Monthly Archives: September, 2019

Commentary on 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

The 1st Reading — Amos 6: 1, 4-7

Amos is continuing to lament and grow weary of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  The rich are basking in the glow of their wealth, even drinking wine out of bowls!  Scholars think the reference to David is trying to be ironic.  Unlike David who used his musical talents for praising God, the wealthy of Israel were dabbling in the art simply for their own entertainment and enjoyment.  The prophecy of the rich going into exile first does occur.  In 722BC Assyria attacks the northern Kingdom (Celebration, Sept. 1998).  Their complacency did not benefit them in the end.  What happens when we become complacent and take for granted what we have?

Contrast this image with St. Teresa of Calcutta. In a general letter she wrote to her sisters in July 1961:

My dear children, without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption.  Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death…Only by being one with us He has redeemed us.  We are allowed to do the same:  All the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it.  Pray thus when you find it hard – “I wish to live in this world which is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them – to take upon me something of their suffering.”  Yes, my dear children – let us share the sufferings – of our Poor – for only by being one with them – we can redeem them, that is, bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God.

The 2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 6: 11-16

This passage tells us clearly how and what we are to be. It is an exhortation not just for Timothy, but for every baptized person. We all need to take these words to heart. It should help us realize that our faith is a living relationship of love – with God and with others(Celebration, Sept. 2001).

What wisdom do you find in this passage?  What do you make of the writer saying we should, “Compete well for the faith,”?

Paul bases his moral motivation on belief in eternal life.  Upright conduct springs from a belief in life which will not end, (R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 639).  Go back and look at the passage and think about what that means.  We often reverse this.  We “try to be good in order to go to heaven”.  Paul is telling us to remember that we are called to heaven, and that knowledge helps us be good.  This is a profound shift!

The Gospel — Luke 16: 19 – 31

This gospel reading is challenging us to open our eyes and minds and hearts to those around us. Let not our possessions and comforts blind us and deaden us. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this parable comes when the rich man, suffering now himself, raised his eyes and saw Lazarus. But even then he only saw him as someone who could meet his needs — not as a person in his own right with needs. The rich man has no name (although he is sometimes called Dives, a Latin word for rich); the poor man is given a name and an identity: Lazarus, which means the one God helps or loves. (Celebration, Sept. 2001)

St. John Chrysostom, “Thoughts from the Early Church,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:

Have you thought about why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s arms? Abraham was not only our ‘father-in-faith,’ but he was also known for his hospitality. Abraham did not begrudgingly help strangers; he would sit in his doorway and catch all who passed by – to offer them friendship and food.

He did not know that these strangers would bring the tangible presence of God and new life to him and to his wife as they did (Genesis 18:1 – 8).

From William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 221-222:

The details in this parable are very important. The rich man had great luxury: garments of purple and fine linen.  The word that is used for feasting is one that is used for a glutton who feeds on exotic and costly dishes – everyday. His self-indulgence seemed to give him no time for work while his servants must have slaved to keep him fed. Also, in these days food was eaten with the hands. In very wealthy houses, the hands were cleaned by wiping them on chunks of bread. The bread was then thrown away. These were the ‘crumbs’ that Lazarus longed to be allowed to eat. The rich man was not deliberately cruel; nor was he accused of being the reason for Lazarus’ poverty. His sin is his blindnesshis lack of even noticing another’s need. That lack of human concern for anyone outside of himself was a great chasm that separated him from love, life.

From Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke, 169-170:

Hades (netherworld)  is the abode of the dead. It does not necessarily coincide with our term of hell. In this story there is a big chasm separating those who respond to and with God’s love and those who do not. The ‘hell side’ is the state of being where you don’t love – where you find yourself cut off and where non-life is chosen. This parable is not suppose to convince us that God’s justice is served by physically punishing people: God’s justice cannot be served by “burning people’s behinds.” The story is suppose to open us to the true way of life – to listening to God’s Word and letting it guide our life and our choices. We are to choose life – love – sharing – communion. We need to choose the good because it is good – it leads to life. Such choice leads to dignity and goodness. There is, as Abraham says in the story, a ‘great chasm’ between heaven and hell – between fear and faith, between death and life. This story was meant to help us overcome the chasm – not to deepen it.

