1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Psalm 16:1-1. 5. 7-8, 9-10, 11 (R/. cf. 5a); Galatians 5:1, 13-18; 1 Samuel 3:9, John 6:68c; Luke 9:51-62
In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech naming the four freedoms Americans cherished: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Americans have valued freedom from the beginning of our country. Freedom is also a biblical value. St. Paul writes. “For freedom Christ has set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” The slavery Paul refers to is the slavery of sin, which chokes off our freedom and limits what we do. Freedom reveals itself in living by the Spirit, which means living in love. A disciple of Jesus freely chooses to follow Jesus and his teachings. We do not use our freedom to enslave or manipulate others, much less to oppress or respond violently to those who oppose us. God gives us the strength to commit ourselves to Jesus, not letting anything, neither comforts nor family ties, keep us from following him. With the dedication of Elisha, who burned his oxen behind him, we set out each day freely to follow Jesus.
How have you used your freedom this day?
Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1; Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Galatians 3:26-29; John 10:27; Luke 9:18-24
There are big questions and little questions in life. Today, Jesus asks the apostles a big question, “Who do you say that I am?” His apostles have been with him for a while; they have seen him preach and teach, heal and cast out demons. They have seen the different reactions to him, some favorable, some not. He leads into it by asking what the crowds are saying, but then their turn to speak comes. Simon’s answer, “You are the Christ of God,” meaning, “You are the Messiah, the Anointed One, which we have been waiting for,” gets a rebuke. Why? For generations, the Messiah or Savior most people were waiting for was a military leader who would come in, toss out the oppressors, and make Israel a powerful nation again. Jesus was saying, “I am not your grandmother’s messiah!”
Jesus goes on to teach them that he is the Son of Man (note the change in title) who will suffer, die, and be raised. And furthermore, that anyone who wishes to follow him must be willing to lose his or her life for his sake, to give themselves for others.
Who do you say Jesus is?
2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13; Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11 (R/. cf. 5c); Galatians 2:16, 19-21; 1 John 4:10b; Luke 7:36-8:3 or 7:36-50
Last week, God’s love touched two powerless widows; this week God reaches out to two powerful men: a king and a Pharisee. In both cases today, God’s prophets made use of stories to confront and convert. (One may want to read the entire Old Testament story in Chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Samuel).
The prophet Nathan traps the conscience of an adulterous king by using a story of a man whose prized pet lamb was snatched for a rich man’s dinner. Jesus traps the conscience of a Pharisee by using the story of two people whose debts are forgiven. We know that David responds and repents, recognizing his sinfulness as he says, “I have sinned against the Lord,” and Nathan proclaims God’s forgiveness, though not without consequences. The Pharisee grudgingly gets the point of Jesus’ story (those forgiven more, love more), but we do not know whether it frees him from his judgmental ways.
Perhaps the most instructive figure is the woman who comes to the Pharisee’s house. Her open heart and love for Jesus call us to love the Lord with abandon, recognizing that God’s forgiveness is ours for the taking, and responding wholeheartedly.
Does God have to lure you into seeking forgiveness?
1 Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13; Galatians 1:11-19; Luke 7:16; Luke 7:11-17
Widows were not merry in Sacred Scripture. A widow was in real trouble if she did not have an adult son or another male in the family to care for her. In reaching out to two heartbroken widows who have lost their sons, God shows divine compassion.
The widow of Zarephath thinks Elijah caused her son’s illness as a punishment on her. “Why have you done this to me, O man of God?” she asks. “Have you come to call attention to my guilt and to kill my son?” But Elijah takes the boy and calls on God for help. God responds, restoring the child to his mother. In turn, she professes Elijah to be a man of God who speaks God’s word.
The widow of Nain says nothing to Jesus. Seeing her tears, Jesus acts compassionately, calling the boy back to life and restoring him to his mother. Those present recognize him as a prophet, as God visiting the people.
How can we “visit God’s people”? Especially consider the many women who see their children die before them of disease that could be averted or cured or because of genocidal wars.
Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:1,2,3,4; 1Corinthians 11:23-26; Lauda Sion; John 6:51; Luke 9:11b-17
We move from the mystery of God as Trinity, a community of life and love, which we entered at our baptism, to the mystery of the Eucharist, the ongoing presence of the risen Lord as food for the journey, a meal rich in blessing. The readings place us at three meals, preparing us to participate more fully in our Eucharistic meal. As with the meal the king-priest Melchizedek shared with Abraham, the Eucharist allows us to bless God for blessing us so abundantly with this great gift of the body and blood of God’s Son. The two other readings present two important meals recorded in the Gospels. The story of Jesus feeding a great crowd with five loaves and two fish is found in every Gospel. Each highlights the fact that it is after Jesus blesses the food that all are fed with much left over. However, it is at the Last Supper that the meal becomes its greatest blessing when Jesus’ words declare it his body and blood. In eating and drinking this blessed food and drink, we enter into communion with the mystery of his body broken and blood poured out.
When you count your blessings, is the Eucharist among them?