21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 25, 2019

21C19.   Isaiah 66:18-21.   “I come to gather the nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”  God now chooses all peoples as his people and not just the Hebrews.

Luke 13:22-30.   “Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  The narrow gate is that one must do the will of God and nothing else.  Jesus said in John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  We must strive, make every effort or do our utmost to obey the will of God.  In verse 27 b & c, Jesus said, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me all you evildoers!”  They were friends of Jesus socially but not friends of the will of God.  They let him walk into their lives as acquaintances on the street but not into their hearts as the source of their life.  They did not come to Jesus from or out of a life lived in God but from some other source that treated God as someone only tangentially relevant to their lives.  Their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah earned them the title, ‘evildoers’. For that they will go to a hell that is a “wailing and grinding of teeth,” while their ancestors will go to the ‘kingdom of God’.  While they were born into the people of God, they will not get the inheritance that was to be theirs because they did not choose to follow the will of God so as to enter through the narrow gate.  Others, who were not born into the people God but nonetheless did “strive to enter through the narrow gate,” “will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a.   “Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons.”  “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit or righteousness to those who are trained by it.”  In Hebrews 5:8 we read, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”  God gives us life to be lived advancing day by day on the road to heaven.  Daily we follow Jesus who gives us the Holy Spirit so to enable us to grow spiritually in a material world that poses many great obstacles to our entering “through the narrow gate.”  In Matthew 19:25c-26, the disciples said, “’Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible’” Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, “I have strength for everything through him who empowers me.” The joy that problems and difficulties give us is that by necessity we are driven to be much closer to God than peaceful times can ever do.  We are forced to go back and back to God to train our mortal flesh to be spiritual.  When the day our judgement comes, let us make God proud of the work he has done in us and through us.

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 18, 2019

20C19.   Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10.   Jeremiah had prophesized that, since the King of Jerusalem had made an alliance with Egypt against the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans would defeat Judah and take everyone into captivity.  For this, Jeremiah was hated and thrown into a muddy cistern to die.   However, God was merciful by sending a court official to get the king to have Jeremiah drawn out of the cistern so that he not die there.

Psalm 40.   God had come to the aid of Jeremiah and will come to the aid of anyone who calls out to him.  He is our help and deliverer.

Luke 12:49-53.  “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were blazing!’”  In John 12:31, 14:30 & 16:11, Jesus refers to Satan as the ruler of this world who will be judged and condemned. Those who are followers of this world, its ways and its leader, Satan, are dedicated to fighting against Jesus and his followers to the very end.  Jesus said to Pilate in John 18:36: “My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”  Jesus’ followers do not belong to this world (John 17:14) any more than Jesus does.  There can be no peace between Satan and his followers and Jesus and his followers, only war to the end.  To be at peace with Jesus means to be at war with Satan and what is his, this world.  “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!”  The baptism Jesus is referring to is the fire of pain and death in which he will be immersed and subjected to by Satan and this world.  Waging war against Satan and this world has and will always give us pain and suffering but will also always result in glorious victory for those who remain loyal to the Lord.

Hebrews 12:1-4.  Paul writes, “Persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”  What can be a more wonderful way to grow in holiness than to have in mind and heart that I am now following Christ, saying within ourselves, “Lead me, Lord, lead me!  Jesus said to his first Apostles, “Come, follow me.” The ordinary daily tasks of life and even the seductive temptations of sin can lead us to lose focus on the Lord.

 

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 11, 2019

19C19.   Wisdom 18:6-9.   The Hebrew people had sworn their commitment to God because they had the faith that God would never let them down.  “Your people awaited the salvation of the just and the destruction of their foes.”

Psalm 33.   “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.”  The Lord “is our help and our shield.  May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.”

Luke 12:32-48.  In this Gospel Jesus is calling upon his people to enthusiastically prepare themselves to be called to judgement by acting in way that is pleasing to God, our Lord and Master. For those who do so, they will be rewarded; those who do not, they will be punished.  Jesus also makes it clear that there will be proportionality.  To the degree that we do not serve God’s will, we will to that degree be punished.  Finally Jesus says, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”  In other words, those who have received more graces from the Lord, more will be expected of them.

Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19.  Believing that something is true because we put our trust in someone (God) who says and knows that it is true; but, not seeing or finding from our own investigation that it is true, is faith.  Abraham believed the promise God made to him, that from Abraham there was to be God’s own people, who were to be given their own homeland.  Abraham entrusted his future into the hands of God without having any evidence or proof that he had outside of the fact that God said it.

Seeing is not so much believing as it is knowing because we see for ourselves and have the truth. Faith is not k

nowing but trusting that some else knows.  Believing means that we don’t see or know the truth firsthand yet believe because we surrender our judgment into the hands of the one in whom we entrust our belief that they have given to us the knowledge of the truth, a knowledge that we did not have on our own.  Faith requires that we surrender the judgment of what is true to the one in whom we entrust ourselves. God knows firsthand but we do not.  We trust that God is passing on to us the truth that God himself knows.   Living each day trusting in God leads us to become people of a deeper and deeper faith in God because he shows his infinite faithfulness all the way to our heavenly homeland.  He is an ever faithful Father.  At times he allows our faith to be challenged as he did with Abraham in the case of his son Isaac; but the challenges will help us to be evermore trusting in the Lord, as he enables us to work through those challenges.  Isaac’s spared life was a symbol or sign to Abraham that God never fails those who entrust themselves to him.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 4, 2019

18C19.    Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23.   This first reading makes the statement: “All things are vanity!”  It later continues on to say: “For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?”  That seems to me to be saying that our human efforts fall short of achieving what we set out to do or of holding onto whatever we did achieve.  Psalm 90 says, “You turn man back to dust.”  In other words what growth there was over the years in our bodies, minds, and whatever else we were, is turned back to nothing but dust.  “All things are vanity!”  What we accomplish is a flash of light that disappears in the darkness.  What is done humanly, seemingly without God, is done in vain, useless.

Luke 12:13-21.  “Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, ’Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.’ He replied to him, ‘Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?’”   I understand Jesus’ reply to mean, “Here it is that I have come into this world to lead you to what is of value beyond this world.  You, however, insist on clinging to what is worldly and ignoring what is eternal.  The desire for worldly goods or greed are blinding to what is eternally good.  Filling up with the goods of this world will leave little or no room to have the life-giving presence of our God who makes us to be the good person we need to be to inherit eternal life.  Having goods is not the same as being good.  This world insists that having the goods of this world is all that matters. On the other hand, God insists that being good in his eyes is all that matters.  In the end all this world can give us is the rot or decay of the grave; in contrast God gives us the eternal and glorious life that flows from his love for us.

Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11.   “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  Our baptism commits us to living a heavenly God-filled life while still living physically here on earth.  We have chosen to be infinitely more than just homo sapiens, just another animal of this world, born here to terminate in a grave here.  “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.  Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly.” “You have taken the old self with its practices and have put on the new self.”  That new self is still located in this world but now without this world as its life, only the life-giving presence of the Jesus for whom “Christ is all and in all.”

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 28, 2019

17C19.   Genesis 18:20-32.   In the account of God’s dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah, God is pictured almost as a royal but human manager or overseer.  He is seen as one who needs to go down “to see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them,” as if God cannot see or know from heaven what is going on in the world. That same characterization of the Lord continues as Abraham bargains humbly but skillfully with his attempt to save the cities.  At the bazaar of the middle-east the opening asking price is not the final asking price but the beginning price at which to start the negotiations.  In our prayer life, is God someone we bargain or negotiate with or who already knows what his final answer will be no matter how much we want to bargain?  Personally I think that the Lord knows what he wants, no matter how much we try to make a deal BUT does not mind a negotiation process to get us to come to his terms.  In this episode I think that God wants us to realize he will do his most to save us, as he later did on the cross.

