18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The strong words from Ecclesiastes really gets our attention today “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” These thought-provoking words seem to be very pessimistic, but what do they really mean?
The Hebrew word “hebel” that is translated into the English word “vanity”, is the Hebrew word for breath or, more specifically, for the fleeting vapor that we see when we breathe into the cold air. The author of Ecclesiastes is telling us that life can be like a fleeting breath and so each day we need to pay attention to what matters to God. That message is echoed in Colossians. It urges us to seek the things that are above and not to chase after false or illusory things. Now this message is nothing new for us. But do we really internalize it?
We know that giving thanks and expressing gratitude to God is not only an important part of our Christian faith, but gratitude and thanksgiving are important parts of our secular world as well.
In the Gospel today, there is a rich man who is blessed with a bountiful harvest. This rich man’s Jewish tradition would call upon him to give thanks to the Lord in the form of prayers, fasting, and almsgiving. He evidently ignored the demands of the Jewish Law to leave the gleanings of the harvest for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the immigrant. He takes it all for himself and plans to enjoy himself, eating and drinking.
The man in the gospel is not an evil man. The parable does not say that he will not receive eternal life with God in heaven. But what Jesus wants to point out is that the rich man is unable to see beyond himself. He was the centre of his whole world. When he asked himself the question ‘what shall I do with this windfall’ it never enters his mind to say “I will feed the hungry, I will open my barns and call in all the poor. He lived his life without reference to God or his neighbours.
As Jesus says at the end of this story, you and I are called to become people who grow rich in what matters to God. We do that by consciously orienting our lives to God and to the justice and compassion revealed by Christ in the Gospel. This invitation to become wealthy in the eyes of God means recognizing our real treasures in life; our relationship with God, the priceless gift of our faith; our commitments to our vocation, to spouses, children, family members and important friendships; the exercise of justice and compassion toward others, particularly those in need around us.
In our prayer during the coming week, we might ask ourselves a couple of questions: What are the treasures in my life? Do I recognize the treasures and give them the time and the energy they should have in my life?
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
During the first few centuries of Christianity, the Good Samaritan was often represented with the face of the crucified and risen Lord. The Samaritan, the one who stops and draws near, is Christ, the Son of God who became incarnate in order to become our neighbor. The man robbed, beaten and left half-dead represented the human family.
As we pray with this familiar Gospel this Sunday, it may be helpful to recall this ancient interpretation of the parable. It is a tradition that speaks to us first and foremost about who Christ has been and is for us. Christ is the one who stops for each one of us in our need. He approaches us with compassion in those times when we need forgiveness. He is the Good Samaritan when we are facing illness, dealing with the loss of a loved one, and in countless other circumstances.
The image of Jesus as the Good Samaritan opens a whole new perspective on this gospel parable that we have heard so often. With this parable Jesus replies to a question from a devout young scholar of the law who asks him: “And who is my neighbor?” As a Jewish scholar, he knewthe law that taught him to “treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself.” And he knew that, loving one’s neighbor is a sacred responsibility of a faithful Jewish person.
But the lawyer wants to really put Jesus to the test and asks him: "And who is my neighbour?" To the scribes of Jesus time, the word “neighbor” meant another Scribe or Pharisee – never a Samaritan or a Gentile. Hence, the Scribe insisted on further clarification of the word “neighbor.” Implicit in the Lawyer’s question is the understanding that there are some people who are not considered as a neighbor.
In telling the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells him, do not ask who your neighbour is, rather, become neighbour to the one who needs you. Have compassion on them and draw close to them. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that, just as Christ Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible God,” our neighbors in need are the visible image of Christ living in our very midst. Thus, the correct approach is not to ask the question “Who is my neighbor or who is not my neighbour?” but rather to ask, “Am I a good neighbor to others?”
As we celebrate the Eucharist this weekend, I would suggest that we keep two questions in mind. First, how have I experienced Christ as Good Samaritan in my life – raising me up, offering me healing and new life? As we recall these moments, we should give thanks.
Second, who is the person to whom Christ is calling me today to become neighbor? The road from Jerusalem to Jericho passes right through our home, our community and workplace. The Jericho Road is any place where we meet people who needs our loving attention and care. Christ says to us…we are the neighbor who can make a difference in their lives. …it’s up to us.