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Two Seats

Fr. Bob’s homily from the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

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22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time C

Today I want to talk about two seats.  One is the one you are sitting in.  Jesus suggests that you could be called up to the more prominent place, and perhaps it is out of humility that the front row is always open.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that if I did invite you up here, I would not have that many takers.

Then again, you may already know that you are in a place of honor for you have taken a seat at the table of the Lord.  Right now, you are like an apostle at the Last Supper.  Jesus has desired to share with you his greatest gift.  As the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness.”  No, we are invited to, “Mount Zion and…

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Sinners welcomed

Fr. Bob’s homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

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24th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

The Pharisees really ticked off Jesus.  They made one simple statement.  “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  It is a true statement as we have just heard from Luke, “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus.” It is a loaded statement, but a true one.  But it clearly strikes a nerve in Jesus.  He responds with three parables, a cascading response that does not defend himself from the charge, but explains why he has chosen this path.

First in the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus shows us a divine response.  “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?”  God is not happy with a 99% retention rate.  God rescues the lost, not…

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Love like Christ

Fr. Bob’s homily from 9-8-2019

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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” This is no one’s favorite Gospel passage. No one has this quote on an inspirational poster in their bedroom. No one has ever chosen this for the Gospel at their wedding. (That would be awkward.) And we should be clear that Jesus does not want us to hate our family. If I am sure of anything, I am sure that Jesus loved his mother.
Yet, when we hear such jarring and harsh language, it is so that everyone gets the point. Jesus wants to be first in our lives. He wants to be the very center of our lives. It is not that he is jealous of others we love, but he knows for us to reach…

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Commentary on the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Amos 8: 4-7

Amos was a native of the village of Tekoa located 6 miles south of Bethlehem on the edge of the Judean wilderness. He made his living as a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees. What is translated as sycamore is probably a type of mulberry that produced a type of fig-like fruit. They had to be punctured or pinched at exactly the right moment in its growth cycle so as to release the insects that infested it. Insect-free fruit would then grow to ripeness so that the poor, for whom the fruit provided some meager sustenance, could gather it up and be fed. Although Amos thought he was not suitable to be the prophet God called him to be, perhaps his job with these trees had actually prepared him well to pinch and puncture the greed and dishonesty that infested the hearts of some of the rich at that time. The greedy rich did not even like the Sabbath rest, for it kept them from their unscrupulous business practices. These heartless and disreputable merchants actually sold the poor into lives of slavery because of their greed. Amos understood the lives of the poor; he spoke out vehemently with condemnation toward those whose greed continued to force the poor into more and more difficulties. We need to allow Amos’ words to pinch and puncture us so we too are open to God’s ways of love and truth, not selfish greed. God still hears the cry of the poor; he is not fooled by superficial piety. (Celebration, Sept. 2001 and Exploring the Sunday Readings, Sept. 1998)

According to a quick Google search, an ephah is about a bushel, and a shekel is worth about $.28.

There is a sense that nothing is hidden from the Lord.  All of our actions are noticed and have meaning.  Sometimes we don’t even give thought to how our actions have impact on others, such as the food or clothing we buy from a company that doesn’t practice fair wages.  In what ways can you be more mindful of your actions?

2nd Reading — 1 Timothy 2: 1-8

Some in this community were succumbing to Gnosticism, and so the letter is countering that.  Gnosis is Greek for knowledge.  Gnostics thought they possessed special, mystical knowledge that they received because they were an elite group.  They believed all matter is evil, so our bodies are evil and our spirits must escape them.  In order to be liberated from our bodies, a spiritual messenger must come and awaken us from our sleep.  This messenger brings gnosis.  For Christian Gnostics, that messenger was Jesus.  But because they believed bodies were evil, they rejected the idea that Christ had a body like ours  (appeared to be human but not).  So there were theories about Jesus’ birth, incarnation and resurrection that threatened Christian doctrine  (Gonzalez, JL, The Story of Christianity Vol I, pgs 58-61).  In this letter to Timothy, “Paul” writes how EVERYONE is to be saved, there is ONE mediator and he is a ransom for ALL.  What do you make of this in our world today?

