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Revelation

Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη

Josephus
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Who was Josephus?
Maps, Graphics
Highlights
Translation

THE JEWISH WAR
War, Volume 1
War, Volume 2
War, Volume 3
War, Volume 4
War, Volume 5
War, Volume 6
War, Volume 7

THE ANTIQUITIES
Ant. Jud., Bk 1
Ant. Jud., Bk 2
Ant. Jud., Bk 3
Ant. Jud., Bk 4
Ant. Jud., Bk 5
Ant. Jud., Bk 6
Ant. Jud., Bk 7
Ant. Jud., Bk 8
Ant. Jud., Bk 9
Ant. Jud., Bk 10
Ant. Jud., Bk 11
Ant. Jud., Bk 12
Ant. Jud., Bk 13
Ant. Jud., Bk 14
Ant. Jud., Bk 15
Ant. Jud., Bk 16
Ant. Jud., Bk 17
Ant. Jud., Bk 18
Ant. Jud., Bk 19
Ant. Jud., Bk 20

OTHER WRITINGS
Apion, Bk 1
Apion, Bk 2
Autobiog.


Apocrypha
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Introduction

Gospel of--
-- Nicodemus
-- Peter
-- Ps-Matthew
-- James (Protevangelium)
-- Thomas (Infancy)
-- Thomas (Gnostic)
-- Joseph of Arimathea
-- Joseph_Carpenter
Pilate's Letter
Pilate's End

Apocalypse of --
-- Ezra
-- Moses
-- Paul
-- Pseudo-John
-- Moses
-- Enoch

Various
Clementine Homilies
Clementine Letters
Clementine Recognitions
Dormition of Mary
Book of Jubilees
Life of Adam and Eve
Odes of Solomon
Pistis Sophia
Secrets of Enoch
Tests_12_Patriarchs
Veronica's Veil
Vision of Paul
Vision of Shadrach

Acts of
Andrew
Andrew & Matthias
Andrew & Peter
Barnabas
Bartholomew
John
Matthew
Paul & Perpetua
Paul & Thecla
Peter & Paul
Andrew and Peter
Barnabas
Philip
Pilate
Thaddaeus
Thomas in India

Daily Word 2019

SEASONS of:
Advent
Christmastide
Lent
Eastertide

SUNDAYS, Year A
Sundays, 1-34, A
SUNDAYS, Year B
Sundays, 1-34, B
SUNDAYS, Year C
Sundays, 1-34, C

WEEKDAYS
(Ordinary Time)
Weeks 1-11 (Year 1)
Weeks 1-11 (Year 2)

Wks 12-22 (Year 1)
Wks 12-22 (Year 2)

Wks 23-34 (Year 1)
Wks 23-34 (Year 2)

OTHER
Solemnities
Baptisms
Weddings
Funerals
Saints Days

Patristic
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Clement of Rome

Ignatius of Antioch

Polycarp of Smyrna

Barnabas,(Epistle of)

Papias of Hierapolis

Justin, Martyr

The Didachë

Irenaeus of Lyons

Hermas (Pastor of)

Tatian of Syria

Theophilus of Antioch

Diognetus (letter)

Athenagoras of Alex.

Clement of Alexandria

Tertullian of Carthage

Origen of Alexandria

Weekdays, Year 2

Weeks 23-34

Week 23

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 24

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 25

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 26

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 27

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 28

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 29

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 30

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 31

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 32

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 33

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 34

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Readings for Mass, as listed in the Irish Liturgical Calendar. (Text: NRSV). Homilies from the ACP website (section: Liturgy)

Readings for the 23rd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

*

Monday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:1-8

Applying church discipline to a scandalous case (incest)

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, no with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Responsorial Psalm 5

R./: Lead me, Lord, in your justice

You are no God who loves evil,
  no sinner is your guest.
The arrogant may not stand in your sight.
  You hate all evildoers. (R./)

You destroy all who speak falsehood;
The bloodthirsty and the deceitful
  the Lord abhors. (R./)

But let all who take refuge in you
  be glad and Rejoice forever.
Protect them, that you may be the joy
  of those who love your name. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:6-11

On a Sabbath day, Jesus heals the man with a withered hand

One sabbath day Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, to find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come and stand here." He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" After looking around at all of them, he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

BIBLE

Monitoring moral high standards

St Paul would not cover up a public scandal in the church, no matter who the person may be. He judges it "lewd conduct" for a man to be cohabiting with his stepmother. Even if the man's father was deceased, this type of marriage was scandalous in Jewish law (Lev 20:11).

Paul challenges his community to "Get rid of the old yeast," on the basis that if left unchecked, just a little of it would infect the whole batch (his bread-image for the church). He sets very high moral standards for the continues membership of the community. Although union with Christ by faith is open to all, regardless of race or nationality, membership of the church requires fidelity and self-control. To be one body in Christ (1 Cor 12:12,27) the values of Jesus must characterise the members.

On the other hand, if standards are set too high and the behaviour of church members, especially of those in ordained ministry, were subjected to public sanctions, it could lead to hpocrisy and the covering up of grave faults to avoid scandal. Keeping a right and fair balance between mercy and justice remains a vital challenge to any society, and especially to the church of Jesus Christ.


Just Do It

He sensed a trap was being set by his enemies, to place him in a negative light. In order to make Jesus look like a law-breaker, a man with a paralysed hand was brought forward, hoping that compassion for the man's handicap would cause the volatile preacher from Nazareth to break the Sabbath. Their legalist view of Sabbath observance taught that no work, not even one of healing, should be done on that holy day. Their tendency was to regard God mainly as the supreme law-giver, and that all rules are meant to be kept, regardless of circumstances. But the heart of Jesus could not be bound by such a rigid attitude.

Many facile reasons can be advanced for not doing the right thing: it's the wrong day of the week to come looking for help; fear to side with the unemployed or disabled; unable to correct a powerful, influential person, for obvious wrongdoing. And people even see reasons why God should not act generously. But following Jesus' example we should "Just Do It."


*

Tuesday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

A people saved by Jesus must have high standards of love and respect

When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life! If then you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?

To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that even your own brethren. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Responsorial: from Psalm 149

R./: The Lord takes delight in his people

Sing to the Lord a new song
  of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
  let the children of Zion rejoice in their king. (R./)

Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
  let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord loves his people,
  and he adorns the lowly with victory. (R./)

Let the faithful Rejoice in glory;
  let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
  This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:12-19

Jesus spends the night in prayer and afterwards calls the twelve; then teaches and heals

During those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

BIBLE

Things to repent about

Some of the failures listed by Paul are less serious than others, but all were troubling the church in Corinth. The main problem is their disunity, and their complacency when wronging one another, "You yourself injure and cheat your very own brother and sister." He singles out the scandal of members taking their problems and disputes to secular law courts. Indignantly he adds, "I say this in an attempt to shame you."

He links the idea of darkness to a list of sins which he found or suspected in Corinth: fornication, idolatry, adultery, sodomy, thievery, miserliness, drunkenness, slander and the rest. Their biggest weakness, in his view, is disunity and their quickness to take offence at one another He singles out the scandal of mistrust and deceit in the Corinthian church, so that members were quick to take their problems and disputes for judgment in secular law courts. He expects more of a tight-knit family of Christians.


Energised by prayer

Jesus went out to the mountain and spent the night in prayer. After quiet communion with God his energies were renewed, so that at daybreak he called his disciples and selected twelve of them to be his apostles. He then proceeded with teaching and healing all who came to him. "Power went out from him which cured all."

We learn from this example, among many others from the Gospels, the value of giving time to prayer as a way of restoring our energy and motivation, and in particular before making any major decision, whether about our health, our relationships or our work.


*

Wednesday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:25-31

Christians are free to marry or not, but remember anyway that this world is passing

About the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.

Responsorial: from Psalm 45

R./: Listen, o daughter, give ear to my words

Listen, o daughter, give ear to my words
  forget your people and your father's house.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
  for he is your lord, and you must worship him. (R./)

All glorious is the king's daughter as she enters;
  her raiment is threaded with spun gold.
 In embroidered apparel she is borne in to the king;
  behind her the virgins of her train are brought to you. (R./)

They are borne in with gladness and joy;
  they enter the palace of the king.
The place of your fathers your sons shall have;
  you shall make them princes through all the land. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:20-26

The Beatitudes of Jesus, here spoken on "level ground" to a large crowd

Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh."Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. "Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

BIBLE

Blessings

Luke's summary of the Beatitudes is more direct than Matthew's more generalised version. In Luke, Jesus speaks directly to the crowds in the valley, in the form "Blessed are you, who are poor." Matthew has a longer version of the same basic sermon, addressed to disciples who had followed Jesus up the mountain, and are phrased in the third person, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the reign of God is theirs." Luke has Jesus coming down the mountain to deliver his message on a level place where a large crowd has gathered.

Luke's Beatitudes may be closer to Jesus' original words, not a general, catechetical discourse but addressed specifically and immediately to his hearers: "you poor" and "you who hunger." It seems that God achieves more with our poverty than with our wealth, more with our faith than with our activity. Poverty and faith have an easier access to God. Wealth and status can close our heart or even weigh us down with anxieties.

To the Corinthians Paul admits that on the matter of celibacy he has no commandment from the Lord. He offers reflections on the options open to us. He advises people not to rush into marriage; but neither should they to remain single merely as a way to avoid responsibility. And whether married or single, one should not be overly possessive. Husbands and wives are not related as owners of each other but as baptised believers, united in the Lord. This union transcends all difference of gender and underpins their radical equality of value and dignity.


Unrealistic ideals?

The beatitudes sound strange to our ears. Jesus declares blessed and happy the poor, the hungry and those who weep, whereas he declares unfortunate the rich and those who have their fill of everything. Those sentiments seem to go against common sense. They jar with how we normally see life and forces us to rethink our values. God shows special favour to the distressed and vulnerable. This is why Jesus calls this group blessed, because God wants to change their situation. Our vulnerability creates an opening for God to work in our lives.

Isn't it true that we often seek God more earnestly when our need is greater, whether in our individual or communal need. We come before the Lord in our poverty, our hunger, our sadness because it is above all in those times that we realize that we are not self-sufficient. In Luke's gospel, from which our reading is taken, as Jesus hung from the cross one of the criminals alongside him said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." To this hopeless man Jesus said, "today, you will be with me in paradise." It is when we are at our weakest that grace is at its strongest.


*

Thursday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-7, 11-13

Not giving scandal, or causing another to fall from grace

"Knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him.

As to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.

Responsorial: from Psalm 139

R./: Lead me, O Lord, in the path of life eternal

O Lord, you search me and you know me,
 you know my resting and my rising,
 you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
 all my ways lie open to you. R./

For it was you who created my being,
 knit me together in my mother's womb.
I thank you for the wonder of my being,
 for the wonders of all your creation. R./

Already you knew my soul,
 my body held no secret from you,
when I was being fashioned in secret
 and moulded in the depths of the earth. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:27-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful

Jesus said, "I tell you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged;do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

BIBLE

Finding the right balance

With the Corinthians Paul mixed idealism with pragmatism. Knowledge can puff us up into windbags. We can argue cleverly yet cause scandal. Some can be so fixated on theological correctness that lose contact with reality. Sincere dedication to Jesus will refine our sense of concern for people who are scrupulous.

Using the example of meat slaughtered in temples and dedicated to pagan gods, Paul argues two sides of this issue. Because those "gods" are really "no-gods," a Christian believer can buy this (cheap?) meat for food. But if my neighbour can't see this distinction and thinks this meat blasphemous, then I run the risk of giving scandal to a neighbour for whom Christ died. I must think of the consequences of my actions, and not just please ourselves.

In this same spirit we should soberly re-evaluate how to apply in our lives Christ's noble ideals: "Bless those who curse you; Turn the other cheek; and Love your enemy." These are the ideals, not literal rules. But they challenge us to let our hearts expand to mirror God's own heart.


Gratuitous giving

In the culture of the time, people who were in a position to give generously expected some kind of return. Giving to others put them in debt to you; there was a cultural expectation of some kind of return. Perhaps our own culture is not all that different, because we are not all that different. We struggle to be selfless in our giving. Jesus cuts across that culture of giving with a view to receiving.

The love he calls for, with no trace of self-seeking is rare; it is how God loves. God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked; God does not give with a view to receiving. Can we be God-like in our loving and in our giving? The world would consider this a folly; we will be left with nothing. But if we give in this God-like way, a full measure, running over, will be poured into our lap. We are to let this message of Christ, in its richness, find a home with us.

*

Friday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-27

Paul's total dedication to his preaching ministry

If I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Responsorial: from Psalm 83

R./: How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!

My soul is longing and yearning,
 is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
 My heart and my soul ring out their joy
 to God, the living God. (R./)

The sparrow herself finds a home
 and the swallow a nest for her brood;
 she lays her young by your altars,
 Lord of hosts, my king and my God. (R./)

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
 for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
 in whose hearts are the roads to Zion. (R./)

For the Lord God is a rampart, a shield;
 he will give us his favour and glory.
The Lord will not refuse any good
 to those who walk without blame.  (R./)

 

Gospel: Luke 6:39-42

The need for self-awareness before we offer to judge others

Jesus told them a parable:

"Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."

BIBLE

Leadership and liberty

The readings today have direct relevance for people in leadership roles, but they also apply to all human relationships. Those who serve as leaders whether in church, civil service or business, should see themselves not as "superiors" who command "subjects" but as coordinators in a shared project, where the gifts of each persoteam member are respected and given room to flourish.

Paul describes his energetic role as servant/leader, helped in his missionary work by a divine impulse. He feels that sharing the Gospel with others is a commission entrusted to him by God, and he feels driven to carry it out, whatever sacrifices it involves. In order to be all the more free for apostolic work he has remained celibate, "free from all men." He even claims to make himself a slave to all, adapting to the needs of each group of people. Yet even a leader of such overflowing zeal can have his own problems. Sometimes he can appear arrogant, demanding and difficult. He feels that he must discipline his body and subdue it, so that he can practice what he preaches. His public self-examination is a lesson in religious leadership. Three centuries later, Saint Augustine did something similar in his "Confessions" by making the kind of healthy self-examination that can purify the human heart.

In his parable about the blind leading the blind, Jesus teaches us to respect, admire and learn from each other's gifts. Otherwise, in our ignorance we will be proud and arrogant, like a blind man trying to guide another. Each of us needs the insights of others to balance our own views and judgments. It is hard for a learned person to take advice from another, no matter how experienced the other may be. We need mutual and sincere interaction in the Church to keep us on the right path to community and eternal life.


Beware of judging others

Our limited insight into each other makes it hard to lead others in a way that is fair and just. We may be tempted to think that we see so much more clearly what needs to be done.

Jesus sugests that we are all blind to some degree, so it could be like the blind leading the blind rather than the wise leading the foolish. Changing the metaphor, he gives us the comic scenario of someone trying to take a splinter out of a neighbour's eye while being oblivious of the much larger hazard in his own eye.

The image of dislodging the plank from our own eye warns us be aware of our own defects before judging others. Our own failings can block us from understanding the other person, and this should make us slow to judge and to condemn. He had earlier stated that God, who does see clearly into every heart, is compassionate and merciful to all, even the ungrateful and the wicked. We need to take our lead from God who sees all things clearly, and be merciful on that account.


*

Saturday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body

Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Responsorial: from Psalm 115

R./: To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise

How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
 I will call on the Lord's name. (R./)

A thanksgiving sacrifice I make:
 I will call on the Lord's name.
 My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
 before all his people.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:43-49

The house of faith built securely on rock, survives the flood

Jesus said to his disciples: "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

"Why do you call me "Lord, Lord," and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house."

BIBLE

Built on rock

In the Bible, the image of "Rock" mainly symbolises strength, consistency and trustworthiness. The exceptions are where the rock is a source of nourishment, such as when water or honey flow from it (Num 20:11; Ps 81:17). In St Paul's fertile imagination, the rock from which water flowed in the desert actually followed the people along the journey - and that rock was Christ! (1 Cor 10:4). Isaiah speaks of the rock supporting the temple where God dwells among his people (Is 28:16 ). And the Psalmist acclaims God as the rock of our salvation(Ps Ps 95:1). Matthew 16:18 has Simon Peter named as rock or foundation of the church. Putting these together, the rock is a symbol of God's unshakeable reliable fidelity. Our lives can be built upon this rock.

People who care only for personal gain and material wealth are building on shifting sand. They put no trust in the Lord and are swayed only by passions and emotions. Anger can rule them before they can think, so that rash words are spoken that cannot be unsaid. In a rush to make a quick profit, wisdom is ignored. Faced with hardship, this person is not dependable. "When the river burst against it, immediately it fell," as the Gospel warns.


Sure foundations

What is visible and tangible is not all that matters. The two houses in today's parable may have looked the same, in fine weather. But it turns out that they were very different. One was built on sand and the other on solic rock. That most important part of a house, its foundation, is invisible. We are urged to have a sure foundation, below the surface of our living. Just as the two houses had to withstand flood conditions, we ourselves often we have to deal with various difficulties, relating to our health, our relationships, our work. Our ability to cope with those issues will depend on how silidly we are grounded.

Jesus offers himself as the foundation for our faith. Listening to him and following in his way, is how se build our spiritual lives on rock, able to cope with the storms of life. Our Lord wants to be the foundation of our lives. We need to cooperate with his call, and build our lives on him.


24th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33

The Eucharistic meal can be profaned by divisions based on class and wealth

In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first lace, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you so that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you meet together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait upon one another.

Responsorial: from Psalm 40

R./: Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes

You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
 but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
 Instead, here am I.. (R./)

In the scroll of the book it stands written
 that I should do your will.
 My God, I delight in your law
 in the depth of my heart. (R./)

Your justice I have proclaimed
 in the great assembly.
 My lips I have not sealed;
 you know it, O Lord. (R./)

May all who seek you
  Rejoice and be glad in you
 And may those who love your salvation
  say ever, The Lord be glorified. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 7:1-10

For his faith, the Roman centurion receives a cure for his servant

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us."

Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

BIBLE

All are called to salvation

Different facets of salvation are reflected in today's texts. The story of the Roman centurion shows how ready a pagan can be for the Gospel; and Paul's Letter shows how people need instrucction, to return to Gospel values. The Church's mission is clear and engaging: God wants all to be saved and to know the truth that leads to eternal life.

The pagan centurion shows even stronger faith than existed in Israel. If we transfer this into our time, the faith of a Buddhist or a Muslim can take us by surprise.

In the centurion we see both kindly concern for his ailing servant, and the humility to ask help from Jesus, at the risk of refusal, since he served in the occupying Roman army. He shows courtly deference too, "Sir, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter my house." Open and honest, this man puts his trust in Jesus, and sends a delegation of Jewish elders to speak on his behalf. To his natural virtues he adds a humble, trusting faith. Jesus praises the faith of this foreigner.

Converts can have much to teach us who were baptised in our infancy. Long-term believers can be resistant to change, take the faith for granted, and even neglect the natural virtues. Backsliding of this kind was corroding a group founded by Paul. The Corinthians were not living in charity and peace but sharply divided into rich and poor, forming separate cliques according to their favourite preachers, whether Paul or Cephas or Apollos. Such splintering let to a travesty in their way of celebrating the Lord's Supper.

In his effort to reunite them, Paul repeats the central tradition: The one body belongs to Christ, the one blood is that of Christ. Christians are joined with Jesus' death and in hope of his return. They must stand united, share both hardships and material well-being together, for they all belong to the same Lord Jesus.


Faith found in surprising places

The words of that Roman centurion are adapted for use in our Mass, as we prepare to receive the Holy Eucharist, "I am not worthy to have you under my roof.. only say the word and let my servant be healed." The centurion knew the local customs, and so did not want to ask Jesus to violate the Jewish Law by entering the house of a pagan. He also showed great trust in the life-giving power of Jesus' word. His remarkable faith is declared by Jesus to be greater than any faith he had found in Israel.

If such a person, a pagan soldier in an occupying army, shows such faith in Jesus, surely we can too. His story shows that faith can be found in the most unlikely of people and at unexpected times. We should not jump to the conclusion that people who no longer attend our church have also ceased to believe in the mercy of God. We cannot second-guess who is a person of faith and who is not. Indeed, as we join in the Mass, it is good to pray that such faith will continue to be found in surprising places.


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Tuesday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31

Many gifts, all at the service of the community, the body of Christ

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to he hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Responsorial: from Psalm 100

R./: We are his people, the sheep of his flock

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
 Come before him, singing for joy. (R./)

Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
 we are his people, the sheep of his flock. (R./)

Go within his gates giving thanks,
 enter his courts with songs of praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name. (R./)

Indeed, how good is the Lord,
 eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 7:11-17

Jesus raises to life the dead son of a widow at Naim

Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favourably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

BIBLE

Different tasks to be done

Comparing various New Testament texts, we find a variety of ways to view the church and its leadership. It began as a group of volunteers working alongside Jesus, who wanted to sincerely worship God as he did, and to serve their neighbour, especially those who were sick or grieving. There were various healings, of which a spectacular example was the miracle in Naim, in response to a widowed mother's grief.

By St Paul's time, the gift of healing comes fourth in a list of special services to be valued (after apostle, prophet and teacher.) He imagines the bond between baptised people as like a living body, made up of many different members, but all of them interdependent, and contributing to the health of the whole body. In later letters (Pastorals) the charismatic, spontaneous gifts are barely mentioned since they deal with formal leadership functions (bishops, deacons, presbyters and widows.)

As the church expanded through the Mediterranean world, and faced crises both internal (disunity) and external (persecution), it needed a more structured form of leadership. This is paralleled in the development of an individual's life. Children are filled with vitality and seem able to become any direction at will; as young adults, they need choose some kind of career, yet they still bring new spirit to their vocation; later, as adults and parents, they sense a need for some conservatism.

Saint Paul reflected on the kind of gifts that would help the church to flourish. Without wanting to suppress any genuine inspiration, he knew that a charismatic type of leadership carries the risk of splintering the community. Enthusiasm for miracles risks an irrational fervor led by a cult leader, exercising absolute control. On the other hand, we must not discard faith in miracles or forget Jesus, the miracle worker. Some spontaneous charisms are needed for the vitality of the church, but the steadfast guidance of bishops and deacons is a valuable service too; by people of even temper, self-control, prudence, good management skills and the rest. We hope and pray for all of these gifts, in the service of God's people.


