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?
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 event, 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 felling 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 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/23OrdC090510 )
How 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?
There is a poem on a wall in the children’s home started by Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Mother Teresa will be canonized as a saint this Sunday.
Never Give Up!
Discipleship is an unusual undertaking;
The better you become at it,
the more difficult and challenging it will be.
Be a disciple anyway; never give up!
The people you are called to serve may be unlikable,
ungrateful and unimpressed by your dedication.
Love and serve them anyway; never give up!
If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway; never give up!
The good you do for Christ will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway; never give up!
Honesty, humility and simplicity may make you vulnerable.
Be honest, humble and simple anyway, never give up!
What you spend years building may seem
insignificant in the eyes of others.
Build anyway; never give up!
People really need help but may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway; never give up!
Give the world the best you have
and you may get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world your best anyway; never give up!
(From Celebration, September, 2001)
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!
1st Reading – Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
From http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html: This is the only time that we read from this book at a Sunday liturgy, although we often hear from it at funerals: “For everything there is a season . . . “ (3:1). Qoheleth seems to be a collective name rather than a single person, a community’s voice expressing its wisdom. Vanity for the writer is more like mist or smoke rather than the falseness of glamor. The voice of the people is wondering about what life is really all about. Do you ever have moments when you wonder too? The basic message is the old one of, “You can’t take it with you.” Instead of the meaning of the word “vanity” concerning superfluous clothes and cosmetics, I offer the word, “fragile” or “symbolic”. Everything is sacramental, that is leading beyond itself. The theme here is that what is, is, and will not be, very soon. This text is not meant to be a bucket of cold water, but a reflection upon the shortness of life’s span and even more deeply, a pointing to the possibility of a life beyond the fragile.
In growing up, I remember going to my mother a lot and saying, “That’s not fair!” She would always reply, “Well, life isn’t fair!” I never liked it when she said that, because there is no arguing with it. It’s true, as much as we all wish it wasn’t. Sometimes we work hard and things still don’t work out. Sometimes we do nothing and everything is grand. That is how life goes. Qoheleth is saying get past this. Treasure the love. Treasure the good.
2nd Reading – Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11
From Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
The dying that Colossians is referring to is the ‘dying’ of baptism. Once baptized we are to begin living ‘a new life’ – a life that is transformed already by the resurrection of Christ. Thinking of “what is above” is not some neo-Platonic escape from this present world – but a qualitatively transcendent way to life within the world. Our relation to God is not a ‘religious’ relationship to a Being that is up there and out there – rather our relation to God is a new life in ‘existence for others through participation in the being of Jesus (the Body of Christ) – the ‘man for others’ – the crucified/resurrected one (taken from thoughts from D. Bonhoeffer).
“Your life is hidden in Christ” and “When Christ your life appears”…what do you make of this? We are not branded that we are Christian. By looking at us, no one knows that we are followers of Christ. But we hold this truth in our hearts. Our belief may be hidden from view, but our actions will show it. It is through our actions that we become the hands and feet of Christ. So we are to turn away from that which keeps us from being more like Christ. A lifetime job! Paul says we need to put them to death, which is such strong language. What do you think?
The Gospel – Luke 12:13 – 21
How does this Gospel parable relate to the other readings we just heard?
Isn’t it interesting that right from the get-go, Jesus says he is not a judge? What does that say about Jesus? About how you relate to Jesus? It was not uncommon for people in Palestine to take their unsettled disputes to respected Rabbis; but Jesus refused to be mixed up in anyone’s disputes about money. But out of that request there came to Jesus an opportunity to lay down what His followers’ attitude to material things should be, those with abundance and those who had none (Barclay’s Daily Study Bible series on Luke, p. 167).
Basil the Great (330-379) says of this story:
“But what do we find in this man? A bitter disposition – an unwillingness to give. He forgot that we all share the same nature. With all his wealth, he laments like the poor: what am I to do? If you have wealth, recognize who has given you the gifts you have . . . you are the servant of the good God, a steward on behalf of other fellow servants. Do not imagine that everything has been provided for your own stomach.” How different the story would be if this man had thought: I will enjoy what I have by sharing it. I will issue the generous invitation: Let anyone who lacks bread, come to me. We will share in the good things just as though we were drawing from a common well. (“Thoughts from the Early Church”, http://liturgy.slu.edu )
Living Liturgy, 2004, p.187:
All of these readings challenge us to a deeper surrender to the paschal mystery. Our ideal stands before us – the person of Christ. The word reminds us that we are the body of Christ and our mission is to heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and forgive those who injure us. We are called to say yes to the ideal. This ideal is not a set of directives but a living, breathing relationship to a Person who is calling us to die to self and live a life that is eternal.
Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke, p. 153-155:
Jesus’ message in today’s reading is: “Live now what matters in eternity.” Live on earth what’s happening in heaven. What would really matter to you if you knew you were to die tomorrow? To whom would you go with the words, “I’m sorry,” or “I love you,” or “I forgive you”? It is important to live what is truly important. It is a call to faith. Such faith is the opposite of anxiety. If we do not believe that God is for us, then we must be self-occupied. As soon as we stop believing in a loving God, we revert to ourselves. Jesus and his good news free us from groveling before God or trying to earn or manipulate God’s approval. We all have that approval already. We just need to live it – and share it.
1st Reading – Isaiah 66: 10-14c
From “Working with the Word,” www.liturgy.slu.edu :
This is from the last chapter of the Book of Isaiah. It is written after the Exile when Jerusalem was being rebuilt. This book is in many ways a story of Jerusalem. At times Jerusalem has been a place of unspeakable sin and injustice (for example, 1:21-26; 3: 8-12; 5: 7). Yet, Jerusalem (Zion) also stands for the very center (the “mountain’ – the heights) of the Lord’s glorious sovereignty and rule (2:1-4; 24:23; 27:13; 52: 1-2; 60:14). Even though Jerusalem often fails to live up to the grace that the Lord showers on her, she is still the place the Lord has chosen for divine dwelling. The term ‘Kingdom of God’ that Jesus uses captures many of these aspects of the ideal Jerusalem. This passage uses images that earlier in the book have been used for destruction. The “overflowing torrent” had been the relentless army of Assyria which had ‘punished’ and defeated them (8:7-8; 28:2, 15, 18). Now it is a “torrent” of wealth and prosperity from God: shalom. Before, grass had been an image of what was impermanent and worthless (5:24; 15:6; 30:33; 40:8), but now the flourishing grass is an image of growth, health, and vitality for God’s people. When have you felt such comfort from God?
2nd Reading – Galatians 6: 14-18 (Paul’s closing remarks to this letter)
From John Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged,” www.liturgy.slu.edu :
In the first reading, God’s love was imaged as a mother’s love, a tender, nursing mother. But Paul shows us just how ‘tough’ a love this is. The cross of Christ reveals God’s undying bond of love with us. Because of this cross, Paul is utterly rooted in trust, the blessed assurance in a God who bears and nourishes us, who wants only our life and flourishing, who would die for love of us. If, with Paul, we truly believe this truth of God’s love, we will find peace and mercy. Paul bore the marks of Jesus on his body: he had scars from his sufferings for the gospel’s sake. But he had gained a peace that was beyond understanding – a peace that let him live a life ‘in Christ’ – in the freedom that last week’s reading had declared was for all who are in Christ Jesus.
From Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” www.liturgy.slu.edu :
Paul ‘glories’ not in the circumcision or any other religious ritual: he glories in the cross. For it is at the cross that we can be transformed, recreated into children of God, trusting and knowing a love that is there to heal and give life, even in the midst of hardship and troubles. The marks of his apostolic sufferings are evidence of his faith in that love. With that faith, nothing can really bother Paul – or us if we learn to let such a faith grow in us.
There is a balance between living a life detached and living life fully immersed in love. Detachment is approaching life freely. You are okay with however things work out. This is hard because we want our own way! And culture encourages decision-making or choosing sides. It is also hard because we love. We want things to work out well for those we love and we cling to what we achieve. But God is here to help us with this balance. This is why Paul says no one will make trouble for him again, because he bears the marks of Christ. It is through Christ that we receive consolation. Can you think of a time when you detached from something, trusted in the Lord and it worked out?
The Gospel – Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20
Only Luke uses this story of Jesus sending out 72 (or 70) to go ‘ahead of him in pairs.” What do you make of this gospel story as Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem? Do you think any of the appointed were women?
