Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 13: 44 – 52

Prayer
Oh Lord, open my lips.
Oh Lord, open my mind.
God, come to my aid.
Oh Lord, make haste to help me.

At the beginning and end of Chapter Three we read, “He told them many things in parables. ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow.’ ‘Let anyone with ears, listen.’ (13: 3; 43)

Parables, are stories and we should read them as such. If a story is really good we will get involved with the characters, their joy and sorrow, their fears and triumphs. When this happens we are using our imagination. We put ourselves in the place of the characters. Their story becomes our story, and then we must ‘Listen’. We keep our minds and hearts open to new insights. These will come to us as we read some commentary. More importantly Jesus will speak to us in our prayer.

Our text opens with three parables (44 – 48) and then the writer asks a question:

51Have you understood this?” They said “Yes”. I am very pleased that the disciples answered so positively. My own reply was, “No!! There is much here that I cannot make sense of.” Let us use our imagination. Let us search for and be open to finding something new. The Word of God is alive and active and we can expect God to speak to each of us in a unique way.

What is this kingdom of ‘heaven’? We have already learned that Matthew, a Jew, could not write down the name of ‘God’ so he uses ‘heaven’ in place of ‘God’. The kingdom of God is a biblical expression which means, the way things would be here on earth if God was fully in charge. Sometimes we think that it is all up to us and those around us. Not so! God is also at work .

How did the treasure get buried in the field? As an invading army approached, the fleeing population would bury their precious possessions in the hope that one day they would return to reclaim them. Mostly they never came back and so new owners moved in. The person in the parable was just lucky. However he knew a good thing when he saw it.

One way to interpret the parables of the treasure and the pearl of great price is to see it illustrating our search for a deep faith and relationship with God. This is good. I would like to invite you to open yourselves to another understanding. Suppose, you are the “Pearl of Great Price” that is so valuable, God is prepared to sell everything he owns to purchase you? How do you feel when you realize that God values you that much? Our story gives a very different image of God to the stern judge or policeman God many of us believe in.

We will be well advised to read the third parable once more.

47Again the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. 48When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore, then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use.

The key to this parable is to see it in terms of good and evil. Take a look at yourself. If you are honest you will find much in your life that is wonderfully GOOD. It is also true that all of us have shortcomings and we are going to struggle with them all our lives. Imagine the fisherman throwing the broken bottles and empty beer cans back into the water and saving the good fish. This is the way God acts in our lives. Little by little our shortcomings will disappear as God brings us to resemble Him as his daughters and sons. “You are my beloved son / daughter.”

When we sin God really gets very angry with us because of the harm that we do ourselves and to others. “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me,” and this includes yourself.
All his life Jesus was criticized for the company he kept, tax collectors and sinners. There is no way that he has changed. He is still determined that all of us will have eternal life. “… it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt 18: 14)

Our reading closes with, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.” This could be a self portrait of Matthew. On the other hand we are also called to bring others to a truer understanding of God through the Scriptures.

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Matthew 13: 24 – 43

 This reading gives us practical hints on how to pray with the scriptures.

It is important to divide the text into parts. Read this Gospel passage and make your own divisions.

Now compare your divisions with mine.
24 – 33            Three parables

24 – 30            Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat
31 – 32            Parable of the Mustard Seed
33                    Parable of the Yeast

 34 – 36a          The Purpose of using parable.

36b – 43          A possible explanation of the Parable of the Weeds
It is possible that Matthew is the author of this explanation of the parable. This is Matthew’s response to problems in his community. He also changes the parable into an allegory which, while useful, moves away from the original meaning and purpose of the parable as told by Jesus. 1

Chose one part of the text for your prayer.
There is just too much in this reading to be handled at one time. I have selected the first of the parables, ‘The weeds among the wheat’, for this reflection.

Words
In the early stages of growth wheat and darnel look almost the same and can easily be mistaken.

Sowed good seed
On hearing these words our thoughts turn to, “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” Gen 1: 31   Is this surprising to you? Are you challenged to think differently about people? What does this say about the way God relates to us?

