Reflections

TWENTY NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Oct 20, 2019
[Exodus 17: 8-13; II Timothy 3: 14-4:2; Luke 18: 1-8]

“Proclaim the word of God;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient,
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”

We very readily see that the word for this week in our readings is: PERSISTENCE.  Jesus uses the example of the widow who will not quit bothering the judge until he finally listens to her and does his duty on her behalf.

In the First Reading, Moses is praying for the Israelites in battle, by extending his arms in prayer.  He cannot continue to hold up his arms; he is getting weak and tired.  So, Aaron and Hur come and hold up his arms.  This is a beautiful example and image of how we need to support each other in our daily efforts to carry out the will of God for us.

Even the widow could not achieve the decision against her adversary without the help of the judge.  In the Second Reading, St. Paul is there to encourage Timothy to continue in his ministry for the people he was sent to serve.

Our Gospel Acclamation tells us: “The word of God is living and effective, discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.”  These words are very consoling.  They remind us that God sees into our hearts, and He knows our good intentions.  Therefore, we are never alone. The Spirit of God watches over us and works in us.  May we also bring that same spirit of love and cooperation into our lives with each other.

 

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Oct. 13, 2019
[II Kings 5: 14-17; II Timothy 2: 8-13; Luke 17: 11-19]

“In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

The readings this Sunday combine a discussion on Gratitude and Suffering.  Jesus, of course, leads the way in this.  Even the night before His Passion and Death, he prays to be delivered from the pain, humiliation, and cruel death that awaits Him.  Knowing about the pain and suffering that awaits Him, He can still ‘look beyond’.  Jesus can ‘look beyond’ the imminent suffering and see that the Will of God for Him will bring forgiveness and deliverance for all of God’s People.  The Will of the Father for Him will eventually bring peace to Him and to many.

I believe we can all identify with this process of suffering and ‘looking beyond’ to the result of peace and gratitude.  Maybe the other 9 lepers felt like they had a right to being cured. After all, most other people did not have to live with this horrible disease, which certainly meant painful death. So, why should they be thankful to be restored to the same health that most other people already have? 

But the reality is: they were restored, and only the Lord could have done that for them.  So, with us: gratitude helps us to overcome the human tendency to believe that we have a right to everything.  As the Alleluia verse quoted above reminds us: all people face challenging circumstances in their lives.  Challenges are intended by the Lord to be opportunities for growth.  We can be most thankful when we use all circumstances of life as ways to grow in grace and love. 

 

TWENTY SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Oct 6, 2019
[Habakkuk 1: 2-3; 2: 2-4; II Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14; Luke 17: 5-10]

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear,
but rather of power and love and self-control…”

Jesus, in the Gospel, uses again the very familiar example of the mustard seed.  Jesus uses this example in response to the request of the apostles: “Increase our faith.”  The idea of the mustard seed, or any seed, is a good image when we are talking about the gift of Faith.

We stop and think about the seed idea.  In that little seed is the entire package of growth for the mustard tree.  All the parts of the tree: bark, leaves, smell, fruit, it is all there somehow, when we think about it.

What a good example for us of the gift of Faith.  We are given the gift of Faith and Gift of God’s Spirit at Baptism, or maybe on other occasions in our lives.  But it is a gift that must be nourished and cultivated, just like the seed in the ground.  The seed in the ground needs water, sunlight, the seasons of the year.  Our faith grows through our prayer life, through the Sacraments, especially Mass and Holy Communion.

St. Paul talks about this when he tells us we have been given a Spirit of Power, and Love and Self-control.  We have the power of God given to us, but we must allow that Spirit to grow within us, to more and more possess us, and control the direction of our lives.

Last week we celebrated the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.  He is a wonderful example of a person who continued to grow in the ways of God.  His life is an example for us of someone who was always searching, looking for the action and direction of the Spirit of God in his life. I think that is why he is such a popular saint: he was very much like the rest of us, an ordinary person, who accomplished great things with the extraordinary power of God’s Spirit within him.

