Tuesday, September 24, 2013

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

We continue this week with part 2 of our two-part series on Social Justice.  What is Social Justice?  Our readings last week gave us a basic understanding, first with a warning about our fate based on how we treat others, especially the poor.  Not only will the Lord remember how we treat the poor, but in our Gospel he reminded us that we must be honest stewards, both of others and the message of the Gospel.  This week we our readings give us a warning of what will become of us should we not heed the needy’s cry for justice.

The Word for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
        Amos 6:1a, 4-7
        Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
        1 Timothy 6:11-16
        Luke 16:19-31

We open with another passage from Amos, our fiery Southern prophet giving a warning to those who have become complacent.  The imagery Amos uses speaks of excessive wealth, and while taking a jab at David, foretells of what will happen (and did happen) if they don’t change their ways.  It is a stinging indictment that is very much relevant today as we see an increasing disparity between rich and poor in our contemporary world.

Our second reading, continuing our study of the Pauline letters to Timothy, urges us to “compete well for the faith.”.  Though not directly related to our readings on Justice, its core message of remaining vigilant to the cause of the Gospel serves as a reminder that we must never cease in our efforts to bring justice to the poor and those in need.  It also reminds us that we to must be prophets, and in the vein of Amos and Jesus, call out what we see as injustice in our society.

Our gospel continues from where we left off last week, and like last week, gives us another parable that is unique to Luke’s Gospel.  To better set the stage, first let’s remember where we are:  Jesus still on his travels is seen by a group of Pharisees conversing with a group of “tax collectors and sinners.”  The Pharisees complained about this, so Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, gave us the parables we heard two weeks ago (the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost – prodigal – Son).  Continuing then from last week’s Gospel, Jesus turned to his disciples and gave us the parable of the Dishonest Steward, a story pointed squarely at the Pharisees who were listening.

It is helpful to note that after last week’s gospel passage the text continues,  saying, “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him.  And he said to them, ‘You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.’”  To reinforce his point, he gives us this week’s passage, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  This parable, unique in its personalization of poor man, is both intimate in its telling and thick with meaning.  Using a familiar story telling devices (not unlike that used in A Christmas Carole and It’s A Wonderful Life) we are shown a future that can be avoided if we heed the moral of the story, and follow what Moses, the Prophets, and Jesus have been telling us… “whatever you for the least of my brothers, you do for Me.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

This week we begin our two-part study of Social Justice.  What does that have to do with becoming a Catholic, you ask?  Everything!  Jesus taught us that we needed to “love our neighbors,” but what exactly does that mean?  Our readings for this week should help us to understand this idea better…

The Word for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
        Amos 8:4-7
        Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
        1 Timothy 2:1-8
        Luke 16:1-13

We open with a reading from the prophet Amos… and if there ever were an example of fiery prophetic rage and divine justice, it’s Amos.  A Southern prophet during the height of the Jewish kingdoms (some 150 years before the Exile), Amos, a shepherd by trade, was called to the life of a prophet to rail against the injustice and hypocrisy he saw all around him.  Our passage this week is thick with meaning, and if not read or proclaimed correctly, can cause us to mis-understand its meaning.  This is a classic rant he’s giving to the rich (…”you who trample upon the needy…”), warning them of their day of reckoning, but this warning is only the frame of a complex passage where at the heart of it, Amos is quoting the minds of the rich men bent on oppressing the poor.  As with much of Amos, this is not contemplative reading, but rather much better understood when read aloud as a fiery sermon.

Our second reading, a continuation of our Pauline letters to Timothy, is not entirely out of place here.  We pray for our leaders, and everyone else, not just those in the community.  This reminds us that justice is for all, and that we pray our secular leadership sees this need.

Our Gospel, another story unique to Luke, is no less difficult to unpack.  The Parable of the Unjust Stewart would seem, on its surface, to praise the steward for his guile, but like Amos, Jesus is condemning him.  Within his condemnation Jesus also gives us a warning… that we cannon serve both God and mammon (wealth).  But it is important to note that this gospel is not so much a condemnation of wealth as it is a condemnation of dishonesty.  If that were not enough, it also subtlety reminds us that we are all stewards… called to protect God’s creation during our short stay here, and called to help those in need. I expect these readings will lead to some interesting discussion.

