A Reading from The Book of Wisdom (6: 12-16)
From Celebrations, November, 2002: The anonymous author of this book was probably a Greek-speaking Jew, maybe a teacher, who lived in Alexandria in Egypt in the 1st century BC. This was a great center for learning, and this person was obviously well-trained in Greek philosophy, rhetoric, culture and science. In Alexandria, there was a large Jewish community. It seems he wanted to counsel and instruct his fellow Jews so that they might hold fast to their faith traditions and their sacred heritage. He also wanted to encourage the evolving theological thought that included an awareness of life’s ongoing journey, which does not end with death, but continues into eternity,
From Eduard Schweizer: In Hebrew terminology, ‘wise’ means ‘seeing’ or ‘with eyes open.’ Being wise is not about one’s IQ: it is about having eyes and awareness that is open — alert — to what is and what is to come. We do not simply live for now — we must be open to what is yet to come (467).
Rob Bell has a podcast where he talks about simple vs. prudent. Simple is keeping things black and white and ignoring what doesn’t fit with a “blinders” way of thinking. Prudence is knowing there is a complexity to life, and that wisdom is seeking the way through that complexity. You can hear the whole thing in his Robcast Episode 123: Wisdom Part 7 – The Simple and Subtle.
From Mary Birmingham:
The feminine image of wisdom is commonly used in Hebrew Scriptures. “The words sophia in Greek and hokmah in Hebrew are feminine nouns that mean wisdom.” The Greeks understood wisdom to be “a human endeavor — something to be conquered by sheer human will and mastery. The Hebrew understanding describes wisdom as a readily attainable gift from God, just waiting to be embraced by the receiver. The attributes of Lady Wisdom are also attributes of the living, loving, pursuing God.”
‘Lady Wisdom is to be sought after, while we keep in mind that she is readily found by those who love and seek her . . . Wisdom does not just look for the seeker, she ‘hastens to make herself known’. She desires to be ‘perceived.’ She is eager to find a place in the human heart. Ultimately, wisdom is none other than God the Pursuer, who eagerly searches for the hungering human spirit. It is deep within the recesses of those spirits that Lady Wisdom takes up her residence” (565).
A Reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (4:13-18)
From Celebrations, November 2002: Paul’s imagery here is his attempt “to describe the indescribable and to make known the unknowable. In such an endeavor, human words are but feeble tools.” They are not to be taken as literal — but as the poetry that they are — using the common ways of his culture to talk about such things. The apocalyptic props of trumpets and clouds and archangels are to be “visions of hope” — not a literal description of the end times.
The idea of the Second Coming had brought another problem to the people of Thessalonica. They were expecting it very soon; they fully expected to be themselves alive when it came but they were worried about those Christians who had died. They could not be sure that those who had already died would share the glory of that day which was so soon to come. Paul’s answer is that there will be one glory for those who have died and those who survive. The man who has lived and died in Christ is still in Christ even in death and will rise in him. Between Christ and the man who lives him there is a relationship which nothing can break, a relationship which overpasses death (see Romans 8:38-39). From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series, p. 202-203.
“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” ~ Vaclay Havel
A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (25: 1-13)
From Celebrations, November 2002: “This parable is clear and simple. The time for choosing Jesus is now; therefore, the time for preparedness is now; the time for ‘packing’ whatever faith, grace, repentance, conversion of heart, good works, and loving responsiveness to God . . . is now. This parable is “not about mercy but about being decisive and prepared. God’s gift is offered, but we must take hold of it, do something with it. Even the message of unconditional love does not override our free choice to ignore God’s intentions for us. Real foolishness is possible . . .” This is not a parable about caring and sharing. It’s a parable about responsibility; about doing our job of being a Christian . . . no one else can do our job for us.
What does the ‘oil” represent?
William Barclay says that “the oil signifies 1) a relationship with God; a person cannot borrow such a relationship, he/she must cultivate it himself/herself;
2) character, a person cannot borrow character . . . 3) Others simply say that the oil represents the wisdom and preparedness necessary for recognizing and welcoming the coming Christ . . .” We must be ready “to love the ways and will of God,” (The Gospel of Matthew, Vol II, 320, and Celebration, Nov. 2005)
From Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew:
This parable is found only in Matthew’s gospel although there are ‘hints’ of it in Luke 13:25. It certainly reflects the community’s struggle over Jesus’ delay in not returning in ‘glory’. Matthew does not want the delay to be the cause of the people not truly living their faith in the here and now. “When Jesus calls on his disciples to keep watch, he is calling on them to take the reality of God so seriously that they can come to terms with its sudden appearance at any moment in their own lives . . . (467).”