Luke 11:1-13.  Jesus himself was often going off to pray or communicate with his heavenly Father.  Seeing his example and that John had taught his followers to pray, one of his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  First Jesus teaches them the ‘Our Father’; then the parable of the man who, having an unexpected guest, requested three loaves of bread from a friend to feed his guest.  At first the friend refused to get up from bed to give him the bread but then acquiesced because of his persistence.  Jesus’ point was that, if persistence will work with people who can be wicked, how much more it will work with our God, who only knows how to give what is good.  In fact, as Jesus said to Martha in last week’s Luke 10:42a, “There is need of only one thing,” that is, the Holy Spirit.  Our prayer should be persistent or patient with God, not because his patience will wear thin but because our patience is waiting on him for the good he will certainly give us in his good time.  To be people of faith means to live in God’s goodness.  “Give us each day our daily bread” is to live each day in the hand of God’s daily goodness. To treat God as the one who is truly and fully the God of our lives we must be daily totally dependent upon him.  Let us find that whatever goodness comes our way is from the hand of God.  Secular people will interpret the goodness that appears in our lives as only happenstance without any divine source.  When we pray: “Forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,” we are obligating ourselves to be good to others as God is good to us.  On the phrase “do not subject us to the final test” I was only able to find that at the end times some Jews believed there would be a final great test.  I can only wonder that Jesus was saying that, if we put our lives into his hands, he would take us through the final test by his death on the cross to our resurrection with him.

Colossians 2:12-14.   Baptism by immersion and then our emergence from the water is symbolic of our joining ourselves to Christ’s death and resurrection.  We were dead because of our sins and limiting ourselves to just a life in the flesh.  He brought us to spiritual life along with him by forgiving our sins and obliterating the bonds of the Jewish Law, “nailing it to the cross.”  Real life is Christ living in us, sharing his life with us.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 21, 2019

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16C19.   Genesis 18:1-10a.   Abraham understood that God held him responsible to be hospitable to the guests that he sent his way.  Abraham responded generously to the guests God sent to him. “One of them,” perhaps God himself promises that Sarah will have a son a year later when he will return.  Abraham gave much but God, far more.

Luke 10:38-42.   When Jesus arrived, Martha assumed that the traditional hospitality was the duty that she had to attend to immediately.  Jesus saw it differently.  On his arrival Jesus felt that it was his duty to bring divine life to anyone who wished to receive it.   Heaven had a greater responsibility to offer hospitality than earth because what heaven has to offer is far more important than what earth has to offer.  The Lord said to Martha in response to her concern that many things needed to be done: “There is need of only one thing.”  “Mary, who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak,” was seeking that one thing that was necessary: the love of God that enables us to be as loving as God is loving, by opening ourselves to have Christ live in us sharing his divine life with us.  In this Sunday’s second reading, Paul declares what Jesus had already made known to Mary, the mystery that was hidden for ages: “it is Christ in us, the hope for glory.”  In John 17:26, Jesus says, “I made known to them your name (that is, God himself) and I will make it known (continue to make God known), that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”  The only way to have God’s love in us is to have God himself in us.  Jesus said in John 15: 5b: “Whoever remains in and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” The fruit that we will bear is his love and the results of having his love within us.  Jesus is calling upon us to make his presence within us and his never ending hospitality of his being our life source.   His hospitality is his pouring his life into us as the core of our lives.  Without him pouring his divine life or grace into us we become just another animal of this earth, spiritually dead.

Colossians 1:24-28.   “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” It is not natural but rather above the natural to rejoice in sufferings.  I have always thought of what is natural to the living beings of this world is to seek pleasure or good feelings and avoid pain and upset. Although this definition is quite simplistic I think it is helpful.  As long as we are in this world there must be some degree of suffering and pain. This world is not paradise. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”  Did Jesus have peace on the cross: humanly, no because his body was racked with horrific pain; spiritually, yes, because he was at one with the Father’s will.  We live in a world that was paradise but with the tree of good and evil: something good and something bad.  Until we are in heaven completely and totally separated from what is evil, there must be pain and troubles.