Catholic Update:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

24th Sunday or Ordinary Time 2013

For many of us our busy Fall schedules are in full swing, making it harder for us to pause for a moment of prayer and reflection... to give thanks to God... to ask God for assistance... or to just be in his presence for a moment.  It is in these busy days and weeks that we need to make that time... to attend Mass, to have a moment of daily prayer... even if that moment is the walk from the parking lot to your office or classroom.  Not only does this allow us to reconnect with God, but it provides us a moment of self-reflection (the basis of the Jesuit tradition of the Examen of Conscience) to make sure we're still on the right path and still moving forward.

The Word for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
        Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
        Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
        1 Timothy 1:12-17
        Luke 15:1-32 (or 15:1-10)

All of this week’s readings scream the message of forgiveness and reconciliation.  In Exodus, God is extremely angry at the Israelites turning their back to him, but Moses, using God’s own words, is able to talk him down, revealing God’s ever-present offer of forgiveness.  Forgiveness, however, also required contrition.  After God relents from punishing Israel, Moses gets to the bottom of the mountain, sees the great sin they have committed, and offers them a choice.  If you are for God, stand with me.  Those who did not, were promptly dispatched.

Our second reading begins a review of Pauline letters to Timothy.  In this first passage, the author writing on Paul’s behalf give us a first-person account of Paul’s story of conversion.  Paul always held up his own weaknesses as example of God’s forgiveness.  You may recall that Paul himself a devout Jew, fought vigorously against the Christian movement until he had an encounter with the risen Jesus… and if this encounter could change a man like him for the better, then how much easier it would be for others.

As we turn to our Gospel from Luke, we are given three parables.  In the opening verses we are given the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.  Both of these show us the great length we take to find something that is lost, and the rejoicing that follows when it is found.  As it turns out, these were just the warm-up acts, and give added depth to the third parable, that of the prodigal son.  This is perhaps one of the most remembered and beloved parables, and is a unique gift from Luke’s Gospel.  One reason it sticks with us is because most of us can see ourselves in one or more of the characters in the story, yet can still be awestricken at the Father’s willingness and desire to forgive his son… a forgiveness we can share if needed and desired.

It is also important, with growing tensions over the situation in Syria, and on this anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to reinforce the Church’s ministry of forgiveness, and review the Church’s teaching on religious tolerance.  The prayer vigil hosted this past weekend by Pope Francis is an example of both our desire for peace, and our need to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” as rooted in the Lord’s prayer.

Catholic Update:

Top Catholic News:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

The Word for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Wisdom 9:13-18b
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17
Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

Our first reading comes from the book of Wisdom.  As the name of the book suggests, this work falls into the category of Wisdom literature.  Although the authors attribute this “wisdom” to King Solomon (970 BCE), the book, originally written in Greek, actually dates to some 50 years before Christ.  Like last week’s first reading from Sirach (dating about 200 years before Christ), the book of Wisdom not only acts as an early catechism for the Jewish people, but speaks very powerfully to the early Christian community, in part because it addresses a persecuted minority.  While the book of Wisdom is fairly clear in its teachings, there are times, as with this week’s passage, where we can get lost in the language of the text, and find it difficult to discern what it is trying to teach… so don’t get discouraged if you don’t “get it” after just one reading.  Read it several times, and then see if you see what I see…

The passage opens with a rhetorical question… “who can know God’s council?”. Not us, for as the text continues, we are just mere mortals, and our human needs often cloud our understanding.  In fact, it is “with difficulty” that we understand what the Lord wants.  This is why God sends us Wisdom from the Holy Spirit… and it by following this wisdom from the Spirit that makes our path straight.  Put more simply, just follow what the Lord says and all is good.

Trouble is… just following what the Lord says isn’t always easy.  This is exactly what our Gospel has Jesus telling the great crowds that are following him.  Not only does he tell them that following him will be difficult, but he reminds us that the any decision to become a disciple must be make with considerable discernment. In short, Jesus is telling us that there are costs… personal costs, to being one of his disciples, and it would be foolish to do so without understanding what the costs will be beforehand.

We round out our readings with a passage from Paul’s letter to Philemon.  One of the shortest books in the New Testement, and certainly the shortest from Paul, the Letter to Philemon is only one chapter with 25 verses.  The letter concerns a slave named Onesimus, whom he met in prison, converted, and is now being released.  Paul is asking his owner to welcome him not as a slave, but as a “brother in Christ.”  This letter is nothing short of astounding.  With brevity and cautious language (which is uncharacteristic for Paul, who’s letters are generally verbose and bold), Paul is telling us that slavery is wrong.  That within the Church, the body of Christ, there is no room for cast.  There is no master and slave, but rather, we are all slaves for Christ, brothers and sister in a common cause.

Catholic Update