The widow's plight

Widows in Israel were very vulnerable and usually needed their children, their sons in particular, to support them. A widow whose only son had just died was in a really pitiable situation. When Jesus met the widow of Naim, he was moved with compassion by her plight. Spontaneously he reaches out to help, and restores her son to life.

An unusual feature in this story is that the widow did not ask anything of Jesus nor cry out to him for help. Without waiting to be asked, he simply responded to what he saw: a situation of grief and loss. The same risen Lord reaches out to us today in our need, without waiting to be asked.

We too can be compassionate and spontaneous. The One who touches us in his grace can make us channels of his compassion to each other, to carry one another's burdens, as he carries ours.


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Wednesday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Paul's hymn to charity, as the supreme virtue

Earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way…. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Responsorial: from Psalm 33

R./: Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own

Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,
 with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs.
 O sing him a song that is new,
 play loudly, with all your skill. (R./)

For the word of the Lord is faithful
 and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
 and fills the earth with his love. (R./)

They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
 the people he has chosen as his own.
From the heavens the Lord looks forth,
 he sees all the children of men. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 7:31-35

The self-centred cannot respond to others, by dancing or mourning

Jesus said, "To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep." For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, "He has a demon'; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children."

BIBLE

The more excellent way

We are "members of God's household," says St. Paul, in a phrase that is rich in meaning, rather close to "we are all God's family." If the Church is an extended family it should not be rigidly ruled, for its members are all siblings in spirit, while each has his or her own personal gifts. Paul mentions many of these talents: prophecy, knowledge, faith that can move mountains, generosity to the poor.

Unfortunately, rivalry and pride and the desire for dominance could easily split the such a gifted church into sects. Though not wanting any true gift or charism to be suppressed, Paul considers some of the troublemakers to be like noisy gongs or clanging cymbals. They create divisions through arrogant self-seeking, whereas being the body of Christ, the church should be united and loving. Ultimately there are just three qualities that are vital for the life of a Christian: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. True leaders are not proud egotists, but people who serve with love. These are what the church needs.

The Gospel shows how Jesus himself was mocked by cold-eyed critics, always looking for things to blame. Because he so readily accepted invitations to dinner, they branded him as a glutton and a drunkard. It's a warning against any unjust, high-handed procedures in our society and above all in the church. To misjudge or unjustly censure another person is a wrong done to Christ himself.


Dancing to his tune

One day Jesus noticed how some children refused to join in other children's games, and compared it the refusal of many adults to believe. If the children's funeral games were a reminder of the death of John the Baptist, their dancing games reflected the joy of his own message. Jesus was like the children who played the pipes and invited others to dance to their tune. He is piper who leads us in the dance of life.

The music of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not a doleful dirge. It is joyful music about the favour of God towards all who are open to receive it. He invites us to dance to the rhythm of the Spirit. As his followers, we carry a song of hope in our hearts. Can we let the music of God echo in our lives and maybe in the lives of others too?

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Thursday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The Gospel Paul preached as the basic faith of the Church

I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast, unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Responsorial: from Psalm 118

R./: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
  for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
  "His love has no end.” (R./)

The Lord's right hand has triumphed;
  his right hand raised me up.
 I shall not die, I shall live
  and recount his deeds. (R./)

You are my God, and I thank you;
  O my God, I praise you.
 I will thank you for you have given answer
  and you are my saviour (R./)

Gospel: Luke 7:36-50

But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."

Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt."

Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"


Varieties of ministering

Each of us has chances and opportunities, great and small, to be ministers, to serve others as fellow human beings. Whether it be in ordained ministry, or the work of teachers, nurses counselors, shop assistants or civil servants, or just the goodwill of kindly relatives and good neighbours, it all counts. There are so many ways of serving the needs of others, but Paul counts as vital the handing of of the faith. He describes his own keen sense of vocation: "I handed on to you first of all what I myself received" and then summarizes the core message, that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again. In some sense, we can all share that ministry, by fostering faith and hope and love.

The ministry of the word is for handing on the message of Jesus, and belief in the salvation he won for us all. Paul's own credentials are reliable, even though he freely admits that he is the least of the apostles, hardly deserving that very name. We need a similarly humble spirit, never lording it over others but counting it a privelege to serve them.


Not self-righteous but sorry

Jesus spoke sternly to the proud and the self-righteous, but was gentle with the humble and repentant. In the parable of the two debtors he taught that while our heavenly Father is ever loving, a forgiving spirit is also required in us. The person with the heavier load of sin seems to be nearer to God than the one with smaller debts. This can seem unjust unless we see that arrogance is a greater sin than excess of libido.

At first glance the woman, a public sinner in the town, must be the one who owes the five hundred coins, and the Pharisee the one who owes only fifty coins. There is still hope for the proud, if the public sinner can be forgiven so readily forgiven. We must treat each another in this spirit, encouraging the young, showing concern for the sinner, and firmness in the face of self-righteous pride.

 

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Friday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Belief in the Lord's resurrection is not superfluous, but a vital basis for hope

If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Responsorial: from Psalm 16

R./: Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full

Lord, hear a cause that is just,
 pay heed to my cry.
Turn your ear to my prayer:
 no deceit is on my lips. (R./)

I am here and I call, you will hear me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my words.
 Display your great love, you whose right hand saves
 your friends from those who rebel against them. (R./)

Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
 As for me, in my justice I shall see your face
 and be filled, when I awake,
 with the sight of your glory.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 8:1-3

Jesus journeys with the twelve and some women, preaching the Kingdom of God

Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

BIBLE

 

Women working with Jesus

It is right to honour Jesus as the Servant of all, for his purpose in life was "not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Yet, he also needed people to cooperate with him. He was at times dependent on the generosity of others, and St Luke actually gives the names of several women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, and Susanna, and many others) who travelled with Jesus and helped in his work. They "provided for him out of their own resources" and this enabled him to serve many others. It is not stated whether Jesus sent out these women to preach the Gospel, but they surely played some active part in spreading his message and his outlook.

If even Jesus needed the service of others, we his followers certainly do too. We are called to serve, also called to welcome the services of others, because we need them as much as they need us. Serving others calls for generosity; letting ourselves be served calls for humility, recognising that others can bring to us what we do not have within ourselves.

As Paul saw so clearly, within the church, the body of Christ, we are all interdependent. The Spirit is at work in all our lives in different ways. We need others and others need us. We all have something to give and something to receive. Let us welcome the service of the Lord as it comes to us in and through those who journey with us and cross our paths.


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Saturday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49

What is sown and dies rises to new, incorruptible life. Our bodies will resemble the risen Jesus

But some one will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being;" the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Responsorial: from Psalm 56

R./: I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living

My foes will be put to flight
 on the day that I call to you.
This I know, that God is on my side. (R./)

In God, whose word I praise,
 in the Lord, whose word I praise,
 in God I trust; I shall not fear:
 what can mortal man do to me? (R./)

I am bound by the vows I have made to you.
 O God, I will offer you praise
 for you rescued my soul from death,
 you kept my feet from stumbling
 that I may walk in the presence of God
 in the light of the living. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 8:4-15

The parable of the sown seed is explained only to the apostles, who will share their wisdom with others

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold." As he said this, he called out, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that "looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.'

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

BIBLE

Our inner potential

A divine potential glows deep within each of us, like a seed buried in the ground. Looking at the seed before it is planted, one hardly suspects what can develope from it. The seed's "dying" or disintegrating before being reborn cannot be rushed. It needs time and a silent waiting within the dark, warm earth.

This links with what Paul writes about our nature "subject to decay." Yes, we must die as people of earth, bodily organisms. It is not that our body is bad or useless, but only after the the seed dies can it develope to its potential. Our future persona will be in some kind of continuity with our present persona, as a plant grows out of its seed, yet surpassing it in mysterious ways. It is weak when sown, and strong hereafter. Paul's faith in resurrection makes him the most optimistic of teachers.

Matthew's explanation of the Sower parable has several pointers for the spiritual life. Just as the seed, God's word, can fall on the footpath and be trampled down, so the word sown in us must not be quashed by the popular culture or be crushed by godless opinion. If the seed falls on rocky ground, it cannot take root but quickly dries up. So we must let God's Word sink root deep in our hearts and become part of ourselves. Neither should the seed of faith be choked amid briars; this is to avoid losing it by a hectic, hedonistic lifestyle. One can readily lose all taste for prayer, reflection and the self-denial a mature person needs.

Finally there's the seed that falls on good ground and yields a plentiful harvest. This suggests how the grace of God must be welcomed and integrated into our inmost self. The harvest depends on the quality of our lives over an extended period of time.


Good seed on fertile soil

When the farmer sows seed in a field, not all of it produces a crop. Indeed much of it goes to waste. Only some takes root and goes on to provide a harvest.

The seed is vulnerable to various negative influences. The kind of soil itself is not always right for planting. The environment in which we live is not very conducive to faith. Sickness or other misfortune may shake our faith. The riches and pleasures of life can choke it.

We need to nurture the seed of faith that is planted in us. We have our personal part to play in providing the good soil for the seed to grow. One element for fostering our faith is prayer, both our own prayer and joining in the prayer of the community.

The parable includes hearing the word and taking it to heart. That suggests a deliberate listening to the word of God, which will then affect how we live and how we relate to others. Let's think about what we can do to help the seed of faith grow up fully in our lives.


25th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 25

1st Reading: Proverbs (3:27-34

Practical guidelines for dealing justly with one's neighbour

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
 Do not say to your neighbour, "Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it," when you have it with you.
 Do not plan harm against your neighbour who lives trustingly beside you.
 Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, when no harm has been done to you.
 Do not envy the violent and do not choose any of their ways;
 for the perverse are an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence.
The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the abode of the righteous.
Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favour.

Responsorial: from Psalm 15

R./: Whoever does justice shall live on the Lord's holy mountain

Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain?
Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
  who thinks the truth in his heart
  and slanders not with his tongue. (R./)

Whoever does no wrong to his brother,
 who casts no slur on his neighbour,
 who holds the godless in disdain,
 but honours those who fear the Lord. ( R./)
 .
Whoever keeps his pledge, come what may;
 who takes no interest on a loan
 and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 8:16-18

A lamp must shine, to brighten the house. Listen well!

Jesus said, "No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away."

BIBLE

Cryptic sayings to unpack

It's not easy to unpack this cryptic, paradoxical statement, "The one who has, will be given more; the one who has not, will lose even that little." From the start, it must be descriptive of fact rather than prescriptive. It says how things are done in the business world, rather than how they ought to be done in a more just world.

It may perhaps be spiritually applied in various ways. The one who takes time to pray and reflect will gain more insight, wherease one who never takes time to turn to God and friends for advice will lose even the little serenity that he or she has. The sapiential books in particular remind us that the Bible is for adult reflection throughout life.

Mature reflection helps usproperly assess our relationship with others. This is the topic of today's short essay from Proverbs,. Each line is as down to earth as eating or drinking. Do not tell your neighbour, Go away and come back again, when you can help them at once. Do not quarrel with a person without cause. Do not envy the lawless person. Typical of the sapiential literature, the responses are moderate and possible. For these writers, the cardinal sins are extremism and radicalism. The sage even seems to permit "quarrels" or "envy", but not without cause nor with the lawless person.

"There is nothing hidden that will not be exposed." Sometimes Jesus does not seem to share the moderation of the sapiential literature. Evidently we need both spontaneity and reflection in our life. There is a time to muse over things quietly in the sapiential style; there is another time to be shaken into action, when the Lord calls for more fire in our lives.


Should our faith be visible to others?

Today we've heard a difficult gospel image for spiritual dynamism in our life: Let your light shine. When the lamp of faith is lit in a person's life, it is not meant to be hidden away but to shine out and be visible for all to see. "No one lights a lamp to put it under a bed." Jesus wants us to let the light of our faith be visible to others. That sounds like a tall order, even for regular church-goers. Withing a social and media culture not very supportive of faith, as it is today, there's a strong temptation regard our faith as a very private matter, a closely guarded secret.

Of course, we can offer a good justification for keeping our faith to ourselves. Didn't Jesus also say, "Pray to your Father in secret"? and "When you give alms, don't let anybody know about it?

It's a hard balance to find and to maintain, between the private and the public face of faith. Yet, we need to somehow let our faith be seen in an environment that is hostile to it, in order to encourage the faith of others. When I let the light of my faith shine, especially through compassionate action, I make it easier for other people of faith to do the same.


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Tuesday of Week 25

1st Reading: Proverbs (21:1-6, 10-13

Advice about self-control from Solomon's proverbs

The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
 he turns it wherever he will.
 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer,
 but the Lord weighs the heart.
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want.
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
The souls of the wicked desire evil; their neighbours find no mercy in their eyes.

When a scoffer is punished, the simple become wiser;
 when the wise are instructed, they increase in knowledge.
The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he casts the wicked down to ruin.
 If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.

Responsorial: from Psalm 119

R./: Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands

Theyare happy whose life is blameless,
 who follow God's law!
 Make me grasp the way of your precepts
 and I will muse on your wonders. (R./)

I have chosen the way of truth
 with your decrees before me.
Train me to observe your law,
 to keep it with my heart. (R./)

Guide me in the path of your commands;
 for there is my delight.
 I shall always keep your law
 for ever and ever. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 8:19-21

Christ's nearest family are those who hear God's word and do it

The mother and brothers of Jesus came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

BIBLE

Finding wisdom wherever we can

Most of the sapiential literature, notably the Book of Proverbs, is based on common sense and practical wisdom. What has succeeded for others can throw light on dealing with our own problems. It needs no detailed study in order to understand its message. It teaches people to be open, honest, reflective, humble, strong, to use their foresight to avoid dangers, and show goodwill to their neighbours. Everyone can appreciate the everyday wisdom in the Bood of Proverbs: The one who makes a fortune by a lying tongue is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.

Whether we take a mystical view of life, or the pragmatic way of Proverbs, we must keep a healthy openness to the real world and review the quality of our relationships with others. Perhaps that was what Jesus meant in his enigmatic reply to his mother Mary and his brothers. It only seems like a rejection of them when he says, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it"; for elsewhere Luke shows Mary as the great hearer of the Word. But to know God's word we must be open to all who are sincere, virtuous, obedient and responsive to life.


WE are his family

We venerate Jesus as Lord and as Son of God, because so indeed he is. In today's gospel, however, Jesus identifies those who hear the word of God and put it into practice as his mother and brothers and sisters, as his family. In spite of his unique status and his unique relationship with God, he makes us members of his family. He loves us as his siblings and wants us to relate to him as our brother. For this to become our daily we need to listen to the word of God and put it into practice.

The attention of Jesus was completely focussed on doing the will of God. He heard that word and took it in so completely that it shaped all that he said and did. John's gospel goes so far as to say that Jesus is the Word, the Word made flesh. The essence of our baptismal calling is to hear the word and to live by it. Like the seed that fell on good soil, we are to hear the word and take it to ourselves and yield a harvest of worthy service. If we really listen to the word of God so that it shapes who we are and what we do, then Jesus can delight in us as his true family.


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Wednesday of Week 25

1st Reading: Proverbs (30:5-9

In praise of moderation and sobriety

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
 Do not add to his words, or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar.
Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die:
 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
 give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need,
 or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, "Who is the Lord?"
 or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.

Responsorial: from Psalm 119

R./: Your word is a lamp for my steps, O Lord

Keep me, Lord from the way of error
 and teach me your law.
The law from your mouth means more to me
 than silver and gold. (R./)

Your word, O Lord, for ever
 stands firm in the heavens.
 I turn my feet from evil paths
 to obey your word. (R./)

I gain understanding from your precepts
 and so I hate false ways.
 Lies I hate and detest
 but your law is my love. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:1-6

Jesus sends the twelve out on mission, travelling light

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

BIBLE

Soberly courageous

Proverbs has a sober message for the wealthy and powerful, as in competitive times, marked by determination to get ahead. If we have absorbed the Darwinian message of the survival of the fittest, we could be tempted to shove aside any who stand in our way. Armed with whatever prestige or learning they have acquired, many are tempted to twist truth and law to their own benefit and to the harm of others. Some even believe that "Greed is good!" but as Proverbs says elsewhere, greed, like lust, starves the soul (Prov 13.19). We need to be warned -- and we are! These words were not minted for the poor, but a warning for the rich.

We sense a glow of confidence in Jesus as he sends out the Twelve, to drive out demons, cure diseases and proclaim the reign of God. As traveling preachers they need to trust in people's generosity, so they need not carry bread or money, not even staff and traveling bag. In our own lives, whenever we meet such joyful confidence, we should thank God. If the shadow of a living saint crosses our path, even among our friends, we are blessed. We should encourage their ideals, support them, welcome them to our homes. Like the apostles, they bring God to our doorsteps.


Travelling light

When Jesus sent the twelve out on their mission, he wanted them to travel light. They should not carry much baggage, but depend on the hospitality of those to whom they preach the gospel. Rather than be fully furnished with everything, they had to rely on the kindness of strangers, to trust in the Lord that others would provide for them.

We all like to be independent individuals, which is a good thing; but we can never be completely self-reliant. We began life dependent on others, and towards the end of our life we may once more be in that position. Yet, even between these two timess of high dependence, we depend on others in so many ways.

In God's family, we are meant to live in a spirit of give and take. Just think of the many ways that we depend on others to for what we do not have within ourselves. It's a mistake to try to go it alone and deny ourselves the help that others are willing to offer. Just as we are expected to love and serve others in any way we can, so we should welcome the service that God provides through the goodness of others. Each has much to give and much to receive. As the Lord wants to serve others through us He also wants to serve us through others.


 

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Thursday of Week 25

1st Reading: Qohelet 1:2-11

There's nothing new under the sun. Vanity of vanities

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher.
Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
at which they toil under the sun?
 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
and goes around to the north;
 round and round goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.

 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
 to the place where the streams flow,
there they continue to flow.
 All things are wearisome;
more than one can express;
 the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done

There is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"?
It has already been, in the ages before us.
The people of long ago are not remembered,
 nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come
by those who come after them.

Responsorial: from Psalm 90

R./: In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge

You sweep men away like a dream,
 like grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers:
 by evening it withers and fades. (R./)

Make us know the shortness of our life
 that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
 Show pity to your servants. (R./)

In the morning, fill us with your love;
 we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
 give success to the work of our hands. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:7-9

Herod was perplexed and curious about Jesus

Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen.

Herod said, "John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he tried to see him.

BIBLE

Trivial pursuits

"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!" said the weary old Jewish philosopher, and he then coined a saying that has been used countless times since then: "There is nothing new under the sun."

Jewish tradition attributes this Book of Qoheleth to King Solomon, the patron of wisdom. Even though he expresses such a dark summary of life, still he gives us food for thought. Was he a wise man or a cynic, a searcher or a selfish hedonist, this wealthy king who had so much and lived a long life now felt that all had passed as quickly as a puff of wind.

Qoheleth seldom mentions God or faith or prayer but takes a long, hard look at life. Basically, he says that life is not worth living unless we seek for wisdom. He examined all kinds of human dealings, but with most of them he found fault. "While I was searching I found one upright man among a thousand" (7:28). The same world-weary mood moved William Wordsworth to write:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.

It may not be exalted idealism, yet it's a sober call not to spend all our time and energy on trivial pursuits.

In the Gospel, the patron of trivial pursuits was Herod the Tetrarch, for whom religion was a curiosity, a momentary pang of conscience, a way to win his people's allegiance. Herod was curious about Jesus, but his curiosity did not lead to faith. He wanted to see the famous prophet from Nazareth that everyone was talking about, curious to know if he was in any way related to John the Baptist, whom he had executed at the whim of his step-daughter. Herod did indeed get to to see Jesus, during the Lord's Passion, when he had him mocked as a king (Lk 23:8). The Gospel writer saw Herod as a shallow, cynical ruler, who respected neither God nor man.

Herod's example is a wake-up call against cynicism in our own attitudes. We too want to see Jesus, but it is in order to know him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.


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Friday of Week 25

1st Reading: Qohelet 3:1-11

There's a time for everything as we go through life

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die; a
 time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
 a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
 a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to throw away stones,
 and a time to gather stones together;
 a time to embrace,
 and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
 a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
 a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
 a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginnng to the end.

Responsorial: from Psalm 144

R./: Blessed be the Lord, my Rock

Blessed be the Lord, my rock.
He is my love, my fortress;
 he is my stronghold, my saviour,
 my shield, my place of refuge. (R./)

Lord, what is man that you care for him,
 mortal man, that you keep him in mind;
 man, who is merely a breath
 whose life fades like a passing shadow? (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:18-22

Peter recognises the Messiah: Jesus predicts his death and resurrection

Once, when Jesus was praying alone with only the disciples near him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" They answered, "John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "The Messiah of God."

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, "The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."

BIBLE

Highs and lows

Life's highs and lows are echoed in today's text from Ecclesiastes/ Qoheleth, so often read at funerals. "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die," etc. The author knows that everything has its purpose ("an appointed time for everything") but feels that own life has grown repetitive and monotonous. His mood might have been lighter if he had shared the belief of the early Christians that "here we have no lasting city but seek one which is to come" (Hebrews 13:14).

The Gospel sees a supremely new "moment" in the coming of Jesus, whom Peter's faith proclaims as the Messiah. This was an important episode which is reported in three of the Gospels. Like Mark (8:29ff), St Luke makes no mention of Peter being appointed as the Rock to whom Jesus entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Biblical scholars treat the famous words about the primacy of St Peter (Mt 16:16-20) as an inspired, post-resurrectional interpretation of Peter's role, in light of the wonderful ministry actually carried out after the resurrection.

Strangely, Jesus preferred to call himself "Son of Man" rather than Messiah; for it was better suited to express the kind of messiah he would be, foreseeing the hard, sacrificial end of his ministry. The Son of Man came among us "to serve, not to be served" (Mk 8:45), and this is a lesson that Peter, the Twelve and all of us, must learn again and again.


