Category Archives: Reflection

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Isaiah 66:18-21
Nations of every language shall come to see my glory.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 117:1-2
Praise the Lord, all you nations.

Second Reading
Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13
Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.

Gospel Reading
Luke 13:22-30
People will come from north and south, east and west, and take their place in the Kingdom of God.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel reading is the third of three parables in chapter 13 that deal with the theme of the unexpected reversals brought by the Kingdom of God. The other two parables are about the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large tree and the small amount of yeast that makes a large batch of dough rise. All three are about the few and the many and the Kingdom of God.

As this parable opens, Luke reminds us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem. This journey, this exodus as Luke refers to it, makes up the entire middle of the Gospel. He is teaching as he goes. A question from the crowd gives Jesus the chance to make a prophetic statement. Luke uses this question device a number of times in his Gospel. A few weeks ago, the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” led to the parable of the Good Samaritan. The question about will only a few be saved uses typical Christian language about salvation but also expresses the Jewish concern about whether everyone who calls himself a Jew is actually faithful to the covenant. This was a concern of the Pharisees.

Jesus answers that they must strive in the time remaining to enter through the narrow door because many will be trying to get in but won’t be strong enough. He then moves to a parable about another door. (The translation says “gate” then “door,” but the same Greek word is used.) Once all those entering the master’s house are in and he locks the door, there will be no way for others to get in. Those left outside may knock, but the master will say he doesn’t know them. Unlike the Gospel reading from a few weeks ago where Jesus was teaching about prayer, and we were told to knock and the door would be opened, in this parable, the master will not open and say he does not know us. People from the north, south, east, and west will take our place inside. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets will take our place in the Kingdom of God. Those who do not make it through the narrow door will be cast out to where there is wailing and grinding of teeth.

The image of the door is replaced in the final verses of the parable with the image of the heavenly banquet. Two passages from the Book of Isaiah influence the conclusion. Isaiah 43:5-6 speaks of God bringing Israel’s descendents back from the east and from the west, the north and the south. And Isaiah 25:6 speaks of the Lord providing a feast of rich foods and choice wines for all peoples on his holy mountain. The answer to the question if only a few will be saved is no. In the end, many will be saved, but many who thought they would be saved will not be saved. The parable is a prophetic warning to repentance in order to enter the kingdom.-loyolapress.com

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10 
Jeremiah is punished for criticizing the wealthy for their corruption and their injustice to the poor.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 40:2-4,18
A prayer for God’s help

Second Reading
Hebrews 12:1-4
Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Gospel Reading
Luke 12:49-53
Jesus has come not only to bring peace but also division.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Having reminded the apostles and the crowd that facing the coming judgment takes patience, Jesus now goes on to speak of how difficult it will be to wait. He tells them that he has come to set the earth on fire. Recall that in chapter 3 of Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist tells the crowd that he is baptizing with water, but someone mightier is coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. The fire Jesus speaks of here is the distress caused by the coming judgment. It is also the fire of the Spirit that Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, will describe descending on the disciples on Pentecost. That fire will strengthen them to go out to the whole world to preach the good news of Jesus’ Resurrection.

Jesus will be the first to experience the distress of the coming judgment. His baptism will be the conflict into which he will be immersed as he approaches Jerusalem and his death on the cross. His followers will not be spared that distress. The angels at Jesus’ birth proclaimed peace on earth, and Simeon, holding the baby Jesus in the Temple, said to God: “Master, now you may let your servant go in peace.” Here Jesus tells the crowd not to think he has come to bring peace; he has come to bring division. Simeon said as much when he turned to Mary and said that the child was destined for the rise and fall of many and to be a sign that will be contradicted. Peace is the ultimate end of the Kingdom of God, but peace has a price. Jesus is warning the crowd that wherever the Word of God is heard and acted upon, division occurs. Fathers will be divided against sons and mothers against daughters.

The coming judgment forces us to look at the implications of our commitments. As Jesus warned in last Sunday’s Gospel, a commitment of faith requires us to change our attitude toward material possessions and to take even more seriously our moral responsibilities. Here he reminds the crowd that those who commit to him will find it affects the way they relate to friends and family members. The angel who announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah said John would go before Jesus to turn the hearts of fathers toward their children. But a commitment to Jesus forces us to change the way we live our lives, and this can put strains on relationships.

We don’t expect to hear such difficult words from Jesus in the Gospel. But it is good to be reminded once in a while that the decision to do the right thing, the good thing, is not always easy and without conflict. Jesus himself did not make easy decisions and avoid conflict. In today’s reading, he reminds his followers to be prepared for difficult decisions and conflict as well.-loyolapress.com

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Wisdom 18:6-9
The Hebrew people awaited the salvation of the just.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 33:1,12,18-22
Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Second Reading
Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19
We will look for the city designed and built by God.

Gospel Reading
Luke 12:32-48
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Jesus’ instructions on how to be ready for the coming judgment continue in the stories and sayings found in today’s Gospel. We are not to be like the greedy rich man in last Sunday’s Gospel who planned to store his great harvest in barns rather than share it. We are, rather, to share our wealth with those in need. The antidote for the anxiety brought on by the coming judgment is to relinquish our possessions and provide for the needs of others. Our treasure will be in heaven where it will not wear out or be destroyed.

