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Christ the King is Returning

Lectio Divina (1)
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The Scripture
From the Gospel for November 26, 2017, Solemnity of Christ the King. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Christ the King QuoteReflection

“He will sit upon his glorious throne,” Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 25:31-46.

Here presented before us is Jesus, with the angels gathered around Him and all the nations assembled before Him. Here He sits in majesty. Here He sits on His throne as one in authority. He has authority over all who are gathered around Him, because He is the Son of Man — and all power and glory have been given to Him from his Father on high.

This feast marks the end of our liturgical year, publicly declaring the Kingship of Christ to all the world. Thus, it is this same King, who is one with the despised and neglected, is due to return. And while we are about to enter a season of joyful expectation and waiting for the coming of the Christ at Christmas, today reminds us that we should also await the coming King’s judgement with a measure of holy fear. Pray that when you utter the Our Father, you are not praying for this judgement on your own head. For even the goats were taken by surprised and expected to be counted among His faithful.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “thy kingdom come.” Each time we pray this we are praying for the coming of Jesus, both King and Judge. For Christ is coming to judge the living and the dead. Here the Gospel depicts Christ the King decreeing his rule over those unfaithful who do not feed the hungry and who do not welcome the stranger. Just so, when you neglect those disregarded or when you do not defend the weak, these actions “cry out to God.” These actions will not be unseen. They will be judged. These choices matter.

The Judge is coming. The King is returning and our actions “in his absence” matter deeply. On this Feast of Christ the King, let us remember that you cannot serve two masters, and who you really are will be clearly seen.

 

Originally published at NTC.

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Lectio Divina

“Lift High the Cross” by Callie Nowlin

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Steps to Lectio Divina
Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read my meditation slowly.
Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God’s word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.

The Scripture
From the Second Reading for September 14, 2017, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. (Philippians 2:6-10)

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.the-crucified-christ-with-the-virgin-mary-saints-and-angels-the-mond-crucifixion-raphael

Reflection

The great hymn in Philippians is the earliest recorded hymn of the Christian faith.

I love this hymn because of a specific word that is used, “exalted.” In the hymn, it states that Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this God greatly exalted him.” Because of Jesus’ humility, God raised Jesus up from this lowered state.

In today’s feast, we celebrate the triumph of the Cross of Christ, we lift Him high in victory and in worship. When we sing “Lift High the Cross,” we are singing in worship of Him and his triumph. For us to exalt Him, to raise Him up above our heads, is an act of worship. But for Jesus to be raised by the Father means something completely different, for God does not raise Jesus above Him, but to Him, as his Son.

Both for the ancient church and for us today, this hymn from Philippians is proclaimed in the context of the Mass. This context is important because in the encounter of the Mass, we are reminded of our humanity but also of the transcendence of the godhead. To put it another way, we are reminded that we are not God and that we belong to Him. In the very raising of Jesus, above our heads in triumph, which incidentally the cross-bearer does at the beginning and end of every Mass, we affirm these same truths: That He is God. That we are not. That He is triumphant in his cross and resurrection. That we belong to Him. And this is the God whom we worship.

These are jarring and life-changing truths. I invite you consider these truths anew with me today as the Church celebrates her Lord’s victory on the sacred wood of the cross, calling to mind the true and living God to whom we all belong.

 

Originally Printed in the NTC.

Lectio Divina

“Whom My Heart Loves” by Callie Nowlin

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene
Steps to Lectio Divina

Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read my meditation slowly.
Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God’s word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.

The Scripture
From the Gospel for July 22, 2017, the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. (John 20:1-2, 11-18)

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

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Reflection
Today we celebrate one of the Lord’s closest followers, St. Mary Magdalene. And I have to be honest, this year was the first time I heard Mary Magdalene’s heart breaking as she cries out repeatedly, “I don’t know where they laid him.” She seeks, “Him who her heart loves” (Song of Solomon 3:4). She searches, thirsts, yearns, and mourns for Jesus. And when Jesus comes to her and calls her by name, she turns to Him in reverence and in familiarity both.

Yearning for God in prayer is a true gift from God to join Him in a deeper relationship, for it is He who first yearns for us. It is He who first desires our friendship. It is He who first waits for us in prayer. But we cannot forget that it is from this yearning, and from this deep well of prayer, that we receive our mission. For like Mary Magdalene we are called to yearn for Jesus as a deer for streams of water, for Him who alone satisfies.

But for this to be authentic it must not stop there. For as we see in today’s reading, immediately after she finds the object of her yearning, Jesus tells her to, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and tell them…” She is immediately given the mission to be an Apostle to the Apostles, to tell the Twelve that Jesus is alive.

He has truly risen, as He has said. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Feast of Mary Magdalene - Quote

In art this scene is called Noli Tangere, or literally “Do not touch me” in Latin. Jesus exhorts Mary Magdalene to not hold on to her understanding of who He was before the crucifixion. Instead his will is that she be transformed by the encounter and so be ready to proclaim his Resurrection.

Spurred on by her example and her intercession, may our hearts long to find Him, rejoice in meeting Him, and be transformed by Him as we are sent out to proclaim His Word.

Originally published by NTC.

Lectio Divina

“Sacred Heart of Jesus” by Callie Nowlin

As I was preparing reflections for the feasts of this season, first for Corpus Christi and now for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have been so utterly struck by something so very simple. I have alluded to this in a previous writing but both of these feasts can be seen in light of the analogy of a man courting a woman.