A time and season for everything

'There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.' We sense a deep truth in the insight that everything has its time. But if there is a right time for everything, we don't always find it. For example, do speak out of turn, when it is really a time for silence? Or do we stay silent when it is really a time to speak up?

We an learn from experience how to get our timing better. The more we are in tune with God, the better our timing will be. The timing of Jesus was perfect, because he was completely in tune with God.

After a time of prayer he asked the decisive question, 'Who do you say I am?' The time had also come to tell them the kind of Christ that he was, the Son of Man who would suffer much, be put to death and then be raised up.

That decisive question remains timely for all of us. It is a question that always puts our faithfulness to the test. We are invited to keep making our own personal response to this challenging question.


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Saturday of Week 25

1st Reading: Qohelet 11:9,12:8

A wise man's lament about the encroachments of old age

Rejoice, young man, while you are young,
 and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.
Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes,
 but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

Banish anxiety from your mind,
 and put away pain from your body;
 for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Remember your creator in the days of your youth,
 before the days of trouble come,
 and the years draw near when you will say,
 "I have no pleasure in them;"
 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars are darkened
 and the clouds return with the rain;
 in the day when the guards of the house tremble,
 and the strong men are bent,
 and the women who grind cease working
because they are few,
 and those who look through the windows see dimly;
 when the doors on the street are shut,
 and the sound of the grinding is low,
 and one rises up at the sound of a bird,
 and all the daughters of song are brought low.

Then one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road;
 the almond tree blossoms,
the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails;
 because all must go to their eternal home,
 and the mourners will go about the streets;
 before the silver cord is snapped,
 and the golden bowl is broken,
 and the pitcher is broken at the fountain,
 and the wheel broken at the cistern,
 and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
 and the breath returns to God who gave it.

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.

Responsorial: from Psalm 89

R./: In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge

You turn men back into dust
 and say: 'Go back, sons of men.'
To your eyes a thousand years
 are like yesterday, come and gone,
 no more than a watch in the night.  (R./)
 
You sweep men away like a dream,
 like grass which springs up in the morning.
 In the morning it springs up and flowers:
 by evening it withers and fades.  (R./)
 
 Make us know the shortness of our life
 that we may gain wisdom of heart.
 Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
Show pity to your servants.  (R./)

In the morning, fill us with your love;
 we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
 give success to the work of our hands.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:43-45

Jesus warns the disciples of his impending death

All the crowd were amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was astonished at all that he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands." But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

BIBLE

Contemplating old age

"Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth." The author seems upbeat about life when he writes those words, but then he turns away from the joys of youth and paints a gloomy vignette of old age and death. He describes lonely old folk, sitting silent all day long, staring into space. The darkness refers to failing eyesight; the idle grinders are teeth that have worn away; all the singing maidens who were joyful in youth are singing no longer. This text is a reminder not to neglect people who are burdened with the pains of old age. One day we too will join their ranks and be in need of help. In this odd way, this can be an inspirational text. And there is a glint of hope in the final saying that, "the breath returns to God who gave it."

Faith tells us that Jesus is always present with the lonely and the dying. He tried to prepare his disciples for the difficult times ahead, when "the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of men." If they failed to understand this, it was because they did not want to believe their ears. They were afraid to ask him about it again, in case he repeated what they thought he said. At any rate as they came closer to Jerusalem Jesus repeated the same warning. Hope for new life with God had to go through the gates of death. Christians have hope for the future to help them bear the crosses of life and arrive at life's eternal possibilities.


Admiration can be so fickle

Admiration can be fickle, here one day and gone the next. The gospel refers to a time when all were full of admiration for everything Jesus did. He had just healed an epileptic boy and all were amazed at what God had done through him. But their support would soon fade, and Jesus knew he would suffer the same fate of many prophets before him. So at the very height of his fame he tells his disciples, "the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men."

Popular admiration meant little to Jesus. He was driven by the desire to do God's will, to complete his selfless work. He felt compelled to go to Jerusalem, dangerous as it was, because that city must hear his message, even if it led to his death.

What really motivates us? We are called to make the priorities of Jesus our own, to be about God the Father's business, to do God's will with whatever gifts and opportunities we have. This will bring not just the momentary pleasure of applause but the deeper joy that comes from living the real purpose of our lives.


26th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

Monday of Week 26

1st Reading: Job 1:6-22

Job's patience is tested to the uttermost

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from? Satan answered the Lord, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." The Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil." Then Satan answered the Lord, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!" So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you."

Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped and said,

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
 and naked shall I return there;
 the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
 blessed be the name of the Lord."

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong-doing.

Responsorial: from Psalm 17

R./: Turn your ear to me and hear my word

Lord, hear a cause that is just,
 pay heed to my cry.
Turn your ear to my prayer:
 no deceit is on my lips. (R./)

From you may my judgement come forth.
Your eyes discern the truth.
You search my heart, yo u visit me by night.
You test me and you find in me no wrong. (R./)

I am here and I call, you will hear me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my words.
Show your great love, you whose right hand saves
 your friends from those who rebel against them. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:46-50

Jesus tells where true greatness is found

An argument arose among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest."

John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you."

BIBLE

The patience of Job

There is this imaginary debate, where Satan argues with God about the level of human endurance. Could a person keep the faith if their life began to fall apart? So God allws Satan to test poor Job in all kinds of ways, destroying first his property and then taking away his sons and daughters until Job is left desolate. Later in the narrative is wife appears but her bitter words offer him no consolation. Alone, yes; but still aware of God. "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." The underlying message of Job is that we cannot control life as though we were God.

Children quarrel, yes, but they quickly make up again. The gospel presents us with two scenes of envy and pettiness. The disciples were arguing, "which of them was the greatest." Jesus turns to children and says to welcome a child is to welcome him, and "The least one among you is the greatest." This statement is all the more puzzling if it includes Jesus. Is he the least? He is, supremely, the child of his Father, always in the attitude of receiving the Father's life and as a child he is receiving it totally.


As simple as children

In order to teach a life-lesson Jesus often used actions as well as words. His disciples were arguing about a very selfish question: Which of them was the greatest. It might have been about talent, family background, or even their closeness to Jesus. He needed to teach them what greatness reall is, in the eyes of God.

The lesson began by putting a child beside him before he said a word. The child was no symbol of greatness in that world, but a symbol of weakness and vulnerability. Jesus identifies with the little ones, to whom the world gives no status. In wanting to be the greatest, the disciples were way off the mark.

The point is that God's values not those of the world. Like the rivalries of those disciples, we can sometimes be egotistic in our ambitions. We need to remember God's values as made clear to us by his blessed Son.


 

Tuesday of Week 26

1st Reading: Job 3:1-3

Job's anguished lament at the misfortunes heaped upon him

Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said:

"May the day of my birth perish,
 and the night that said, 'A boy is conceived!'
 "Why did I not perish at birth,
 and die as I came from the womb?
Why were there knees to receive me
 and breasts that I might be nursed?
For now I would be lying down in peace;
 I would be asleep and at rest
 with kings and rulers of the earth,
 who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,
 with princes who had gold,
 who filled their houses with silver.

Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child,
 like an infant who never saw the light of day?
There the wicked cease from turmoil,
 and there the weary are at rest.
 "Why is light given to those in misery,
 and life to the bitter of soul,
 to those who long for death that does not come,
 who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
 who are filled with gladness
 and rejoice when they reach the grave?
Why is life given to a man
 whose way is hidden,
 whom God has hedged in?

Responsorial: from Psalm 88

R./: Let my prayer come into your presence, Lord

I call to you, Lord, all the day long;
 to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work your wonders for the dead?
Will the shades stand and praise you? (R./)

Will your love be told in the grave
 or your faithfulness among the dead?
Will your wonders be known in the dark
 or your justice in the land of oblivion? (R./)

As for me, Lord, I call to you for help:
 in the morning my prayer comes before you.
 Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face? (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:51-56

The long journey narrative begins as Jesus proceeds towards Jerusalem

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

BIBLE

The winding road of life

We are invited to consider the life of Jesus as a journey to Jerusalem, a special kind of pilgrimage, following the will of God. The way may be at times winding or thorny, like the tragic tale of poor Job, but it leads in the end to eternal life.

This theme of life as a purposeful journey Luke's way of telling the story of Jesus. He gathers in this journey various actions and sayings of Jesus which Matthew and Mark put in altogether different sequence. The journey is more theological than geographical, and its lesson is that our lives are a pilgrimage too, linked to Jesus in many ways.

The journey begins with Jesus being unwelcome in Samaria. The Samaritans were despised by conservative Jews and in turn they were fiercely hostile to Jerusalem. The disciples were furious at this rejection, but Jesus took it calmly and simply moved to another place.

Later it turned out that many Samaritans were converted to the faith soon after Pentecost. While the church was being persecuted, the deacon Philip went down to Samaria bringing the Gospel and healing for many. The joy of the Samaritans is recorded (Acts 8:8), a very far cry from today's rejection story. The Bible reflects different stages in life and enables us to see each of them as a way of following in the footsteps of Jesus.


A pair of hotheads

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, began with a very different mindset from that of Jesus. On one occasion they asked him for the two best seats in his kingdom, one on his right and one on his left. He brought them down to earth by asking them if they were willing to drink the cup he must drink, the cup of suffering.

In today's episode, they were furious when Samaritan villagers refused hospitality to Jesus. Like a pair of hotheads they wanted Jesus to use his power to punish the village. Rather than reacting like them he rebuked them and quietly left the village.

St Luke highlights the mercy of Jesus towards all, even for those who rejected him. He puts into practice his own teaching about loving the enemy and doing good to those who hate us.

A few verses after the gospel we have just heard, he has the story of the good Samaritan, a Christlike figure who helps his traditional enemy in his hour of need. The hero of that parable is one of the same group who refused hospitality to Jesus. There is a largeness of spirit here, a real generosity that all are called to share, guided by the Holy Spirit.


Wednesday of Week 26

 

1st Reading: Job 9:1-12, 14-16

God's omnipotent control of the universe and his mysterious guidance of life

When Bildad had finished speaking Job answered:

 "Indeed I know that this is so
 but how can a mortal be just before God?
 If one wished to contend with him,
 one could not answer him once in a thousand.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength
 —who has resisted him, and succeeded?
 he who removes mountains,
 and they do not know it,
 when he overturns them in his anger
 who shakes the earth out of its place,
 and its pillars tremble
 who commands the sun, and it does not rise
 who seals up the stars
 who alone stretched out the heavens
 and trampled the waves of the Sea
 who made the Bear and Orion,
 the Pleiades and the chambers of the south
 who does great things beyond understanding,
 and marvellous things without number.

Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him
 he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
He snatches away who can stop him?
Who will say to him, 'What are you doing?'
How then can I answer him, choosing my words with him?
Though I am innocent, I cannot answer him
 I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.
 If I summoned him and he answered me,
 I do not believe that he would listen to my voice."

Responsorial: from Psalm 88

R./: Let my prayer come before you, Lord

I call to you, Lord, all the day long;
 to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work your wonders for the dead?
Will the shades stand and praise you? (R./)

Will your love be told in the grave
 or your faithfulness among the dead?
Will your wonders be known in the dark
 or your justice in the land of oblivion? (R./)

As for me, Lord, I call to you for help:
 in the morning my prayer comes before you.
 Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face? (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:57-62

Jesus responds to prospective followers by a series of stern statements

As they were going along the road, someone said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

BIBLE

Courage in an uncertain world

Job takes us back to that austere period after the exile as inviting us to examine how we deal with crisis in life. He replies to Bildad, the second friend who had come to offer his sympathy and comfort in his dark hour.

This chapter summarizes the Book of Job: In the end, nobody can be justified before God, whose wisdom and power are beyond our understanding.. "Should He come near me, I cannot see Him; How much less can I give Him any answer." The final poem (chapters 38-41) is a long acceptance of God's control of the universe, beyond human scrutiny and comprehension, as hinted in today's reading.

Like Job, we too live in a world that is vast beyond comprehension as our scientists discover the plethora of planets in an expanding universe. Like Job we must learn to bow in mumble adoration before the God who made it all. Like him too, we grow suspicious of quick, superficial answers which, like fast food or sudden wealth, can do little to satisfy the hunger of the heart.


Saying yes too soon

Three men said they wanted to travel with Jesus, without knowing or even asking what that would involve. When he invited them to join him immediately, two of them asked for a postponement, claiming to have urgent duties to attend to first. We might agree that burying one's father and saying goodbye to one's family were priority duties. Yet, Jesus insists that they come with him, leaving all behind.

It is hard to fathom how the call of Jesus could be so urgent. Following him is never going to be an easy option. He asks for a level of allegiance even greater than what we owe to our blood relatives. There could be times when trying to follow the gospel puts us at odds with those closest to us. However, today's challenging gospel, like any other difficult gospel text, must be set within the wider context of his teaching, to love one's neighbour as oneself.


Thursday of Week 26

1st Reading:  Job 19:21-27

Job appeals to God to vindicate him

Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
 for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me,
 never satisfied with my flesh?
 "O that my words were written down!
 O that they were inscribed in a book!
 O that with an iron pen and with lead
 they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
 and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
 then in my flesh I shall see God,
 whom I shall see on my side,
 and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Responsorial: from Psalm 27

R./: I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living

O Lord, hear my voice when I call;
 have mercy and answer.
 Of you my heart has spoken:
 'Seek his face.' (R./)

It is your face, O Lord, that I seek;
 hide not your face.
 Dismiss not your servant in anger;
 you have been my help. (R./)

I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness
 in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord! (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:1-12

Jesus sends out disciples to announce the reign of God

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

BIBLE

Never abandoned

There is an urgency in Job as he feels that his end may be near. As a memorial he wants his words to be "cut in the rock forever" "with an iron chisel and with lead." A similar urgency motivates the disciples when Jesus sends them out with no baggage or provisions, to spread the word that the reign of God is at hand.

Poor, long-suffering Job has ceased trying to justify himself and reaches out for the sheer mercy of God. Jesus announces that our lives can only be fulfilled when we accept the gracious rule of God. It is "at hand" in the sense of being already begun, and each of us has a part to play in bringing our world closer to the ideals of Jesus.

Job is faced with a once-in-a-lifetime ordeal. Human comforters, with their trite words of traditional wisdom did not really ease his agony. Job does not want theological explanations but just needed empathy from his friends, "Pity me, pity, O you my friends.. Why do you hound me as though you were divine?" Then he takes his case directly to God. Each of us at times of crisis may prefer our friends to sit with us in silence.

Still, God will be near, whatever the circumstances. "The reign of God is at hand." The presence of God is with us at every step of our journey. The story of our life is not "carved with a chisel" as requested by Job, but written in the Book of Life, in the very mind of God.


Spread the message

Jesus tells his missionaries that regardless of the reception they receive from a particular town, they are to spread his message: "the kingdom of God is very near." If they are made welcome, so much the better, but even if they are unwelcome, they must still make the effort. Regardless of whether the gospel is welcomed or not, God remains very near to us.

The living God is present, his love is close at hand, regardless. We need this message, especially now that Christian faith is not so deeply held as it once was. The love of God was as much present on Good Friday as on Easter Sunday. Whoever loves the spirit of Jesus and shares his message, even in these times, will have all the help they need to keep gooing.

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Friday of Week 26

1st Reading: Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5

Only if Job is himself divine can he challenge God's ways

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

"Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
 and caused the dawn to know its place,
 so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth
 and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal,
 and it is dyed like a garment.
 Light is withheld from the wicked,
 and their uplifted arm is broken."
Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
 or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
 or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
 Declare, if you know all this.
 "Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
 and where is the place of darkness,
 that you may take it to its territory
 and that you may discern the paths to its home?
Surely you know, for you were born then,
 and the number of your days is great!

Then Job answered the Lord:

"See, I am of small account
 what shall I answer you?
 I lay my hand on my mouth.I have spoken once,
 and I will not answer
 twice, but will proceed no further."

Responsorial: from Psalm 139

R./: Lead me, Lord, in the path of life eternal

O Lord, you search me and you know me,
 you know my resting and my rising,
 you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
 all my ways lie open to you. (R./)

O where can I go from your spirit,
 or where can I flee from your face?
 If I climb the heavens, you are there.
 If I lie in the grave you are there. (R./)

If I take the wings of the dawn
 and dwell at the sea's furthest end,
 even there your hand would lead me,
 your right hand would hold me fast. (R./)

For it was you who created my being,
 knit me together in my mother's womb.
 I thank you for the wonders of my being,
 for the wonders of all your creation. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:13-16

Woe to those who reject the word of Jesus

Jesus said: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades."

"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

BIBLE

In time of darkness

Can one trust in God without knowing why painful things happen?

The Book of Job offers an answer through the rhetorical questions that came to Job out of the stormy whirlwind. Because Job had questioned the truth of Divine Providence, is he claiming to be as wise as God? So he is asked, "Have you walked about in the depths of the abyss? Do you know the way to the dwelling place of light? Do you command the morning light and show dawn its place?"

It is natural for people to question God's wisdom in times of darkness. Yet even when life's demands seem to overtax our strength, we need to trust that God will not abandon us. We try to remember the many ways we have been blessed in the past. No matter how melancholy the situation may seem, by the grace of God there is light at the end of the tunnel.


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Saturday of Week 26

1st Reading: Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17

After Job stops complaining, he is blessed more than before

Then Job answered the Lord:

"I know that you can do all things,
 and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
 things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
 but now my eye sees you;
 therefore I despise myself,
 and repent in dust and ashes."

The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children's children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.

Responsorial: from Psalm 119

R./: Let your face shine on your servant, O Lord

Teach me discernment and knowledge
 for I trust in your commands.
It was good for me to be afflicted,
 to learn your statutes. (R./)

Lord, I know that your decrees are right,
 that you afflicted me justly.
By your decree the earth endures to this day;
 for all things serve you. (R./)

I am your servant, make me understand;
 then I shall know your will.
The unfolding of your word gives light
 and teaches the simple. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:17-24

When the disciples return flushed with success, Jesus rejoices too

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."

BIBLE

What made Jesus glad
 

It baffles us that someone as good as Job repents in dust and ashes. But he was humbled by his sense of God's overpowering presence. He had presumed to question God, as though he were God's equal, but now he disowns his complaints as foolish and repents in dust and ashes.

The end of Job's story inspires us to a similar humility before God. If we follow Job's example, we will be blessed like him.

Today's gospel gives a rare glimpse into the joy-filled prayer of Jesus himself. The Evangelists, especially Luke, say that Jesus often prayed, but seldom tell us what he prayed about. Here he says his prayer aloud, opening his mind to us. Filled with spiritual joy, he thanks his Abba/Father that "what you have hidden from the learned and the clever, you have revealed to little children." We can only hope to remain open to divine wisdom, in a child-like spirit of gratitude.


Proud of our work

It is natural to take pride in our work, especially if we have done it well. Just look at the disciples in today's gospel. They return to Jesus from successful mission. It went so well that "even demons submit to us when we use your name." He praises their success, but asks them to focus on something more fundamental. They should rejoice not so much for tangible success but for the fact that their names are "written in heaven."

Our relationship with God can give us real joy. It is that special gift of grace that gifes us peace. We can identify with the disciples when Jesus tells them, "Happy the eyes that see what you see." They recognised the presence of God in the person of Jesus and in his love for them. That is why they can rejoice.

Having a share in Jesus' relationship with God is a precious gift. It lets us us see and hear what faithful people in the Old Testament longed to see and hear, and it is the bedrock of Christian happiness. Even when our working life is over and there is little more we can do, it's all worthwhile because of our ongoing relationship with our heavenly Father.


27th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 27

1st Reading: Galatians 1:6-12

Paul's Gospel message came to him directly from the Lord

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial: from Psalm 111

R./: The Lord will remember his covenant for ever

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
 in the meeting of the just and their assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
 to be pondered by all who love them. (R./)

He makes us remember his wonders.
The Lord is compassion and love.
He gives food to those who fear him;
 keeps his covenant ever in mind. (R./)

He has sent deliverance to his people
 and established his covenant for ever.
Holy his name, to be feared.
His praise shall last for ever! (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:25-37

The big question, Who is my neighbour?

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal lie?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

BIBLE

Seeing things in a fresh light

Revelation and novelty mark the letter to the Galatians, where Paul insists on the central tenet of his gospel, namely that among those who belong to Christ there is no distinction between Jew or Greek, slave or free person, male or female, for all are united in Jesus (Gal 3:28). This conviction is the keystone of Paul's entire ministry. It came to him from God, directly, not through the words of Peter or anyone else. It made him the apostle to the gentiles. Jesus had sent his twelve apostles to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 10:5), but Paul's ministry was mainly to foreign nations, since the Gospel was meant for the whole world.

There's another kind of revelation in today's gospel. A lawyer-theologian asked Jesus "what must I do to inherit eternal lie?" although he already knew that the answer was by loving God and our neighbour. He then wanted to refine the answer by asking the follow-up question, "Who is my neighbour?" Jesus replied with his famous parable of the good Samaritan. This was something totally new, since the Samaritans were despised and rejected by the Jews as heretics and renegades.

Who are the "Samaritans" in our lives? Are there groups that we dislike or despise, who seem to be ignorant and willfully so, who may even have harmed us or deceived us. Think again, says Jesus, and try to see them in a new light. You may discover that they have something to teach you. They have their own way of doing good, and following God's holy will. Beware of being biased or self-righteous, so sure of ourselves that we miss grace and goodness in those who seem outsiders, alien to us.


Being a neighbour

"What does it mean to be a neighbour?" Jesus says it is more important to act like a helpful neighbour to others than to be drawing distinctions between "my neighbour" and "who may I hate or ignore?"

Part of the way to inherit eternal life is this, "Behave like a good neighbour to everyone." If we want to know what it means to be a neighbour, think about how the Samaritan's helpful spirit. The priest, the Levite and the Samaritan had all noticed the man bleeding by the side of the road. But only one of them came to the poor man's help. This kind of practical compassion guided Jesus' whole ministry, and is a life-lesson to us all.


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Tuesday of Week 27

1st Reading: Galatians 1:13-24

Paul once persecuted the church but later met Cephas (Peter) in Jerusalem

You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God because of me.