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A story is told of a boy who listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas Day. She told the youngster, ‘The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for one another.’ And so, when Christmas came, the boy brought the teacher a beautiful seashell. She asked him, ‘Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?’ The boy told her that it was from a place several miles away and the teacher was quite amazed. The teacher said you should not have gone all that way to get such a gift for me.’ The little boy’s eyes brightened, and he said, ‘Long walk part of gift.’
Today’s gospel passage recounts the sending out of disciples on a mission. And surely it was a long, walk for those 72 as they journeyed from town to town. What was the mission? They are given a share in Christ’s mission of revealing the presence of the God of life to many who have had the life drained out of them. They are given a share in Christ’s mission of confronting the powers of evil in the world and bringing God’s healing to those in need of it.
There is a sense of haste and urgency in this endeavor. They are not to take things with them that will weigh them down, that will impede their work. They need to be zealous about their participation in this mission.They had to leave the comfortable and the familiar, they had to take time out of their routine activities to partake in the mission.
For us who are Catholic Christians it is easy at times to become passive in our faith. We can assume the stance of mere spectators. We receive the sacraments and attend Mass. Even for me, that sense of passivity can set in at times. I can just go through the motions of ministry and lose a sense of initiative and zeal about the mission of Jesus. The Scripture readings for this Sunday invite us to reflect deeply on our share in the mission of Jesus. And every one of us, in our own different way, is of critical importance to that mission of Jesus today.
Whatever our particular vocation in life, it is important for us to acknowledge that God calls each of us to take that long walk, to step out of our comfort zones, our routine activities. There are many issues that demand our attention and response. We can not ignore issues like poverty, homelessness, environmental crisis, welfare of people on social programs. Theses are just a few examples of issues that demand our attention and response. We are first of all called to pray that the kingdom of God may become a reality for all of us.
Each time we celebrate the Eucharist we are invited to the banquet of God’s word and sacrament and then we are sent forth: “The Mass is ended; Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” May we always remember that we too are called and send out to take the long walk to live the Good new of God’s kingdom.
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the readings of today we encounter a few people who are busy with many things, who will get around to following Jesus when they finish their works. Elijah calls Elisha to the urgent task of prophecy but Elisha was in that ‘will get around to it’ mentality. He had other things to do.
It’s the same with the people in the gospel. They were interested in following Jesus. But there were other matters to be attended to – their message was, I’m really interested in following you, but I’ve got other things going on right now. I’ll get around to it one of these days.’
Our gospel begins with these words – “When the days drew near for him to be taken up Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus knew what lay ahead of him, so he told the disciples, “the son of man will be betrayed, be put to death but on the third day be raised.” But for Jesus there was no turning back. Nothing would distract him from doing his Father’s will. Jesus demanded that same commitment from those who followed him.
When these well-meaning people offered to join Jesus on the way he was quite blunt with them. He wanted followers, not admirers. He was looking for commitment now, not when they got around to it, not when it fits into their plans or convenience.
Jesus tells the man who wants to say goodbye to his family: “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” It might sound so harsh. But the message I believe is focus on what is before you. And go forward. By our baptism we have put our hands to the plough to follow Christ, his way of life, and his values.
Sometimes we are so like Elisha and the people in the gospel. And we might say to ourselves with all good intentions, one of these days I’ll take my faith seriously. One of these days I’ll try to spend time in prayer. One of these days I will get around to examining how faithful I am to his teaching, and how faithfully I live the new commandment, ‘love one another as I have loved you.
I remember the time when I was ordained a priest. I thought once I was ordained that would be it, faithful to the end. But I realize as I go along that it requires a new commitment every day.
I have to admit that I fall into the temptation of keeping things for later or finding excuses to not do what God is calling me to do. No matter what way of life we find ourselves in, married, single, or religious life, the Lord’s call to follow him continues in a very personal way.
Today’s scripture invites us to face our ‘get around to it’ attitude towards our faith, towards life commitment and responsibilities that God has entrusted to us as parents, sons and daughters. As we continue this Mass we pray that strengthened by the grace of the Eucharist we receive we will have the willingness to continue to follow Christ in the daily living of our life.