Some points made by Pheme Perkins in Hearing the Parables of Jesus (104-110):
• It may be tempting to separate ourselves into the wise and the foolish. Note that the wise don’t resolve the situation or make a big effort to fix it. The foolish are simply caught in their habitual type of behavior.
• The foolish servants do not have any idea of what their real situation is. They persist in showing their attempts to bail themselves out at the last minute. Those attempts fail because it really is the last minute. (And see how Jesus uses humor to portray the wrong way to go about things as opposed to “wailing and gnashing of teeth”.)
• The foolish are excluded due to their own decisions and actions. They fall back on their old patterns. They might have done better to wait outside until morning rather than call attention to themselves by their banging on the door. Reflect on this situation: What if they didn’t go get the oil and waited without lit lamps? Would they have gone to the feast despite their “darkness”? Perhaps Jesus is calling us to be ready for relationship, not necessarily for perfection.
• We all know good, responsible employees who seem to waste vast amounts of emotional energy lamenting the behavior of others who are not performing their job as they should. The parable does not suggest that we should always bail such people out. It suggests that maybe we should suggest ways to them of shouldering their own responsibility.
But remember the 1st reading — wisdom and God seek us out…
This is not another blog posting on our political climate. Anyone that knows me knows I’m as political as my dog, Benny. No, I am not going there. But there is something to be said about the anxiety we are all feeling in the United States. We are bombarded by opinions, feelings and news about who to vote for in the looming election. It is literally exhausting. The passion that some feel about their choice is not only difficult to ignore, it is divisive. And after the election, there may still be division and emotion. So our anxiety is this: Is it all going to be okay?
If you ask my husband, he will tell you that my favorite words are, “Yes, it is all going to be okay.” I ask him all the time and this is what he always tells me. Because no matter what we go through, even if it isn’t the way we would like, it always is okay because we have each other. And I think that is the way of our faith. Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic, wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Because underneath it all, God loves us. Plain and simple. God loves us so much that God put on skin to show it. This truth is a deep part of us. If we trust this deep wisdom, no matter what happens in our lives or in this election, it is all going to be okay.
The first reading for this Sunday is from the Book of Wisdom, which says, “But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! (11:26-12:1).” Listen to the words. We belong to God. God loves our souls and is a part of all things. We are surrounded by and soaked in the love of the Lord. All things change but this is a constant. It is such a comfort. We cannot hide from it. It’s in us.
So next time you begin to feel fear creep in and you worry what will happen with the state of the union, take a breath. God has our back. Hold on to the deeper truth that we have each other and a God that loves us. We’ll figure it out. It’s all going to be okay in the end.
1st Reading – Wisdom 11: 22 – 12: 2
This reading, actually a poem, echoes our opening prayer and psalm. It was a popularly held belief that the book was written by Solomon, but the author does remain anonymous. The most we know is he was a learned, Greek-speaking Jew and probably a teacher, and he was familiar with Hellensitic philosophy, rhetoric and culture .
The word love is used as a verb, an action word. God continually creates us anew, preserves us and forgives us. (M. Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook,C, 517-8).
What is most mysterious is God’s superabundant life pouring itself forth, the love of God who gives and gives again but is never emptied in the giving. This self-giving is at the very heart of who God is (M. Downey, Altogether Gift, p. 43). How do you experience God’s love in your life?
2nd Reading – 2 Thessalonians 1: 11- 2:2
This is another letter that is questionable whether Paul actually wrote someone writing as Paul. Either way, there is truth in the letter. The people of Thessalonica (the capital city for the Roman province of Macedonia) are being told that they are being prayed for and not to be fooled by anyone saying they know when the second coming will be. Doesn’t it feel good to know you are being prayed for? Pope Francis recently said, “Without love, effort becomes a lot heavier.” Praying for others is an act of love.
We must be diligent in living the Christian life…be watchful and alert. During that time, everyone thought Jesus was coming back any minute. This was to the point where they were just waiting around and not doing anything! Paul was saying cut it out. There’s still a lot to do, so get busy doing it. (Birmingham, W&W, p. 519). How can this reading be good for us today?
Gospel Reading – Luke 19: 1-10
Here we have story of Zacchaeus (zuh-KEE-uhs, not zuh-KAY-us). This story is found only in Luke’s Gospel. This is Jesus’ last encounter before he enters Jerusalem.