Responsorial: from Psalm 139

R./: Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way

O Lord, you search me and you know me,
 you know my resting and my rising,
 you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
 all my ways lie open to you. (R./)

For it was you who created my being,
 knit me together in my mother's womb.
 I thank you for the wonder of my being,
 for the wonders of all your creation. (R./)

Already you knew my soul,
 my body held no secret from you,
 when I was being fashioned in secret
 and moulded in the depths of the earth. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:38-42

Jesus defends Mary's listening, while Martha is busy providing hospitality

Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

BIBLE

Contemplation and action

While zeal and good intentions can drive one to over-activity, it is clear that good works are required from followers of Christ. We must try to keep a healthy balance between contemplation and action, for each of us reflects aspects of Martha and Mary, Paul and Peter. Each of them is an iconic example for us, on the principle that "everything in the Scriptures was written for our instruction" (Rom 15:4).

In Galatians Paul appears as a man of action, always prepared to spread his special vision of the Christian faith. His mission was not to spend his life in contemplative prayer but rather to "spread among the gentiles the good news of Jesus." Martha, too, fits the pattern of many good, active people who liked to keep themselves busy. She is like others in the Gospel story who liked to provide meals for people, including Simon Peter's mother-in-law (Lk 4:39) the father of the prodigal son (Lk 15:22-24), and Zacchaeus the tax collector (Lk 19:5-6). Silent contemplation is the exception, not the rule, in the Old and New Testament.

Still, the more contemplative spirit also emerges as also a valid option when Jesus says, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is required. Mary has chosen the better portion." It is not good to be so busy that it makes us "anxious and upset." The "better portion," praised by Jesus does not cancel the value of good works and hospitality. It just asks that we find space for direction and wisdom, love and concern. We need the blend of the spirit of both Martha and Mary.


Two sisters to treasure

Jesus was often glad of the hospitality offered to him by others. But when Martha welcomed him to her house it seems that the visit caused her more anxiety than joy. So the Lord said 'Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things.'

It's possible to turn a pleasure into a chore if we are too perfectionist. Martha's sister Mary seems the more retiring of the two, sitting quietly in the background. Yet, this quieter sister sensed how Jesus wanted to be welcomed. Rather than getting into a flutter of activity like Martha, she offered a listening ear, sitting at his feet and taking in his every word.

Jesus appreciated that special kind of welcome. It is often the way in Luke's gospel that the more marginal people are the ones who respond best to the message. On this occasion, Martha had something to learn from her sister Mary, as we all do. Martha was too anxious to feed Jesus, when, really it was he who wanted to nourish her with his word. What he wants from us sometimes is just to sit and listen, letting him feed us with his word and his very presence.


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Wednesday of Week 27

1st Reading: Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14

Paul openly corrects Peter for compromising the principle of the equality of all believers

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain.

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

Responsorial: from Psalm 117

R./: Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News

Praise the Lord, all you nations,
  glorify him, all you peoples! (R./)

For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
  and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:1-4

Luke's version of the Our Father stresses the needs of each single day

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."

He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial."

BIBLE

Different cultures in one church

Paul is absolutely convinced that baptised gentiles have equal standing with Jewish Christians, as members of the church and "coheirs" with Jesus. Armed with this certainty, he explained to the church leaders the gospel as he preached it in foreign lands. As he says in a verse that we will read later this week: Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). For new converts, the Jewish law of circumcision and all their dietary laws no longer applied. This new freedom from old laws was so vital to Paul, that when Peter came to Antioch and would not sit down to eat with gentile converts, Paul spoke out strongly against Peter, "for he was clearly in the wrong." The subsequent rapid spread of the church would not have been possible, if Peter and others had not seen that on this issue Paul was right.

Like Peter, it is tempting to dither regarding the equal rights of other people. Our general good will can be blocked by fear of diversity. In order to let go of any negative conservatism and fully support Gospel freedom, we need to pray for discernment and guidance. The Lord's prayer will really help, even in St Luke's shorter version. To pray: "Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we forgive.." is a good antidote even today, to any artificial barriers in our church.


How should we pray?

In yesterday's gospel Mary was commended for listening to the word of the Lord. Jesus himself was devoted to prayer, even during his very active life. His prayerfulness led his disciples to want to as he did. 'Lord, teach us to pray,' they asked. They felt that if they were to pray really well they would need special help. Prayer is not just a human activity; it is the Lord's activity in us, through the Spirit.

The disciples' request, 'Lord teach us' is a prayer in itself. The way he taught them has been called the 'Lord's prayer' and it teaches some basic principles of prayer. It starts with a focus on God's gloryand God's will, before asking for all that we need. It's a pattern for all of our prayer. We first worship our Father-God and then entrust him with all our needs.


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Thursday of Week 27

1st Reading: Galatians 3:1-5

Is the Spirit received by law-abidingness or by trusting faith?

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?, if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Responsorial: from Luke 1:69ff

R./: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to save his people

The Lord has raised up for us a mighty saviour
 in the house of David his servant,
 as he promised by the lips of holy ones,
 those who were his prophets from of old. (R./)

A saviour who would free us from our foes,
 from the hands of all who hate us.
So his love for our fathers is fulfilled
 and his holy covenant remembered. (R./)

He swore to Abraham our father
 to grant us, that free from fear,
 and saved from the hands of our foes,
 we might serve him in holiness and justice
 all the days of our life in his presence. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:5-13

Jesus teaches the value of perseverance in prayer

Jesus said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' And he answers from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

BIBLE

Persistence in prayer

Perseverance is based on trust that we really will find what we seek. Instead of the moral term, "perseverance," Luke has the more secular term "persistence." While "perseverance" suggests faithfulness in following the way of Jesus, there's a stubborn toughness in persistence.

Jewish culture required hospitality be offered even to someone who arrives at an inconvenient time. It's not normal to trouble a neighbour at midnight for something we need. Even Jesus is not really promoting such a socially offensive request. The point of his parable is in its imagery, "for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." If the neighbour obliges, however unwillingly, how much more will God give us as much as we need.

The goodness of God is also compared to parents' care and attention towards their children. Jesus acknowledges the basic goodness and generosity of parents. So how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. For the Gospel writers, and for St Luke in particular, the Holy Spirit is the highest gift God can give us.


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Friday of Week 27

1st Reading: Galatians 3:7-14

Justification is by faith, made available through the death of Christ

All those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you." For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree";, so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Responsorial: from Psalm 111

R./: The Lord remembers his covenant for ever

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
 in the meeting of the just and their assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
 to be pondered by all who love them. (R./)

Majestic and glorious his work,
 his justice stands firm for ever.
He makes us remember his wonders.
The Lord is compassion and love. (R./)

He gives food to those who fear him;
 keeps his covenant ever in mind.
He has shown his might to his people
 by giving them the lands of the nations. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:15-26

Jesus casts out devils by divine help, not by the devil's power

Some of the people said about Jesus, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?, for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first."

BIBLE

The power to save

In true rabbinical style, one of Jesus' favourite way of answering a question is by asking another. In this case he asks, "by whom do your own exorcists cast out devils?" Instead of giving instant answers, the Bible often requires a meditative attitude in God's presence.

Jesus believed in the existence of forces of good and evil, of devils and angels. But he totally rejected the accusation that "by Beelzebul, he casts out devils!" No indeed, he replies, it is with special divine help that he faces down the power of evil. So we too cannot rely simply on our own resources against evil, but call on God for help.

Paul looks at divine help in another way, as he writes about the initiative of God in offering us eternal life. He holds that our "justification" and our invitation to share in the divine life is a benevolent gift of God, freely offered, not earned by us through obedience to a set of laws.

It is mainly in Galatians and Romans that Paul teaches his theology of justification by faith. our proper response to God is one of trust and gratitude, then followed by good actions. We must follow the example of God's Son and let the Holy Spirit guide us. In this way, the finger of God will influence our daily lives too.


In ordinary ways

Some people put Jesus to the test by asking for a sign from heaven. They want him to perform some spectacular miracle, to prove his credentials, but are completely blind to the presence of God in the ministry of Jesus itself. Jesus declares that it is by the finger of God that he drives demons out of people. God is powerfully at work in his ministry if only people had eyes to see it. There is no need for Jesus to do a spectacular sign.

Some seem to be obsessed with the unusual and the miraculous. It would be a great pity if we fail to see how the Lord is present among us in and through the goodness of others, in and through people's quiet prayerfulness. We can miss the deeper dimension of the everyday and the familiar. I think of the poet Joseph Mary Plunkett who wrote, "I see his blood upon the rose and in the stars the glory of his eyes." Nature spoke to him of Christ. The best of human nature and human relationships can speak to us even more powerfully of the Lord.

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Saturday of Week 27

1st Reading: Galatians 3:22-29

In Christ, all the baptized are equally children of God

The scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Responsorial: from Psalm 105

R./: The Lord remembers his covenant for ever

O sing to the Lord, sing his praise;
 tell all his wonderful works!
Be proud of his holy name,
 let the hearts that see the Lord rejoice. (R./)

Consider the Lord and his strength;
 constantly seek his face.
 Remember the wonders he has done,
 his miracles, the judgements he spoke. (R./)

O children of Abraham, his servant,
 O sons of the Jacob he chose.
He, the Lord, is our God:
 his judgements prevail in all the earth. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:27-28

Most blessed is the one who hears God's word and keeps it

While Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!"; But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"

BIBLE

The Word that unites

St Paul tells how the privileges of Israel, God's special people, are now extended to the world. Through the Gospel, all believers "are one in Christ Jesus."

In Galatians the sword of God's word penetrates to the heart of things, striking down all class distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. All who are baptized into Christ "have clothed yourselves with him." Baptism calls us to rise above former tribalism, racism or sexism, in order to really become "one in Christ Jesus."

No one can avoid the sharp sword of God's word, not even Jesus' own mother. Her special bond with Jesus did not end with giving him birth and nurturing him at her breast. She too must listen to God's through him word and act according to the Word.

St Luke shows Mary in that light, as one who treasures God's word and reflects on them in her heart (Luke 2:19). We too must listen to God's word and act on it with confidence, in union with our faith-family across the world, who are also our brothers and sisters.


The shortest gospel

Today we have the shortest gospel in the Lectionary, just two verses long. The brief exchange between Jesus and a woman is intriguing. A woman in the audience was so taken by his teaching that she spontaneously shouted out a blessing on Jesus' mother. She declared Mary blessed because for being the mother of this prophet and healer, Jesus. While our Lord held his mother the highest regard, he expands the blessing to a much wider group. "Even more blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it," he says.

In that wider group, Jesus' mother played a prominent part. More than anyone, Mary heard the word of God and kept it. Her mindset was always, "Let it be to me according to your word." If the mother of Jesus is blessed, it is not merely in her physical motherhood but because she devoted herself to hearing and doing God's word. If we can do likewise, we will share in that lovely blessing.


28th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 28

1st Reading: Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1

Through faith we are born free. It was for liberty that Christ freed us

It is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery.

But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, "Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth-pangs; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the one who is married."

So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Responsorial: from Psalm 113

R./: Blessed be the name of the Lord forever

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
 praise the name of the Lord!
 May the name of the Lord be blessed
 both now and for evermore! (R./)

From the rising of the sun to its setting
 praised be the name of the Lord!
High above all nations is the Lord,
 above the heavens his glory. (R./)

Who is like the Lord, our God,
 who stoops from the heights to look down,
 to look down upon heaven and earth?
From the dust he lifts up the lowly,
 from the dungheap he raises the poor. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:29-32

The Ninevites and the queen of Sheba will blame Jesus' generation

When the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, "This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!

BIBLE

The Last will come first

Some people who are unaware of Christ may display an honesty and generosity beyond many of the faithful. The gospel gives examples of this. When it reports Jesus comparing gentiles with his fellow-Jews, the message was intended for Christian readers. The queen of the South who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon represents the opennes of Africa to the Word of God. Even the dreaded Ninevites who had destroyed northern Israel were open to conversion by the obstinate Jonah. Jesus was a far greater presence than Solomon and Jonah. With so little background the pagans welcomed faith. It is a sober lesson for lifelong Christians.

It Galatians, St Paul introduces the famous opposition between the two covenants. God's ways are not our ways. The reasoning in Galatians is in a style strange for us. Paul, who knew his Bible so well, turns history on its head, with Rabbinical subtlety. He links the resistant Jews to Abraham's first son Ishmael, son of Hagar, while believers in Christ are linked to Isaac, the true-born son, born of Sarah. Within us, he seems to say, are two conflicting forces. We are born of the flesh in childbirth, and born of the spirit through grace. Our rebirth through the Spirit is what leads to eternal life. Our "fleshly" aspect is doomed to die; our "spiritual" side is destined for eternal life.


Signs of God's presence

When people came to Jesus looking for a sign he said the signs were in plain view if only they could see them. His own message and lifestyle was all the sign they needed, to open their hearts to God.

The people of Nineveh took Jonah more seriously than Jesus' hearers were taking him, yet he was a more powerful sign of God's presence than Jonah. Something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of Sheba listened to Solomon more attentively than Jesus' hearers did to him, but Jesus could teach them more than Solomon could.

In looking for the extraordinary, we can miss the divine presence in ordinary things. Jesus seemed ordinary to his neighbours. 'Is not this the son of the carpenter? When he spoke about God's kingdom, he did so in simple terms, like the sower going out to sow or the man who was robbed on the road Jericho, or the weeds that grow among the field of wheat. He said that signs of God's presence are in the ordinary stuff of life, for those who have eyes to see. Right now we pray for eyes to see the mystery.


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Tuesday of Week 28

1st Reading: Galatians 5:1-6

In Christ Jesus, circumcision no longer counts; only faith acting through love

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

Responsorial: from Psalm 119

R./: Lord, let your love come to me

Lord, let your love come upon me,
 the saving help of your promise.
 Do not take the word of truth from my mouth
 for I trust in your decrees. (R./)

I shall always keep your law
 for ever and ever.
 I shall walk in the path of freedom
 for I see your precepts. (R./)

Your commands have been my delight;
 these I have loved.
 I will worship your commands and love them
 and ponder your statutes. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:37-41

Purity of heart is above exterior cleanliness. Alms have cleansing power

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

BIBLE

Faithful and kind

"Faith" in Saint Paul's sense is closely linked to fidelity. The law of the flesh (disorder and hatreds) must give way to the law of the spirit (harmony and love.) We are freed from regulations about circumcision and legal cleanliness, clean and unclean foods, so as to follow the more inward law of the spirit, love and faithfulness and self control.

Jesus sets the bar of generosity very high when he says, "Give what you have as alms." Then, he promises, "all will be wiped clean for you." Here's is a curious thought about cleanliness. Day labourers and manual workers are more challenged by hygiene than wealthy people of leisure. Poor people often work longer hours and may not have easy access to running water and privacy. Could this be why Jesus had not washed his hands before the meal in the Pharisee's house?


Checking our priorities

We know from experience how people have differing priorities. What motivates me may seem trivial to someone else. We can get upset when something we regard as important is not taken seriously by someone near to us. The ritual of washing in a certain way before meals was clearly of more importance to his host than it was to Jesus. The had differing priorities. Rituals like washings mattered less to him than the values and attitudes in our hearts. He turns to conversation to another Jewish practice, almsgiving, the willingness to give to those in need. Rather than some version of "Cleanliness is next to godliness," he is implying that what matters most is love.

Perhaps what we think vital is not necessarily so. What we seek is not always what Christ values. We must let him mould us more than we do, if we are to "put on the mind of Christ." We pray that our priorities may reflect the Lord's own priorities.


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Wednesday of Week 28

1st Reading: Galatians 5:18-25

The symptoms or fruits of the flesh contrasted with those of the spirit

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Responsorial: from Psalm 1

R./: Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life

Blessed are they who do not follow
  the counsel of the wicked
 Nor walk in the way of sinners,
  nor sit in the company of the insolent,
But who delight in the law of the Lord
  and meditate on his law day and night. (R./)

They are like a tree
  planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
  and whose leaves never fade.
  Whatever they do will prosper. (R./)

Not so the wicked, not so;
  they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the Lord watches over the way of the just,
  but the way of the wicked vanishes. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:42-46

Woe to legalists who impose impossible burdens yet neglect compassion

Jesus said to the Pharisees, "Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herb of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it."

One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too." And he said, "Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them."

BIBLE

Freedom to be loving

St Paul insists on freedom of spirit, but warn against libertinism and individualism. Today's text from Galatians minces no words in stating what proceeds from the undisciplined heart ("the flesh"). It leads to lewd conduct, impurity, envy, envy, drunkenness and the rest.

Jesus' words in the Gospel are more nuanced. He contrasts how his critics observed the temple tax while neglecting justice and love, and says the rule of love is more important, but "without neglecting the others." He did not campaign against the Mosaic law and only neglects it for good reason. When he permits an exception he explains the reason for it.

The more we stress rules and regulations, the more we are tempted to judge others. Jesus did not deny that rules have a place, in this case, the paying of tithes, but he promoted the higher way of justice and love. It is good for us to question our motives from time to time. We may look good just because that is what's expected of us. But if we are in the habit of judging others harshly, we may be losing touch with our centre.

Every individual has the power to live a good life, whether Jew or Greek. We are asked to look for this goodness in others before we criticise them. Before judging, we need to ask ourselves what are we doing to lighten their burden. If we knew their full story we might show more mercy.


Don't be too burdened

Sometimes life's burden seems to weigh heavily on us; at other times it feels lighter. The Lord wants us to carry each other's burdens, but the opposite can easily happen, so that we burden them instead.

He accuses the lawyers of burdensing people instead of trying to help them. Their version of the Jewish Law had was distorted. Rather than a pathway to life, the Law was a heavy weight on an overburdened people. Jesus did not come to make people feel more guilty. Instead he invited them, 'Come to me..., and I will give you rest.'

If the gospel sometimes feels demanding, it is in order to be more loving in our relationships. We are not meant to feel burdened by this duty. The loving Lord who wants us to have life to the full gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit to know that his way leads to eternal life.


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Thursday of Week 28

1st Reading: Ephesians 1:1-10

God chose us in Christ before the world began, to be holy in his sight

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Responsorial: from Psalm 97

R./: The Lord has made known his salvation

Sing a new song to the Lord.
 for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
 have brought salvation. (R./)

The Lord has made known his salvation;
 has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and his love
 for the house of Israel. (R./)

All the ends of the earth
 have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord all the earth,
 ring out your joy. (R./)

Sing psalms to the Lord with the harp
 with the sound of music.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
 acclaim the King, the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:47-54

Jesus' enemies are like those who killed the prophets of old

Jesus said, "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering."

When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.


The redeeming blood of Christ

Many Old Testament ideas surface in Paul's writings, such as the justice of God, the glory of God, redemption by blood-sacrifice, divine grace and favour, the fullness of time. There is reference to blood in both readings for today. We have been redeemed through his blood (Ephesians); and Christ's blood joins that of all the prophets who were martyred before him (Luke). The blood of Christ has some major life-giving meaning.

In the book of Leviticus, blood has various meanings, the most basic being that the life of any animal is in its blood (Lev 17:11). It is as a symbol of life rather a cause of death, that the blood of Christ unites us with God and each other. When the covenant of life was sealed between Yahweh and the Israelites (Exod 24:6-8) blood was sprinkled both on the altar and on the people, as a sign of a permanent, living union.

Ephesians says that our unity with God was established by blood of Christ. This gift was given even before we even existed, because God always planned to give us life. This divine benevolence runs all through Ephesians. If only our love for others could be modelled upon it!

Jesus talks of blood in arguing with a group of Pharisees and lawyers. When he condemns them for putting great tombs over the graves of prophets, it is not from any disrespect for prophets, but that they would be better honoured by sharing their concern for others, especially the poor and people in need. Our own best epitaph too should be how we stand up for the cause of justice, dignity and fairness.


Showered with grace

We will be reading for the next weeks from the letter to the Ephesians. It is a very beautiful letter, both in its richness of language and its message. It was not written by Paul himself, but written under his name by one of his disciples after Paul died, as a final summary of his message.

We have read the opening verses, which are a prayer of blessing, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…' God is praised for all that we have receivedt. It mentions the richness of God's grace that has been showered on us through Christ. We know all about showers in this climate. The next time we are tempted to complain about rain, we might think of that expression, 'the richness of grace showered upon us.'

Through the life-giving blood of Christ we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins. In return, we are moved 'to praise the glory of God's grace', which we do in the Eucharist and every time we pause to pray. Having been showered with grace, we give thanks and try to live under that influence.


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Friday of Week 28

1st Reading Ephesians 1:11-14

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit, the down-payment God has made to his people

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.

Responsorial: from Psalm 33

R./: Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own

Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just;
 for praise is fitting for loyal hearts.
Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,
 with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. (R./)

For the word of the Lord is faithful
 and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
 and fills the earth with his love. (R./)

They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
 the people he has chosen as his own.
From the heavens the Lord looks forth,
 he sees all the children of men. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:1-7

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot crush your soul

As the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.

"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows."

BIBLE

God's Chosen Ones

At our very centre is a gifted dignity deeper than any good that we do, which puts us at ease with God. Ephesians says we have received something like a "down payment" or "first instalment" of eternal life, just as a pregnant woman has within her a new life, as yet unborn. She has the foretaste, but must wait for the birth. She holds the future within her, but is still guessing what it will be like.

We are said to be "sealed with the Holy Spirit," the pledge of our future. Paul can offer no logical explanation for this, but that we were "chosen, predestined" by our loving God. We were loved before we could love in return, chosen to be God's very own people. Our life should then be lived in praise to God's glory. If our life and its growth and fulfilment are due to grace, how free and confident we can be in God's presence.

The exuberant liberty of spirit is repeated in the gospel. What was said in the dark we proclaim from rooftops. If our merciful God cares about sparrows and the small details of creation, then we need fear nothing. "You are more precious than many sparrows." The grace of this God makes us free, confident and already part-way to heaven.


More than many sparrows

The words about sparrows are a key statement about God. The sparrow was a very common bird of no great distinction. Yet not one sparrow is forgotten in God's sight. God knows even the least and smallest of creatures. If the humble sparrow is cherished and cared for by God, how much more are we cherished and cared for, says the Lord.