From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” www.liturgy.slu.edu
In Jesus’ culture, goodness to a family member was considered ‘steadfast love.’ Hospitality was something given to strangers, usually by males. Travel was a very dangerous activity. Death was a constant threat once a person left their family village. Jesus is perhaps just uttering a cultural truism when he says that “I am sending you as lambs into the midst of wolves” – strangers among nonrelatives. Thus, hospitality was of vital importance in this culture. Jesus warns them to accept gratefully any hospitality that is offered, but to leave even the dust behind if they are rejected. They were not to be weighed down with disappointment. Remember also that the people at this time ‘saw’ demons everywhere. Today we might not personify evil in the same way. But evil is just as real. And, Jesus can still help us overcome it.
From William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 137-138:
When Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven,” it is a difficult phrase to understand. It may mean that he saw evil being overcome by their proclaiming God’s kingdom. But it could also be a warning against pride. The legend was that it was pride that caused Satan to rebel against God; it was Satan’s pride that cast him out of heaven. Jesus may be telling them to be careful of the same pride and overconfidence. They had been given great power, but it was a gift. Our greatest glory is not what we can do, but what God has done for us – ‘our names written in heaven’ – sinners who are saved by God’s free gift of grace.
From Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke, 137-142:
Luke’s Jesus sends the disciples out in two’s. By doing so, Luke is telling us that the gospel happens between people – it doesn’t happen in your mind. It is through a sacrificial love – being in right relationship with at least with one other person (the only real ‘test’ of God’s Spirit being present). Only then do we begin to understand ‘salvation.’ Salvation is not antiseptic, unreal and sterile. “Person-to-person is the way the gospel was originally communicated. Person-in-love-with-person, person-respecting-person, person-forgiving-person, person-crying-with-person, person-hugging-person: that’s where the Spirit is so beautifully present . . . Restraint and passion – that is the paradoxical experience of the Holy.” We grow into our ability “to love another in a way that totally gives” ourselves and entrusts ourselves to another while respecting the other person and standing back in honor of them. Jesus is also trying to console them even as he is ‘toughening them up’ for the job. He warns them not to feel defeated when rejected. If they do not accept your peace, it will return to you. If they accept you, then let your presence as another Christ bring God’s goodness to them.
1st Reading – Zechariah 12: 10-11
This Old Testament book was probably written by two, maybe even three, different anonymous authors, with this portion being written after the Babylonian exile.
Through suffering, the people would come to know what it means to truly repent and thus the covenant with God restored. How does suffering help purify us? The early Christians, of course, saw Jesus in these words, as we do today. He is the pierced one that we must look upon and mourn. Then a fountain of grace will cleanse us of sin. And that is the central meaning of the passage. When we really grasp the love of God poured out in and through the ‘pierced one,’ we will experience an outpouring of the Spirit and a change of heart. With mourning and grief we will turn away from our self-centered sins and open to the love of God present in the crucified one. (Celebration, June 1998)
It is interesting that grace proceeds the mourning. How else are we to carry our burdens but through God’s grace? It is only through God’s grace that death and destruction do not have the final answer. In God there is hope. What better goodness to hear with all that is in the news lately?
2nd Reading – Galatians 3: 26-29
Baptism is the sacrament in which we are immersed in Christ — in the One who shows us the overflowing love of God and the dying and rising that this love entails. We are one-in-Christ only in this truth. Only when we immerse ourselves in God’s love and acceptance (justification) are we able to overcome and transcend such very real differences. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
Paul says we are all children of God…co-heirs…not alone but one body in Christ. In fact, we are to “put on” Christ in our oneness. By linking us all back to Abraham, he is saying the Israelites are not the only chosen people of God. We are all chosen. How does it feel to know you are chosen by God?
Paul was not concerned with hierarchical leadership as much as he was with the house churches acting “as a body”. Leaders were to admonish, but so was everyone. Prophets were to build up, but so was everyone. Paul’s notion of church leadership included the concepts of reciprocity, collegiality, and collaborative ministry. The one in charge would carry out the wishes as servant of the “body” (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 403). How is this reflected in our church today?