I am intrigued how the church decided to plan the feast of the Trinity, Corpus Christi…and now the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the beginning feasts of this stretch of Ordinary time. Each one so clearly a statement for Jesus of who He is … each one more intimate after the other… each one its own invitation.

The first is an opportunity to reflect on his nature as part of the godhead, three in one. (Divinity) The second, Corpus Christi is a time to reflect on His presence in the sacrament and in the body of Christ, the church as well.  (Sacramentally) It is also an invitation to receive Him, in faith, in the sacrament. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in a way is now an invitation to be received by him as we consider him as one who loves, and loves in a fully human manner. (Humanity) It is as if Jesus is standing before us, saying “Here I am.”

Sacred Heart of Jesus Catechist Callie Quote

In the feast of the Trinity we hear him say, “Here I am as a member of the Trinity.”
In the feast of Corpus Christi we hear him say, “Here I am, present among you sacramentally.”
But in the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we hear even more directly, “Here I am.  Here is my very heart.”

 

Lectio Divina · Mass

“Bring Him All the Praise You Know” by Callie Nowlin

Editor’s Note: In our overly busy lives it’s often difficult to find quiet time to break open the Word of God and sit at the feet of the Master (as Mary did with Jesus). Oftentimes, we are so occupied we become like Martha, “worried and upset about many things,” while in reality there is need of “only one thing,” — that which Mary chose: the “better part,” the gift of faith. (Luke 10:39-42)

As such, we introduce Callie Nowlin, MTS, a convert turned Latin teacher, catechist, and blogger with a passion for Scripture and helping others on their journey toward Christ. She will help us walk with Scripture throughout the year. Every month she will help us break down a different Scripture passage.

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

 

Steps to Lectio Divina

Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read my meditation slowly.

Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God’s word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.

The Scripture

From the Gospel for June 18, 2017, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. (John 6:51-58)

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:59e96ae384cd3075bca958361216195e.jpg
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Reflection

In the Gospel, Jesus declares himself the living bread. And from this statement of fact, we are invited to respond in three distinct ways: to believe something that on the surface is illogical, to enter more deeply into mystery, and to actually worship God as fully present in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is a central mystery of our faith, in fact it is the source and the summit.  And yet on the surface, the mystery of transubstantiation challenges reason. Belief in the real presence is first and foremost an act of faith. And today we are reminded not to take this act of faith lightly, or without thought.

Entering anew into mystery means considering the Real Presence not so much as a doctrine to be taught, but more as an invitation to fall down i

n worship before a loving and ever-present God.

As such, I urge you today to join me in worshiping our true God and King. Hear His word. Hear His call upon your heart. Let it bear fruit. Let us now worship the living God, present in the Eucharist, with our voices, our hearts, and especially our lives.

Laud, O Zion, your salvation,
Laud with hymns of exultation,
Christ, your king and shepherd true:
Bring Him all the praise you know,
He is more than you bestow
Never can you reach his due.
(Sequence – Lauda Sion, Lectionary 167)

Sacred Heart of Jesus Blog Title.png

Originally Published at the NTC here.

intentional living · Mass

“People Watching at Mass” by Callie Nowlin

I have a confession to make. I have developed a habit during Mass that might look a little odd at first glance. Essentially its people watching, but what I am actually doing is looking for Christ in the Mass.

Take this past week for example. A family with young children were in front of me. Toys multiplied, children climbed on Mom, boy sprawled across the pew with eyes staring up at me. Those eyes by the way, said very clearly that he was at this point more than ready to go home after the eternity of the hour they were experiencing. Anyone who knows me would likely expect this would be a recipe for disaster, especially if I am trying to pray. However, these are some of the most precious moments to me in Mass.

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We are taught that Christ is present in the Mass in the priest, the Gospel, the Sacrament, and the people gathered in sacrifice. That is one way to say that he is wonderfully present throughout the Mass.

Some people I know worship quite austerely and devoutly. Their bodies seem rigid and quiet. And when I see them praying, I tend to feel like a “bad German.” Not that I care but even as a convert I have a twinge of German Catholic guilt in the back of my mind. One of the ways that I worship, however, is by taking it all in. Jesus, whom I adore, is present and I don’t want to miss a thing.

  • People shifting in their seat during a difficult homily? Jesus is there.
  • An individual begrudgingly being conscripted into serving as an usher because someone thought it would be nice if the young would participate in Mass? Jesus is there.
  • A priest pausing to adjust the height of the missal in the hands of an altar server? Jesus is there.

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For me being aware of all of the people, the art, and the music, in the sanctuary, is not a distraction. Rather, for me it is deep prayer. I may not be able to understand how God is present in the incidental or the mundane, but I always welcome His presence and His insight into His person and nature.   It allows me to pray for and with those present, and it allows me in a limited way to hear God speak to His people.

I am not claiming anything audacious here. I am no more a prophet than the next baptized Christian. But as Christians we are not alone in this relationship. It is necessarily communal. And when Christ is offering himself in the utmost humility of bread and wine to you, he offers it in the sight of all.

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I am reminded of when a young man kneels in public to ask for the hand of a lady in marriage. So, to here Jesus waits for yours and my response. Will you accept with joy? Will you brush it off as mundane and expected? Will you utterly reject Him? And once again I am left in awe of his wonderful love for us. These are the kinds of thoughts that may go through my mind during Mass, as I watch the people around me.

So, I ask for your forgiveness in advance, in case my eyes may wander in Mass, or if you notice me staring at something or even yourself during the liturgy. I assure you I am not really looking at you.

I am looking at Jesus, whom I love.

People Watching Looking at Jesus