God knows the smallest detail of our lives. In the larger scheme of things this vergest on the incredible. If God the Creator is transcendent above all things, worthy of reverence and awe ('the fear of the Lord) how can He pay attention to each individual in this crowded world? Yet Jesus assures us that God is a caring Abba-Father close to us and caring for each one. If that is so, we can trust ourselves to God without reserve.


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Saturday of Week 28

1st Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23

May God enlighten your vision to see the hope you are called to

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Responsorial: from Psalm 8

R./: You gave your Son power over the works of your hand

How great is your name, O Lord our God,
 through all the earth!
Your majesty is praised above the heavens;
 on the lips of children and of babes
 you have found praise to foil your enemy. (R./)

When I see the heavens, the works of your hands,
 the moon and the stars which you arranged,
 what is man that you should keep him in mind,
 mortal man that you care for him? (R./)

Yet you have made him little less than a god;
 with glory and honour you crowned him,
 gave him power over the works of your hand,
 put all things under his feet. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:8-12

Do not worry about how or what your defense will be

Jesus said to his disciples:

"I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say."

BIBLE


Above place and time

Paul uses the metaphor of place to help us to understand that Jesus, who had lived on earth, was no longer limited to earth-bound existence. Through the power of God Jesus is now far above everything.

And what place is that? The risen Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Throughout the scriptures we are reminded that this is the place of highest honor and veneration. Seated in the heavenly place Christ is now able to see “in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.”

The man from lowly Nazareth is now far above all earthly powers. Paul wants to make sure that we understand that the power given to the risen Christ cannot compare with anything on earth so he names them all, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21). Kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, dictators, emperors, tyrants, czars -- the risen Christ is far above them all. Paul says that God has put all things under Christ’s feet and "made him the head over all things" (1:22). We are to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the one whose power is limitless.

Finally, the risen Christ is far above the most limiting of all, time. We are captive to our limited time on this earth, this blue marble, but not the risen Christ. Our Lord Jesus is “above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (1:21). Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega,” the one “who is and who was, and is, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8). (Lucy Hogan)


Not denying him

Jesus calls his disciples to be brave in bearing witness to him, in making him known even at risk to their safety. He promises that in this difficult work they won’t be left without help. When the time comes, the Holy Spirit will inspirt them what they must say.

Speaking about faith is just as hard today because so much of our culture and public discourse is hostile to religion, and in particular to Catholicism. We might easily be cowed into silence and invisibility and even abandon the very idea of handing on the faith.

To be faithful we must resist that temptation, and do whatever we can to commend the message of Christ. If we try to do that, we are promised the help of the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness.


29th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 29

1st Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

We are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ --it is by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in future ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith --and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Responsorial: from Psalm 100

R./: The Lord made us, we belong to him

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
 Serve the Lord with gladness.
 Come before him, singing for joy. (R./)

Know that he, the Lord, is God.
 He made us, we belong to him,
 we are his people, the sheep of his flock. (R./)

Go within his gates, giving thanks.
 Enter his courts with songs of praise.
 Give thanks to him and bless his name. (R./)

Indeed, how good is the Lord,
 eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:13-21

Warning against greed in all its forms. Possessions do not guarantee the success of a life

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

BIBLE

It is by grace you have been saved

Saint Paul insists, not once but twice in the same paragraph, that we are saved by grace. To make it crystal clear that this grace is a free gift that precedes anything we do, not something that we have merited, he adds "this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one may boast." At first sight this may seem to render our own behaviour irrelevant to our salvation. If the gift is so freely given, what need is there for any effort on our part? It was surely to counter any such false, passive view that St. James made this rejoinder: "Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead!" (Jas 2:17).

However, Paul is far from downgrading the need for good works, as our proper response to the free gift of grace. His favourite prophet was Isaiah, who wrote, in his famous call to conversion: "Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (Isa 1:16,23).

Jesus warns against a common fault of well-off, seemingly good people. They can be too fixated on profit and keeping all they have earned, inherited or invested. Rich people have a vested interest in maintaining the differential between themselves and the poor. They can put too much confidence in wealth and respectability. If they see no wrong in the growing gap between the highest and the lowest earnings, they ignore the fundamental Gospel imperative of sharing.

To this capitalist trend, which exists in some form in almost all of us, he warns: "Avoid greed in all its forms..Possessions do not guarantee life.. Do not grow rich for yourself instead of growing rich in the sight of the Lord."


Security and detachment

We need to be security conscious in order to feel safe in our homes, especially if there are burglars in our neighbourhood. We need securing also at a deeper level, to feel secure for the future. Apart from whatever protection is offered by medicine and the law, many put their trust in their money or property as the only real security available in our ever-changing world.

Jesus warns against making property our main source of security. When someone came asking him to intervene in a family dispute about inheritance, he refuses to get involved, but offers his advice, that a person's life is not made secure by what he owns.

It's a sign of wisdom when we take this advice to heart. We discover a new freedom regarding ownership. It dawns on us that it's not owning things that counts, but having things to share with others.

This is a lesson that the rich man in the parable never learned. He heaped up money just for the sake of money and the pleasures it could buy. He stored commodities in ways that served no useful purpose for others. Like Scrooge, he felt sure he had more than enough to see him comfortable to the end. But when God suddenly called him from this life he faced his judgment as a poor man. In spite of owning so much, he was not rich in the eyes of God.

We need to be rather detached from money in order to be rich in the sight of God. This calls for a generous spirit, willing to share what we have so some others get a fairer deal in life. The life of Jesus is iconic for this kind of generosity, as Paul says, 'though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.'


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Tuesday of Week 29

1st Reading: Ephesians 2:12-22

God has broken down all barriers, to form one new people

Remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and being without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Responsorial: from Psalm 85

R./: The Lord speaks of peace to his people

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
 a voice that speaks of peace.
His help is near for those who fear him
 and his glory will dwell in our land. (R./)

Mercy and faithfulness have met;
 justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
 and justice look down from heaven. (R./)

The Lord will make us prosper
 and our earth shall yield its fruit.
 Justice shall march before him
 and peace shall follow his steps. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:35-38

Vigilant servants who are ready for the master's return

Jesus said, "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves."

BIBLE

Members of God's household

 

When he wrote his gospel, some time in the 80's of the first century, Luke's readers were no longer excitedly waiting for Jesus to return in glory very soon. Expecting the end was not keeping them awake at night! As in his version of the Our Father, Luke is more conscious of the daily presence of Jesus in our neighbour and in events. Still some sense of waiting is urged on us, to be ready to open the door (our lives) whenever Jesus comes knocking. The Lord in person is near us every day.

As part of his parable, Jesus overturns convention about the about relationship between authority and service. Normally, when the owner comes home, his servants wait on him. But here the reverse happens: The master gets the servants to sit at table, and serves them supper! If we serve God faithfully it is we who reap the reward. When we try to be of service to others, it is good for us too.

Ephesians offers a broad, mystical vision of the working of God's grace. By this grace our lives, like Christ's, become a living sacrifice. Our bodies become a "temple,.. a dwelling place for God in the Spirit."This grace includes knowing that we are family to all who share our faith. "You are strangers and aliens no longer. You are fellow citizens of the saints and members of God's household."


Serving the staff

Imagine the head of the house putting on an apron, getting the staff to sit at the dinner table and serving the meal to them. This would be most unusual either then or now. It brings to mind the scene in John's gospel where Jesus wraps a towel round his waist and washes the feet of his disciples. It appears that he wants to serve us, wants to be our servant. Normally, the roles of boss and servant are poles apart, but in Jesus they are combined.

The master's act of service is a reward for the staff's faithfulness to duty. He wants us to be equally faithful, and be ready to open the door when he knocks. There is a saying of Jesus in the Book of Revelation, "behold, I stand at the door and knock." It makes us thing that perhaps he is always knocking at the door of our lives, giving us a chance to welcome him. If we respond to his knock, he assures us that his reward will be well worthwhile


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Wednesday of Week 29

1st Reading: Ephesians 3:2-12

Paul preaches to the gentiles the rich mystery of Christ

Surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Responsorial: from Isaiah 12

R./: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation

Truly, God is my salvation,
 I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song,
 he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water
 from the wells of salvation. (R./)

Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
 make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
 Declare the greatness of his name,
 sing a psalm to the Lord! (R./)

For he has done glorious deeds,
 made them known to all the earth!
 People of Zion, sing and shout for joy
 for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:39-48

Be on guard, for God's judgment will come suddenly

Jesus said to his disciples: "Know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Peter said, "Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?" And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you,he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and if he begins to beat the other servants, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That servant who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

BIBLE

Not caught napping

The parable seems to say that the Lord is absent, far beyond our ken. Ephesians offers another view: we already have Christ within us, and what we are still seeking is the fullness of his presence.

In a sense, we are to live each day as though the Son of Man were already at the door, just ready to come home after a long absence. Like the loyal servants, we must be ready when he comes. However hearty and healthy we may be, we know how fragile life can be and "We know neither the day nor the hour" when we may be called to God.

Ephesians looks to the far horizons, lost in mystical insight into the eternal mind of God. It is studded with expressions like: God's secret plan, the mystery of Christ, the unfathomable riches of Christ, the mysterious design hidden in God, the Creator of all. God's age-old purpose controlled the making of the universe. His providence now guides the world, whether people realize it or not, accept it or not. His Son Jesus is bringing new life to people and places where we would least expect. Such is "God's secret plan." Everyone from any nation who welcomes the Gospel has personal access to God who rules over all.


Expect the unexpected

We don't much like to be taken by surprise. We like to know what is coming and be ready for it. But the unexpected often happens, as is considered in today's parable. The burglar breaks into a house when we least expect it. The owner arrives home at a time when his careless servant is fast asleep. There is an element of the unexpected in our relationship with Jesus.

The Son of Man comes... We may apply this to the hour of our death, for sudden, unexpected death is always possible. But the imagery can have a more positive meaning. The Lord comes to us in many ways, over the course of our lives. He may inspire us to do something we had not thought about before, or draw us down a path we might not have chosen ourselves. He can come to us through unexpected encounters, even with people who do not share our faith. At any time, expect the unexpected, because God's ways are not our ways. But it's all for the good!


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Thursday of Week 29

1st Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

May you grasp the depth of Christ's love, beyond all knowledge

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, praying that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Responsorial: from Psalm 33

R./: The Lord fills the earth with his love

Ring our your joy to the Lord, O you just;
 for praise is fitting for loyal hearts.
Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,
 with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. (R./)

For the word of the Lord is faithful
 and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
 and fills the earth with his love. (R./)

His own designs shall stand for ever,
 the plans of his heart
 from age to age.
They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
 the people he has chosen as his own. (R./)

The Lord looks on those who revere him,
 on those who hope in his love,
 to rescue their souls from death,
 to keep them alive in famine. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:49-53

Lighting a fire on the earth, Christ also causes deep divisions

Jesus said to his disciples: "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No,I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

BIBLE

Servants of justice

There's a high-level anthropology in Ephesians. Its vision of human potential centres on God's love for us, a love beyond logical reason. If we are able to fully explain why we love someone, our love may be shallow. The love that God pus in us makes "servants" of us, not in an anxious, fearful spirit but a spirit full of joy. Our full dignity is as "servants of justice." If we stake everything on Christ and eternal life, we experience a new level of love and full integrity of body and soul.

In the gospel Jesus is fully caught up in the doing the Father's will. The language is emotional, "How I wish the blaze were ignited!" He is thinking about his coming passion and death. He was "firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem" where he would meet his fate. Yet, when the time came for his arrest, Jesus was plunged into agony. He prayed in Gethsemane, "Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me.".. and in terrible anguish he prayed so intensely that he sweated like drops of blood (Lk 22:42,44).

It is in this context that he talks of what conflicts his followers may have to face. Bitter arguments about faith can split families apart, each faction resenting the other. But such divisions need not last, because Jesus has a unique ability to break down barriers and even to bond Jew and gentile, male and female, servant and free into one united people. Only in this way can the justice of God, and God's plan for the world, be fully accomplished.


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Friday of Week 29

1st Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

One body and one spirit, a warm ideal of church unity

I, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Responsorial: from Psalm 24

R./: Lord, such are the people who long to see your face

The Lord's is the earth and its fullness,
 the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
 on the waters he made it firm. (R./)

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
 who desires not worthless things. (R./)

He shall receive blessings from the Lord
 and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
 seek the face of the God of Jacob. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:54-59

Why can't you interpret the signs of the present time?

Jesus said to his disciples: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

"And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I ell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny."

BIBLE

A chance (kairos) to be seized

We must seize the offer of salvation that comes to us in the here and now. Some opportunitiess do not come a second time, when failure to act would mean losing our chance. Some graces belong to the "day" and the "hour." The moment of grace, the "kairos," is a favourite biblical term. Kairos is not just a moment in linear time (as the Greeks called chronos) but a very special moment with life-changing implications. The Kairos must be seized promptly, in order to do the will of God. The stakes are high, and not to decide is itself a negative decision.

In spite of conflicts both internal and extermal, this time can be a Kairos for us, individually, and for the universal Church. We and our leaders need to to interpret the present time and act for God with the same energy as the original Christians. Observing the natural virtues of prudence and courage, we must do our best both to practice and to share the spirit of Jesus Christ.


Keeping an eye on the weather

We often talk about the weather in Ireland. It's a useful topic of conversation when we have nothing much else to say. Our weather coming in from the Atlantic is so changeable that it varies from day to day, so there is always something to say about it. It has either been raining a while back, or it is still raining or will be raining before long. A while week without rain considered worthy of special mention.

The people in Jesus's time noticed the weather too. They knew what to expect from the direction of the wind, and so could "read the face of the earth and the sky." Sadly they were unable to read signs of the times. They failed to recognize that God was among them in a special way.

We too can be very aware of the weather but not so aware of how God is present to us. Jesus will be with us always until the end of time. The signs of his presence can be subtle and non-dramatic, but true and real. We pray for sight to see how the Lord is present to us, especially in and through those whom we meet in the course of our day.


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Saturday of Week 29

1st Reading: Ephesians 4:7-16

The church led by apostles and evangelists, to teach and unify its members

Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people." (When it says, "He ascended,"; what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in very way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.

Responsorial: from Psalm 122

R./: Let us go up with joy to the house of the Lord

I rejoiced when I heard them say:
 'Let us go to God's house.'
 And now our feet are standing
 within your gates, O Jerusalem. (R./)

Jerusalem is built as a city
 strongly compact.
It is there that the tribes go up,
 the tribes of the Lord. (R./)

For Israel's law it is,
 there to praise the Lord's name.
There were set the thrones of judgement
 of the house of David. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:1-9

All must yield some good fruit, or the tree may be cut down

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did."

Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next ear, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

BIBLE

Unity in the Church

The ideals of Christian unity are highlighted in Ephesians. Together, all believers form the one "body of Christ," still growing towards the state of perfection God wants for us. Through our union with Christ the whole body grows and the members are kept united in love.

The theme of misfortune is discussed in the story about the Galilean pilgrims who were killed by Pontius Pilate and others who were killed by a falling tower at Siloam, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. Their fate shows how innocent people are just as subject to misfortune as the guilty. In spite of the general biblical view that sinful behaviour will be punished, it does not follow that people who suffer must have been sinners. So much of the suffering in this world is caused by other people, as in the case of Jesus' own passion and death.

Positively, we are called to form one body in Christ, and each has specific gifts to contribute to the health of that body. Paul lists some of the main gifts (charisms) : apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, all meant to build up the body of Christ. Their many services are for the good of the whole community, just as all parts in the human body have a vital part to play. This analogy is more fully developed elsewhere, " If all the members were alike, where would the body be?" (1 Cor 12:19).

In the church, each member has a duty of care for the others. But in practice, the variety of gifts and roles can stir envy, rivalry, or even arrogance. So the administrator must beware of micro-managing, teachers must not be dogmatic, pragmatists must not neglect some study and reflection, nor should the contemplative refuse to do any work. Each has a function of service "to build up the body of Christ," in what we would now call a spirit of dialogue and collegiality.


Bearing fruit for God

All parables make us ponder what they might mean. Jesus imagines a withering fig tree that has failed to bear fruit for the past three years. The reaction of the owner seems quite normal. That fig tree must be cut down because it is only wasting space in the vineyard.

But the gardener had a different perspective. Looking closely at the ailing fig tree he saw that with care it could still bear fruit. Experience had taught him a more hopeful vision. With the help of some fertiliser all was not lost and the fig tree could revive and fruit again.

This is how God regards us. In spite of what we have failed to do up to now, He knows all we are capable of doing in the future. God sees the potential in each of us; and indeed, that's how we must regard each other and everything in life, with hopeful eyes. Like the vineyard gardener, we need to be patient, able to wait, ready to see beneath the unpromising surface to the faint green shoots of new potential.


30th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 30

1st Reading: Ephesians 4:32—5:8

Be kind to one another, forgiving as our merciful Father is

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.

Responsorial: from Psalm 1

R./: Try to imitate the Lord, as his own dear children

Blessed are they who who follow not
  the counsel of the wicked
Nor walk in the way of sinners,
  nor sit in the company of the insolent,
But delight in the law of the Lord
and meditate on his law day and night. (R./)

They are is like a tree
  planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
  and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever they do will prosper. (R./)

Not so the wicked, not so;
  they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the Lord watches over the way of the just,
  but the way of the wicked vanishes.
Blessed are they who hope in the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

The Jewish leaders' indignation, after a merciful cure by Jesus

Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day." But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day"; When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

BIBLE

Above all, to be a healer

Arthritic old people, leaning on a cane, used to be a common sight. The se poor folk have spent their strength and strained their bodies by back-breaking labour in rice fields, transplanting the stalks, or at the harvest picking up the stray shoots of rice. But though bent with age and hard work, they could be patient and prayerful.

In a synagogue one Sabbath day, Jesus saw a bent old woman. He knew that the purpose of the Sabbath was to enhance life, so he could not enjoy his Sabbath rest until this woman was restored to health.

He said a creative word to her, "Woman, you are free of your infirmity!" and laid his hand on her. Immediately she stood up straight and began thanking God. It was a perfect image of what Sabbath was meant to be.

The synagogue ruler was angry to see a healing worked on the Sabbath, which drew a sharp answer from Jesus, "You hypocrites. Which of you does not let his ox or ass out of the stall on the Sabbath to water it? Should not this woman be released from her shackles on the Sabbath?" Even nowadays some church leaders can resemble that Syagogue official!

Ephesians puts charity before all. It promotes all the virtues of human nature: kindness, compassion and forgiveness, under the unifying principle, "Follow the way of love, even as Christ loved you." It warns against sins against human dignity, lewdness, lust and promiscuity. To sum up, grace heightens our natural sense of virtue and builds on it. And our handicapped neighbours can often teach us about the love of God.


Setting people free

The manager of the synagogue allows no work to be done on the Sabbath. But God's work can be done on any day of the week. Healing a woman from her crippling condition was surely God's work. By his word and his healing touch, Jesus restored her health and gave her a new lease of life. Any life-giving work was always lawful and right and there is no day, no time, when it may not be done. He wants each of us to share in releasing people from whatever ails them.

The epistle calls on us to be friendly and kind, forgiving each other as God has forgiven us, loving others as Christ has loved us. In this way we share in the Lord's own life-giving work. The cure of the woman led her to immediate gratitude, for when she straightened up she glorified God.' If we help others, let it also be for the glory of God.


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Tuesday of Week 30

1st Reading: Ephesians 5:21-33

Love between spouses mirrors Christ's love for the church

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind, yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

Responsorial: from Psalm 128

R./: Happy are those who revere the Lord

O blessed are those who fear the Lord
 and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper. (R./)

Your wife like a fruitful vine
 in the heart of your house;
 your children like shoots of the olive
 around your table. (R./)

Indeed thus shall be blessed
 the man who fears the Lord.
 May the Lord bless you from Zion
 all the days of your life! (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:18-21

The reign of God is like a mustard seed… or yeast

Jesus said, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches."

And again he said, "To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

BIBLE

Married holiness

Marriage, the most basic and vital of human institutions, mirrors the mystery of Christ's love for the church.

Our faith and hope are not entirely heaven centred but give us added motivation to live our daily lives in the best way. Ephesians suggests that marriage and family love can be inspired by the presence of Jesus. Each faithful, fruitful partnership is like a mirror, reflecting Jesus' love for the church. Ideally, married partners should love as Christ loves the church. He gave himself up for her so that she could flourish.

Asking wives to be submissive to their husbands should be seen as an outdated inheritance from times past. This same section of Ephesians says how slaves must obey their masters (Eph 6:5). Nobody quotes this today in favour of slavery, which was part of the warped culture of the past.

To cooperate with the loving plan of God, we must cherish the hidden mustard seed of divine grace in our lives. Like the woman who so kneads the yeast into the dough that it rises to fresh-baked bread, we must try to nurture ourselves and others , so that we can all enjoy the freedom and dignity of the children of God.


Two parables, one message

These two images are about surprising potential. Each of them compares something very small to what it can become. A mustard seed is tiny but grows into a tree where birds can nest. A tiny piece of leaven transforms a whole basin of flour into rising dough.

The kingdom of God is like that, where very small things can grow to become very significant. Even our smallest acts of kindness can have a good effec beyond what we might imagine. Small acts of service can create an opening for the grace of God. It's mistaken to think that unless our efforts are big and impressive they don't really count for much. It is everyday kindness, small initiatives, things may go unnoticed, that contribute to building up the kingdom of God.


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Wednesday of Week 30

1st Reading: Ephesians 6:1-9

Practical advice for parents and children, masters and servants

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "honour your father and mother". This is the first commandment accompanied with a promise: "so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Servants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are servants or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.

Responsorial: from Psalm 145

R./: The Lord is faithful in all his words

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
 and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
 and declare your might, O God,
 to make known to men your mighty deeds
 and the glorious splendour of your reign. (R./)

Yours is an everlasting kingdom;
 your rule lasts from age to age. (R./)

The Lord is faithful in all his words
 and loving in all his deeds.
The Lord supports all who fall
 and raises all who are bowed down. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

Enter by the narrow door. Surprising people will enter

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.

"When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then in reply he will say to you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.

Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

BIBLE

Maybe the narrow door is ...