  Last week we celebrated the gift of Fr. Gilbert’s presence in each of our lives.  He taught us in various ways the gift of faith and trust in God as he lived out his life here with us.  He showed us that we too can accomplish great things with the extraordinary power of God’s Spirit within each of us.  Now the choice to do so is ours.

 

TWENTY SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Sept 29, 2019
[Amos 6: 1, 4-7; I Timothy 6: 11-16; Luke 16: 19-31]

“Though Our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, He became poor,
so that by his poverty we might become rich.”

Our readings today continue the lessons we had last week.  Our readings are talking to us about how our relationship with God is to be shown in the way we treat each other.

The story about the poor man, Lazarus, and the rich man, is very interesting.  We do not learn the name of the rich man.  However, we learn the name of the poor man.  The interesting thing: we learn his name from the rich man in the story.  After he dies and is in torment, he asks Abraham: “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue…”  All the time that Lazarus was at the rich man’s gate, he was not an unknown. The rich man not only knew about him out there, he even knew his name!  Probably his servants would complain about Lazarus out there by the gate.  Yet, there was obviously no contact, and certainly no relationship was formed.

That is why the word: “Chasm” in the Gospel parable is so interesting.  Abraham said to the rich man: “Moreover between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing…”.   As we study the parable, we see that this ‘chasm’, this ‘great divide’ already existed between the rich man and Lazarus on earth.  There was no compassion, no relationship established by the rich man with the poor man Lazarus.  This is significant.  Jesus calls us to break down walls and divisions among us.  When we do the opposite, and allow chasms and ‘arroyos’ to exist between us, we are not living in accord with the will of God.  Jesus is telling us how we live our lives on this earth will be the pattern we have chosen for ourselves; God will not force us to change that pattern.  That choice is ours.

 

TWENTY FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Sept. 22, 2019
[Amos 8: 4-7; Timothy 2: 1-8; Luke 16: 1-13]

“May we lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. 
This is good and pleasing to God our Savior
who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”

We all dream and wish for peace, tranquility, a ‘quiet space’ in our lives.  It is St. Paul’s prayer that we achieve this ‘space’ in our lives.  But often when we think of this ‘space’, it involves things and ‘products’ of this world. We use cell phones and iPads to quiet us down and distract us.  We need to ‘get away’ - go somewhere to relax and get away from it all.  Sometimes the places we choose end up causing a lot more tension and problems than peacefulness and tranquility.

This is probably not the kind of peace and tranquility that St. Paul is talking about in the Second Reading.  The First Reading and the Gospel help us understand where true peace and joy come from.  We cannot have true peace if, like the people in the First Reading, we are intent on taking advantage of other people, or living a dishonest life. Those things catch up with us, as we say.

The same message is given to us by Jesus in the Gospel.  Dishonesty, deceit, may work for a while in the material world.   We cannot achieve ‘inner peace’ with the knowledge that all is not right between us, God, and other people.   When things are not right outside ourselves: with God, other people, all is not right within ourselves.  Jesus says: “You cannot serve God and mammon”.  Therefore, when we set out to serve God, we are truly serving our own best interests and what is best for each other.

 

TWENTY FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Sept 15, 2019
[Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14; Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-32]

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Our quote above from the Alleluia verse beautifully summarizes the lessons and theme for today.  Indeed, we have a great summary today of how God has been, and continues to bring, healing and forgiveness to His people throughout history.

In the first reading, God is sending Moses back down Mt. Sinai.  In just a very short time period, the people down below already turned against Moses and God and were looking to take their lives into their own hands, without God.

In the Gospel Jesus, uses several images and parables, because the people of His time were complaining that He associated with sinners.  We again have the story of the shepherd going in search of his sheep, and the woman rejoicing in finding her lost coin.  Finally, we have the classic parable of the Prodigal Son, more accurately entitled: “The Forgiving Father.”  This parable contains so many truths about the forgiveness of God, and our call to do the same.

St. Paul in the Second Reading makes all these lessons very personal.  He reviews, once again, his own history of serious unfaithfulness and ignorance when it came to the plan of God.  His conclusion can very easily be the same for each of us: “I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance …Indeed, the grace of God has been abundant, along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” -- A beautiful prayer of faith and contrition that can be said by each of us.