The Gospel – Luke 9: 18-24
The next 10 chapters of Luke are about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. They are particular to Luke. The other evangelists do not give such an exhaustive rendering of the journey. Luke intended to show that Jesus’ journey mirrors the journey of every Christian (Birmingham, W&W, p. 404). It gives us the picture that the disciples really were On The Way. There is continual movement for them…constantly busy…yet they are focused on Christ and are fed in the midst of it. Do you relate to this?
From Celebration, June 1998:
Peter’s response that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ of God, was a good answer, but one that hung Judaism’s old messianic hopes on Jesus. This messiah had been long anticipated as a royal descendant of the Davidic dynasty with might and prowess sufficient enough to restore the nation to the prestige and power it had known under David. Jesus had to correct this notion. His mission would not be spent in military maneuvers forcing foes into submission. He had come as one who serves, as one proclaiming God’s kingdom, a kingdom of love. This love would entail self-sacrifice – self-giving — dying to oneself. Only this way of life would lead to transformation, but first it would also lead to suffering. Jesus does not ‘sugar-coat’ this message. We as disciples – who claim to recognize God’s anointing presence in and with Jesus — must follow him: daily picking up our crosses, enduring rejection and suffering and even death so that we might find new life, resurrection. This dying and rising is a daily event, a daily decision, a daily response to our faith in Jesus.
As William Barclay says, Jesus requires that life be spent, not hoarded. We cannot be concerned with what is the safe thing – the bare minimum – the me-first routine. We need to seek the right thing, the generous gift, the what-can-I-do-for-others endeavor. We need to be grace-driven, grace-filled rather than ambition-motivated and power-directed. How do you do this? How does being one body in Christ help us with this?
2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
This is a story of forgiveness, which is what all of the readings seem to be about today. David owned up to his sin. By Israel’s law David could have been put to death for his actions, but he was spared. Justice would be realized through David’s offspring (there was a Jewish understanding that offspring would bear the guilt of their parents). David would be judged and his act of violence would be reciprocated. David’s child by Bathsheba would die. Other children of David would later die by the sword as well (Birmingham, M. Word & Worship for Year C, p. 396-397).
Is it enough to say you’re sorry? How often do we see in the news the excuses people make for bad behavior instead of owning up to what they did? There is something about being sorry and making amends. Putting action to the words. There is a reason why a penance is given with absolution for our sin. We must go forth. It is not enough to sit with our sorry. We must be changed by making our whole body go do something about it. How have you seen this in your own life?
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
The epistle to the Galatians is known as Paul’s “angry letter”. These people have aroused his ire in a manner that surpasses anything we find elsewhere. The main issue is that they want to be circumcised! Paul feels by them wanting this that they are deserting God and perverting the gospel of Christ. Is one made right with God by doing works of the law (like circumcision) or by trusting in Christ? (Powell, M., introducing the New Testament, p. 307-308) It’s not that Paul has no use for law; he is only giving perspective. Don’t let it own you. The game changer is Jesus. Follow Him.
Paul’s spirituality is profoundly changed when he met the risen Christ. He reflects on Jesus’ teachings in such a way that he LIVES them. Then he shares that experience with us. He feels such a personal relationship with Jesus that he says Christ lives IN him. Isn’t that profound? Where else do we hear about such a connection in scripture? The apostles were too close to Jesus. They were friends. They couldn’t make that leap yet that Jesus could be incarnated through them. But Paul sees this reality. It is a risk for Paul, right? He is saying it is SO MUCH MORE than about law. It is about BEING. Think of examples in your own life when the ordinary stuff of life (that you thought was important) came at odds with what you believe to be true in your center (where God is).
The Gospel: Luke 7:36 – 8:3
From William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 92-94:
*When a guest entered such a house, three ‘signs of respect’ were always done: a kiss of peace, a washing of feet, and an offering of a drop of rose attar or a pinch of incense. These things were considered just good manners.
*Why would Simon invite Jesus to his house?
- He was an admirer of Jesus. Not every Pharisee was an enemy. This seems unlikely because of the disagreement.
- He could be trying to entice Jesus into saying or doing something that he can charge against him. This also seems unlikely because in verse 40, Simon calls him Rabbi.
- He may have enjoyed celebrities. This would best explain the wavering respect.