 

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15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 14, 2019

15C19.   Deuteronomy 30:10-14.  Moses is encouraging the people to be faithful to the Law, especially the great commandment to love God with all one’s heart and soul.  To love God is to do what our hearts and mind already know is good and right.

Luke 10:25-37.  The scribe or scholar of the law responds to Jesus’ question, saying, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” In turn, Jesus responds, “Do this and you will live.”  Death comes from disobedience to God’s will; but life, from love of God and his will.  The scribe, who did not wish to appear shallow, since he had to move on so quickly with such an easy answer that did not show any depth of knowledge, continued by asking Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Usually the term neighbor only included someone who was connected to one by blood, ethnic or religious lines and not the alien.  In the Old Testament this issue of welcoming the alien or foreigner was addressed because there were times when the Israelite himself was an alien.  The priest and the Levite passed the victim by because they would have become ritually impure according to the Law by coming into contact with wounded man’s blood.  Besides that it was an oxymoron, an impossible contradiction, for there to be a ‘good Samaritan’.  The Jews who worshiped in Jerusalem considered the Jews who worshiped in Samaria to be fake Jews who desecrated true Judaism by worshiping in Samaria and not Jerusalem.  Jesus was saying to the scribe that loving as God loves all of us is the love that God calls us to.  Then “Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”

Colossians 1:15-20.  The notes in ‘The New American Bible’ says concerning this reading: “As the poetic arrangement indicates, these lines were probably an early Christian hymn,” that declares the absolute centrality of Jesus to our faith.  As we love God with everything that we have, so too we must love Jesus totally.  In Jesus is the invisible God made visible.  At one and same time, he is created and so he is a creature, yet also at one and the same time, the creator.  “Through him to reconcile all things” he makes “peace by the blood of his cross” so to bring to God all that was aliened from God by sin.  He is preeminent, the head of the body, the church, drawing all to himself and then through him to God the Father.  All is made whole and holy as he leads his followers to be made new in him.  As the Old Testament reading said, “For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you.”  We only need to have Jesus as the measure of all things.  Jesus says in John 15:12, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 7, 2019

14C19.   Isaiah 66:10-14c.  Isaiah was calling the Hebrew people to rejoice despite the fact that they were living in troubled times.  “For thus says the Lord: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river.”  “Exult, exult with Jerusalem all you who were mourning over her!” “The Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.”

Psalm 66.  “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth.”  Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!” “Therefore let us rejoice in him.’”  “He rules by his might forever.”

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20.  Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples in pairs “to every town and place he intended to visit.” He told them to pray for more laborers for the harvest of souls because the laborers are few.  He warns them that they will face troubles, saying, “Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”  He sends them out without any physical resources, only spiritual resources to cure the sick and drive out demons.  When they enter a house, they are to “first say, ‘Peace to this household.’  If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.”  In John 20:19, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you,” because they had the doors locked “for fear of the Jews.”  God is almighty wishing to use his might to care for us and protect us.  If we live without God, we have good reason to fear, to be without peace, since there are many who are stronger than we and may wish to prey upon us.  When the disciples wish the resident peace, they are calling upon them to be at one with God.  If a peaceful person lives there, is to say that that person has already been at one with God, even before the disciples came.  If the person who lives there is not at peace or one with God, they will be without the resources to defend or sustain themselves and so they will perish terribly.  The seventy-two rejoiced in the power that was at their disposal.  Jesus responds, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because you names are written in heaven.”  We must keep our priorities in the right order.  We must think as God thinks and not as human beings do.  However, only if live at peace or at one with God, can we accomplish that.

Galatians 6:14-18.  “Brother and sisters: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  In Galatians 2:19b-20, Paul also wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”  Paul is saying that Jesus is now his life, no longer he himself but rather Paul’s dominion over himself  had died, been crucified, so that Jesus is his Lord and his life.  Paul was so united to Jesus in his crucifixion that Paul has been given the stigmata, i.e. the marks of nails in his hands and feet and the marks of the spear in his side. Exult because God is our savior.  His victory over sin and death is now our victory!  “Therefore let us rejoice in him!”