Let us now concentrate our attention on the parable of “the weeds among the wheat”.
Parables were addressed to a specific audience who were in no doubt as to how it applied to them.
24 “Jesus put another parable before the crowds”:
We are told exactly who Jesus was addressing –   everyone in the crowd. They were challenged on how they look at good and evil in the world and in their lives. Is their thinking the same as Jesus’? Do we look upon good and evil as Jesus did?

“At the time of Jesus the people believed that the coming of the Messiah would be the start of a Kingdom where there would be only good people. And what about evil? What was going to happen to the wicked? Simple: they would be burnt up by fire from heaven! Do you remember John the Baptist? Speaking about the coming of the Messiah, he said, ‘His winnowing fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff, he will burn in fire that will never go out’. Mt 3: 12 Even the disciple shared this thinking. Lk 9: 54

But Jesus did not approve of it or share this kind of thinking at all. He, not only, never intended to destroy the sinners, but he welcomed them into his house, he invited them to share his meals, he kept company with thieves, heretics, prostitutes.”2 In short he (Jesus) was not the Messiah everybody expected and many still expect today.   Where do you stand?

In your first reading look for repetition. What picture does this paint for you?

24Jesus put another parable before the crowds:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seeds in his field. 25While everybody was asleep, his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. 26When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. 27The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” 28“Some enemy has done this,” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?29But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. 30Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: “First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”

The scattering of “good seed” and “darnel” throughout the text reminds us of the state of our society and our own lives. Are we all not a mixture of good and evil. “Good and evil, says the owner, cannot be separated, they have to grow together and it will be like that to the end of time (always).” Can anyone draw a clear line between good and evil. Is there any group of people who are completely lacking in goodness? The separating good and evil passes within the heart of every person. We find good and evil in every person, ourselves and others. Even the most wicked of people have, together with a lot of darnel, some good grain in them. “Why risk destroying the good along with the darnel by burning it”, says the owner?3

“First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”

In the final sentence we have the assurance of Jesus that God / Goodness will triumph. All the darnel of our lives will eventually vanish and we with the goodness we have been given by God will be gathered into “my barn”, union with God.

Does this challenge your understanding of God – it certainly challenged the people of Jesus time? It ran counter to the thinking of the time.

The purpose of a parable is to turn our thinking upside down or better expressed;
“To turn our thinking right side up.”

PRAYER

Lord, we thank you for those who educated or guided us from youth. They saw that we had bad traits as well as good ones, that darnel was mixed in with the good wheat they sowed in us. There were people who wanted to weed out the darnel but they said, “No”, lest the wheat be pulled up also:

–       If they did not let us mix freely with others, we might no longer be open and generous;
–       If we were not allowed to make mistakes, we would never take risks;
–       If we did not feel free to ask foolish questions, we would never learn.

We thank you for those who let wheat and darnel grow till harvest time, and now we have gathered the wheat and can let the darnel be burned.

Here, we have just experienced one way of praying with the words of scripture. We are encouraged to move from praying in our own words to using the words of scripture.

Lord, forgive us for writing off people as if there is nothing to them but;

–       Their selfishness
–       Their insincerity
–       Their arrogance

We forget that they are good seed that you sowed in the world. The evil in them is only weeds that some enemy sowed while others were asleep. Those sins which colour our judgement about them will be tied up in bundles and burnt, while you gather them like precious wheat into your barn.4

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

1. Armellini, F p219
2. Armelline, F p217
3. Armelline, F p219
4. De Vertueil M p186

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Matthew 13: 1 – 23

 Praise the Lord, to whom our praise is due;
Praise be the Lord, to whom our praise is due, now and forever.
Blessed is the Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has chosen us form all the peoples by giving us his Torah.
Blessed is the Lord, giver of the Torah.

This is a long Gospel. Read it right through so that you get the feel for the story.

Now that you have got the picture I am sure you will understand why we will concentrate on only the parable of the Sower. We will be trying to discover the message that Jesus’ audience went home with. Remember that Jesus was a great teacher, so we can be sure that most understood exactly what he was teaching. He must have been good to keep on drawing “such large crowds.”

Do not think that everything went well with Jesus mission. In 11: 20 – 24 we learn that the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had not changed their ways. Chapter twelve could easily be called, “War is declared against Jesus.” Conflict over Sabbath observance between Jesus and the Pharisees culminates in, “The Pharisees went out and took counsel against him to put him to death.”