Remember: Welcoming another into one’s home to share at table was an act of profound friendship. Meals were sacred times reserved only for close friends and family. Yet, one of the most historical ‘facts’ that we know about Jesus is that he often ate with sinners and the outcasts of society. When Jesus tells Zacchaeus that he is coming to dinner, the offer is clear. Jesus is asking him for his friendship. And, Zacchaeus responds by changing his way of doing business – and his way of living. Such generosity delights Jesus for he knows that now salvation (full health and life) has come to Zacchaeus’ whole house.(R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu ; Celebrations Oct., 2004)
From “Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu :
We sometimes tend to think that we need to repent and then God will come to us. But the gospel would suggest that just the opposite is true: Jesus comes to Zacchaeus who then responds by repenting. We do not repent so that God will give us his grace; God’s grace is a free gift. We just need to be open to receiving this grace so that we can repent.
William Barclay tells us to notice that the gospel ends with the encouraging words: “For the Son of Man (the Human One) came to seek out and to save the lost.” The word lost in the New Testament does not mean damned or doomed. It merely means in the wrong place. A thing is lost when it has got out of its own place into the wrong place . . . A person is lost when he or she wanders away from God. To come back into a right relationship with God is a cause for rejoicing and new life. (p. 245, The Gospel of Luke)
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 – 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 — 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)
1st Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
The Book of Wisdom is known only in Greek and may be the last book of the Old Testament to be written. The main interest of the author is to reassure the Jewish community living in Egypt that keeping their faith is worthwhile despite the hardships in a pagan land (Aren’t we still?). Prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah draw from the insights in this book, so it deserves healthy attention (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 488-489).
Gandhi was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, in particular the emphasis on love for everyone, even one’s enemies, and the need to strive for justice. He also took from Hinduism the importance of action in one’s life, without concern for success; the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita says, “On action alone be thy interest, / Never on its fruits / Abiding in discipline perform actions, / Abandoning attachment / Being indifferent to success or failure” (Wolpert, India 71).
For Gandhi, ahimsa was the expression of the deepest love for all humans, including one’s opponents; this non-violence therefore included not only a lack of physical harm to them, but also a lack of hatred or ill-will towards them. Gandhi rejected the traditional dichotomy between one’s own side and the “enemy;” he believed in the need to convince opponents of their injustice, not to punish them, and in this way one could win their friendship and one’s own freedom. If need be, one might need to suffer or die in order that they may be converted to love (http://www.socialchangenow.ca/mypages/gandhi.htm).
In South Africa, the words “I am” also mean “you are.” I am because you are! This concept, known as ubuntu, emerged in the 19th century and developed as a world view for South Africans when apartheid was legislated in the early 1950s. It literally stands for human-ness or humanity toward others. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said ubuntu means “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” Nelson Mandela wrote “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” Ubuntu then is a philosophy of interdependence (from recent blog of https://richardsvosko.wordpress.com/). How does this fit in setting the “wicked” as being someone else? Are we all to learn and be blessed by one another?
2nd reading: James 3:16-4:3
James questions what we still question today…why is there war? Why can we hold on to our own self interests? He begs his listeners to be seekers of peace…to be pure, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits. Where do you find peace in your life? How does this help you in times of conflict?
From Seeking Peace, Johann Christoph Arnold:
“You will always find reasons to grumble. If you want to find peace, you must be willing to give them up. I beg you: stop concentrating on your desire to be loved. It is the opposite of Christianity.”
“…the inside must become like the outside (and the other way around)…a consistent battle in favor of all that is life-bringing and good…”
“Joy and peace are found in loving and nowhere else.” – John Stott
Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
Not only is Jesus predicting his Passion and death a second time (remember last week’s Gospel?), but he is teaching his disciples the meaning of servant. We are all servants of Christ and servants in his household. (Birmingham, W&W, 653) How do we become servants of Christ? It’s all about the love! J We will be unable to endure the cross Christ asks of us if we do not grow in the love he gives us. When we follow the way of the Lord and the will of God in love, we live in the perfection of justice we seek in our prayer. Only then will we understand and live the life of a true servant of Christ (654).
Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges developed the Lead Like Jesus movement. Like Sigmund Freud, ego has a lot to do with it. We have a tendency to Edge God Out by putting ourselves in the center (like the disciples in this Gospel story). We let pride and fear get in the way. We need to have a tendency for Exalting God Only, where we have a spirit of humility and confidence in God’s purpose. It is a lifelong struggle (Phelps, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, 58-63).
Did you notice that Jesus and the disciples are in constant motion? They are constantly on the way to somewhere, on a journey. This is like our lives now! We are challenged to be present with Jesus in our constant motion too.