The Gospel – Luke 16: 1-13

This whole section is tied together by the theme of wealth and the danger it poses for discipleship. Luke is always very concerned about this problem.  Don’t you wonder why Jesus advises that we should make friends with dishonest wealth?

Jesus’ audience (and Luke’s) would have expected the steward to be jailed immediately.  When this didn’t happen in the parable, their imagination was captured.  The underdog seems to be getting the better of the person in power!  In actuality, the master is a man of mercy.  The steward knew that, since he wasn’t jailed, and decided to capitalize on that.  When he lowered the renters’ ransom notes (connect this ransom with the one in the previous reading!), the renters believed it was with the master’s approval and so he is a hero.  It would look bad if the master changed this.  The steward hoped that even if the master did not reinstate him, he would be welcomed and employed by others in the community.  The steward relies heavily on the fact that the master is generous and merciful.  God is the master, and we are God’s stewards.  We are completely dependent on God for life itself.  Only God can save  (Birmingham, M, Word and Worship, p. 481).

As disciples, we need prudent decisiveness. We must take our identity so seriously that it defines how we live. We are not going to live in this world forever. We or our profits are not the source and security of our lives; God is. We had better take God’s priorities seriously. We need to realize that all our choices in daily living are actually choices for eternal life. And, our Christian way of living – our Paschal Mystery living – isn’t simply a matter of surrendering to the self-sacrificing possibilities that come our way in the normal course of living. We must be clever and smart about searching out such opportunities to live Jesus’ proactive way of love. This passage in Luke’s gospel is really challenging us with the question: How smart are you? We need to know who and what we are. We need to face our gifts and shortcomings honestly. It does not do ourselves or anyone else any good to live in fantasy. We need to face our abilities and the real situation with clarity. Such realism is an asset in many a crises. It enables us to come up with real solutions to the problems. It is only practical, real-life wisdom that brings true insight.  (Pheme Perkins, Hearing the Parables of Jesus, 165-171, & Living Liturgy, Cycle C, 2004)

Being double-minded is not having a singleness of purpose.  It is as if we are at war with ourselves.  We cannot serve two masters, as the Gospel says.  Soren Kierkegaard reflected on this idea.  He said, “If it is possible that a [wo]man can will only one thing then he must will the good.  For as the Good is only a single thing, so all ways lead to the Good, even the false ones – when the repentant one follows the same way back…let your heart in truth will only one thing, for therein is the heart’s purity,” (From his essay on “Purity of Heart Edifying Discourses in Various Spirits” in A Kierkegaard Anthology, p. 271-272).  For Kierkegaard, even when we choose wrong, we can follow our way back to the good.  This is singularity of thought.  This is living authentically.  It is behaving as true to ourselves as we are able.  Can you recall a time when you were divided in either making a decision or applying your time?  How could this Gospel message and commentary help?

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading – Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14

In this story we find Moses foreshadowing the role of Jesus as a mediator before God on our behalf. Jesus like Moses prays on the cross: “Father, forgive them.” Here is a God who is willing to forgive even though his anger is great at the evil that has been done. And, of course, we believe that Jesus shows us the fullness of the real God – the visible image of the invisible God.  (Reginald Fuller, “ Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

This event is an example of how religions can confuse the voice of the people with the voice of God.  Any religion has the capacity to produce a “calf” to meet the needs of the people who are in opposition to the will of God.  Need does not create religion.  Although Aaron had ordered the making of the calf in a dubious effort to salvage the faith of his people, all that resulted was a compromise that threatened the integrity of their relationship with God,  (Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 472).  How often do we place our needs in the way of God’s will?  Maybe more often than we think.  Yet our God listens to us.  Moses intercedes for his people, and God hears. Compare this dubious effort with the effort of the prodigal son in the Gospel we will soon hear.