As he spoke that day, from the boat on the Sea of Galilee, he must have been well aware of his recent failures and that some of this crowd would accept his message and others would not.

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus teaches us the in spite of all contradictions and obstacles, his word will yield abundant fruit because it holds in itself the irresistible force of life.

Jesus told his audience and he continues to remind us that his Word will transform the world. We must not be discouraged by what looks like failure. Good, Godness, will triumph. The Word of God will bear fruit beyond our wildest dreams, right now.

In his teaching Jesus used everyday scenes familiar to his audience.   We need to understand and imagine what Jesus was referring to, eg, a farmer planting seed. The more we learn about the background to life in Jesus time the better we will be able to apply his teaching to our present situation.

Now we will read to parable once more. Concentrate on the sower.
A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate at up. 5Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. 7Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. 8But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

The method for planting was to scatter the seed first and then to plough the field covering the seed with soil. This farmer plants with enthusiasm, seed flies in all directions. There is even enough to feed the birds. Then as he ploughs breaking up the hard ground of the paths and shifting the rocks that get in his way. Time passes but nothing seems to happen. Then the rains come. Little by little the tiny plants appear. “It’s a miracle,” we are inclined to shout. No, this is the Word of God at work in us and our society. Slowly the plants grow to maturity and soon the crop is ready to be harvested. And what a crop it will be. Whoever heard of a farmer reaping one hundred times, sixty times or thirty times, what he sowed. Surely Jesus must have surprised himself as he told this parable. Think of all those times that he felt he was wasting his time and not getting through to the people and now today this large crowd accepts all he has to say. There is no mention of even the Pharisees walking of in disgust.

What extraordinary encouragement for all, called to bring the Word of God to others; parents teachers, indeed, all of us.

Just in case we doubt that his could be true Matthew assures us that we have heard correctly; “Whoever has ears ought to hear,” sow the Good News of the Word of God abundantly.

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Matt 11: 25 – 30

We are about half-way through Matthew’s gospel. In this section of the gospel Jesus faces opposition. In this passage he seems to be looking back over his activities. He considers what he has achieved, successes and failures. He realises that his message has had practically no effect on the rich and the learned of Jewish society, while it has been accepted joyfully by a small group of his disciples who cone from the poor and lowly classes.

Faced with such a disappointing result, we probably would feel discouraged. Instead Jesus expresses joy and blesses his Father for all that has taken place. This is one of the few prayers of Jesus reported in the gospels. 1 (arm 208

READ

Take time now to read Matt 11: 25 – 30. Although it is just six verses long you would be well advised to read it out loud, and several times.

25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things form the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. 27Everything has been entrusted to me by the Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

WORDS

“.. revealing these things..”

What is the significance of this phrase? Let us look at what has just preceded our reading.

 Verse 5 “Go tell John what you hear and see.” This is followed by a description of the kingdom.
Verse 11 This speaks of entering the kingdom.
Verse 17 Again we are invited to reflect on entering the kingdom.
Both these incidents remind us to “choose life”.
Verse 21 Again we are encouraged to “choose life”. This is our adult responsibility

This contrasts with the call to child-like trust in God;   “revealing them to mere children .. for that is what it pleased you to do.”

“..no one knows
The verb “to know” in the Bible is not used to indicate that one has met with a person a few times or that we recognise somebody. It means to have a deep experience of that person, to have entered into a deep and intimate relationship with somebody.

“.. hiding these things form the learned and the clever..”
These words of Jesus do not mean that God purposely annoys the learned or important people, or that he does not like them. He is simply acknowledging the fact that the poor, the humble, the lowly, have been the first to accept and welcome his teaching of liberation.2 (arm 209

To help us understand this text better we will now divide it up.
Give each part a title.
This is how I understand it. Have you divided it differently?

 “Glory to God”
25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things form the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.

Jesus and the Father
27Everything has been entrusted to me by the Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son.

Our relationship with Jesus
and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
To gain a clearer understanding of the first part we will rewrite it. Note how the writer emphasizes what is important for us.

“Glory to God”
25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.
We again find repetition in the third part of the reading.

