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 — Wisdom 7: 7-11
The author of this book lived in Alexandria, the major Mediterranean port city in Egypt. He wrote his work in Greek for the large Greek-speaking Jewish community there, shortly after the beginning of Roman rule in 28 BC. He probably taught in one of the many synagogues in the city, and his book demonstrates the profound knowledge he possessed of both Jewish and Greek culture and learning. The author shows that one can be open to Greek ways and still remain a faithful Jew, (Ceresko, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 327). Solomon was seen as the model of Wisdom and was also remembered for building the magnificent temple. This book was written with his name as sort of an ‘honorary’ author. (Preaching Resources, Oct. 15, 2006)
What is it to be wise? Name a person you know or have heard about who seems wise to you. What attributes does this person exhibit that help you to understand what wisdom is?
2nd Reading — Hebrews 4: 12-13
What does the image of this two-edged sword say to you? Is it empowering, frightening, encouraging? How do you think the Word of God is living and active today?
This hymn-like tribute to the Word of God (imagine it being sung) invites us – urges us – into transformation. Mary Birmingham says (W&W, B):
The Word comforts those who turn to its counsel. Like a sword it penetrates the dark recesses of the human soul. It pierces the lies and the denial and exposes them to the truth. The Word judges the heart. The word ‘judge’ comes from the Greek word kritikis that means crisis. A crisis is a time for a decision — for judgment. The Word of God uncovers the hidden secrets and questionable motives in our hearts and invites transformation.
From William Barclay, The Letter to the Hebrew, p.40:
The Greek phrases that make up the last part of this section about being “exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” may have various interpretations. One is that the word was used in wrestling for seizing an opponent in such a way that he could not move or escape. It may be telling us that we may escape God for awhile, but then God grips us in such a way that we cannot help meeting him face to face – as we are. It also refers to the fact that God sees us to the heart – to our inner most being. In the end we must stop running from our selves – and from God. Remember always: God sees with love.
The Gospel –Mark 10: 17-30:
Most of us Christians cannot walk away from everything tomorrow. But all of us are called to personal assessment. The more God grows in our lives, the more simply and generously we can live. When we allow God to fill our hearts and minds, there is less room for ‘more things.’ What stands between God and us? Let us pray for wisdom and use God’s Word as a sharp sword that cuts through the ‘nonsense’ that sometimes surrounds us and deadens us. (Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p.662)
From John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, 148-150 and http://liturgy.slu.edu :
The journey is mentioned at the beginning. This is the journey to Jerusalem and eventually to the cross… What do you think of the way that the man compliments Jesus? Are compliments sometimes given so that they can be returned? Or do they imply that the person is so arrogant that they would think highly of us if we compliment them? This was often the case in Jesus’ culture and times. John Pilch also notes that whenever the word “rich” appears in the Bible it is better to substitute the word “greedy.” At this time the ‘greedy rich’ land owners had 98% of the wealth even though they were only 1% or 2% of the population. They surrounded themselves with those who could supply their every want including honor and prestige. Jesus is also challenging how they (and we) view family. For this young man to sell all would have meant untying himself from family, home and land. Jesus’ challenge was one that would seem like social suicide, but in the end it would lead to more family, real treasure, and full life: The Kingdom. In your life today, how would you view such a challenge?
An interesting comment from Living Liturgy, 2003, p. 227:
The procession [at Mass] with the bread and wine is symbolic of our own journey from life to eternal life when we will stand at the messianic banquet ‘in the age to come.’ The bread and wine are symbolic of ourselves, just as the bread and wine are substantially changed into the real Body and Blood of Christ, so we are transformed into more perfect members of that Body. Finally, when the gifts of the community include food, necessities, and money for the poor this is wonderfully symbolic of our willingness to “give to the poor” and taking Jesus invitation to follow him quite seriously. It is a concrete way for us to show our willingness not to be possessed by our riches but to give of ourselves, emptying ourselves to better follow Jesus with an undivided heart.
Jesus not only was teaching his disciples on the way, but he was showing them the way, and leading them toward it.
Which commandments are missing? Did Jesus forget them? Hardly…the 1st 4 commandments are that there is only 1 God, don’t worship anyone or anything else, don’t use God’s name in vain and the Sabbath is holy. Why do you think he omits them? They all have to do with worshipping God. Perhaps Jesus knew this man already practiced these things.
Notice how Jesus tells him to GO and sell his things, then COME and follow me. Jesus usually calls and sends in a single movement. He almost never sends without first calling a person explicitly. Yet in this case, the man is sent away to do something before he is called to follow Christ. Why do you think that is? Do you think his wealth has anything to do with it? (Gittins, Encountering Jesus, p. 74-75)
Gospel: Matthew (25: 14-30)
The very rich man in this story sounds like an honorable person at the outset. It is only at the conclusion that we learn that he is dishonorable. The 3rd slave even describes him as such, and the rich man agrees with him! The first 2 slaves not only served their master but imitated him. Why not? If you can’t beat the system, join it. The 3rd slave did what most rabbis would later commend as the safest and most honorable course of action for a freeman, but maybe not for a slave. In 1st century Mediterranean culture people believed that all goods already exist and are already distributed. There is no more where this came from, and the only way to get more is to defraud another. Anyone who suddenly acquired something “more” was automatically judged to be a thief. (Pilch, the Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, p. 164) So then why is the parable saying the 3rd slave is wrong?
- It may have been to capture the attention of Jesus’ audience.
- The message is we are not to be complacent but increase what Jesus has given us.
- William Barclay makes this point about the gospel’s ending advice: “If someone has a talent and exercises it, he is progressively able to do more with it. But, if one has a talent and fails to exercise it, he will lose it – slowly, but surely. (The Gospel of Matthew, 324)
- From Celebrations, November, 2002 and 2005: Fearfulness only breeds fear and crippling inaction. If we dare to risk ourselves in loving God and others, then Jesus assures us that we will find a God who is eager to share his powerful presence and gifts. Along with this parable, we need to reflect on the kind of God that Jesus shows us — a God who welcomes sinners and who rejoices when the lost are found.
Fr. Richard Fragomeni once said that faith is a risk; it is a bet we make with our whole lives . . .
C.S. Lewis once suggested that the ‘one’ talent many Christians fail to ‘invest’ or fear to risk losing is love. In a series of 10 lectures on this subject (later published as The Four Loves) he explains:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one — not even to an animal or pet. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket or the coffin of your selfishness. But, in that casket– safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, unredeemable. The only place outside heaven where you can be safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.
In this parable Jesus tells us that there can be no religion without adventure, and that God can find no use for the shut mind (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series for Matthew, Vol. 2, p. 323). Doesn’t this remind you of Pope Francis? In a recent homily, he said, “I am attached to my things, my ideas – does this mean I am closed? Or, am I open to the God of surprises? Am I a person who stands still, or a person on a journey?”
Let us resolve to become one-talent wonders, willing to risk ‘being fully alive’ so as to invest our love in God’s service. Let us not dig a hole to bury our love. Let us prefer service to safety, and risk to retreat. (Isn’t that what Jesus did?)
We can love as Jesus did, fully, freely, and forever – at least, we can try!
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?
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 to these words to heart. It should help us realize that our faith is a living relationship of love – with God and with others. It perhaps would have been even better if the lectionary had included the verses just preceding this passage, verses 7-10:
For we brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.
Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation
and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires,
which plunge them into ruin and destruction (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,”?
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 blindness – his 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 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.