The word for servant (talya) is interchangeable with child. The word receives is the same word for welcomes in 6:11. It means taking care of the weaker members of the community – those who are in most need of being served. Children were at the bottom of society’s social ladder. Childhood was a time of great danger. 30% of live births ended in death. Disease and lack of hygiene caused 60% of children to die by the age of 16 (Birmingham, W&W, 656). Jesus turns everything upside down for us. We are supposed to be more like children (or servants) to receive Him. How do we do this? Again, it is all about the love…
**A reading from the Book of Wisdom (1: 13-15; 2: 23-24)**
The Book of Wisdom is known only in Greek; it may be the last book written in the Old Testament or Hebrew scriptures. It seems to draw on the philosophical material of Philo of Alexandria and some other Jewish writers who lived in this very sophisticated, Greek (Hellenistic) city in the 1st century before Jesus. This is one of the books that are part of the ‘apocryphal’ books not included by Martin Luther when he ‘revised’ the Christian Bible. (Birmingham, Word & Worship Workbook Yr. B, 546)
This passage echoes the Eucharistic Prayer 3 in the Catholic tradition. It ends, “Therefore we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory through Christ our Lord through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.” All good things are from God. God wants good for us. It is not only death of our living that is spoken about in this reading but the death of a good idea, the death of a hope for something, the death that can be found in negativity. How might you find LIFE, goodness, wholesomeness, God’s own nature in you?
In Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si’”, he says, “The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement,” (#5). How might we appreciate and protect all of creation so that it is seen as this gift that God intended?
**A reading from the 2nd Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (8:7: 9, 13-15)**
The Jerusalem Church was struggling at this time in severe poverty. Paul had promised after his meeting with the apostolic leadership in Jerusalem (in probably the year 49 AD) to try to collect money for those in need. This passage shows some of his efforts. For Paul, this collection was a matter of great importance. He urged generosity for he wanted to promote the unity of the church, and to overcome the barrier between Jewish and Greek Christians. (J Dwyer, Church History, 43-44)
Generous people are primarily grateful people – people who know that ‘what they have’ is gift. We are creatures; we did not create ourselves. While we are responsible for how we use our gifts and talents, we are in the end never ‘self-made’ women or men. Thus, we are called to live with generosity. We must be people with open hands and hearts – not clinging to our wealth, but using whatever we have for the good of our families and others. This is what Paul it talking about here. In Jesus the Word of God ‘gave up’ the richness of divinity to embrace the poverty of human life, creaturehood. By so doing, Jesus showed us what God is like and what we are to be like, created as we are in the image of this God. (Exploring the Sunday Readings, July, 2000)
The passage references Exodus 16:18: But when they measured it [the manna] out by the omer, he who had gathered a large amount did not have too much, and he who had gathered a small amount did not have too little. They so gathered that everyone had enough to eat. Do we think this way?
**A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (5: 21-43)**
From John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle B, 104-105:
In Jesus’ day professional physicians hesitated to actually treat anyone (for they were held responsible with their own life if the treatment did not work). They preferred to just discuss illness in a rather philosophical way. Faith healers were far more common, and it seemed that Jesus was identified by people as one of these. It is hard to ‘get at’ the real history of these ‘cures’ for we have no factual evidence of any of these diseases since no one knew about germs or viruses etc. “But in the same terms, Jesus definitely healed all who wanted to be healed. Healing is the restoration of meaning to people’s lives no matter what their physical condition might be. Curing may be very rare, but [for those who reach out to Jesus] healing takes place infallibly, 100% of the time.” Because of Jesus this woman is welcomed into community, even though she violated the purity codes, and so did Jesus. The ‘other daughter’ is then restored by Jesus to her rightful place in community which is signified when Jesus commanded that she be given something to eat.
From Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year B, 551:
The number 12 is of great significance; it pulls the two stories together. Jesus not only restores the older ‘daughter’ to fullness of life after 12 years, but he takes the hand of the 12-year-old and raises her up to new life. She ‘was asleep’ but is then restored. Perhaps she represents the 12 tribes of Israel. Mark’s Jesus believes he is presiding at the collapse of the social order determined by Jairus’ Judaism. The 12-year-old daughter of privilege is dead. The outcast woman violates the purity codes and reaches out to Jesus. She sought fullness of life. Jesus responded to her need. Israel must also embrace the reign and power of God in their midst. The walls of social and religious status must be torn down. Jesus can raise up what is lost. He gives life to the little girl prefiguring the salvation that Christ will offer through his own death and resurrection.