Our relationship with Jesus
and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

One of the most important aspects of today’s reading is that it gives us a golden opportunity to:

Pray using the words of Scripture.

 Eight parts have been selected which you may use for praying in words of scripture. It is wise to only use one or two of these for each period of prayer.

“Glory to God”
25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, 1.I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things form the learned and the clever and 2. revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.

Jesus and the Father
3.
27Everything has been entrusted to me by the Father
; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son.

Our relationship with Jesus
and 4. those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (know) 5. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 6. 29Shoulder my yoke and 7. learn from me, for 8. I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes,  6. my yoke is easy and my burden light.

Enter into your using your imagination. Imagine you are seated at a round table with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. You enter into a deep conversation with them.
Each time respond using the selected words in the text.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 10.41.16 AM

1. This is a prayer of praise. Think of the many times that you have seen the Good News in action. Enter whole heartedly into this prayer of praise.

2. When were you aware of receiving a new insight, a new understanding of God?
How open am I to growing in my understanding of God?
What new insight have you received into your relationship with Jesus?
Respond to God using these words, “for revealing to mere children.”

3. Bring to mind something that God has entrusted to you.

4. Do you really know Jesus?

 5. What an extraordinary invitation this is!

Take it seriously.
Repeat. “Come to me.”
Pray using the words of scripture, “Come to me.”

6. “Shoulder my yoke .. it is easy and light”
Everything costs. Jesus invites us to follow his teaching (yoke). He assures us tah there is a cost to living our lives by his standards, however this is a small price to pay. Paul tells us, “I want you to be happy.” Phil 4: 4 Everything Jesus asks of us in for our own good, to enable us to live life to the full – “have eternal life”.
Repeat, “your yoke is easy and your burden light.”

7. “Learn from me”
This is a third invitation. Savor these words as you repeat them. Listen to Jesus saying, “Learn from me,” and replying “Learn from him.”

8. Of all the qualities Jesus could have chosen it is remarkable that he choose “gentleness” as the first and then “humbleness”. Humility is acknowledging in all honesty our giftedness and our short-comings and placing these before the Lord in a spirit of gratitude and seeking forgiveness. Come before the Lord praying, “I am gentle, I will be gentle, I accept my giftedness and weakness in joy and regret. “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing these things to me.”

Trinity Sunday, Year A

Jn 3: 16 – 18

Introduction:

The gospel of today is made up of only three verses, but if they are well understood, they may help us revise the ideas we have about God. Many Christians still link God with fear: he is the one that knows all, sees all, spies on us to discover our wrong doings and waits for us at the end to punish us (if he does not start punishing us even in this world!). Could anyone one love such a God?

Today’s teaching shows us the true God, the truths that Jesus has revealed to us. In these three verses we will discover the true face of God.

By going to the fist reading Ex 34: 6, 7a, we get an insight into the nature of God.

Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, “The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin; ..”

It is important to note that the words “merciful and gracious” in the original Hebrew are linked with the qualities of a mother’s womb.

In the light of this profound revelation about the nature of our God read today’s gospel text twice.

Words

“God so loved the world

The world for John is the symbol of total evil. It is with this total evil that God wants to compete. Do you imagine he can be the loser in this competition?

Divide the text and give a title to each part and a title for the text as a whole.

Here are my ideas.

True God,

Father,

The God of Jesus

 

God loves so much
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

God, giver of eternal life
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Choose life
18Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

God loves so much
We are confronted with “so” in “God so loved”. We become aware of the infinite capacity of God for loving us, his creation. It is the whole world, without exception, that he loves. In order to strengthen and ensure that that we understand this, Jesus adds “ .. he gave his only Son..”   Nothing is too much for our God to do for us.   The use of “only” conjures up the image of an only child and the love parents have for this only child. Our God loves us totally – no conditions set.
Recall to mind the love of a son or daughter tending the death of a beloved parent. They can only wish their loved one all peace, joy and happiness as they enter into eternity. Our God’s love infinitely surpasses this love.

God, giver of eternal life
Jesus came that all would enjoy eternal life, life to the full. We are offered the chance to live out our lives achieving our maximum potential. As we enter into an ever deepening relationship with the Lord so our capacity to experience the fullness of life increases. Our God wants us to be the very best we can. The passage is emphatic in stating that neither the Father nor Jesus condemn – Jesus came “that the world might be saved”. Again, no exceptions are suggested.

