Monday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Monday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 4:32—5:8  +  Luke 13:10-17
October 24, 2022

Blessed the man who … meditates on His law day and night.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we hear the first psalm of the Psalter, and it helps bring focus to our spiritual life.  If you were to ask one hundred Christians whether they knew any of the psalms by heart, you’d probably not garner many “Yes”es.  Among those “Yes”es, most probably have memorized Psalm 23.  But those looking for one of the psalms to memorize ought to consider Psalm 1.

Consider just the first sentence of Psalm 1.  It makes up the first “verse”, or “strophe”, of today’s Responsorial Psalm.  This psalm might at first glance seem merely to describe two type of men:  the just and the wicked.  But it’s not enough not to act like the wicked.  We need to look more closely at the Psalmist’s descriptions of the just.

In the first sentence of Psalm 1, we hear a “Beatitude”:  a description of the man who is blessed.  This single sentence offers five descriptions of the blessed, just man.  Three of them have negative forms, describing what the blessed, just man does not do.  But consider the latter two descriptions, and focus on them as you memorize this psalm.  The blessed, just man “delights in the Law of the Lord, and meditates on His Law day and night.”

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 13:1-9

“‘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.

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:54-59

“… why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Most often a homily will focus upon one or more aspects of the day’s Gospel Reading.  Less often, the homily will focus upon the First Reading (or the Second Reading, if there is one).  Very rarely will the day’s Responsorial Psalm be incorporated into the homily.  Least of all, among the Scripture passages proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word, is the simple Gospel acclamation.  Have you ever heard a homily that focuses upon the Gospel acclamation, or even cites it?

Today’s Gospel acclamation (as it often does) complements the day’s Gospel Reading.  “Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; / you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.”  This passage, based upon Matthew 11:25, helps us understand Jesus’ rhetorical question:  “… why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”  The answer is that they do not how because they do not have the humble faith of little children.

Jesus gives a concrete example to help us understand His point.  He describes a scene in which two persons have a dispute that’s on its way to a magistrate.  Jesus warns about the need for humility in the face of conflict, lest the result be that one is thrown into prison.  This is not simply earthly advice, of course.  The final “prison” is the place where those who persist in selfish pride dwell forever.  The humble, by contrast, will dwell forever as children in the presence of their loving Father.

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:49-53

“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.

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:39-48

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.

The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Sirach 35:12-14,16-18  +  2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18  + Luke 18:9-14
Catechism Link: CCC 2559
October 23, 2022

“… the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The link between humility and divine charity helps you and me to follow Jesus.  Humility is not the most important of the virtues.  Divine charity—in Latin, caritas, meaning the love that is God’s very nature—is the most important virtue.  Divine charity is the summit towards which we Christians climb by means of the other virtues.

Humility, on the other hand, is the base of the mountain.  While divine charity is the goal that our last step brings us into the presence of, humility is the first step.  The old saying reminds us that “every great journey begins with a simple, single step.”

But if humility is so simple, why do we find it so difficult to practice?  God reveals to us in Sacred Scripture that one reason why humility is so difficult is the split in the human person that’s caused by sin.

Sin splits man in two.  Saint Paul explained this to the Romans in his long letter about sin and grace.  St. Paul taught the Romans from his own experience as a sinner, telling them, “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” [Romans 7:19].  He’s very blunt about his own moral failures, saying, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” [Romans 7:15].  Most of us, when we take a good long look at ourselves (perhaps with the help of a written examination of conscience) can identify with St. Paul in this.  He has identified for us the problem.

But what is the solution?  God is the solution, of course.  The trick, however, is that we have to acknowledge and own the problem before God can do us any good.  God so respects your free will that he allows you to remain in sin should you choose to do so.  Yet if you open your heart even the slightest to Him, a flood of grace can transform you.

