1st Reading – Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29
Sirach is the longest of the wisdom books with 51 chapters. It is a mixture of proverbs and lengthy essays on major themes within the wisdom tradition: use of speech, self-control, the value of work, etc. Unlike Proverbs, it tends to group many sayings on the same topic close together. The author identifies himself (Ben Sira) at the end of chapter 50, but luckily his grandson translated the original into Greek and wrote a preface which helps date the book to 190-175 BC. It was thought that it was all in Greek but portions were found in Hebrew. It is not a book accepted in the Jewish canon or the Protestant Bible (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 486-487). Think about the passing on of wisdom and faith through the generations.
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, Sept.2, 2007:
Genuine humility has nothing to do with praising others or putting ourselves down. Humus means earth; humility means remembering that we are dust – yet dust that God has taken and breathed into it his very life. When we are humble we are filled with gratitude and are at peace in God’s presence. We can use our talents with great energy; but we do not have to be everything to everyone. Nor, do we have to be noticed, applauded, or extolled. Can you think of an example of when you have had to “eat humble pie”?
2nd Reading – Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24
This reading is highlighting the contrast between the law (Mount Sinai) and the salvation we find in Christ (Mount Zion). What sense do you make of this reading?
From John Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
Some see God as unapproachable as the highest mountain, or an all-consuming fire, or an abyss of impenetrable darkness, or a booming, terrifying voice. But the God we find in Christ is a loving parent, a merciful judge. His mountain is full of life and light and festivity. Come! We will be made whole.
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, Sept.2, 2007:
These two images of God battle for our attention. Is our God fearful, powerful, brooding, and potentially wrathful? Or, is God approachable, beautiful, and delightful? Do you feel like plugging your ears and closing your eyes before God due to fear? Or, do you find yourself joining in a song of joy and peace in God’s presence? Moses once stood in the presence of God; his face shone with a brilliant light. Yet, the rest of the community nearly died of fright. What we see and experience in the presence of God may have more to do with us than with God. If we are open and trusting in the divine presence, we may be surprised by the joy we find. But if we are closed by fear and self-defensive, self-righteous attitudes, we may find trouble.
The Gospel – Luke 14: 1, 7-14
From John Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
Jesus is not offering some lesson in courtly etiquette. He is talking about the real problem of ego-enhancement – self-promotion. Both the guests and host – and us? – have this problem. Elite house parties, in Jesus’ time or in our own, are honored by the best and brightest who attend. But besides this, Jesus is also speaking to people who want to ‘test’ him – even trap him. He is talking to them in the only language they understand, the logic of self-enhancement. He wants them to see that even on their own terms their tactics are self-defeating.
From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
In Jesus’ times, meals were very powerful means of communication. They affirmed a person’s role and status in a given community. Luke tells us that Jesus is invited by a leading Pharisee – but also that he is watched closely by the host and his guests. The word that is used for watching implies a very hostile observation. Their apparently honorable invitation may not have been quite so honorable. Jesus responds to this hostility with a story, a parable. Jesus is using their logic to turn their world upside down. Accepting an invitation to dinner came with obligation. Reciprocity was expected. Jesus’ advice to his host was shocking, and perhaps quite insulting and rude.
(A guest was never to tell a host how to be a host!) But Jesus wants to shock them and us into realizing that only God can confer ‘true’ honor. In Jesus we find a God who will personally reward the host who has been gracious to those unable to return such graciousness. Pharisees believed in Resurrection. Having set a trap for Jesus, they find themselves trapped — and their world rather topsy-turvy.
From Joan Chittister’s, Illuminated Life (p. 56): “I am not everything I could be. I am not even the fullness of myself, let alone a pinnacle for which my family, my friends, my world, the universe should strive. I am only me. I am weak often, struggling always, arrogant sometimes, hiding from myself most of the time, and always in some kind of need. I cover my limitations with flourish, of course, but down deep, where the soul is forced to confront itself, I know who I really am and what, on the other hand, however fine the image, I really am not. Then the Rule of Benedict says, we are ready for union with God.”
1st Reading: Isaiah 66:18-21
From The Word into Life, p. 96: This first reading is taken from that part of the Book of Isaiah called Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66), which was composed by an unknown prophet (or prophets) around 500BC (and possibly later). It proclaims a message of exceptional universalism – the God of Israel loves everyone. First the Gentiles will actually serve as Yahweh’s missionaries; they’ll proclaim Yahweh’s glory in remote regions of Spain, Africa, Greece, and Asia Minor. In the process, “they shall bring all your kindred from all the nations” – those exiled Israelites who have lost hope and those who have forgotten their God – “to my holy mountain.” And some will be called to enter the elite ranks of the priests and to become Levites, or assistants, to the priests. This is indeed a world without prejudice or bias. In what ways do you experience a feeling of unity, of being one with others, in your family, in your work place, in your neighborhoods, in the Church?