Choose life
God is not blind to our tendency to sin. He, however, leaves us free to choose. When sin enters our lives it is we who condemn ourselves to a life of sadness, pain, absence of true love and fulfilment in service of others. We choose not to enter into the fullness of life. This however does not change God’s attitude to us. God never gives up when confronted by the sin of people. He hates sin because it destroys the lives of his children. What he wants is that they stop sinning so that they can enjoy true happiness.

Goodness, God, will triumph

Do you really think that evil is more powerful than his love? Has not his Son come to “save the world”? And isn’t “the world”, for John, the symbol of total evil? It is with this evil that God competes (.. and not just with minor sins). Do you imagine he can be the loser in this competition?   NEVER!


As one reads this text one becomes conscious that this is a positive teaching. To bring this out I have replaced the many double negatives, where they occur, with a positive.

A positive teaching
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might be saved but might have eternal life.
17For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
18Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
His only Son- Every person is an only son / daughter of God
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

 

Thirty Third Sunday Ordinary time, Year C

Lk 21: 5 – 19

Prayer before praying Scripture

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Holy Word. May it be a lamp to our feet, a light to our paths, joy to our hearts and strength to our lives.

Take time to read this final Gospel text for Year C. Try to discover what the theme is.

You have probably decided that this is all about the end of the world. I wonder where Luke got his information. If you try reading Mark 13 you will soon realise that Luke probably used Mark’s Gospel as his primary resource for this part of his story.

If you really want to cause confusion, start talking about the “End of the World”. At the present time our understanding is that Creation began some 14,3 billion years ago. As we look out into space on a starry night it is hard to believe that there are billions of galaxies and more billions of stars. Our beautiful Earth is unique in that, as far as we know, it is the only planet where life developed. If all this has been around for so long I do not think that each of us has to be concerned about creation ending. We should be concerned about the mass extinction that we are living through at this very moment. Twenty five thousand species vanish from our Earth every year. This is certainly not what Jesus was talking about.

This is odd here, a fragment? 5When some were talking about the temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings,

We have all heard of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The eighth wonder is that the temple was not included among the seven. Travelers to Palestine in the first century told about three unique experiences; the sea in which it was impossible to sink (The Dead Sea), the Sabbath Day of rest (this was observed nowhere else) and The Temple. Herod the Great started the building of the Temple in 19BC and it was eventually completed in 64 AD.  Sadly it was destroyed in 70 AD during the First Jewish Revolt. Surely, for the Jewish people, the destruction of the house of God must have been the end of the world.

6All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.

Jesus seems to be predicting this destruction. Luke is able to put these words in Jesus because he knows that the temple had been destroyed. He is “fore-telling after the event”, and that is very easy to do. What does this contribute to anything?

This is also true of; many will come using my name, nation will fight against nation, earthquakes and plagues and famines. Simon and Bar-Jesus are mentioned as false prophets in Acts. (Acts8: 9; 13: 6) There was civil war in the Roman Empire; famine and earthquakes take place n every era.

The key to understanding this reading, I think, lies in verse 7:

7And they put to him this question: “Master” they said, “when will this happen, then, and what signs will there be that this is about to take place?”

This question is answered in verse twenty two.

“for these days are the time of punishment when all the scriptures will be fulfilled.”
This leads us to another similar text.

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.  And he said to them, “thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  (24: 44 – 48)

Surely Jesus is telling us that we should be striving to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. He emphasizes that the source that we should be working from is the Scriptures. The end of the world is not its destruction but that we all will live our lives in conformity with the teachings of Jesus.

When this moment comes then Jesus own mission statement will become a reality for all peoples.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.    (4: 18 – 19)

This is the end intended for of the world.
Isn’t this more likely to be the end, our God intends for this world?

Twenty Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 18: 1 – 8

Prayer
Our prayer today is taken from the Magificat, prayer that Luke puts on Mary’s lips. We should make these words our very own.