Today's readings seem to point in two opposite directions. In the epistle, the way to salvation seems by way of doing our normal domestic duties, with patience, respect and honesty. But the gospel gives the opposite impression, that eternal life is elusive and difficult to attain. We are left to puzzle at the enigmatic one-liner, "Some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last."

Perhaps that one-liner is the clue linking those opposite poles. Some who are last will be first and some who are first will be last. Does it mean a reversal of values within our own hearts? In all of us there are impulses drawing us to do good. Maybe the narrow door is a relative term, to suggest that to enter heaven we need more detachment from things and a slimmed-down lifestyle. A kindly, small-scale act of self-giving may turn my life around. Some priority I had neglected now comes first; earlier ambitions and obsessions now take last place.

Ephesians lists some commonplaces of everyday ethics, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord. Parents, do not anger your children. Servants, obey your human masters. Masters, stop threatening your servants." But it adds some Christian qualifiers: Parents must train their children in the way of the Lord. Servants must show their masters the sincerity you owe to Christ. And each one, servant or master, will be repaid by the Lord. These qualifiers give the ethical advice a specifically Christian tone. What seems like everyday decency may turn out to be the "narrow door" that leads to salvation.


Who will be saved?

"Will only a few be saved?" Jesus refuses to give a direct answer but invites us to enter by the narrow door. The way to salvation, fullness of life, requires effort on our part, just as entering through a narrow door we need some slimming down and concentration.

The narrow opening need not imply that only a few will get through it. In fact, Jesus says elsewhere that people from east and west, from north and south, will take their places in the kingdom of God. The Book of Revelation says that a vast multitude are gathered around the throne. But that is not a reason for complacency. We still have to strive to enter by the narrow door, and we do that by following behind Jesus and seeking to do the will of God.


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Thursday of Week 30

1st Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

Putting on the armour of God, for the struggle of life

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Responsorial: from Psalm 143

R./: Blessed be the Lord, my Rock

Blessed be the Lord, my rock
 who trains my arms for battle,
 who prepares my hands for war.  (R./)
 
He is my love, my fortress;
 he is my stronghold, my saviour,
 my shield, my place of refuge.
He brings peoples under my rule. (R./)

To you, O God, will I sing a new song;
 I will play on the ten-stringed lute
 to you who give kings their victory,
 who set David your servant free.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:31-35

Pharisees warn of Herod's plans to seize Jesus; he laments over Jerusalem and its coming destruction

Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jersalem.'

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

BIBLE

Love will win out

When Paul (or whoever wrote Ephesians in his name) presents the moral life as a battleground, where we need the whole armour of God, it evokes yesterday's warning to "Enter the narrow door."

Are there forces that stand in the way of salvation? Right now we may overlook them or even try to silence them with a guilty conscience. Shund not the struggle; face it, 'tis God's gift. Jesus himself had to struggle with the knowledge of his impending death, by which he would return to his Father in heaven. His ministry was to speak his truth to power, no matter what the cost. And for this he died a prophet's death in Jerusalem. Still, the sight of the Holy City does not stir him to hatred or bitterness. What he says about Jerusalem is a mixture of love and his indomitable hope: "How often have I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her young under her wings." Eventually, love will win out.


The hen and her chicks

Jesus was clearly a keen observer of nature and of the animal world. He would have often seen hens clucking about in the village, gathering their brood and watching over them. He too was bent on gathering people. He wanted to form them into a united community, including people who would not normally relate in friendship, Jew, Samaritan and Gentile, rich and poor, law abiding and sinner, male and female.

He laments the fact that so many were not willing to be gathered by him. He longed to gather them but he was powerless before the mystery of human freedom. He could call and invite and plead, but could not coerce.

When his desire to save people met with murderous resistance, and they nailed him to the cross, he continued to call and to invite, calling them still. "When I am raised up... I will draw all people to myself."

After the resurrection, his work of calling and inviting and gathering continues to this day. He never ceases his work of gathering people for the kingdom of God and he continues to await our response.

Various influences can block us from responding to the Lord's call. To resist such forces we need the strength of grace, the armour of God. For this, says Ephesians, we should pray in the Spirit at all times.


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Friday of Week 30

1st Reading: Philippians 1:1-11

Paul longs and prays for the spiritual good of his converts

From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you,constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God's grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insightto help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Responsorial: from Psalm 110

R./: How great are the works of the Lord

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
 in the meeting of the just and their assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
 to be pondered by all who love them. (R./)

Majestic and glorious his work,
 his justice stands firm for ever.
He makes us remember his wonders.
The Lord is compassion and love. (R./)

He gives food to those who fear him;
 keeps his covenant ever in mind.
He has shown his might to his people
 by giving them the lands of the nations.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:1-6

While at dinner, Jesus ignores the Sabbath prohibition

One sabbath day Jesus went to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal, and they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, "Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?" But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, "If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?" And they could not reply to this.

BIBLE

Loving Responses

There are inspiring, loving responses in today's readings. The letter to the Philippians demonstrates the warm affection of Paul for his converts, and the Gospel shows the loving mercy of Jesus for the ailing man, despite the carping of his critics.

Paul writes very warmly to Philippi, certainly his favourite church. He rambles on quite informally, an unusual style for a public letter. "I think of you constantly. I hold all of you dear. I long for each of you with the affection of Christ Jesus." He was not just some Stoical ascetic, a zealous, theologian and administrator. He was much more, even if his love of argument appears at times. As a warm-hearted person, he could not be indifferent to others. But even as he praises them, he wants them to keep up their high standards. "I give thanks to my God .. for the way you have all helped promote the gospel from the very first day." Later he will urge them, "my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way." (4:1)

While today's gospel ends as a conflict, it's all about the love and confidence between the two central characters, Jesus and the sick man. What hope and prayer must have filled poor man's mind, as he sat there suffering from dropsy, a swelling that is medically called oedema. The poor man says nothing while Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, "Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?" St Luke adds, "At this they kept silent," but the silence was loaded with hostility.

Jesus was risking his reputation in the eyes of influential people for the sake of an unnamed sick man, who is not mentioned again after his cure. He was healed and sent on his way, no doubt full of joy at his recovery. Like the Lord, we must try to do the right thing no matter what it costs.


Getting priorities right

He was sitting at a meal at which other Pharisees and other devout folk were also present. Maybe the man with the open wound was deliberately brought in as a way of entrapment, to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath. A sick person would not normally have been there as a guest. But Jesus was more than happy to take the bait, if that is what it was. He immediately healed the man and sent him on his way.

What should we learn from this? While being in other ways religious, some people show little respect for others theri hour of need. Our Lord's outlook is always to treat others with love and respect regardless of the circumstances. We are called to take our lead from him; his way of relating to others must be ours too, and it can be with the help of the Holy Spirit that he pours into our hearts. That's in line with what Paul says about the "goodness Christ Jesus produces in us for the glory of God."

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Saturday of Week 30

1st Reading: Philippians 1:18-26

Paul takes everything in stride, so that he may preach the Gospel

What does it matter, except that Christ be proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Responsorial: from Psalm 42)

R./: My soul is thirsting for the living God

Like the deer that yearns
 for running streams,
 so my soul is yearning
 for you, my God. (R./)

My soul is thirsting for God,
 the God of my life;
 when can I enter and see
 the face of God?  (R./)

I would lead the rejoicing crowd
 into the house of God,
 amid cries of gladness and thanksgiving
 the throng wild with joy .  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-11

The best seats at the table

One sabbath day Jesus went to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal, and they were watching him closely...

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

BIBLE

Friend, come up higher

The Christians at Philippi have asked about men who were preaching about Christ, yet did not take part in their Eucharist or prayer-meetings. We remember a similar episode in the gospel (Lk 9:49-50) and in each case there was envy at work. Paul's answer is that whenever anyone proclaims Christ, whatever the motives, it brings him joy. He reduces the entire message to that single word, "Christ," the one who lives among us as our risen saviour.. For "it is not ourselves we preach but Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Cor 4:4-5).

Unlike the evangelists Paul's writings con't record the words and deeds of Jesus. His message focussed on the risen Christ, living in the community. The church's actions and words become acts or statements of the "body of Christ." Paul was very glad when that message was passed on to others, by simply mentioning the name "Christ." Under this name all envy and suspicion should be banished from among the faithful.

Jesus warns against the common temptation to use money or status (i.e. pull rank) in order to be seated in the best seats. Knowing how even good people can feel drawn to this, he advises them to voluntarily go to the lower place. Then if the host so wishes you will be called forward, 'My friend, come up higher.' He seems to say, if you host yourself in high esteem, at least give others a chance to determine your place. Then he names the most controversial virtue of humility. The call to be humble is a challenge to us all, even if glory is promised as its reward.


31st Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 31

1st Reading: Philippians 2:1-4

Setting aside rivalry or conceit, all should be generous to others

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Responsorial: from Psalm 130

Resp.: In you, Lord, I have found my peace

O Lord, my heart is not proud
 nor haughty my eyes.
 I have not gone after things too great
 nor marvels beyond me. (R./)

Truly I have set my soul
 in silence and peace.
 A weaned child on its mother's breast,
 even so is my soul. (R./)

O Israel, hope in the Lord
 both now and for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:12-14

Inviting the poor to your table will be rewarded

[At a meal in the house of a Pharisee]
Jesus said to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

BIBLE

Sharing our blessings

In general, people live by the Quid pro Quo principle, caring for ourselves and family and friends and paying our lawful debts, and ocasionally giving to some charity. We feel that everyone should work for their living and that the State should take care of the disabled and the aged. But maybe our faith asks a bit more than that from us.

Because God gives us everything we have, we should share our blessings with others, Jesus said: Go the extra mile, Turn the other cheek, Be as merciful as God our Father. His call to go beyond the call of duty echoes in today's Gospel. The parable sets the bar very high, inviting us to show even unmerited hospitality to others. Its implication is that our dealings with others should measure up to God's goodness to us : "Blessed are they who show mercy, for mercy shall be theirs" (Mt 5:7).

St Paul translates that general ideal of mercy into specific examples, for his readers. They are to foster unity of spirit and shared ideals, avoid all rivalry or conceit, and sincerely care for the interests of others. He then makes it very personal by saying that the harmony in that community will gladden his heart, as their founding apostls. I beg you make my joy complete . He conveys a sense of moral obligation while respecting their freedom and spontaneity. His letter alternates between "what you owe me" and "what I hope from you."

The gospel illustrates a level generosity far beyond what most of us will ever fully practice. "When you're holding a party, invite people who are ill, lonely or marginalised." Even if those words literally, we need to take them seriously, as an orientation that's part of our Christian vocation. God our Fathr invited us to a banquet of joy and new life.

The assurance that we will be repaid in the resurrection of the just, can help us to be spontaneously generous, with God's will in mind. Any good works we get involved in mus not not be (or not mainly) to win us praise and reputation among our neighbours, but as part of our personal spirit, as people on the way to eternal life.


Mealtime companions

A wealthy Pharisee had invited Jesus to dinner. Inviting him as a guest was itself unusual, since Pharisees tended to eat only with their circle of like-minded friends. Then the surprising guest proposes that his host should regularly bring to dinner people whom he would not normally think to invite, people who were outsiders, poor and hungry.

In contrast to the Pharisees, Jesus regularly dined with all sorts of people, rich and poor alike, with the educated and uneducated, with the devout and outsiders, with men and with women. The broad range of his table companions was typical of his personality. Nobdy was ruled out from his outreach and his company. His aim was to reveal God's gracious welcome for everyone, especially those who were considered outsiders. By his actual lifestyle, and notably by the company he kept, he mirrored the broad hospitality of God. In contrast, the Pharisees imagined a God who was exclusive rather than inclusive.

While we are meant to practice something of that hospitality in our whole way of life, it's all too easy to exclude some people from our goodwill. It is tempting to dine only within a circle of friends who share our attitudes and who can invite us back. The Spirit invites us to widen our circle and our sympaties, to be more in tune with the practice of Jesus.


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Tuesday of Week 31

1st Reading: Philippians 2:5-11

Like Christ himself, who took the form of a servant

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Responsorial: from Psalm 21

R./: I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people

My vows I will pay before those who fear the Lord.
The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
 May their hearts live for ever and ever! (R./)

All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord,
 all families of the nations worship before him
 for the kingdom is the Lord's; he is ruler of the nations.
They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth. (R./)

And my soul shall live for him, my children serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
 declare his faithfulness to peoples yet unborn:
 'These things the Lord has done.' (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:15-24

God invites poor people from the streets and the alleyways

One of the dinner guests said to Jesus, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" Then Jesus said to him, "Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had ben invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.' Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.' Another said, 'I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.' So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.' And the slave said, 'Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room." Then the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the roads and lnes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.'"

BIBLE

A vibrant spirituality

In the wonderful chapter 2 of Philippians, St Paul quotes from an early Christian hymn to Jesus that summarises a vibrant spirituality within a couple of verse. Our attitude to life must be modelled on Christ himself. As eternal Son of God, Jesus did not cling to his divinity but "emptied himself" of all his former status, to be born as child and live a human life. Then he lived a life of total service, right up to the ultimate sacrifice of himself, "even death on a cross."

Paul's hope is that we learn to live such a life of loving service within the church that we are emptied of self-love and dedicated to serve the interest of our sisters and brothers in the faith. The Gospel reinforces this lesson. We must not set our own preferences ahead of what God wants us to do. Gladly accepting our invitation to the banquet of God, we try to do our bit in welcoming others to share community with us.


Lame excuses

At a sociable dinner-table in Israel one of the guests shares his religious hopes for the future, "Happy will they be who sit at table in the kingdom of God." In reply Jesus offers a parable about how life should be lived here and now. He imagines a great banquet feast to which invitations have already gone out. The variety of responses are a reminder of what lame excuses we sometimes make, for not doing what we ought to do. "I'd really love to come, but unfortunately this other thing has cropped up...."

Guests who had initially accepted their invitation now made excuses and failed to show up, just as the meal was ready to be served. They let themselves be distracted by various hobbies and attachments, all good in themselves perhaps, but not enough to refuse God's invitation. Their refusal will later cause them severe regret.

As a result of those refusals, a surprising invitation goes out to the kinds of people who would hardly ever be invited to such a party. Because they have no cherished hobbies or prior commitments, they are delighted to respond. The parable calls us to be attuned to the grace of the present moment and not to let the good things of this world to so absorb us that we cannot respond to the Lord's invitation as it comes to us in the here and now of our daily lives.


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Wednesday of Week 31

1st Reading: Philippians 2:12-18

By their goodness of life, the converts give Paul cause to boast

My dear friends, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. I is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you, and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.

Responsorial: from Psalm 26

R./: The Lord is my light and my salvation

The Lord is my light and my help;
 whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
 before whom shall I shrink? (R./)

There is one thing I ask of the Lord,
 for this I long,
 to live in the house of the Lord,
 all the days of my life,
 to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
 to behold his temple.  (R./)

I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness
 in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord!  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

The challenges and demands of discipleship

Large crowds were going with Jesus on his way and he turned and said to them "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."

BIBLE

Love is our fulfilment

While today's gospel sounds rather grim, it is nicely balanced by St Paul's optimistic wishes for the Philippians. He illustrates how a vibrant parish community can function, if there's a shared spirit of service and goodwill. He advises them (and us) to be agreeable, to act without grumbling or arguing; and to be honest and open, as one family, ass of them children of God. He openly refers to the prospect of his own death, which may be near. But on the bright side, he feels sure that he will not have run the race in vain or worked to no purpose. And so, quite serenely, he invites them to "be glad too, and rejoice with me."

Jesus' words about "hating" one's father and mother and family express preference rather than actual hatred. The must be understood in light of his broad insistence on the two commandments of love, for God and for neighbour. Who is closer than our family? If there are times, hopefully rare, when we cause grief to others -- such as when parents discipline their children, or a friend corrects another -- even acts like these must be done in love. Like Jesus, we would regret any involuntarily suffering we may cause to another. For love is the ultimate fulfillment of God's will.


Loving him above all

The saying about hating father and mother, etc. grates on our ears. But the words are a Semitic idiom expressing preference of one thing over another. If you prefer one thing over another, you are said to love the one and hate the other.

Jesus does not really ask us to hate our families, but to love him more than we love even our families. He is to be the primary love in our lives and our first loyalty is to him. Elsewhere he says our main priority is to love God with all one's soul, strength and mind. However, since He is God-with-us, to love God above all is also to love Jesus above all.

As devotés of Christ, he is our primary allegiance; our bond with him colours all our other relationships. He calls for such loyalty and devotion that potential disciples should reflect, just as a builder must reflect whether he will be able to finish what he intends to build. We pray to be whole-hearted rather than half-hearted in following him.


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Thursday of Week 31

1st Reading: Philippians 3:3-8

We who are the real people of the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh—even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, so that I may gain Christ.

Responsorial: from Psalm 104

R./: Let hearts that seek the Lord rejoice

O sing to the Lord, sing his praise;
 tell all his wonderful works!
Be proud of his holy name,
 let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice. (R./)

Consider the Lord and his strength;
 constantly seek his face.
 Remember the wonders he has done,
 his miracles, the judgements he spoke. (R./)

O children of Abraham, his servant,
 O sons of the Jacob he chose.
He, the Lord, is our God:
 his judgements prevail in all the earth.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 15:1-10

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

BIBLE

Searching and finding

Do you often have to spend precious time looking for something you've lost? Have you had to serch for your keys or your wallet, or even for friends who have wandered off? Many people spend years looking for someone to share their lives with. We all need people with whom we can journey and who want to journey with us. Beneath all this searching and longing is our yearning for what can satisfy our deepest longings.

Saint Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Deeper than our yearning for God is God's yearning for us. That divine yearning took flesh in the person of Jesus. His whole purpose in life was "to seek and to save what was lost." His search fo us is like that of the shepherd searching for a lost sheep or a woman searching for her lost coin. These two parables describe God's continuing search for us, to help us to fulfilment. We can take hope from this because each of us is lost in some way. Our desire for God is arises from God's desire for us. As St John used to say, We can only love because God first loved us.


Joy in heaven

Many of the memorable sayings of Jesus were spoken at a dinner table. Both of today's parables describe the successful end of an anxious search [finding the lost sheep and the lost heirloom] and the person inviting their neighbours to share their joy. Each of them says 'Rejoice with me!' and according to Jesus their happiness reflects God's own joy in heaven over one repentant sinner who returns to the right path.

Part of resembles the ninety-nine sheep that are quietly grazing, but perhaps in each of us there's a spark of the black sheep that will not live under restraint. Much in us has "no need to repent" even if we have some element of the unpredictable and the unruly. It is important to let the Lord find us, bring us to repentance, and return us to his flock.

But are we ready and willing to light a lamp and sweep the house of our existence diligently, till we discover what in us needs healing? With this in mind let's also recall the warning against judging our neighbour. We judge from what is before our eyes, but that may not be the full story. Other people too are being sought with love, by the grace of God, who never gives up on finding the lost sheep or the lost coin.

As baptised Christians we all have some share in the work of our Good Shepherd who never ceases to seek the lost ones that he came to save.
 


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Friday of Week 31

1st Reading: Philippians 3:17—4:1

We should be guided by the cross of Christ, because our citizenship is in heaven

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Responsorial: from Psalm 121

R./: Let us go with joy to the house of the Lord

I rejoiced when I heard them say:
 'Let us go to God's house.'
 And now our feet are standing
 within your gates, O Jerusalem. (R./)

Jerusalem is built as a city
 strongly compact.
It is there that the tribes go up,
 the tribes of the Lord. (R./)

For Israel's law it is,
 there to praise the Lord's name.
There were set the thrones of judgement
 of the house of David.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 16:1-8

Parable of the unjust steward; the children of this age are shrewd in their dealings

Jesus said, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; or the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light."

BIBLE

What motivates us?

What spurs us to action in our daily lives? Some seem to lack motivation while others are workaholics, swept on by drive and ambition and wanting to drive other people hard as well. A good example of the activist temperament is Paul, apostle of the gentiles, man of many travels (Acts 13-28), prolific writer of letters to the communities of faith that he had founded. In today's text he boasts of the work he has done for God. We can search his writings for signs of how to regulate our own activity.

The guidance that Paul consciously sought was that of the Holy Spirit, the power through which we become "heirs with Christ." Paul was at the service of Christ, with a courage that spurred him to preach where Christ's name was unknown. Yet all through this work Paul found time for prayer and contemplation, for being with the Christ whom he proclaimed as saviour. His ideal was to inspire new life in the hearts of believers. He could urge the Philippians to "be imitators of me," sharing in his spirit of self-giving. True Christianity is forward-looking, for already "our citizenship is in heaven." Paul was and remained an apostle of hope. We read from him today: Christ will give a new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of his glorified body.

In the gospel today, we find a plainer, more common-sense level of discourse. We are called on to be enterprising and to act with initiative. Jesus notes how worldly people possess these qualities more than the other-worldly. But in making good use of our bodies and human talents, we are serving the God who created us in the divine image and likeness (Gen 1:26) and to offer spiritual sacrifice to God who dwells within us as the temple of divine glory (2 Cor 6:16).


No paragons of virtue

Some of the characters in Our Lord's stories are far from admirable, even if most of them have some redeeming features. The prodigal son did make the journey home again, better late than never. And the principal character in today's parable is no paragon of virtue, but he could act shrewdly and decisively in a crisis.

The dishonest steward had wasted his master's property, but when he lost his job and his back was to the wall, he arranged for others to help him afterwards. Jesus suggests that we have something to learn, not from the steward's dishonesty, but from his vigorous action to save himself from ruin.

Sometimes we may need to be decisive in taking the path that God wants us to take. There can be something we need to do or to stop doing if we are to keep our integrity and continue walking in the way of the Lord.


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Saturday of Week 31

1st Reading: Philippians 4:10-19

Thanks to the community who helped Paul in his imprisonment

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial: from Psalm 111

R./: Happy are those who fear the Lord

Happy the man who fears the Lord,
 who takes delight in all his commands.
His sons will be powerful on earth;
 the children of the upright are blessed. (R./)

The good man takes pity and lends,
 he conducts his affairs with honour,
The just man will never waver:
 he will be remembered for ever. (R./)

With a steadfast heart he will not fear.
 Open-handed, he gives to the poor;
 his justice stands firm for ever.
His head will be raised in glory.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 16:9-15

Maxims about worldly goods and the service of God

Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes."