The other major way to be ready for the coming judgment is to be watchful. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about watchfulness to begin making this point. We must be like servants waiting for the master’s return from a wedding banquet, which, even now, can last for a few days in the Middle East. We must be watchful so that even if the master comes after midnight, we will be ready for him. This is what the coming of the Son of Man will be like.

Peter asks if this parable is meant for the apostles or for the large crowd that has gathered to listen to Jesus. Without answering Peter’s question, Jesus responds with another parable about servants awaiting the return of their master. It begins with a question: “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?” This parable adds to the theme of watchfulness; it explains how to wait and reminds us of the reward for the faithful follower at the heavenly banquet after the judgment. If it is addressed to the apostles, then it could also be addressed to leadership in the early Church. Either way, the parables reminds us that we should be found doing our jobs when the master arrives. If we are doing our jobs, our reward will be great. But if we relax, neglect our duties, and begin to act like the greedy rich man—eating, drinking, and making merry—we will not have a place in the kingdom. Watchfulness means living in such a consistently moral and obedient way that we are always ready to give an account to God of how we have lived.-loyolaprress.com

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

 

First Reading
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 95:1-2,6-9
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Second Reading
Colossians 3:1-5,9-11
There is neither Greek nor Jew, but Christ is all in all.

Gospel Reading
Luke 12:13-21
A person’s life does not consist of possessions.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In Chapter 12 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples and the crowd on how to be ready for the coming judgment. A crowd of many thousands has gathered to hear Jesus. At first he speaks only to the disciples, reminding them that it is not persecution they should fear but the judgment that is coming for all who do not acknowledge the Son of Man. Suddenly a man in the crowd shouts out to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” He seems to have grown tired of Jesus speaking only to the disciples. Jesus offers the man no help. Instead he uses the question to teach what, in light of the coming judgment, life really consist of.

Jesus tells the crowd a parable. A rich man’s lands have yielded more crops than expected. His response is not to consider how he might share all the extra food with others but to wonder how he can possibly store it all. He has what he thinks is a brilliant idea: to tear down his present barns and build larger ones. Then he will have many things stored up for years of eating, drinking, and making merry.

“You fool” is God’s response to this man because that very night his life will be taken away. To whom will everything belong then, God asks. The rich man’s world is small, just him and his possessions, and now he learns that he is to lose his life. What good are his possessions now? Jesus states the moral of the story. This is how it will be for everyone who stores up treasure for himself or herself but is not rich in what matters to God.

Centuries later St. Gregory the Great taught that when we care for the needs of the poor, we are giving them what is theirs, not ours. We are not just performing works of mercy; we are paying a debt of justice. Life does not consist in possessions but in sharing what we possess with others. The goods of the earth have been given to everyone. – loyolapress.com

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Genesis 18:20-32
Abraham pleads with God to save the innocent people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 138:1-3,6-8
Lord, on the day I cried for help, you answered me.

Second Reading
Colossians 2:12-14
You were buried with Christ in Baptism and also raised with him.

Gospel Reading
Luke 11:1-13
Jesus teaches the disciples about prayer.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Luke gives more attention to Jesus’ teachings on prayer than any other Gospel writer. He also mentions Jesus at prayer more than the others. In today’s reading, from the beginning of Chapter 11 of his Gospel, Luke presents the core of Jesus’ teaching on prayer. It consists of Jesus teaching a prayer to his disciples, a parable on the persistent neighbor, and assurances that God hears our prayers.

The disciples notice Jesus praying “in a certain place.” They ask him to teach them to pray just as John the Baptist had taught his disciples. Jesus teaches them a simple version of the most famous Christian prayer, the Our Father, or the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew’s version shows signs of being shaped by public prayer. Luke’s version is probably closer to the original form that Jesus taught. Stripped of much of the language we are used to, Luke’s version seems simple and direct. We pray that God’s name will be recognized as holy and that his rule over all will be established. This is followed by petitions for our needs for bread, for forgiveness, and for deliverance. Luke uses the more theological language of “sins” rather than “debts,” which is used in Matthew’s version.

Having taught his disciples a simple, daily prayer, Jesus goes on to reassure them that God answers prayers. First he tells a parable about a persistent neighbor who asks a friend for bread at midnight. The friend is already in bed and has no desire to disturb his family by opening the door. But because the neighbor is persistent, the sleeping man gets up and gives him all that he needs. If a neighbor is willing to help us if we are persistent enough, how could God not respond to our requests?

This teaching concludes with the reminder that if we seek, we will get a response. If a human father, with all his faults, knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more will our heavenly Father give us? Instead of good gifts, however, Luke substitutes the word Holy Spirit. This foreshadows the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is central to Luke’s theology and who will play an important role in the growth of the early Church after Pentecost.

The parable and the concluding teaching in this section should not lead us to think of prayer as a series of requests presented to God. Rather, as Jesus teaches in his model prayer, prayer consists in recognizing God’s holiness and his rule over all things.- loyolapress.com

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