My soul (life proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
The Mighty One has done great thing for me.
His mercy is forever.  Lk 1: 46-50

* * * * * *

1Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

This is an opening designed to get our attention. It is not so easy to read right passed it.  Prayer is very important for Luke. He mentions prayer eighteen times in his Gospel and the topic comes up as many times in Acts. Our opening prayer is just one example.

Let’s look at a few other prayers that appear in this Gospel.

The angels sing out their song of praise. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” 2: 14

In Simeon’s prayer we move from Praise to Thanksgiving.

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have your salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.  2: 29 – 32

Let’s listen to Jesus as he prays.

“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. Yes Father, you have revealed these things to the childlike. No one knows who the Son is except he Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” 10: 21-22

What is your concept of prayer; Hail Mary’s or pouring out your troubles to the Lord?  This is very good.  However there is another way to approach prayer.  Vatican II tells us, “And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together for ‘we speak to him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings.”  (25)

Prayer is a conversation between God and us.  God speaks first through his Word in Scripture.  We listen intently and in so doing hear the message God has for us.  Then we respond to God in prayer.  Luke speaks of this process when he writes:

“A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of people came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; (They hear the Word of God from Jesus.) and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.  Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him (We respond, asking Jesus to touch our lives and heal us) because power came forth from him and healed them all. 6: 17-19

During our prayer we hear God speaking to us, just as those disciples did long ago.  We ask Jesus to touch our lives and bring change and healing to all that troubles us.  This will certainly happen if our prayer frequently commences with listening to the Word of God.

Time now to read the parable;

2”There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 3And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ 4For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God not respect any human being, 5because this widow keeps bothering me I  shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.

6The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 7Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? 8I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.

Luke has great concern for the less fortunate. This he probably learnt from the Jewish members of his community.

“You shall not violate the rights of the alien, the orphan or the widow.”  “When you reap the harvest in our field and overlook a sheaf there, you shall not go back to get it, let it be for the alien, the orphan and the widow.  Dt 24: 17, 19

There are two characters, the judge and the widow.  The parable has one meaning when we take the judge as the chief character.  It has quite different meaning when the widow is the main charater.

The unjust judge grants the widow’s request only because she is a nuisance.  How much more will a loving God be prepared to answer our prayers.

This determined widow never let up the pressure on the judge.  The judge seems to have been quite frightened of her.  He did not relish the thought of her striking him and inflicting a black eye. She was relentless in her efforts to break the oppression that she had to endure.  Surely our God will be more determined than the widow to fight for the cause of those who are unjustly treated.1

  1. Patella MF, New Collegeville Bible Commentary – Luke

Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 17: 5 – 10

Prayer
Your Word is near, O Lord our God. Your grace is near. Come to us then, with mildness and power.  Let us be open to hearing your word. Make us receptive and open to Jesus Christ your Son. He will come looking for us. He will save us today and every day, forever and ever.

Today we will go straight into reading our text.  As you do so you will realise that there are two parts;
Verses 5 and 6 which contain a teaching about faith, and
Verses 7 – 10 which is a parable.  We find this parable only in Luke’s Gospel.

Verses 5 – 6
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
You may ask, “What does this word ‘faith’ mean within the context of today’s reading?”

Most of us would answer this questions by reciting, “I believe in God the Father ….”, and in one sense you would be correct. Luke however is using it quite differently. Go back to our opening prayer. The words in italics will help you. Faith is an attitude of openness to hearing God’s Word. Those of us who are open to receiving the Word of God and being open to making changes in our lives, have faith. It takes much trust to believe that God is caring for us and will help us through the trials to life. No wonder the apostles call out, “Lord, increase our faith.” None of us wants to change.  Perhaps we should be praying this prayer more often. “Lord, help me to recognise my short-comings, give me the courage to change.1

The passage immediately before our reading contains Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness.  “If your brother harms you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry’, you should forgive him.” (17: 1 – 4)  “Limitless forgiveness”! Does Jesus really mean us to follow this teaching? By ourselves, I doubt this is possible. We will have to put our trust in God.  Scripture assures us that “nothing will be impossible for God”. (1: 37)  Let’s take Jesus at his word.

Once more we need to pray, “Lord, increase our faith. Help us to be just a little more forgiving each day.”

* * * * * *

Verses 7 – 10
Only Luke gives us this short parable. It speaks specifically about Our relationship with God.