2nd Reading; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
From Word & Worship, p. 454-455: The discipline spoken of in the text probably referred to prejudices and persecution experienced at the hands of their friends and non-Christian neighbors. Imagine what that must have been like…being teased for your faith, or worse…feeling like an outsider in your own hometown. Even today, as Catholics, we worry about the fate of our Church and why there are dwindling numbers. Wherever and whenever the church suffers in any way, whether that is through serious persecution, dwindling numbers, or apathy, we are to view it as discipline. We are disciplined as a church. This discipline is a sign of God’s love of the church. One cannot help but recall St. Theresa’s complaint: “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few.”). What obstacles do you find in practicing your faith? How are these obstacles like discipline?
The theology of Hebrews asserts that suffering is to be seen as necessary for growth, not punishment for wrongdoing. Consider exercising, or writing a paper. It is hard work, but good work! Harold Kushner in When Bad Things Happen to Good People says, “Let me suggest that the bad things that happen to us in our lives do not have a meaning when they happen to us. They do not happen for any good reason, which would cause us to accept them willingly. But we can give them a meaning. The question we should be asking is not, ‘Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?’ That is really an unanswerable, pointless question. A better question would be, ‘Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?’ ( p. 136).
Gospel: Luke 13:22-30
From Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p. 188-189. “Keep on striving to enter…” the word striving is the root word for the English word agony. We must never be complacent; our struggle to follow Jesus is part of an intense encounter. There is no finality for the Christian; no resting on one’s self-righteous laurels. A Christian way is like climbing up a mountain towards a peak which will never be reached in this world…
We cannot live on borrowed goodness – or on who we know, not even if it is ‘rubbing elbows with Jesus.’ Jesus does not want casual acquaintances; he wants disciples. Think about your own friends and how some are closer than others. Sometimes it is hard when you want to be closer to someone than you are, but maybe the other doesn’t want that. Or even people you may always just say hi to but you still don’t remember what their names are! Jesus wants us to strive to be closer than close to him. He always knows our name and knows us intimately. We must respond to his offer.
From St. Anselm, “Thoughts from the Early Church, “ http://liturgy.slu.edu: The kingdom of heaven is God’s gift to us – but he will not give it to anyone who lacks love. Love is the only thing asked for – without it he cannot give it. Love God and other people as you should and then you will deserve what you desire. But you cannot have this love unless you empty your heart of other loves: riches, power, pleasure, honor, and praise. Hate locks doors; only love can open them…
From Hungry, and You Fed Me, p. 215: “Jesus doesn’t seem to have much patience with the question [of who will be saved]…it’s as if Jesus is saying, ‘Just aim for the narrow gate. Assume that you’re all outsiders and try the best that you can. Don’t try to assess who is in and who is out. Don’t even waste your time on all that because you’re not going to be able to figure it out. The last will be first and the first will be last.’ What if we really led our lives in this manner? What if we met each person and had no preconceived notions about who they were, but listened to their stories and understood their human messiness? What if we had a bit of humility and assumed the position of outcasts who are just trying the best that we can?…if we set aside all of the ways in which we determine who is in and who is out, if we begin to relate to one another as mysteries…we would have a very different sort of faith.”
1st Reading – The Book of Wisdom 18: 6-9
The Book of Wisdom, written in the century before the birth of Jesus and in Alexandria (one of the great centers of learning in the ancient world), aimed to strengthen the faith of the Jewish community living in the diaspora. The diaspora were communities outside of the Holy Land through Asia Minor where the Jewish people were more influenced by Hellenistic culture. They seemed to be more progressive and were very important to the early church. In this reading, the author reflects on God’s abiding presence and constant saving action among the people. There is an attitude of watchful readiness, which we will see in the Gospel reading too (Foundations in Faith, p. 176).
With faith comes courage. We have a God that will never disappoint, that will never leave us. We must rely on God like “holy children of the good”. How does that image speak to you? God summons (arouses, beckons, gathers, rallies) us…for God’s glory. How do you find this true in your life?
2nd Reading – Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19
The 11th chapter of this letter is sometimes called ‘the roll call of the heroes of faith.’ Yet, these great figures of salvation history are brought forth, not for their heroism, but for their ‘faith’ which is here closely linked with hope. Faith is taking God at his word when he promises his love and help for the now and for the future. These Old Testament people became examples to early Christians (and to us) for the New Israel – the new wandering people of God – called into God’s kingdom – now and into the future. We are all called to imitate Abraham who “went out, not knowing where he was to go.” He lived trusting himself and his family to God’s promises and love. (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu )
The Gospel – Luke 12: 32-48
This gospel is not about an ending…but a beginning. Be prepared…for something wonderful. Be prepared…for God to come into your life. Be prepared…to open the door to Christ, let him in, and to serve him. Are we ready for whatever God wants us to do with our lives? Are we looking for Him, anticipating Him? Are we ready to give Him what He wants and needs – our time, our talent, even, perhaps, our lives? (Hungry, and You Fed Me, p. 206)
“Gird your loins.” The long flowing robes of the east were a hindrance to work; and when a man prepared to work he gathered up his robes under his girdle to leave himself free for activity. We would like God to find us with our work completed. Life for so many of us is filled with loose ends…the things put off and the things not even attempted. Keats wrote,
“When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain.”
There is nothing so fatal as to feel that we have plenty of time (Barclay’s The Gospel of Luke, p. 171-172). What will you do with your time? It matters!