Scripture Commentary for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

dove prayer

Let us pray using Psalms 34:1-8…

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will never stop singing his praises.
Humble people, listen and be happy,
while I brag about the Lord.
Praise the Lord with me.
Let us honor his name.
I went to the Lord for help, and he listened.
He saved me from all that I fear.
If you look to him for help, he will put a smile on your face.
You will have no need to be ashamed.
As a poor, helpless man I prayed to the Lord,
and he heard me.  He saved me from all my troubles.
The Lord’s angel builds a camp around his followers,
and he protects them.
Give the Lord a chance to show you how good he is.
Great blessings belong to those who depend on him!  Amen

Reading #1:  Sirach35: 12-14, 16-18

Jesus Ben Sirach lived and wrote around 180 BC.  He was an educated man whose main writing concerns were reflection on the Torah and practical suggestions for upright living.  To live uprightly is to live up to the covenantal relationship one has with God – hesedHesed assumes a reciprocity and requires that love of one another flow out of love of God, (W&W, Birmingham, p.  510). What does this mean to you?

God knows no favorites.  There are no prayers better than any others.  Sometimes we are afraid to go to God with our small requests.  But Sirach says the one who serves God willingly is heard!  Pope Francis says, “Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.  To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds.”  The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds!

 Reading #2: 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18

Paul’s ‘departure,’ a euphemism for death, uses a Greek word that means to leave, to loosen the bonds or fetters, to relax, to be released from prison – unyoked, free, unfettered. (Celebration, Oct. 1998)

From Celebrations Oct. 2004:

Scholars suggest that the abandonment that is referred to in this reading happened at the end of Paul’s life, during his second imprisonment in Rome under Nero. Even though there was a sizeable Christian community in Rome, no one appeared at Paul’s preliminary hearing to encourage or to defend him. Paul who had brought countless numbers of people to Christ, found himself alone, with no one other than Christ to strengthen and support him. Paul likens his death to a sacrifice or a libation. Libations of wine and oil were done sometimes by Jews, but even more often by Greeks and Romans. Before meals and, at times, in between courses, as well as at religious ceremonies, a goblet of wine was poured out on the ground as a gesture of homage to the gods.

From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Remember, Paul had entered ‘the race’ only after he met the Risen Christ and realized that all his accomplishments were so much rubbish. He gave up the pretense of being a self-made, self-righteous man. In Christ, he learned the freedom and the gift that is God’s grace poured out for us. The mercy of the Lord was his hope, his joy, his faith.

Gospel:  Luke 18:9-14

From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Prayer, most surely, is not about trying to change God’s mind or heart about anything. It is about changing us. And that is why the Pharisee’s prayer is so meaningless. There is nothing in his life to be changed – no empty spaces to be filled up. Remember Mary’s Magnificat: God fills the hungry and the ‘full’

(the rich) go away empty . . .” (Lk. 1:53)  If the cries of the poor are to be heard or the orphan or oppressed are to be cared for, it will not be by some magic changing of God’s mind.  They will be heard and served by concerned people who can recognize their needs and decide how to respond to them.  Prayers can indeed be answered by a God who can ‘get through’ to prayerful people. We need to open a place for God’s entry into our lives.  This is true prayer.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

To strike the breast is a Middle-Eastern gesture that was usually used by women. It was used by men only in extreme anguish, so it is touching that this tax collector uses this gesture.  The closing phrase (“whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”) is one of those ‘floating sayings.” It occurs also in Lk 14:11, Mt 18:4: 23:12; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:6. Most of us go through life tallying successes and failures. God’s ways are not like that. With God’s help, we can discover even in our so-called failures examples of divine reversals, a better plan, a more rewarding venture, new life after hitting a dead-end. What looks like a set-back, can be an opportunity for growth. This is the Paschal Mystery: new life from death.

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