The Week of Oct. 22-27, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 2:1-10  +  Luke 12:13-21
October 22, 2018

“‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you….’”

Regarding today’s Gospel passage, we need to reflect both upon Jesus’ interaction with the jealous brother, and His parable to the crowd.  Here, consider the latter.

Jesus’ parable illustrates His previous explanation of the relationship among “one’s life”, “greed”, and “possessions”.  Material possessions are not inherently bad.  Even those with religious vows of poverty possess their “own” clothing, even if they do not “own” them.  But possessions always tempt one—through the vice of greed—to more possessions, either in quantity, quality, or even mere novelty (the latter being a temptation especially to young persons).

The rich farmer in Jesus’ parable is the antithesis to Ecclesiastes’ Qoheleth.  The rich farmer cries out to himself, “rest, eat, drink, be merry!”  This is in contrast to the king of Israel who confesses that “I said in my heart, ‘Come, now, let me try you with pleasure and the enjoyment of good things.’  See, this too was vanity.”  The rich farmer in the parable does not have the wisdom of Qoheleth, but of course, Qoheleth did not know Christ, the one who possesses all the riches of the Father’s love.

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 2:12-22  +  Luke 12:35-38
October 23, 2018

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

In the Lord’s parable today He proclaims that “blessed are those servants”.  He’s wanting us to identify ourselves with them, and imitate them so that we might share in their blessedness.  How can we connect our lives to the lives of those servants?

Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage, “Always begin with your end in mind.”  “End” in this case refers to one’s goal.  Many people, of course, wander through life aimlessly, but Christians are meant to have Heaven as their goal, or end.  In this case, repeating that adage to ourselves each day helps us to live each day for God, by recalling that we can only get to Heaven by living out our faith in God.  This way of thinking approximates what Jesus is getting at in His parable.

However, there’s an immediacy to Jesus’ parable that’s missing in that adage.  His parable reminds us of a sobering fact:  that we know not the day nor the hour when our lives will end.  The Master may come at an unexpected time.  Therefore, we need not only always to be focused, but also to be vigilant, since the end we have in mind may confront us today.

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 3:2-12  +  Luke 12:39-48
October 24, 2018

Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

St. Luke the Evangelist presents many “stewardship parables”.  Today’s Gospel passage offers two, one much longer than the other.  The upshot of both is an explicit moral that lets no Christian off easily:  “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”  The layman in the pew might wonder how these words apply to an ordinary Christian.

But no Christian is ordinary.  At the moment of a person’s baptism, God infuses grace into that person’s soul.  The graces given include the divine virtues of faith, hope and charity.  God entrusts this grace to his adopted child.  Consider this truth in light of Jesus’ words at the end of today’s Gospel passage.  God entrusts His own divine life to His adopted children.  And of course, the graces received at Baptism are but—so to speak—the “first installment” of our inheritance.  As we continue to grow as His children, God continues to bestow grace upon us through the sacraments and prayer in the process of divinization.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much”.  What will be required of us, then, as sharers in the divine life?  Are you, in this regard, a “faithful and prudent steward” of the grace God has given you as His child?  Each Autumn in our diocese a renewal of Stewardship takes place.  Yet while it’s important to assess one’s stewardship of time, talent, and treasure, even more important is one’s stewardship of grace.

Both of these virtues that Jesus speaks to today—fidelity and prudence—are required to be stewards of God’s grace.  Both help keep our attention on our Master:  the beginning and end of all the graces of our lives.

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 3:14-21  +  Luke 12:49-53
October 25, 2018

“No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Both the rhetoric and substance of Jesus’ proclamation in today’s Gospel passage are challenging.  It’s challenging to know how rightly to interpret His words.  The fire of His baptism is the source of the division that He has come to establish.  How can we understand these words and images in our own daily lives as disciples?

The most obvious interpretation of the fire that Jesus mentions is in light of God the Holy Spirit.  Through the graces that first were given at Pentecost in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit inflames and hearts and minds of those called to be members of Jesus’ Mystical Body on earth.  Formed by the Holy Spirit into one Body, these members live out the baptism of Jesus.  Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan was a foreshadowing of His baptism on Calvary.  This latter baptism is the one which the Body of Christ today lives out.  As His members, you and I have to bear our share in this baptism if the Holy Spirit might use us as the Father’s instruments.

If we are faithful to the Father—allowing the baptism of Jesus’ suffering to be the vessel for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through us—division will result, as Jesus describes in today’s Gospel passage.  This is not division for the sake of division, but for the sake of unity.  We pray in the midst of all division, that every person may recognize and accept his share in the life of the Trinity.

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 4:1-6  +  Luke 12:54-59
October 26, 2018

…live in a manner worthy of the call you have received….

Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians preaches about the nature of the Church as Christ’s Mystical Body.  Concretely, St. Paul describes the Church through examples of loving one’s neighbor:  this second of the two great commands of Jesus is the form that gives shape to the inter-relation of the varied members of the Body of Christ.

In today’s First Reading (a single sentence!), St. Paul stresses some of the demands—the stresses—that stretch one striving to live in Christ.  He refers to himself as “a prisoner of the Lord”.  He was often physically jailed for his ministry as an apostle, but perhaps here he’s using the phrase in a more metaphorical sense.  Perhaps when he preaches about “the bond of peace” he’s using the word “bond” as referring to what holds him bound to others, as if the members of the Body of Christ are a chain gang.  It’s this peace that makes possible the “bearing with one another through love”, and exhibiting the virtues of humility, gentleness, and patience.

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 4:7-16  +  Luke 13:1-9
October 27, 2018

“‘Sir, leave it for this year also….’”

Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, gardens, plants and trees of all sorts are used as symbols of growth—and decay—in the spiritual life.  The very first story of the Bible takes place in a garden called Eden.  And today in the Gospel, Jesus tells us a parable along the same lines.

Your spiritual life is the fig tree, and you are the gardener.  Your spiritual life is planted in the Lord’s orchard.  What we have to come to grips with is the fact that we are accountable to the Lord, just as in today’s parable the gardener is accountable to the owner of the orchard.  We are accountable for bearing spiritual fruit in our lives on this earth.

That’s why we’re here on this earth.  If we believed, as some of our fellow Christians do, that the entire point of our relationship with Christ is to be “saved”, then we would be better off dying as soon as we’re baptized.  But the whole truth is that salvation comes to us only at the end of our life on this earth, if we have been faithful to tending our spiritual life, and bearing fruit through the many ways that our spiritual life nourishes our daily life.