Jesus does not appear to have a plan but is simply and clearly available to the people. Notice how Jesus follows Jairus. Here Jesus is exemplifying what he talks about so often: the leader must become the follower. There must be no clinging to status nor lording it over others. But then we are interrupted. A woman, who had nowhere left to go. But she had heard about Jesus, and she listened and understood. She would have been socially “dead” (see 1st reading!) being isolated from everyone, since she was considered unclean. Her faith was strong enough that she spoke up, against her fears, and didn’t fall into the trap of considering herself as good as dead. And what does Jesus call her? Daughter! She is no longer an unknown woman, but family. Jesus was committed to doing holy things, making things and people holy. He felt that flow come out of him (Do we?). The story hurries on (That’s Mark for you!) and now Jesus is leading Jairus. Jesus uses the local dialect to raise his daughter from the dead. The story ends with Jesus involving the family and community in her rehabilitation by getting her something to eat. We all need to bring about the kingdom. (From A. Gittins’ Encountering Jesus, p. 23-30)
The Christian holiday of Candlemas, on 2 February, is a feast to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus. In France, this holiday is called la Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière,* or jour des crêpes. Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on Chandeleur, but they also do a bit of fortune telling while making them. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year. There are all kinds of French proverbs and sayings for Chandeleur; here are just a few. Note the similarities to the Groundhog Day predictions made in the US and Canada:
À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens
À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures
On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours
Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte
Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost
Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure
Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour (http://french.about.com/od/culture/a/chandeleur.htm)
1st Reading: Malachi 3:1-4
Malachi is a pseudonym meaning “My Messenger.” The author probably wished to conceal his (or her) identity because his attacks on the priests and ruling classes were very sharp. Malachi arrived on the scene after the excitement of the return from exile had worn off. Morals were suffering. People were reneging on their tithes, intermarrying (and losing their cultural and religious identity), and oppressing the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. For Malachi, this moral slide began in the temple (Guentert, US Catholic, p. 22). Compare this with the Gospel!
St. Jerome identified the messenger referenced in this pericope as the prophet Ezra. Jesus adapted the words to John the Baptist (Mt 11:10) (Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 400). The imagery of lye and fire is meant to be transformational. When we allow God to come into our life and our decision-making, we can be refined and transformed! How have you found this to be true in your life?
2nd Reading: Hebrews 2:14-18
In this part of the letter, we understand that God made Jesus perfect through suffering. The verb translated ‘make perfect’ in Greek is teleioun. In the New Testament, this word has special meaning. It is used of an animal which is unblemished and fit to be offered as a sacrifice; of a scholar who is no longer at the elementary stage but mature; of a Christian who is no longer on the fringe of the Church. The thing or person fully (perfectly) carries out the purpose for which it was designed. Through suffering, Jesus was made fully able for the task of being the pioneer of our salvation. Jesus Christ fully identified himself with humankind by becoming a man, and suffered like humans do. Jesus really felt his humanity with us, and so he can really help, (Barclay on The Letter to the Hebrews, p. 26-28).
Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 22-40
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God:
see all, nor be afraid!” ~Robert Browning
It is by the wisdom of elders that our eyes are opened to what Jesus’ purpose will be. Anna’s name means “grace”. Like Simeon, she has spent her life in awaiting the Lord, (Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 75). The reference to “a sword will pierce” is why Mary depicted as Our lady of Sorrows is generally illustrated with swords (see Union Street church window!).
The requirement for the wife only to be purified after childbirth is found in Leviticus 12:1-8. Since Mary and Joseph could not provide a lamb, they make the offering of the poor. The family of Jesus is here seen as totally observant of the law, (p. 74).
Only at great cost would Jesus carry out the purpose for which he was born. Both he and his mother would know suffering – but that suffering, as Anna the prophetess would affirm, would bring about the redemption of Israel while offering the light of salvation to the gentiles.
As we celebrate this feast, let us present ourselves to God, as Jesus did. Offering all we are, all we have and all we will become; let us, like Jesus, be willing to go forth from this place determined to be a source of light and healing in an often dark, broken world. Let us grow strong and wise, knowing that the favor of God rests upon us, (Sanchez, NCR for Jan. 17-30, 2014, p. 25).
Consolation as defined by Margaret Silf, Inner Compass:
- Directs our focus outside and beyond ourselves
- Lifts our hearts so that we can see the joys and sorrows of other people
- Bonds us more closely to our human community
- Generates new inspiration and ideas
- Restores balance and refreshes our inner vision
- Shows us where God is active in our lives and where he is leading us
- Releases new energy in us (p. 53)
Compare this to the consolation of Israel. How can Jesus help you find consolation?