Notice too how God tells Moses they are “your people”, like an angry mother telling a father what happened with the children while he was away at work.  Does the angry mother’s love ever diminish for her children?  She is there for them anyway and loves them completely, no matter what they do.  How much more God is.

2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 1: 12-17

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  What does this personally mean to you?

The Pauline authorship of this letter and the rest of the so-called pastoral letters (2 Timothy, Titus) have been disputed since the 19th century. Regardless, the letter is emphasizing that Saul-Paul was like the elder brother of the gospel story who had been desirous of punishing the ‘brothers’ he deemed to be unfaithful and heretical. By the glorious grace of the God he found in the Risen Christ, he recognized the error of his ways. He began knowing God in an entirely new way, a way that leads to new life, not judgment and death.  (Celebration, Sept. 2001)

How does this passage lead us into the parables of lost sheep, lost coin, lost son?

“There is something good in the worst of us and something bad in the best of us.” We may not be Paul, a former blasphemer and ‘thug’ – we may not be worshipping molten calves in a frenzy – but we can all be overwhelmingly grateful for the merciful love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  Repentance is always the start of good news.  (Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

The Gospel – Luke 15: 1-32

Here is the whole chapter from Luke on the ‘lost and found’. It is sometimes called ‘the gospel within the gospel’ because it so profoundly shows us the essence of the good news we find in Christ Jesus.  What do find good in these parables? What do you find challenging?

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

This parable reveals the dying and rising of the paschal mystery at work.  The prodigal son is brought to repentance because he is in dire need; he is “dying from hunger.” There is nothing he does to deserve the father’s response except return. Yet, his decision to repent (turn from death) is met with warm, welcoming love and feasting – at least from the father. For all of us, the invitation to repent is always there – to turn from dying-ways to new life and feasting.  What can bring us – and the elder son – to the feasting?

Notice also, that sin is ‘going away to a distant land’ – it is about losing who and where we are called to be. Repentance is about ‘coming back to our senses.’  Sin is an alienation from ourselves, like the son who no longer deserves to be called his father’s son.  Sin affects our relationships – with the father – and with others (the elder son). But in the father, we find a love that bridges the gap.

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

In this culture fathers were greatly discouraged from distributing inheritance before their death. The younger son acts very shamefully by effectively wishing his father dead. The elder son is no better. He makes no effort to reconcile his father and brother as the culture demanded. When he ‘comes back to himself’ and repents, the younger son is willing to become a servant and take the rejection and physical abuse that the village will heap on him for his shameful behavior. In this, he does show some measure of honor. But then the father acts totally out of cultural character. He runs (very inappropriate for an elder) the gauntlet the village has prepared for the wayward son. He publicly forgives the son by kissing him, giving him the best robe (which certainly would be the father’s), putting a ring on his finger (a sign of trust), and sandals on his feet (a sign of a free man not a slave). Killing the fatted calf means that the whole village will be invited to come and accept this son and celebrate. (This size calf could feed 100 people.) And then, what does the elder son do? Instead of honoring his father’s wishes, he publicly insults and humiliates his father. Yet, the father also goes out to him (another shameful thing for the father to do). The parable ends here with the father pleading with his son . . . what did the elder son do? What would you do?

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading – Wisdom 9: 13-18b

From Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 465:  It was a popularly held belief that this book was written by Solomon, but scholarship maintains that it was written long after his reign by an anonymous writer.  The most we can ascertain is that the writer was a learned Greek-speaking Jew and probably a teacher.  He was familiar with Hellenistic philosophy, rhetoric and culture.  A burning issue of those times was how is it that the just suffer and the wicked prosper?  Skepticism and individualism were rampant.