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 30, 2019

13C19.   1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21.   As a prophet, Elijah is the spokesperson and messenger of God.  God tells Elijah to anoint Elisha. That anointing is not recorded here but rather Elijah invests Elisha with the power to be a prophet by throwing his own special cloak of one who is a prophet over Elisha, as our priests who are to receive Holy Orders are invested with the priests’ chasuble and stole.  According to the commentaries I have read, Elisha drove one yoke of oxen while eleven servants drove the other eleven.  In those times the prophets were readily recognized, though not always obeyed.  When Elisha kisses his parents goodbye, they would have recognized the seriousness of his calling and not have tried to interfere with it.  By slaughtering the oxen and giving the meat to his people to eat, Elisha was terminating his means and future in farming as a way of finalizing his goodbye, completing the fullness of his acceptance of God’s calling.

Luke 9:51-62.  “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”  As with Elisha, Jesus had already declared that he had left his family in Nazareth to proclaim the kingdom of God, when in Luke 8:21b, he said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” I believe that the words at the beginning of this reading that say, “When the days  for his being taken up were fulfilled,” means that he had accomplished what he want to do outside of Jerusalem and now must make his way to Jerusalem to fulfill the prophecy he had just made earlier in Luke 9:22 when, “He said, ‘ the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.’”

The Jews in Jerusalem and those in Samaria had rejected one another’s claims to being Jews and reviled one another as being charlatans or fake Jews.  Jesus rejected the disciples request for vengeance because he had come to invite and not force people to follow him.  When someone said that he wanted to follow Jesus, Jesus responded that, in following him, one must accept days a homeless, nomadic life style that Jesus was living in those days.  To another, when Jesus told him to follow him, he requested permission to bury his father.  Jesus knew that his family would demand that he stay to replace his father who had just died.  Custom and tradition would require him to take the place of his father.  To another who wanted to say farewell, Jesus said to him that he could not have his heart in two places.  Choose Jesus or your family at home.

Galatians 5:1, 13-18.  Again the call is to serve one or the other. Here it is the Spirit or the flesh.  To serve the Spirit gives us the freedom to serve what is for our eternal joy; to serve the flesh makes us slaves to our destruction.  Paul calls the Galatians to love one another because, as he writes to them, “if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.”  If we live by the Spirit and not the flesh we gain the glorious inheritance that belongs to the children of God.

Psalm 16.   “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.”

Corpus Christi – June 23, 2019

CorpChristiC19.   Genesis 14:18-20.  Abram had just returned from a great victory against his enemies. He recovered his nephew “Lot and his possessions, along with the women and the other captives. (Genesis 14:16b)  In celebration of the great victory God had given Abram, “Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine and being a priest of God Most High” and also said, “blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand.” This prefigures the Eucharist which is liturgy of thanksgiving celebrating the work of God.

Luke 9:11b-17.  “Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God.” He was helping to establish that kingdom, not a worldly one but a spiritual, heavenly one, by curing the sick and feeding the five thousand men plus women and children.  These miracles testified not only to the veracity of his message but also to his divinity.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26.  In the study of the historical development of Christianity from the time of Christ on, it has been found that the earliest writings of Christianity were the epistles of Paul.  Here Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christians concerning their practice of the liturgy of the Eucharist.  When Jesus took the bread and broke it, he said, “This is my body,” and of the cup of wine, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  He handed to his Apostles what was the bread and the cup of wine to eat and drink but now is his body and blood.  In John 6:54, Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”  The bread and wine still appear to be as they were, but because he is the infinitely almighty God, whatever he says is done, is done.  After first changing the bread into his body and then the wine into his blood, each time he says, “Do this in remembrance of me.  This Jesus repeats twice.  We obey Jesus’ command when we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist.  Proclaiming the death of the Lord is to proclaim his sacrificing of himself to God the Father which gained for us forgiveness of our sins which, in turn, opened the Gates of Heaven to us and gives us eternal life.