Unfortunately, sin has so great a hold on us that even doing this is tremendously difficult at times.  That’s how perverse sin is:  what should be the most natural thing in the world—opening our hearts to our loving Father—becomes one of the great struggles of the spiritual life.  Jesus gives us a parable to help us see the link between humility and divine charity.  Seeing this link makes it easier to take up the struggle of opening our hearts to the Father.

The Pharisee and the tax collector are opposites.  It’s true that neither of them is at the summit.  They’re both at the base of the mountain.  But they are opposed to each other as they stand at that base because they are facing in opposite directions.

As a result, because the Pharisee stands and looks away from the mountain, every step he takes will remove him farther from the mountain’s summit.  But the tax collector is facing the mountain and looking up towards God and the summit that he has yet to climb.

He has a long road before him.  But his first step forward is an act of humility.  He is doing what you yourself need to do.  You need to face the divine Father who loves you in your sins, and who calls you to Himself by your offering Him a confession of your sins.

If you listen closely to the words of today’s Gospel Reading, you hear Jesus carefully point to the difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector.  Jesus explains that the Pharisee “spoke this prayer to himself”.  He wasn’t truly praying at all.  The Pharisee was speaking the words of a prayer to himself, not to God.  But the tax collector teaches us how to pray because he prays with humility.

The link between humility and divine charity helps you and me to follow Jesus.  This is true not only in our prayer, but in everything we do.  In everything we do, before we even take our first step, we have to act with humility by facing the right direction and looking up to God, instead of acting for our own sake.  Humility is the beginning, and divine charity—the life of God—is the end.  But without the right beginning, we cannot reach the right end:  the end for which God made us.

St. Luke the Evangelist

St. Luke the Evangelist
2 Timothy 4:10-17  +  Luke 10:1-9

“Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

While the word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”, today’s Gospel passage is not about Jesus sending the Twelve.  It is about Jesus sending the 72 ahead of Him as what we might call “advance men”.  The 72 are to prepare people to receive Jesus.  Through this mission, we can relate this Gospel passage to our own lives as disciples, and to the lives of those whom we’re called to serve.

Very few members of the Church serve as successors of the apostles in the role of bishop, but by contrast, every Christian is sent by Jesus to prepare others to receive Him.  This fact is often overlooked today.  There is a confusion still, so many years after the Second Vatican Council, between the roles of the clergy and laity.

The role of the laity in the Church is largely “outside” the Church, rather than in the sanctuary.  The laity are meant by God—designed by God in His design for the Mystical Body of Christ—to carry the fruits of the Church into the wider, secular world.  The word “apostolate” is all but obsolete today in referring to the work of the laity, but it needs to be reclaimed, in order to describe the right and responsibility of the laity to engage the “world” with the Good News of Christ.

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:13-21

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

Although in meditating upon today’s Gospel passage we might choose to reflect upon either Jesus’ interaction with the jealous brother, or His parable to the crowd, consider the parable.

It illustrates what He had previously explained about the connections among “one’s life”, “greed”, and “possessions”.  Material possessions are not inherently bad.  Even person 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 or quality.  One such quality that tempts is mere novelty, and this especially is a weakness of 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.

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:8-12

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”

Twice in today’s Gospel passage, God the Holy Spirit is referred to.  The first mention is somewhat ambiguous in meaning:  in its plainest sense, “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit” would refer to denying that the Holy Spirit is truly and fully God.  The Church has had to combat such denial throughout her history.

The second mention of the Holy Spirit refers to a situation that many Christians face at some point in their lives.  Whether at the point of death or with the fear of mere embarrassment, Christians at a loss as to how to defend their Faith must rely on the Holy Spirit.  Even the most brilliant Christian orator or preacher (St. Augustine of Hippo being a prime example) knows that human brilliance in any measure is dwarfed by, and comes from, the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

However, the Holy Spirit teaching the Christian what to say does not mean that the Christian becomes a puppet or megaphone of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who teaches at that moment, but it’s still the Christian who must speak in his own name about the Holy Name of Jesus, making the Good News his own.