"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your heats; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God."

BIBLE

Both givers and receivers

Whereas yesterday's parable blamed the dishonest steward, today Paul commends his reliable co-workers who played their part in the service of the gospel. Conditions in the prison cell from which he wrote may have been fairly grim. But simply knowing that his friends had not forgotten him was good for his morale. Even while thanking them for sending him a gift, he tells them that he can hold on and cope with his circumstances, both when he has decent food to eat or must go hungry. He has adapted to his environment and even made a virtue out of necessity. Like Paul, we may be embarrassed to need the help of others, but he is gracious in thanking his friends for whatever they have sent him. Their parcel did more than make his prison cell more pleasant; it comforted him to know he was not forgotten, and that they still cared for him.

How aware are we of the needs of other people? We need to be both givers and gracious receivers. After giving what we can to people who need us, we should also cheerfully accept our dependency on others in various ways. What goes around comes around. Long before Karl Mark expressed the human ideal of "To each according to their need; from each according to their ability," it was clearly there in the teaching of Jesus and of St Paul. The gospel teaches to make charitable use of whatever we have and not be slaves of money. In money matters, what financiers think important may be negligible in the eyes of God. If we are faithful in such small matters, we can look forward to greater things.


The goods that last

There's a big difference between the tangible assets and the spiritual riches associated with good works that prepare us for life with God. Whatever wealth that people have should be well used, in such a way as to prepare us for sharing in eternal life. Jesus set a high premium on the spirit of sharing and community, as would happen within a united family. "You cannot serve God and wealth," but if use money responsibly and well it can be part of our service to God,

Paul praises his friends in Philippi for sharing their material resources with others, including himself. He remembers how they were among the first to support him with gifts of money when he was a travelling preacher. Now, writing from prison, he thanks them for the help the gifts to him through their messenger Epaphroditus.

At the same time he asserts that he does not depend on money or on any commodity and that there is nothing he cannot bear, with the help of the Lord. His strength, his security, rested on Jesus and this gave him real inner freedom. We need never become materialistic "slaves of Mammon." Acting with ordinary decency in our everyday dealings will have its own reward, both now and in the life to come. "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much."


32nd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 32

1st Reading: Titus 1:1-9

The blessings of the faith and the qualities of a church leader

From Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness, in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began—in due time he revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour, To Titus, my loyal child in the faith we share: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious. For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.

Responsorial: from Psalm 23)

R./: Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face

The Lord's is the earth and its fullness,
 the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
 on the waters he made it firm. (R./)

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
 who desires not worthless things. (R./)

He shall receive blessings from the Lord
 and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
 seek the face of the God of Jacob.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:1-6

Instruction on scandal, forgiveness and faith

Jesus said to his disciples: "Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive."

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

BIBLE

Planted in the real world

Whoever wrote today's epistle combined high ideals with hard-nosed common sense. The Epistle to Titus reads like a manual for clergy, written in a less spiritual tone than Paul's earlier letters and focussed on practical aspects of church governance. Some scholars hold that its differences from his typical style must mean that it was written by a disciple, using Paul's name, probably after his death

The author calls Titus his true child in the faith but trusts in his prudent judgment. Among the duties of Titus, who now leads the church in Crete is to appoint presbyters in every town. As a pastor, he must promote the knowledge of the truth, the hope of eternal life. Along with teaching faith he must show good judgment of character in selecting other church leaders (presbyters or elders). The kind of person to appoint must be of irreproachable character, not self-willed, married only once, not arrogant, respectable, hospitable and amiable. This could serve as a blueprint for future diocesan priests in many places.

Today's gospel broaches a weakness often found in idealists: they can too easily be scandalized. Maybe they need to be more streetwise and tough, but Jesus defends their innocence and warns against scandalising them. Idealists may find it difficult to understand or empathise with other people's temptations. Even in the Church, some are so sure of their own standards of holiness and their own scale of values that they fail to see the goodness in others who differ from them. Any refusal of a church leader to dialogue with others may cause scandal to less devout people who are trying to find their own way to God. One's quest for holiness needs to go alongside trust in God's influence on the lives of others.


Increase our faith

The request, 'Lord, increase our faith', comes just after the teaching about forgiving those who have offended us, even if they have done it seven times. Faced with such a high standard, the disciples immediately felt their need for a stronger faith. Hence their plea for help.

In reply the Lord says that even faith the size of a mustard seed can do great things. He can work powerfully through what we have. Even if we realise our many imperfections, we nurture what faith we have, because the Lord can do great things with those who trust him. As Our Blessed Lady says in her hymn of praise, "He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name."


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Tuesday of Week 32

1st Reading: Titus 2:1-8, 11-14

Guidelines for living, while awaiting the return of our Saviour

As for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Responsorial: from Psalm 36)

R./: The salvation of the just comes from the Lord

If you trust in the Lord and do good,
 then you will live in the land and be secure.
 If you find your delight in the Lord,
 he will grant your heart's desire.  (R./)

He protects the lives of the upright,
 their heritage will last for ever.
The Lord guides the steps of a man
 and makes safe the path of one he loves. (R./)

Then turn away from evil and do good
 and you shall have a home for ever.
The just shall inherit the land;
 there they shall live for ever.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:7-10

We ought to reckon ourselves as merely servants who have done no more than is our duty

Jesus said to his disciples: "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

BIBLE

No merit of our own

The Letter to Titus shows careful respect for the social values of the local culture, yet also reminds him to set everything within the context of divine grace. The pastor's teaching must be "consistent with sound doctrine" and the core of this sound doctrine concerns the "glory of our God and of our Saviour Christ Jesus." What we do in this life will determine our place at his glorious second coming.

The letter is quite pragmatic. Both it and today's gospel take for granted social and cultural structures that are unacceptable today. In a parable, Jesus mentions what a master would expect from the slave. For work well done the master need not be grateful, since the slave was only carrying out orders. Neither Jesus nor Paul gave any endorsement of slavery; indeed they prepared the way for its abolition by teaching the dignity of every individual. But in the sight of God we must humble ourselves like "unprofitable servants" who trust in divine mercy rather than any merit of our own.

It must be admitted that the frequent repetition in the Roman Missal of the phrase "that we may merit" (ut mereamur), tends to be embarrassing, in light of the final words in today's Gospel!


He feeds the hungry with good things

In the era of slavery, those slaves who did what their masters ordered did not expect to be thanked for doing so. Carrying out orders did not put their master under any obligation to them. Something similar applies in our relationship with God. Even thouth we are called to serve God in our lives and our worship, the grace of God remains a free gift and not something that we have strictly earned or merited.

We try to do our duty as best we can, day in and day out, but at the end of the day, even after doing all He asks of us we come before God with empty hands. But it is our poverty that opens us up to receive the divine mercy. It is by becoming like little children that we enter the kingdom. In the words of the Magnificat, God feeds the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away.


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Wednesday of Week 32

1st Reading: Titus 3:1-7

We are saved by the Spirit, through Jesus Christ

Remind your people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Responsorial: Psalm 22

R./: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want

The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
 where he gives me repose.
 Near restful waters he leads me,
 to revive my drooping spirit. (R./)

He guides me along the right path;
 he is true to his name.
 If I should walk in the valley of darkness
 no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
 with these you give me comfort. (R./)

You have prepared a banquet for me
 in the sight of my foes.
 My head you have anointed with oil;
 my cup is overflowing. (R./)

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
 all the days of my life.
 In the Lord's own house shall I dwell
 for ever and ever. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

Of ten lepers healed, only the Samaritan returned to give thanks

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

BIBLE

Why so ungrateful?

Nine of the ten who were cured missed a golden chance, when they failed to return to say thanks. The one man who did come back to say thanks hears a powerful word: "Your faith has saved you."  We need a faith like this, to recognise our dependency on God for life and all its blessings, including all the help we get from others to keep us going.

Our faith in God motivates us to put our best self to the service of life, and so to give praise to our Maker. The Samaritan who threw himself on his knees in gratitude is told, "Stand up and go on your way." With this encouragement he goes his way, no longer forbidden to live close to others, no longer ostracized as unclean but blessed with health and zest for life.

Alongside this positive note comes a commentary on ingratitude. "Were not all ten made whole? Where are the other nine? Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?" Perhaps the other nine took their sudden return to health for granted so that they forgot the normal courtesy of thanking their healer.

Titus gets a list of practical instructions for his Christians in Crete. They are to be loyal subjects of the civil government, neither gossips nor quarrelsome and showing perfect courtesy towards everyone. While all these civilised virtues seem well within human ability, they are reminded that "God has saved us, not because of any good deed we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us us by his grace." After living as good a life as we can, still it is by grace that we are saved, through Christ.


Awareness of God's grace

We have all been graced in various ways; indeed all life is a gift. We don't always recognize that the lifegiver is always God. But recognising it is what distinguished the Samaritan leper from the other nine who were likewise cured. All ten had all been healed of a horrible disease but only one of them returned "praising God at the top of his voice." He threw himself on his knees, realising that God had cured him through Jesus. This man had the insight to recognise God as the giver of life.

Jesus praised this leper for his insight. He didn't say, "no one has come back to thank me.." but "no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner." Then he said, "your faith has saved you."

We are called to a similar spirit of faith, recognising and thanking the Source of all the positive experiences we have met in the course of our lives. Awareness of God's grace calls forth our praise.


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Thursday of Week 32

1st Reading: Philemon (verses 7-20

Philemon must welcome back his runaway slave, Onesimus

I have received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love, and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.

Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, so that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ.

Responsorial: Psalm 145

R./: Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob

My soul, give praise to the Lord;
 I will praise the Lord all my days,
 make music to my God while I live. (R./)

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
 who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
 the Lord, who sets prisoners free. (R./)

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
 who raises up those who are bowed down,
 the Lord, who protects the stranger
 and upholds the widow and orphan. (R./)

It is the Lord who loves the just
 but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
 Zion's God, from age to age. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:20-25

The reign of God is already here in our midst

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."

Then he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, 'Look there!' or 'Look here!' Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.

BIBLE

The kindness of strangers

The ties of love and friendship go beyond the letter of the law. In his letter, Paul calls Philemon a beloved friend and fellow worker, and he seems grateful for the kindness of his rich friend, because "through you the hearts of God's people have been refreshed."

We too can show others a love that refreshes and unites. With the grace of God we can come to regard each man or woman as our own kith and kin. If at first they seem as unlike us as the runaway slave was unlike his master Philemon, we can come to love and respect them as members of the human family. While Paul does not directly take issue with slavery, he sees that both master and slave have equal Christian dignity. His principle was "There is no longer ... slave nor free ... for all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). Through the courage of the 18th century Quakers, this insight would eventually banish the scandal of slavery from the Christian world.

We can be impatient like the questioners of Jesus and press him for an answer, "When will the reign of God come?" He dismisses the question, when. The kingdom of God is not to be identified with a point of time; this is an important warning to those who try to predict the end of the world on such and such a day. Jesus also refuses to locate the reign of God "here" or "there." There is no particular, all-holy place where the kingdom must appear, in one country rather than another. Jesus' answer is baffling but also consoling: The reign of God is already in your midst. Intimately, personally rooted within us, is the kingdom of God, already begun in Jesus who dwells within us. In him we may already taste the sweetness of eternal life. Here we get the strength to be strong and loyal, for God's wisdom already lives in our hearts.


The kingdom is among you

There is an Easter poem by Joseph Mary Plunkett which begins, 'I see his blood upon the rose and in the stars the glory of his eyes.' All nature reminded him of God. He had a keen eye, a spiritual eye for the diversity of God's creation. However, the Pharisees seemed to lack that keen eye. They wondered when the kingdom of God was to come, but were blind to the signs of God's work already being done among them. One of the great sayings of Jesus is that "the kingdom of God is among you,' referring to all that was happening in his own ministry, his words and actions. The lifegiving God was at work among them but many people could not see it, but felt threatened by the miracles of Jesus.

The presence of God continues among us in Our Lord, and through the Holy Spirit. What Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit is present in people's lives, the first fruit of the final harvest of the kingdom of God. We need the vision of faith (sensus fidei) to see signs of God's action among us, even in our own time and place, in a culture that seems hostile to faith.


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Friday of Week 32

1st Reading: 2 John verses 4-9

Love one another and acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come incarnate in the flesh

I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning, you must walk in it.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Responsorial: from Psalm 118

R./: Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord

They are happy whose life is blameless,
 who follow God's law!
They are happy who do his will,
 seeking him with all their hearts. (R./)

I have sought you wilh all my heart:
 let me not stray from your commands.
 I treasure your promise in my heart
 lest I sin against you. (R./)

Bless your servant and I shall live
 and obey your word.
 Open my eyes that I may see
 the wonders of your law. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:26-37

The Son of Man comes suddenly. Warnings from the past

Jesus said: "As it was in Noah's days, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them, it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

"On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left." Then they asked him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."

BIBLE

Distracted from God

Even the good gifts of nature could sometimes distract us from ever thinking about our Creator. Because they are so good, they can drown out the desire to think beyond the pleasures of the present moment, to worship the One who sustains beautiful world. At the domestic level, once a pleasant meal has been eaten, we may forget to thank the cook. Parents who lavish their children with gadgets may easily be taken for granted.

By contrast, Saint John is delighted to find at least some of his Christians showing sincere love for each other. The Christian way of life ("walking in the truth") includes our whole set of relationships, in home and family, in community and daily work. Here is where we can practise compassion, forgiveness, joy and hope. If we are always gently aware of the gifted quality of all that is good in our world, the Tremendous Lover who inspires all goodness, we will be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.

While living fully and enthusiastically,we try to keep our Father and Creator in mind, to deepen our appreciation of life. If we forget the One who made us, our love can grow shallow and wither, drowned out as in the days of Noah, by eating and drinking, buying and selling and the many recreational activities that claim our attention.


The unseen presence

The gospel warns against making the whole of life consist of eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, marrying and maintaining our relationships. These kind of activities are the very stuff of daily life and are vitally important. But we must not regard them as all that there is. St Paul says that God's invisible power and divine nature have been seen through the things he has made. He blames the pagan Romans for not honouring God or giving thanks to him, for "they became futile in their thinking". (Rom 2:20-22). This could be said equally of modern forms of paganism.

The Son of Man will be fully encountered at the end of time and at the end of our personal lives. But since the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, He is also present to us in our daily activities. Throughout life we are invited to engage with the Lord who is the source of life. He is a quiet presence as we go about whatever we do. All we need is to tune in to his wavelength.


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Saturday of Week 32

1st Reading: 3 John verses 5-8

It is well to provide hospitality for traveling missionaries

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.

Responsorial: from Psalm 111

R./: Happy are those who fear the Lord

Happy the man who fears the Lord,
 who takes delight in all his commands.
His sons will be powerful on earth;
 the children of the upright are blessed. (R./)

Riches and wealth are in his house;
 his justice stands firm for ever.
He is a light in the darkness for the upright:
 he is generous, merciful and just. (R./)

The good man takes pity and lends,
 he conducts his affairs with honour.
The just man will never waver:
 he will be remembered for ever.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 18:1-8

God will act in response to persistent prayer

Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'"

BIBLE

Keeping at it

In a crisis, most of us will go the extra mile (Mt 5:41), sometimes, but today's Gospel asks for fidelity over the long haul, not the single heroic act but the persistence to stay with the daily routine of duty, whatever that may be, given our age, our job and our local, familial or pastoral obligations to others. What we are expected to do is ordinary, but it takes God's extraordinary grace to keep at it.

The gospel addresses this paradox of seemingly getting nowhere and yet accomplishing very much, exemplified in the widow who kept coming to the judge, demanding her rights. Finally she wore him out, and so the judge settled matters in her favour. Monica, the mother of St Augustine, is patroness of persistent people. We can accomplish very much by a faithful, daily routine.

This final verse in the gospel is probably a later addition to the original parable about the widow. No other parable in the gospels ends with such a a question-mark as "When he comes, will he find faith on the earth?". The editor added this "floating" remark which questions the quality of our faith. Originally it referred to danger of apostasy during the persecutions but it can also question us, here and now. What are we (or what am I) doing to promote faith, love and justice, in imitation of Christ? To live our faith today we need the persistence of the widow who simply would not give up. And are our church leaders fostering faith as well as they could?


Not giving up

A courageous widow went to court before a judge who respected neither God nor man, but kept up her plea until she got justice at last. She embodies the kind of faith the Lord wants to see in us. At the end he asks the question, 'When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?'

When he comes as judge, will be find a faith that refuses to give up, even when many traditional beliefs have fallen away. In these difficult times for our church, there is a strong temptation to discouragement. But to be a true believer is to be persistent. The supreme example of persistence in face of contradiction is Jesus himself, who remained faithful to the end. The widow is a kind of Jesus figure showing us how to persevere.


33rd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 33

1st Reading: Revelation Apocalypse) 1:1-4; 2:1-5

Encouragement to the churches in Asia Minor

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne.

"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:

"I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Responsorial: from Psalm 1

R./: Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life

Happy indeed is the one
 who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
 nor lingers in the way of sinners
 nor sits in the company of scorners,
 but whose delight is the law of the Lord
 and who ponders his law day and night. (R./)

He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters,
 that yields its fruit in due season
 and whose leaves shall never fade;
 and all that he does shall prosper. (R./)

Not so are the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff
 shall be driven away by the wind.
For the Lord guards the way of the just
 but the way of the wicked leads to doom.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 18:35-43

Jesus cures the blind man, who then becomes a disciple

As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." Then he shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has saved you." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

BIBLE

Return to your former ways

Hoping that sight could be restored to allow him live a normal life , the blind man at the Jericho gate called out in prayer, "Son of David, have mercy on me!!" If he somehow could get his sight back he knew it would change things for him and he would again have to work for his living, but he seemed eager to face whatever new horizons might open up for him. When Jesus asked him to state his request, he said simply, "Lord, let me see again!" and once he regained his sight, he began to follow Jesus, with a new focus to his life. He could now see his wife and children and his neighbours, all of whom thanked God for the healing miracle.

Our own vision may be excellent, even without Specsavers, but we too can benefit from a version of the blind man's prayer, "Lord, let me see your will more clearly. Help me to follow you along the road."

Perhaps we may need some kind of conversion, like the Christians in Ephesus who were gently reproached by Our Lord, "You have turned aside from your early love. Repent and return to your former deeds." By examining our conscience we can discern whether this call to conversion applies to us too. Those murmured words may revive the memory of some early ideals, now discarded, to which we should return. This awakening of conscience can be welcomed by married people, by religious and priests, by men and women in all walks of life, "You have turned aside from your early love.. Repent, and return to your former ways."


His full attention

Jesus was intending to pass through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. But on hearing his name called out by a blind beggar, 'Jesus, son of David, have pity on me,' he stopped and gave him his full attention.

Our Lord might be on a journey, but he was never indifferent to those he met along the way. They were just as important to him as his destination. That is why he gave this blind man his full attention when others were telling him to be quiet. He answered the man's heartfelt wishes, 'Let me see again', and, as a result, a wave of of praise and prayer spread to all the people who witnessed it.

The story models for us the value of responding to the call of the present moment. Let's not be so fixated on our destination as to ignore where we are. What we might first seem like interruptions can actually be where we can do a worthwhile service in the name of the Lord.


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Tuesday of Week 33

1st Reading: Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22

Those who are lukewarm will be spat out

I, John, heard the Lord say to me, "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

Responsorial: from Psalm 14

R./: The one who is victorious I will sit beside me on my throne

Lord, who shall be admitted to your tent?
He who walks without fault;
 he who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart;
 he who does not slander with his tongue. (R./)

He who does no wrong to his brother,
 who casts no slur on his neighbour,
 who holds the godless in disdain,
 but honours those who fear the Lord. (R./)

He who takes no interest on a loan
 and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm for ever.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

Jesus dines with Zacchaeus, searching for what was lost

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

BIBLE

Only Lukewarm?

Through a series of visions early in the Book of Revelation, the risen Lord Jesus sends messages of conversion to each of seven churches in Asia Minor. The last of them was to the church in Laodicea, an important financial centre, famousfor its medical discoveries, and its its commercial wealth. Tempted by their prosperity to forget God, the Christians there were the ones to whom Christ had the sharpest things to say: "I know all about you; how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth". What an apt message for the world today, where we see such widespread religious indifference, verging on atheism.

Like the Laodiceans, many people are neither hot nor cold; nor do they think even to wonder about religion (GS 19). Without some special grace of God or some impulse from the good example of others they remain stuck in the rut of indifference. Their spiritual state is static weariness, whereas to grow in a relationship with God demands change, and, as Cardinal Newman wrote in his famous Apologia, "to grow is to change and to be perfect is to changed many times."

To help us to conversion God makes use of human agents. A fine example of this is in the call of the first disciples, in St John's Gospel. John the Baptist was with two of his followers when Jesus passed nearby. John said to his two friends, "Look, there is the Lamb of God," and this simple remark led the two to join up with Jesus. One was Andrew, who was instrumental in persuading his brother Peter to join as well. Next day Philip joined the group, on the invitation, "Follow me." Then Philip found his friend Nathanael, and shared his new-found faith. When Nathanael brusquely dismissed this claim, Philip asked him to, "Come and see." One brief conversation helped Nathanael to change his mind and led to his life-long commitment.

Who knows what each of us could do, to help some of our friends away from indifference and into the life-changing company of Jesus Christ?


Lost and found

To be found by Jesus, Zacchaeus was prepared to lose much of himself. First of all, he let go of his social dignity by climbing up the sycamore tree to get a view. At the end of the story, he gave away much of his wealth to paying back with interest those he had defrauded. Maybe Jesus too had to set aside his reputation as a man of God, by going to dine at the home of a well-known "sinner", the tax-collecter Zacchaeus.

On reaching the shade of the sycamore tree, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down!" Because he recognised a spirit of repentance in the tax-man's heart he put his dignity at risk by offering to visit the man for supper. Then he gave the reason: his purpose was "to search out and save what was lost." The tax-collector's response was glad acceptance.

