Sunday, November 25, 2007


Today is the thirty-fourth Sunday, the last Sunday, in Ordinary Time, and it is the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus as the King of the Universe. The Preface of today’s Mass raises certain points we can consider as central to the theme of the celebration:

“Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks./ You anointed Jesus Christ, your only Son, with the oil of gladness, as the eternal priest and universal king./ As priest he offered his life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace./ As king he claims dominion over all creation, that he may present to you, his almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom:/ a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace./ And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven we proclaim your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise: Holy, holy, holy Lord…” (Preface of Christ the King)

Today’s feast looks forward to the Parousia (Second Coming); but that fullness would be, for us, the culmination of a journey that began and progresses in time. Nor are we its passive subjects: As man was called to be God’s collaborator in the work of creation—“to fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28), “to cultivate” the garden (Gen 2:15), to continue to perfect the material universe (since the original perfection did not preclude its increase)—so are we called to be Christ’s co-workers in the new work of redemption (applying the benefits of the Sacrifice of our Lord on Calvary). By our Baptism, we were incorporated into Christ and made sharers in His priestly, prophetic and royal ministry—the three-fold ministry of Christ (tria munera Christi)—to sanctify, to teach and to govern, to bring about that kingdom of holiness, of truth, of justice, love and peace.

For us, the vast majority of Christians who are lay people in the middle of the world, the task of sanctifying earthly realities means fulfilling our duties and bearing our crosses with human and supernatural perfection; i.e., doing them as well as we humanly can, with the supernatural motive of pleasing God, as a sacrificial offering. We discharge the prophetic ministry by living our faith and transmitting its truths to those whom we deal with in the ordinary course of our days. We discharge the governing ministry by putting things in their proper order--first of all, our own lives--and placing Christ at the summit of everything.

The Second Vatican Council teaches:

“The term laity is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church. These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.

“What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. It is true that those in holy orders can at times be engaged in secular activities, and even have a secular profession. But they are by reason of their particular vocation especially and professedly ordained to the sacred ministry. Similarly, by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes. But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. (Lumen Gentium, No. 31; italics ours)

If the Sacrament of Baptism made us “children of God”, the Sacrament of Confirmation made us “soldiers of Christ”, making clearer our duty to contribute to building up His kingdom.

Jesus Christ our King is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29), “a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Mt 12:19; Is 42:3). He is Shepherd; one who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28). His throne, “a manger in Bethlehem and the Cross on Calvary” (F. Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Vol. 5, 91.3); his ride, the colt of an ass, “the foal of a beast of burden” (Mt 21:5; Zec 9:9). May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen because she is the mother of the King, raise us, members of Christ, to become more like her Son, and to grow in our desire to place Christ at the summit of all things.

Regnare Christum volumus! We want Christ to reign!” (The Way, No. 11) ––in the world, in our country, but first in our souls, in our homes, in our work…


Monday, November 12, 2007


November begins with the Solemnity (Great Feast) of All Saints (Nov. 1), and the Commemoration of All Souls (Nov. 2). The liturgical year is about to end; it is a good time to remember our beloved dead with special attention, and to meditate on the afterlife.

Death does not sever the bonds of love among men (except with the damned in hell, who have, by their final choices, separated themselves forever from Love). We who constitute the “Church Militant” or “Pilgrim Church” are capable of benefiting from the intercession of the saints in heaven (“Church Triumphant”). We could also add to their “accidental happiness”—as distinguished from the “essential” happiness of being in heaven, i.e., that of contemplating God as He Is, the “beatific vision”—as they note our progress on earth. Similarly, we could help the souls in Purgatory (“Church Suffering”) by offering our “suffrages”—prayers, penances and almsgiving or other good works—to hasten their entrance into heaven. We could also benefit from their intercession, when they reach heaven, and even while still in purgatory, since there is no reason why their prayers for us would not be heard.

Catholic doctrine on Purgatory is based on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (from the Latin, traditio, “delivery” or “handing down” from the beginning of the Church). Our Lord said: “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Mt 12:32). “From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: ‘Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin’ [2 Macc 12:46].” (CCC No. 1031-1032)

“Grave sin deprives us of communion with God, and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the ‘eternal punishment’ of sin. On the other hand, every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.” (CCC, No. 1472)

Sin is essentially a “turning away from God and turning towards creatures”, dispositions which prevent a soul from entering into that definitive union with God in heaven. While on earth, these dispositions, our choices, are changeable. Now is the time for meriting and repentance. After death, our crossing-over into eternity, we can no longer by ourselves, alter our dispositions. But since it is realistic to suppose that many people die loving God (in the state of grace) yet with some “unhealthy attachment to creatures”, it is eminently reasonable that there is a stage after death in which the soul is passively subjected to God’s “purifying fire”, helped by the suffrages and indulgences of the living. An act of charity we may do daily is to gain “indulgences” and offer them for the speedy entrance into heaven of our relatives, friends, benefactors, those we have injured and who may have injured us, who might still be in purgatory.

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints”. (CCC, No. 1471) Our Lord said: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19) An indulgence is plenary or partial depending on whether it removes all or part of the temporal punishment, and can be gained for oneself or for the souls in purgatory.

A plenary indulgence can be gained daily by any of the prescribed works (e.g., praying for at least 30 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Rosary with our family or before the Blessed Sacrament), and fulfilling the so-called “usual conditions”: a) Intention (a general intention to gain all indulgences we can for the day is sufficient); b) Abhorrence of all sin, including venial sin; c) Prayer for the Pope (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be); and d) Confession and Communion some days before or after (within the Octave, one reason why regular, weekly confession, is highly recommended). If we are not able to fulfill all the conditions, there would still be, at least, a partial indulgence for the specific souls we had in mind, or, in default, to those who may need it most.

St. Josemaria writes: “The holy souls in purgatory. Out of charity, out of justice, and out of an excusable selfishness (they have such power with God!) remember them often in your sacrifices and your prayers. Whenever you speak of them, may you be able to say, ‘My good friends, the souls in purgatory’”. (The Way, No. 571)