*Simon was conscious of no need; the woman was consumed by her need. In Jesus she found her need answered; she had been lost and now she was found. She was overwhelmed with love – and with being loved and accepted. She is not afraid to even unbind her hair (act of gravest modesty) and to cry tears of joy. The one thing that can shut us off from God is self-sufficiency . . . It is true to say that the greatest sin is perhaps to be conscious of no sin. Our need can bring us to open the door of our hearts to God’s forgiveness and love. God is love and love’s greatest glory is to be needed.
From Roland Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, 426-427:
This story is about contrast – the contrast between self-righteousness and true righteousness, which is a loving response to God’s love for us. This woman’s loving deeds are not done to ‘earn’ forgiveness; they are an overwhelming response to first having been forgiven. The forgiveness came before the love.
The last short section of this gospel from chapter 8 may allow us to confuse ‘this sinful woman’ with Mary of Magdala. They are most likely not the same person. Mary Magdalene’s ‘seven devils’ might have been a very serious illness from which Christ cured her. There is no evidence that this referred to sexual sins.
From “Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
While Simon’s wrongdoing might be seen as nothing more than a breach of hospitality, as the story goes on we come to realize that Simon’s real fault was in loving little. Because of his small heart, he is unable to see this woman; he only sees what ‘kind of a woman’ she is. To him she is just part of a class of people with whom he does not wish to associate. Jesus challenges him: “Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’”
It is the smallness of our hearts that reduces people to caricatures; this smallness shuts out others. The love Jesus offers opens our hearts to a whole new world of goodness and possibilities!
1st Reading – Genesis 14: 18 – 20
Melchizedek is mentioned in only three places in scripture: this reading plus Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20-7:22. He is said to be the king of Salem; its name means peace. This place becomes the city of Jerusalem, the center of Israel’s kingdom.
It was customary for a king to be hospitable toward a victorious leader, but there are no ulterior motives here. Instead, there is a beautiful blessing ritual, to which Abram gives thanks. Note that Abram did not take his victory greedily. He only wanted to save his nephew Lot and retrieve the possessions that were taken from him. For the victory and the blessing, he gives thanks to God. How do you give thanks to god for the victories and blessings in your life?
Later Christian writers would evoke this episode in history and consider it a prefigurement of Christ. Jesus would offer the blessing of his life – the effect would be irrevocable and would be the gift of God’s self to the entire world – redemption. (Birmingham, W&W, p. 560-561).
In exchange for the blessing, Abram offers a tenth of everything. In Eucharist, we offer ourselves to Christ just as Christ offered Christself. We are doing as He said to do. What does this mean for you? What do you offer?
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
This is the earliest written account (maybe 53-55 AD) of Jesus’ Last Supper and the words that have become our Eucharistic prayer.
From Celebration, June 1998:
Eucharist is about a remembering (anamnesis) that does not simply call to mind the past events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Eucharist makes present here and now, within the gathered assembly of believers, the reality of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. Each Eucharist is a “living remembrance of Jesus’ act of love.” By our participation (offering our ‘hungry selves’, hearkening to God’s Word, sharing peace, and then eating and drinking) in the Eucharist, believers proclaim and are integrated into that death and are given a taste of the resurrected life to come.
We “proclaim the death of the Lord” . . . What does this mean? In Eucharist Christ comes to us as the one in whom God participates in the emptiness and negativity of life, as the one in whom God accepts us in the most unrestricted way possible, and as the one who in virtue of this acceptance, lays claim to all that we are and can be. The Eucharist is not simply a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus or the fact that he now lives. Rather, it is a celebration of the fact that it is the crucified one who now lives; it is a celebration of the God who came into the brokenness, the ‘unwholeness’ and the unholiness’ of the human situation, and who came to stay. In Jesus, God has come to be with us where we are. To proclaim the death of the Lord is to find in his death a new definition of ourselves – a new understanding of the meaning of success and failure, of the meaning of life and death, of what it means to be a human person. (John Dwyer, The Sacraments, “Chapter Eight: the Eucharist” p.129-130)
The Gospel – Luke 9: 11-17
It is important to place this gospel story within the context of the overall gospel of Luke. Chapter 9 had started with Jesus commissioning the Twelve and sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. After they go out Luke tells us of Herod’s curiosity about Jesus: “I beheaded John. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Then the Twelve return. They withdraw in private to Bethsaida, but the crowds follow Jesus, and yet, he welcomed them . . . here then, is where the gospel story begins. It ends with a superabundance of satisfying food.