The scholar of the law asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10: 25)   Jesus adds at the end of his reply, “Do this and you will live.” Take note, there is nothing in Jesus’ answer about ‘eternal life’. It is all about the here and now. Today’s parable makes the lesson much clearer. Our God does not sit recording our good and not so good deeds on his computer. ‘Eternal life’ is a free gift given to us by an incredibly generous God.

Let’s use a parable of our own. Again and again we see athletes point to the heavens when they have triumphed.  In doing this they acknowledge how generous God has been in gifting them.

Our good deeds are the fruit of the graces we have received. When we have done all things well it is gratitude that fills our hearts. God wants what is best for us. This is why He calls us to serve and he will not be outdone in generosity to us.

Nobody has a claim on God. It is God who favours us. No matter how good any individual is, he is always the one being favoured by God.2

Read the parable in the light of what has just been said. The ploughman does not expect his employer to make his supper. Nor should we think that we can buy a good seat in the kingdom of heaven. We can contribute to the Kingdom of God here on earth. This is a privilege and a gift in itself. We will also find that our God is generous beyond our wildest imagination, rewarding us, “Good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing.”(6: 38)

Let us put aside the idea of merits!  Let us begin to be full of joy thanking God for the good we do! 3

Prayer for Generosity

To give and not to count the cost;

To fight and not to heed the wounds;

To toil and not to seek for rest;

To labour and not to ask for any reward

Save that of knowing that we do your will.

                                                                   St Ignatius of Loyola

  1. Edmonds P, A Companion to the Sunday Missal, p197
  2. McBride D, The Gospel of Luke, p 221-222
  3. Armellini F, Celebrating the Word. Year C, p289

Twenty Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 16: 1-13

Prayer
Father you wait for us until we are open to you. We wait for your Word to make us receptive. Attune us to your voice, to your silence, speak and bring your Son to us – Jesus – the Word of your peace.

Before going to today’s gospel we need to see it in its context within the gospel.  At the beginning of chapter 15 we read, “1The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2but the Pharisees and Scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Immediately after our reading we hear, “14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him.” Our parable is addressed to these groups of people. Perhaps you can imagine yourself belonging to one of these groups. What impact does Jesus’ story have on you?

This parable is acknowledged as one of the most difficult to understand. I suggest that for the moment you read only the Parable of “The Dishonest Steward” (16: 1- 8a)

I am sure you are a little confused. It certainly looks like this parable is encouraging dishonesty!

Try reading it a second time. Use your imagination. Concentrate on the qualities of the “Rich Man”.

What did you discover? Here’s a check list. Compare this with what you found.

The rich man was generous to a fault. He warned the servant, but took no action against him, in fact it is quite possible he was re-instated.  Perhaps we should revise our title for this parable.  Let’s call it, “The Generous Employer”. 1

Can you think of a parable with a similar theme to this one? Go to your Bible and look at Chapter 15.  Surprised!  The second half of Chapter 15 contains the parable of the Prodigal Son, however, we now call it “The Merciful Father”.

* * * * * *

Time to read the parable, of “The Generous Employer” once more. Again I invite you to use your imagination while reading, looking at what it tells us about the Steward.

He seems to be a likeable person. Most certainly not very efficient and wasteful. He knew how to enjoy life and was not keen on hard work; “to dig I am not able”. He had his own pride and was certainly not going to turn to begging. We are also told that he liked people and enjoyed the company of good friends. 2

“But he was dishonest!” you might shout out. Perhaps a better understanding of how stewards functioned will give us a clearer understanding of his actions. Stewards worked on a commission basis, so when he reduced the debts he was also lowering his income.  Rents were not fixed. They went up when the harvest was good and down in years of poor harvest. Obviously the rich man was known for his generosity so the debtors would not have questioned the lowering of their rent. The steward also seems to have banked on his employer’s generosity. Wasteful, he certainly was, but he took nothing for himself.

Perhaps he was not so wasteful. Jews were forbidden to take interest on loans to fellow Jews. (Lev 25: 36) Our Steward may well have reduced the debts by the amount of interest due.  In this light he is acting both morally and legally. Everyone wins. The master is presented as gracious, generous and obedient to the law. The debtors have their bill reduced.  The Steward has secured the lasting gratitude and friendship of the tenants. 3

There are two lessons we can draw from the parable. The steward realized that there are more important things than money. For him, friendship was high on his list of values.  Think of all that you value more than money. The Rich Man has much to tell us about sharing.