Our own moments of conversion are much less dramatic. It is easy to be lukewarm, like the church of Laodicea. If we are lukewarm, we are not really bad; we help the poor, a little; we are sympathetic, sometimes; we are forgiving, towards a select few. We practice our Christianity half-heartedly. Maybe the Lord would prefer that we were sinners, capable of conversion, rather than "lukewarm, neither hot nor cold," standing up for nothing and just taking the easy option all the time.


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Wednesday of Week 33

1st Reading: Revelation 4:1-11

The twenty-four elders before God's throne

In my vision I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.

Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come."

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

Responsorial: from Psalm 150

R./: Holy, holy, holy Lord, mighty God

Praise God in his holy place,
 praise him in his mighty heavens.
 Praise him for his powerful deeds,
 praise his surpassing greatness. (R./)

O praise him with sound of trumpet,
 praise him with lute and harp.
 Praise him with timbrel and dance,
 praise him with strings and pipes. (R./)

O praise him with resounding cymbals,
 praise him with clashing cymbals.
Let everything that lives and that breathes
 give praise to the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 19:11-28

Parable about God's investment in us

As the people were listening to Jesus, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, "A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, 'Do business with these until I come back.' But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to rule over us.'

When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, 'Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.' He said to him, 'Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.' Then the second came, saying, 'Lord, your pound has made five pounds.' He said to him, 'And you, rule oer five cities.' Then the other came, saying, 'Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' He said to him, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.' He said to the bystanders, 'Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.' (And they said to him, 'Lord, he has ten pounds!') 'I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.'"

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

BIBLE

Use them or lose them

The story about a personality fled abroad in order to get invested as king of his own country was already known in Jesus' time. He could well be referring to Herod the Great, who had fled for his life from Jerusalem, to Rome and won the support of emperor Augustus. When the emperor named him as king of Israel, Herod returned to Jerusalem in triumph. The parable tells how at the king's return, his supporters had to prove their loyalty to him and to answer for their behaviour during his absence. Had they been acting prudently while he was away? Had they made profit on his behalf with the money he had loaned them, using their talents well? The maxim "Use them or lose them" applies to foreign languages, but it can refer to any talent we have. We can paraphrase the parable as, "If you use your talents for the service of others you will be rewarded; but anyone who is unwilling to share their talents will be the poorer for it."

The end of the parable, about the king's enemies being killed in his presence may be an echo of what Herod actually did to his enemies on his return as king. It surely is not mean to say that God is vengeful, since the Gospel highlights the goodness of God. Our trust is in a merciful od whom we can call upon as "Abba, Father!"


A time to prove ourselves

Just after this parable comes the story about Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey, while crowds hailed him: 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.' His almost royal entry into the city led some of his followers to think that the kingdom was coming soon. The parable intends to counter any expectation that God's kingdom was imminent. Instead, there would be a long interval between Jesus' nomination as king (the resurrection) and his return at the end of time. This interval is an opportunity for loyal service, a time to profitably use the gifts and resources we have been given.

One of the servants who had received a large loan did nothing useful with it, out of fear of losing it. Fear left him indecisive, unable to take action. It is striking how often Jesus says 'Do not be afraid.' He knew how fear can stop people from giving of their best. The opposite of faith is not so much unbelief as fear. If we rise above our fears we make it easier for others to do the same. We help and encourage each other by showing courage ourselves.


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Thursday of Week 33

1st Reading: Revelation 5:1-10

The Lamb who was killed opens the seals of the Book of Life

I, John, saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

They sing a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth."

Responsorial: from Psalm 149

Resp.: The lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God

Sing a new song to the Lord,
  his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker,
  let Zion's sons exult in their king. (R./)

Let them praise his name with dancing
  and make music with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people.
  He crowns the poor with salvation. (R./)

Let the faithful rejoice in their glory,
  shout for joy and take their rest.
Let the praise of God be on their lips.
  this honour is for all his faithful. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 19:41-44

Jesus weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem

As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God."

BIBLE

Priests to serve our God

In a moment of vision on his rocky prison-island of Patmos, St John felt sad about the opened scroll with seven seals, and at the sight of Jesus, bearing the wounds of his passion. In this Book of Revelation Jesus is both the "Lamb that was killed" and the victor who leads his sheep to eternal life. He alone is the holy one, worthy to open the scroll.. for he has purchased for God a people ... and made them "priests to serve our God." John tells his persecuted fellow-Christians that they are tested by fire, like their leader and saviour who triumphed over death.

How does he mean that they were purchased? Not by a painful price paid to God, but because Jesus joined so closely in human flesh and blood that he gave himself for us. His death and resurrection are our family treasure, our inheritance. All God's children are loved in him, and won for the gift of eternal life.

Only the Lamb who has defeated the power of death can open the scroll with the seven seals. Jesus has totally known the trials and joys of human existence. He alone knows our inner core, and can direct our lives and lead us into the presence of God. Through him, we all become "priests to serve our God," whose lives are centred on worship.


A love rejected

St Luke reports Jesus in in tears of deep sadness because Jerusalem did not receive him, and did not recognize in him the hand of God. The city will now have to live with the consequences of rejecting him. He sheds the tears of a rejected lover. His life's work was to reveal God's hospitable love for all, but many had rejected this good news.

There is a sense in which Jesus is helpless in the face of rejection. All he can do is grieve at human obstinacy. He has come to seek and to save the lost, but he does not force himself on people. We need to be responsive to his searching love. He invites us into his friendship, but every so often we need to say to him, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, 'Stay with us, Lord, for the day is now nearly over.'


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Friday of Week 33

1st Reading: Revelation 10:8-11

The scroll that was sweet on the tongue but sour in the stomach

I, John, heard the voice that I had heard from heaven speak to me again, saying, "Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land." So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, "Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth." So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.

Then they said to me, "You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings."

Responsorial: from Psalm 95

R./: Proclaim his marvellous deeds to all the nations

O sing a new song to the Lord,
 sing to the Lord all the earth.
 O sing to the Lord, bless his name. (R./)

Proclaim his help day by day,
 tell among the nations his glory
 and his wonders among all the peoples. (R./)

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
 give the Lord glory and power,
 give the Lord the glory of his name. (R./)

Proclaim to the nations: 'God is king.'
The world he made firm in its place;
 he will judge the peoples in fairness. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 19:45-48

Jesus drives traders from the temple. The hierarchy wants to destroy him but the people treasured his words

Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer.' But you have made it a den of robbers."

Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

BIBLE

Purifying our own temple

The temple in Jerusalem had been re-dedicated after being desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. Then, years later, Jesus cleansed it again, after it was profaned by traders in the temple courts. We might reflect about ways in which our lives and our church could become fully a house of prayer, a temple fit for God's holy presence.

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out the merchants and traders. He was not against the temple rituals but against the abuse of religion for gain by merchants and chief priests, who cared for money more than for genuine worship.

For us, to purify the temple means to let God be central to our lives. All of our dealings and also our politics need to show justice and compassion. Every aspect of our daily lives can be purified and under God's grace. As we renew our faith in him, the words apply to us, "My house is a house of prayer." Every part of life, family, work and play, reflects the sincerity of our worship, with God enthroned in our hearts.


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Saturday of Week 33

1st Reading: Revelation 11:4-12

The two prophets were killed as martyrs, possibly Peter and Paul, but are taken up to heaven in glory

I, John, heard a voice saying: "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes; anyone who wants to harm them must be killed in this manner. They have authority to shut the sky, so that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is prophetically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days members of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb; and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to the inhabitants of the earth."

After the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and those who saw them were terrified. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here!" And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them.

Responsorial: from Psalm 143

Resp.: Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!

Blessed be the Lord,
  my rock who trains my arms for battle,
  who prepares my hands for war. (R./)

He is my love, my fortress;
  he is my stronghold, my saviour,
 my shield, my place of refuge.
  He brings peoples under my rule. (R./)

To you, O God, will I sing a new song;
  I will play on the ten-stringed lute
 to you who give kings their victory,
  who set David your servant free. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 20:27-40

Jesus defends belief in the resurrection of the dead

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."

Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive." Then some of the scribes answered, "Teacher, you have spoken well." For they no longer dared to ask him another question.

BIBLE

Belief in the hereafter

During the persecution of the churches in Asia under emperor Domitian in the 90s, the Book of Revelation was written as a call to courage and perseverance in the faith. Its wild and colourful imagery evokes a strong sense of the life beyond this world, where those who have suffered for the message of Christ will have a sure place in glory. In today's text the two "lampstands" (possibly Peter and Paul) were martyred by the powers of evil (Roman empire) who had also crucified their Lord. But then God returned to them the breath of life and they heard a voice from heaven calling them, "Come up here!" While the language is pure apocalyptic, the meaning is clear, that the souls of the just are in the Lord's hands.

"At the resurrection, whose wife will she be?" The fable about the woman who had been married successively to seven husbands was posed as a way of mocking belief in the resurrection. But Jesus wrong-foots his critics by deflecting their question, to talk about the quality and nature of life after death. The ultimate answer, for which we may risk everything, even our lives, is known to God alone. Already we sense the promise of life with God, whom Jesus says is "God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

 


34th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 2)

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Monday of Week 34

1st Reading: Revelation 14:1-3a, 4-5

The 144,000 are the first fruits of humankind

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless.

Responsorial Psalm(from Ps 23

R./: Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face

The Lord's is the earth and its fullness,
 the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
 on the waters he made it firm. (R./)

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
 who desires not worthless things. (R./)

He shall receive blessings from the Lord
 and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
 seek the face of the God of Jacob. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:1-4

The widow's mite is worth a fortune

Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on."

BIBLE

An unconditional contribution

To draw near to God calls for unconditional commitment. During the last week of the Church year, examples of such courage are cited from Revelation. The martyrs have faced death as everyone must, but they died because of their commitment to Jesus Christ, and their names a listed among the 144,000 chosen ones who follow the Lamb. The Greek text calls them "virgins," in the sense of giving themselves totally to the one they love, like a bride to her bridegroom on their wedding day.

The trials of life can be seen positively as purifying our faith. Even sins can lead us to trust less in ourselves and rely more fully on God. In the end, we will be among the numberless throng who join in the Lamb's marriage feast, to fully and eternally enjoy the love of God. At times this hope may inspire us to go the extra mile and give our shirt as well as our cloak to one who needs it more. (Mt 5:40-42).

The gospel tells about the generous poor widow who offers her last two copper coins for the upkeep of the Temple. Jesus declares that by giving what she could not afford, what she gave was worth more than the richest donation. Are we prepared, in case of urgent need, to give until it hurts? This would be following the spirit of Jesus, who gave himself totally on the cross for us. Only in the end will we truly know the real value of what ever we have managed to contribute, as we make our way through life.


Holding nothing back

The widow who gives her all to support the temple reminds us of how Jesus who went on to give all he had, his very life, for others. Although what she gave had little monetary value, her gift meant more than the larger gifts of others, because she gave all she had.

Generosity of spirit is not easy to measure. People who seem to be doing little may actually be making more effort than others who seem to be doing a lot. At the end of the day, only the Lord can measure generosity, because he alone knows what each is capable of giving. Whereas we can measure only what is tangible and visible, God looks deeper, into the heart. The widow's coins would make little impression on those who saw them, but her gift so impressed Jesus that he singled her out as an example. Even when we feel we have little to offer, actually giving that little is what the Lord wants of us.


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Tuesday of Week 34

1st Reading: Revelation 14:14-19

The grapes are thrown into the winepress of God's wrath

Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, "Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe." So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe." So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse's bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.

Responsorial: from Psalm 95

Resp.: The Lord comes to judge the earth

Proclaim to the nations: 'God is king.'
The world he made firm in its place;
 he will judge the peoples in fairness.
Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
 let the sea and all within it thunder praise.  (R./)

Let the land and all it bears rejoice,
 all the trees of the wood shout for joy
 at the presence of the Lord for he comes,
 he comes to rule the earth.
With justice he will rule the world,
 he will judge the peoples with his truth.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:5-11

Take care not to be misled about the end of the world

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."

They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them.

"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he aid to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

BIBLE

When will the day of judgment come?

Towards the end of the liturgical year we meet the most odd-sounding texts in the Bible, about global catastrophe and the end of the world, a literature that some find fascinating. This literature is highly symbolic and not to be taken as predicting actual events. In fact, Jesus himself says, "Beware that you are not led astray" about this theme. Probably the best way to apply it is as invitation to take responsibility for our actions, examine our motives, and be ready to come face to face with God.

It's better to read these apocalyptic sayings as a moral tonic for ourselves than to relish the prospect of the destruction of the wicked (others who have harmed us or committed outrages in history).

They are a reminder of mortality, with an undertone of divine justice and mercy, prompting us to live the present moment with fairness and kindness towards our neighbour. While the the wrath of God is mentioned we should ask for guidance from the mind of Christ, who sees to the heart of things. Guided by his spirit, we continue to look forward with hope to what God has in store for us.


Will anything last forever?

Next Sunday we will begin Advent, the start of a new church year. The gospel readings this week speak about endings, in particular the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. The disciples were hugely impressed by the scale and beauty of the Temple, then reckoned as one of the architectural wonders of the world. Yet, Jesus says the time will come when not a stone of it will be left standing. It must have been hard to imagine that ever happening and he refuses to predict an exact date. Yet so many other splendid palaces have come and gone in the course of history that it is foolish to expect any building to last forever. This sombre insight inspired the poet Shelley to imagine the ruins of a long-gone civilisation. He hears of "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert" and beside them the broken remnants of an enormous statue of king Ozymandias.

"And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

We are left wondering, What is it that will last? and Will anything endure? To these questions the Lord answers, 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' His words and his values will endure. When all else fails, the Lord will still be there. His love for us endures, even when our response to him may be full of fits and starts. One of St Paul's great insights is: "Even if we are faithless, he remains faithful." Our God will surely have the last word.


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Wednesday of Week 34

1st Reading: Revelation 15:1-4

The seven plagues sent by the wrath of God

Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended. And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: "Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed."

Responsorial: from Psalm 97

Resp.: Great and wonderful are all your works; Lord, mighty God

Sing a new song to the Lord
 for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
 have brought salvation.  (R./)

The Lord has made known his salvation;
 has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
 for the house of Israel.  (R./)

Let the sea and all within it, thunder;
 the world, and all its peoples.
Let the rivers clap their hands
 and the hills ring out their joy
 at the presence of the Lord.  (R./)

For the Lord comes,
 he comes to rule the earth.
He will rule the world with justice
 and the peoples with fairness.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:12-19

Dangers to be faced by disciples, before the Lord's return

Jesus said to his disciples: "Before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

BIBLE

A time for endurance

"By your endurance you will gain your souls." It is one of those floating phrases that can apply to many situations. It is echoed earlier in Luke in different context, where the seed bore fruit "through endurance." (Lk 8:15). The tem endurance (hypomoné ) is today expressed by "hanging in there" and denotes perseverance, consistency, dependability. In hard times we must show loyalty to God by endurance. We are helped in this, for Jesus promises "I will give you a wisdom which none of your opponents can contradict." During hard times his love and fidelity will sustain us, so that our efforts can bear good fruit.

Those who endure will, says Revelation, join in the victorious song of the people who crossed the Red Sea. Like those who followed Moses over sea and desert, we too may find it hard going at times. The Lord inspires us to push onward and persevere. "Mighty and wonderful are your works ... Righteous and true are your ways, O King of the nations!"

The quality of "endurance" that helps us onward towards the promised land, is finely expressed by the Latin translation of Saint Jerome: in patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras, "By your patience you will possess your souls."


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Thursday of Week 34

1st Reading: Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9

The happy guests at the Lamb's wedding feast

I, John, saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendour. He called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "With such violence Babylon the great city will be thrown down, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists an trumpeters will be heard in you no more; and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more; and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more; and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more; for your merchants were the magnates of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants." Once more they said, "Hallelujah! The smoke goes up from her forever and ever."

And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are true words of God."

Responsorial: from Psalm 99

Resp.: Blessed are they who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
 Come before him, singing for joy.  (R./)

Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
 we are his people, the sheep of his flock.  (R./)

Go within his gates, giving thanks.
 Enter his courts with songs of praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.  (R./)

Indeed, how good is the Lord,
 eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:20-28

The Son of Man comes on the clouds with power

Jesus said to his disciples: "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

BIBLE

Promise of final vindication

An earlier version of Jesus' predictions about the end of history (Mark 13:14-27) combines the prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem with that about the end of the world. But quite deliberately, St Luke separates these two events. Writing after the Holy City had fallen to the Romans and been totally ruined, Luke and his readers that the city's destruction did not usher in the final age of the world, as many expected. St. Luke's re-framing of Jesus' words allows for an indefinite period of history before the final coming of the Son of Man.

When he comes, according to Revelation, his judgments will be true and just, and will avenge the blood of God's servants. False joys will be unmasked; futile waste of energy and flimsy securities will be swept aside and all the buying and selling and commerce of this world will stop. The shape of the future is in God's hands, and ultimately justice and truth will prevail.


A dark prophecy

Today's gospel is dark and sombre. It predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, with awful consequences for its inhabitants. It speaks of mighty disturbances in the cosmos that will terrify people everywhere. Yet, just when all is at its darkest, the Son of Man will appear in power and glory bringing redemption, liberation, to all who trust in him.

There are times when things feel so dire that we resonate to the sombre words of W. B. Yeats, "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold." Public disorder, criminal behaviour, personal illness, things over which we have little or no control, can leave us deeply shaken. But in those crises when we are most aware of our frailty the Lord is always near. Our risen saviour gives strength in our weakness. He can dissolve our fears and stiffen our resolve to "stand erect with heads held high." Whenever darkness seems over us we need to hang on tightly, for the light of God shines on and the darkness will not overcome it.

Remember the great beatitude in the Apocalypse: "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."


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Friday of Week 34

1st Reading: Revelation 20:1-4; 21:1-2

Those who reject the beast will reign with Christ for 1000 years

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Responsorial: from Psalm 83

R./: Here God lives among his people

My soul is longing and yearning,
 is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
 My heart and my soul ring out their joy
 to God, the living God.  (R./)
 
The sparrow herself finds a home
 and the swallow a nest for her brood;
 she lays her young by your altars,
 Lord of hosts, my king and my God.  (R./)

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
 for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you.
They walk with ever growing strength.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:29-33

Know that the reign of God is near. My word will not pass away

Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

BIBLE

Something new and glorious

The apocalyptic book of Revelation was written for Christians who were dumbfounded by persecution under the Roman empire and the church felt hounded on all sides. The inspired text foretold the collapse of the tyrannical empire, leading to a period of peace and harmony. After that will come the second appearance of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, the new holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Today's gospel offers a much plainer image for something new about to happen. From the example of the budding fig tree we know that summer is near. So "when you see all the things happening, know that the reign of God is near." Both readings offer signs whose meaning is not immediately clear, and we ask the Lord to show what these signs mean for us, here and now.

The fig tree is in full bloom and the harvest is near, yet it may not seem obvious at all to us. We have to live in the real world of today. How shall we make sense of the apocalyptic prophecies? Maybe by praying to know the message beneath the surface of those texts. As part of the word of God, they anticipate future, when heaven and earth will be made new. Wonderfully, our world will be transformed into the City of God, like a lovely bride going to meet her husband.


In the midst of flux something abides

We live in a world of flux, of rapid and bewildering change, changes in society, changes in the church, miracles and menaces of digital wizardry. Many people find change disconcerting and unsettling. In the midst of such challenging change we need some kind of spiritual anchor, some solid truths that can be trusted. We find change easier to manage if at least some things remain the same.

Jesus told us to expect change, not just gradual change as in the seasons of the year, but change on a cosmic scale, hugely significant change. He talks of heaven and earth passing away, the most radical change of all. Then he promises that something will never change. "My words will never pass away." Throughout all of life the word of the Lord remains a constant, because God is faithful. In the midst of flux the Lord abides; when all else is whirling, our connection with God, our trust in him, keeps us steady and on course to meet God face to face.


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Saturday of Week 34

1st Reading: Revelation 22:1-7

The river of life, the healing fruits and the Lamb who is coming soon

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. See, I am coming soon!" Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."

Responsorial: from Psalm 94

R./: Marantha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
 hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
 with songs let us hail the Lord.  (R./)
 
 A mighty God is the Lord,
 a great king above all gods.
 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
 the heights of the mountains are his.
To him belongs the sea, for he made it
 and the dry land shaped by his hands.  (R./)

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
 let us kneel before the God who made us
 for his is our God and we
 the people who belong to his pasture,
 the flock that is led by his hand.  (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:34-36

Be on your guard. Pray constantly to stand secure before the Son of Man

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

BIBLE

Ending on a high note

On this final day of the liturgical year we are told that our passing from darkness to light is certain and will come in due time. Meanwhile we must trust in God's plan for us and for the world and go on living decently and honourably. Whether in darkness or light, we are not alone but are provided with all we need. "On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations."

St Luke's gospel was written some years after a period of major crisis (the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70), at a time when his Christians had a peaceful breathing-space. We gather this from the way that he words Jesus' warning, "Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares." How well this echoes the excesses back in the so-called "Celtic Tiger" era, when so many indulged in speculation as though borrowed money were grown on trees!

The boom-times ended with a crash: "The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap." If it is true that faith thrives more during adversity than during financial prosperity, perhaps we may hope for some rebirth in our Church. But Jesus also advises that spiritual life requires commitment: "Pray constantly." Live in God's presence and then you will "stand secure before the Son of Man" when he comes in full glory.

In his vision, St John views the sweep of earthly existence with a horizon of final glory. Here is the silver lining, the end of the years of trial. The seer of Patmos feels himself already standing with one foot in the heavenly Jerusalem and one on planet earth. He hears Christ's promise, "I am coming soon… They will drink from the river of living water, clear as crystal, which issues from the throne of God and of the Lamb."

The church's liturgical year are ends this very day. It does so with the message that the Lord Jesus will come soon in glory. We have been gifted many ways over the past year. We will now be further graced with four weeks of special awareness during Advent, starting tomorrow. With the help of God, we will lay aside every hindrance of sin, and with eyes fixed on Jesus, persevere in his way, until we reach the place he has prepared for us.