From “Working with the Word,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
Too often we narrowly view Eucharist in the context of the Last Supper and its elements of bread and wine. This gospel expands our perception to include the whole event of hungering, and then gathering, blessing, breaking, giving, eating, and being satisfied. Evil diminishes life and enslaves people; God’s kingdom restores life and liberates them from hunger – ‘malnutrition’ and oppression. This story illustrates Jesus’ Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, the kingdom is yours . . . and the hungry will be satisfied.
It is at Eucharist that we experience most intimately the communion of saints. Communion of saints in Greek is koinōnia hagiōn. Koinōnia is any partnership, fellowship, activity, experience or relationship where people come together. It is togetherness for mutual benefit and goodness (Barclay, The Apostles Creed p. 245). Hagiōn literally means sacred things, hagiōi meaning members of the Church as saints, or sacred people (p. 247). Imagine the sacred things as being that which we share in Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus. In that sense, we are sharing sacred things as a communion (koinōnia) of sacred people. In the Byzantine liturgy, the priest says, “Holy things for holy people” at the distribution of Holy Communion (Shannon, Catholic Update May 2005, p.4). We become the body of Christ.
In the book With God in Russsia by Walter Ciszek (an autobiography of a Jesuit priest), he recounts being in Poland in a concentration camp and celebrating Mass. It was forbidden to do so, so it had to be done in secret. Fasting before Eucharist from the midnight before was common practice then. Since the inmates were only given 2 meals of gruel a day, giving up the morning meal was a true sacrifice. If guards did not make it possible to celebrate at the scheduled time, they may go even longer without eating. So this priest and those he celebrated Mass with truly held Eucharist in deep, deep faith (Nolan, Hungry, and You Fed Me, p. 273-275). Consider this as you receive Eucharist this week.
Let us pray from David Fleming, SJ
Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
but hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings
shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day comes,
when, with your saints,
I may praise you forever. AMEN
A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (24:13-35)
13 On that same day two of Jesus’ followers were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,14 and they were talking to each other about all the things that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed, Jesus himself drew near and walked along with them; 16 they saw him, but somehow did not recognize him. 17 Jesus said to them, “What are you talking about to each other, as you walk along?”
They stood still, with sad faces. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have been happening there these last few days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “This man was a prophet and was considered by God and by all the people to be powerful in everything he said and did. 20 Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he was crucified. 21 And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened. 22 Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb, 23 but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. 24 Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! 26 Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?” 27 And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther; 29 but they held him back, saying, “Stay with us; the day is almost over and it is getting dark.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 He sat down to eat with them, took the bread, and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and gave it to them.31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up at once and went back to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples gathered together with the others 34 and saying, “The Lord is risen indeed! He has appeared to Simon!”
35 The two then explained to them what had happened on the road, and how they had recognized the Lord when he broke the bread.
Oh, for the pleasure of a meal with friends! Friendship is a kind of sacrament all its own. We share histories with our friends. We tell the story of our lives and find common ground. And when we come together, we share food. The warmth and comfort of a meal reflects the nature of our relationship with one another. We celebrate the union of our hearts around the table. In the unique gathering of our Eucharist, we also acknowledge the great story of God and our relationship with the Holy One through Jesus Christ. Our eyes are opened in this meal to recognize the common ground we hold with Divinity: the reign of God itself. Our friendship with God through Christ is true yesterday, today, and forever. This is what our faith means. Everything we need to know about God is in this meal (“Exploring the Sunday Readings”, Ap 1999, A). How do we see this in the film?
Eucharist is a unique sacrament because it is what it does. We participate in it and then become it. It is a revelation. God reveals Godself to us in Eucharist as we reveal ourselves. We commune. What is being revealed in this film?
Let us pray
Jesus, our friend,
How often do you do reveal yourself to us
and we don’t notice?
Open our minds and hearts
so we may see you in the multitude of ways
that you come to us.
May our seeing set our hearts on fire
to be fully who we are meant to be
and fully do what we are meant to do. AMEN