The second part of our reading lists the lessons that we can draw from the parable. The final lesson is: “You cannot be the slave of both of God and money.” Another translation is; “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

“Mammon,” literally means “that in which you put our trust.” This includes wealth and riches, but also titles, position, privileges and honours; anything that takes our attention away from God, our true source of life. Money should be used to benefit people not to manipulate them, and since it is given as a trust, it should be used in the service of discipleship.

The key lesson we learn today is that people enter heaven because of the graciousness of God, not because of the credits they have secured. God welcomes tax collectors and sinners into His Kingdom and Pharisees as well.

  1. De Verteuil, M  Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, p 208
  2. De Verteuil, M  Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, p 208
  3. Derrett J D M  Law in the New Testament, p48-77

Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 14: 25 – 33

Prayer, Torah Blessing
We commence our prayer today with a Jewish prayer giving thanks to our God for the gift of His Word.

Praise the Lord, to whom our praise is due;
Praise be the Lord, to whom our praise is due, now and forever.
Blessed is the Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has chosen us form all the peoples by giving us his Torah.
Blessed is the Lord, giver of the Torah.

Today you will need to spend quite some time reading the gospel. You may even be dismayed at what Jesus is saying. Do not be discouraged. When scripture seems not to make sense, there is nothing wrong with the Word.  We are reading with the wrong eyes.  We need to come to a correct understanding of the text.

Our first task today will be to give this passage a title. This is not so easy. Our title will reflect our understanding of this gospel. I called it:  “Our Commitment”.

All of us make large and small commitments. When we join a sports club we make a commitment to get fit and to faithfully attend the practices and matches. We marry. We enter a profession. Each one of these choices involves making an undertaking and also being prepared to pay the cost.  In the case of joining a sports club we realise that on match days our time is not our own. Obviously there will be important advantages as well.

* * * * * *

25Great crowds accompanied him on his way and he turned and spoke to them.

Jesus speaks from personal experience. He asks only what he himself has already done and experienced. He speaks with the authority of experience. Pope Paul Vl wrote, “The modern world listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.  If it does listen to teachers it is because they are witnesses.” No wonder then that, “Great crowds accompanied Jesus.”

26If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple27Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

We are being invited to enter into a deep relationship with Jesus, “come to me”. He is calling us to be his disciples but just look at the condition. Surely hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life contradicts “Love your neighbour as yourself.” We are not being commanded to hate father, mother, self etc.

Once again we find Jesus challenging the values of society.  amily relationships were based on the principle of superior and inferior. A son owed absolute obedience to his father until Dad passed away and he took over. Women and children were just possessions of the man, they had no status of their own. This system runs counter to Jesus’ values, to the Kingdom of God value which sees all as equal and deserving of the same consideration and respect. Jesus challenges all societies.

We are being called to change. Jesus is asking us to re-examine our values. Is our thinking in line with the way Jesus calls us to live? Once having committed ourselves to living by the values that Jesus taught we will never be the same. There will be much that we have to let go of and this is not going to be easy. Living out “Love your neighbour as yourself” is going to be tough. Sometimes it will seem that we have to devote our whole life to others.

“Carry your cross” For a long time I thought this meant to handle the trials and tribulations of life. I really do not think that we have any choice is this instance. However we can chose how we are going to live our lives. All of us have an abundance of talent.  Taking up our cross refers to how we develop the gifts we have. God wants us to be the best people we possibly can. This is going to cost us, but the benefits will for outweigh the sacrifices.

In his inaugural speech said, “We are not afraid of our weakness, we are afraid of our giftedness and greatness.”

The two parables that follow are all about being prepared to pay the price of responding to Jesus call to be his disciples.

Our reading closes with, 33So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.”

This has nothing to do with giving up all we own.  This is a “Wisdom Saying”.  We are being offered a moment of grace. Jesus is pacing before us, “Life or Death”.  What choice are we going to make?  Are we prepared to pay the price for choosing life?