, be warm or cool as the case may be, and possess things. These are common needs that must be cared for throughout our entire lives.
Later on, we become aware of the spiritual or eternal side of our existence. We have ideas, we think, we have emotions, feelings, hopes, desires, goals and God or a Higher Power, all of which indicate that we are also spiritual and eternal beings. We are both physical and spiritual.
Hopefully, we come to realize the necessity of balancing these fundamental aspects. We are never going to balance them perfectly, but the closer we come to whatever is perfect, the better off we will be. If we pay no attention to one or the other, we will never be complete, fulfilled, whole, holy people. Death separates these aspects once again and all we can take with us at the time of death is the spiritual and eternal. Ultimately, this aspect is the most important.
If we have any introspection at all, we can tell when we have our act together. I am happy, joyful, peaceful, content when this happens. We can also tell if our neighbor has it all together by their body language and actions.
So, a little meditation for today: How am I doing with all this. Do I seem to be happy and balanced, have my act together? Or is there something missing? Where am I failing? What do I need to do to get things together as they should be?
Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 17, Mt. 19: 23-30
Today’s Gospel more or less carries yesterday’s homily and thoughts to their logical conclusion. We said yesterday that the spiritual and the eternal aspects will continue on at the time of our physical death. And here is where we will find the reward of true discipleship. Peter’s question is seeking this answer: “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” And Jesus answered: “You who have followed me ….. will inherit eternal life.” This is the reward. In the words of the Preface of the Dead, life is changed, not ended. And elsewhere we read: “Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has it entered the mind of humankind what God has prepared for those who love him”.The “hundred times more” that we will receive is more than we can even imagine. We are dealing here with the eternal, the everlasting life, life with God face to face.
My Commentary on the Scriptures ends its treatment of this Gospel with the words: “Disciples share in the glory and find judgment by the Human One, as their self-emptying for God’s realm has prepared them to receive the eternal inheritance God wills for all.” The physical, temporal possessions are gone. All that remains is life in God. How good can it get!?
Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 18, Mt. 20: 1-16
“Are you envious because I am generous?”
In this parable the landowner represents God and his generosity. God’s generosity is the same thing as his grace and we all know that that is a “freebie.” We do not earn or merit God’s grace or generosity; it is a free gift to all. God’s generosity never does any injustice because it is pure gift. There is no injustice done in this parable in the first place, which is pretty much what we all think when we first read it. The parable is about people getting what they have a right to have: All have the right to enough to eat today and in this parable this right is satisfied for all, no matter what time they came to work and what they received as a wage. They all received at least a denarius which would amount to anywhere from 2.00 dollars to .50 cents today. In any event, it was enough in those times to buy food for the day for themselves and their families.
In the Kingdom, justice means all are fed as a sign of God’s all-inclusive love. It does not mean getting what we deserve. Once again, God’s generosity is not earned or merited.
Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 19, Mt. 22: 1-14
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. This Gospel is full of allegory. The ones invited to the banquet are the Jews. The guests gathered from the highways are the Gentiles. Just because they were “outsiders” does not mean they could dress any way they wanted to for the banquet. There was a certain etiquette to be followed in these situations and all the people of that time knew them and were bound to follow them.
All are invited to God’s Kingdom, and in accepting this invitation we know we must be properly dressed in the virtues of the love of God and the love of our neighbor and gratitude to God. How loving and grateful am I to God for this invitation? How do I show it?
Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 20, Memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Today the Church honors the memory of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot and Doctor of the Church. Bernard was born in Burgundy, France, in the year 1090. He went to Chitillon for college and later on for the study of theology and scripture. After the death of his mother, he joined the newly founded Cistercian Order and was professed in 1114. Soon after, he and twelve other monks were sent to form a new monastery in Clairvaux where Bernard was appointed Abbot. He was later commissioned by Pope Eugene III to preach the 3rd Crusade. This Crusade failed, Bernard said, due to the sins of the Crusaders. Bernard died on August 20, 1153, and his feast day is August 20.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us.
Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 21, Memorial of St. Pius X
Giuseppe Sarto was born near Venice at Riesi, Italy, on June 2, 1835. He died on Aug. 20, 1914, and was canonized by Pope Pius XII on May 29, 1954. His motto as Pope was “to renew all things in Christ.”
He was greatly concerned with liturgical renewal in the Church and one of the things he did that is important for us yet today was the renewal of the practice of receiving Eucharist often, even from childhood. There was a time in the Church when Catholics received Eucharist only once or twice a year. Pius X encouraged weekly, even daily, reception of this august Sacrament. He also was responsible for the first codification of the Canon Law of the Church with the Code of 1919. His last will and testament stated: “I was born poor, I have lived in poverty, and I want to die poor.” His feast day is August 21.
St. Pius X, pray for us.