Monthly Archives: September 2013

Year C – Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 29, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10 (R/. 1b); 1 Timothy 6:11-16; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9; Luke 16:19-31

As the gap between rich and poor widens, God’s word could not be more relevant, “Woe to the complacent,” wails Amos.  “Pursue righteousness.  Lay hold of eternal life,” urges Paul.  “Listen to the true ‘Resurrection Man’ before it is too late,” counsels Luke.  We have two pictures of complacency today.  Amos portrays a pampered people, lying on couches, snacking, sipping, massaged into a state of lethargy, all to soothing music.  Then, he chastises us saying, “The party’s over.  Get ready for exile.”

Jesus gives us a story of ongoing indolence with a rich man lying on his couch, dressed in soft linen, eating rich food, drinking choice wines every day.  He takes no notice of Lazarus lying outside his gate, smelly, starving, and sickly.  Death comes for both.  The situation is then reversed on them.  The difference is the gate has become a gap, an abyss that now separates them.  Lazarus rests in Abraham’s bosom; whereas the rich man writhes in torment.

The lesson:  Gates have an expiration date.  Go through them now to help others.  Porta is the Latin word for gate, from which we get the word opportunity.  Do no neglect the opportunities – the gates – to help others.

What gates are before you to pass through to help another?

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Year C – Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 22, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8 (R/. cf. 1a, 7b); 1 Timothy 2:1-8; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9; Luke 16:1-13 or 16:10-13

The bottom line is clear, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”  Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning property, money, or possessions.  Fr. John Haughey, SJ, has written about “mammon sickness” in his book The Holy Use of Money, describing three of its symptoms:  running after things, numbness in our relationships, and a divided consciousness in our relationship with God.  Today’s readings invite us to take our spiritual temperature to see if we are suffering from this sickness.

Dishonest business practices are the target of Amos’s wrath.  The prophet connects the pursuit of wealth with both the diminishment of genuine worship of God and with trampling on the rights of the needy and the poor.  Such are the results of “mammon sickness,” when God’s love and concern for the poor do not take flesh through us.

Rather than condemning the shady practices of a steward, Jesus seems to admire them.  But a closer reading shows that what he admires is the initiative and shrewdness taken by this son of darkness, using money to make friends.  Children of the light should use money to make friends with the needy, thereby giving God glory.

How can mammon/money/possessions be sacramental, mediating God’s love?

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Year C – Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 15, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19 (R/. Luke 15:18); 1 Timothy 1:12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” the second reading quotes as a trustworthy saying, deserving acceptance.  In Jesus, we know God as the shepherd who searches out the one sheep who had wandered off, as the homemaker who turns the house upside down to recover a misplaced coin, and as the father welcoming both sons at the table of celebration.  He allows each son the time to “come to his senses” and leaves them free to accept the divine invitation to rejoice in the lost being found and the dead coming back to life.

Jesus, the Father’s obedient Son, does the Father’s will, reaching out with mercy.  We can see ourselves either as one who has wandered off, become accidentally lost, or deliberately gone away, resulting in our being displaced, in a condition of which we are ashamed.  Saddest of all is the one who remains at home but whose heart is far from the Father, living a life marked by bitterness, anger, and resentment.  Christ assures us God cannot wait for us to come back to where we belong, within the Father’s embrace.

How do you identify with the seeker and the one being sought?

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Year C – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 8, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Wisdom 9:13-18b; Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17 (R/.1); Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Psalm 119:135; Luke 14:25-33

Does Jesus really mean what he says today?  Hate my parents?  My siblings?  My spouse and children?  Hate myself – and spend my life carrying “my cross?”  Hatred?  Surely this is taking loyalty to the teacher too far, for another commandment is that of honoring one’s parents, which cannot be contradicted.  This verse in Luke may create much anguish between zealous Christian sons and daughters and their parents, who believing they are expressing their devotion to Jesus, have no regard or worse, hatred, for their parents.  And one addition at the end, “Give up all possessions!”

What we have here is a Hebrew idiom buried in overly literal Greek.  Biblical Hebrew lacks the necessary language to exactly define the comparative sense, i.e., ‘more than’ or ‘less than’.  Instead, it tends to express two things which may be comparatively of a different degree like ‘first’ and ‘second’ as extremes like ‘first’ and ‘last;.  In this way, love and hate, while appearing as opposites, may in fact be related, but in lesser terms as ‘love more’ and ‘love less’.  In this way, Jesus does not command us to literally harbor hatred for our parents, siblings, spouses, or children; rather to be his disciple, Jesus commands us to hold him to a higher degree than our loved ones.

Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is the most radical commitment of our lives, and he calls us to make it whole-heartedly, allowing it to transform our lives and relationships, loving all others in Christ.  Following Jesus means working to bring about a renewed world, where a renewed sense of self goes beyond personal fulfillment, a renewed sense of family moves us beyond blood ties, and a renewed sense of sense of relationship with our possessions carries us beyond accumulation.

Paul is inviting his convert, Philemon, to enter into this new world by taking back a runaway slave, not punishing him, but treating him as a brother in Christ.  Thus begins the unraveling of a world in which slavery was acceptable.

What stands between you and Jesus Christ?  How can you overcome it?

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Year C – Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 1, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11 (R/. cf. 11b); Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a; Matthew 11:29ab; Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus certainly had chutzpah.  Here, at a dinner party, we find him offering advice to his fellow guests and to his host.  Keep in mind that he has just healed a man with dropsy (edema) on the Sabbath, and his host, a leading Pharisee, would not approve of any activity, even healing, on the Sabbath.  So the atmosphere was a little tense.  Perhaps that is why Jesus decided to take a risk, calling the shocked guests to humility and the disapproving host to generosity.

Jesus is initiating some “Kingdom etiquette,” teaching how things will be in the kingdom of God, but also encouraging those who want to have the Kingdom present even now.  In the Kingdom, the last are first, the least are honored and feted, and generosity replaces entitlement and self-serving action.  The God who reigns in the kingdom appreciates humility, so if you want to be great, be humble before God and others.  And know this:  God’s dinner parties will be held in the heavenly Jerusalem, with angels decked out in finest garb, and invited guests will be hosted by Jesus.  What a great party it will be!

How can you help the Kingdom’s banquet to begin now?

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