Sound familiar?  It is so hard to discern God’s will for us.  There are no billboards.  We wrestle with what we think is right for us vs. what God may think is right for us.  We also wrestle when bad things happen, and we try to wrap our minds around how that can be.  In the end, the Holy Spirit imparts wisdom to us when we allow Spirit in.  Margaret Silf from Inner Compass (p. 92) says, “God’s will – his desire for me – and my own deepest desire (when I am really living true) are one and the same thing!”  Yet we are so burdened by our “earthen shelter”.  How does this reading speak to you in where you are in your life right now?   We ARE body and soul, so we must make our decisions with our whole self…do you have a process that helps you make decisions in a “whole” way?

Some thoughts on discernment you may find helpful:  Spiritual consolation is any affective movement or state that draws us to God or that helps us to be less centered upon ourselves and to open out to others in generosity, service and love.  Spiritual desolation is just the opposite.  It is any affective movement that draws us away from God an things which have to do with God, and to lead us to be self-centered, closed in and unconcerned about God or other people.  The process of Discernment of Spirits is looking at and sifting our present and past experiences, taking note especially of events, people and situations that are associated with or evoke the moods and feelings of consolation and desolation.  The crucial issue in interpreting and evaluating our feelings in discernment is not so much where the movement or feeling is coming from nor even what exactly the feeling is (joy, guilt, anger, etc) but rather the direction in which the feelings are leading – toward God and one another or away from God and one another.  (From Ears to See, Ears to Hear:  An Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality, David Lonsdale)

2nd Reading – Philemon 9b-10, 12-17

This is the only personal letter of Paul that has survived. Onesimus was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon, a Christian of Colossae. He had joined Paul in prison and under Paul’s influence Onesimus became Christian. Paul is sending him back as “no longer a slave but a brother.” Paul does not abolish slavery, it is true. That would have been impossible in the ancient world. But, rather,  Paul transforms the relationship between master and slave with faith in Christ Jesus.  (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu/23OrdC090510 )

In a way, Paul is asking Philemon to forego his legal rights, ownership and cultural understandings in favor of God’s way of wisdom and love. Right in the middle of this Sunday’s readings, this passage is a powerful example of what the 1st Reading is saying and what Jesus will be asking of us in the Gospel.

What understandings do you have to overcome in order to truly be Jesus’ disciple?  Do you have a friend with whom you can share your heart like Paul and Onesimus?

The Gospel – Luke 14: 25-33

This gospel consists of a string of sayings on the cost of discipleship, followed by two parables to help illustrate what Jesus meant. “Hate’ is a very harsh word. Exaggeration was a common technique for preachers in Jesus’ day; in an oral culture one had to make important points with strength. The original Aramaic (Jesus’ language) might have meant simply to “love less than.” But no matter the translation, the meaning is clear: following Jesus means the surrender of the whole of one’s life. (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu/23OrdC090510How does this challenging gospel speak to you? Why not talk it over with Jesus?

Jesus speaks of preparing ourselves for following him.  We must let go of our attachments.  We must make the commitment.  We must move forward.  All of this is part of the discernment process too.  In making decisions in life, are you moving toward God or away from God?  Is this choice life-giving, even if it’s hard?  Are you willing to see it all the way through?  Does it help others?  Does it make you feel thankful, loving and open to serve?  God wants what is our deepest desire.  We are all called to be the most of who we are…what is that for you?

St. Oscar Romero said, “We should not wonder that a church has a lot of cross to bear.  Otherwise, it will not have a lot of resurrection.  An accommodating church, a church that seeks prestige without the pain of the cross, is not the authentic church of Jesus Christ,” (2/19/1978).  He also said, “A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what gospel is that?  Very nice, pious considerations that don’t bother anyone, that’s the way many would like preaching to be.  Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties, do not light up the world they live in.  They don’t have Peter’s courage, who told that crowd where the bloodstained hands still were that had killed Christ:  ‘You killed him!’  (Acts 2:  23).  Even though the charge could cost him his life as well, he made it.  The gospel is courageous; it’s the good news of him who came to take away the world’s sins,” (4/16/1978).