Sunday by Sunday

FAITH Magazine July-August 2007
Our regular guide to the Word of God in the Sunday Liturgy

13th Sunday Year C

1 July Lk 9. 51 – 62

1. “Jesus resolutely took the road to Jerusalem,” Jesus has just experienced the moment of the Transfiguration. Strengthened by his time on the mountain top with Moses and Elijah, he now sets his face, with resolution to follow the Father’s will, despite all opposition. His journey leads him now to Jerusalem, the city that shows the continuity of the old and new covenants in God’s plan. In Jerusalem Jesus will complete his exodus to God and from Jerusalem the call to discipleship will reach to the ends of the earth.

2. The disciples react badly to opposition: “do you want us to call down fire from heaven?” The disciples lack Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will and wish to act as Elijah the prophet had done to his enemies. Jesus however refuses to act with violence and lives out his early teaching of non-retaliation. His face is set like flint. This sacrificial approach must then, normally, be the best way to overcome opposition. It will have the ‘best’ results, in the truest sense of the word.

3.We have three different responses to the call to discipleship. “I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus wishes to trick noone into discipleship and shows that there is a cost to being his follower. He seeks for a whole-hearted gift of self. This might be seen as a risky strategy, even though it must be the best one. The costs seems too much for some who are invited to follow. “Let me go and bury my Father first.” Christ’s call is challenging and goes deep. But his sacrifice is making it easy for us, if we will only accept the challenge.

14th Sunday Year C

8 July Lk 10.1-12.17-20

1. The disciples were sent out in pairs: the servant of the Kingdom cannot work in isolation. God’s Kingdom must be preached not the servant’s. In this case there would never be a disagreement as regards the con¬tents, purpose and motivation for their preaching. However, no Christian is self-sufficient. We are members of a Body and cannot cut ourselves away from the Body otherwise we perish. Also, no one servant can presume to be universally acceptable. This is when the servant begins to think he is more important than the Kingdom. It was wisely done to send them in pairs.

2. The urgency of their work is communicated in many ways. Harvest time is short and requires immediate action. They carry no baggage and do not stop to chatter on the road so that they will not be slowed down. We have lost this urgency in our work blam¬ing our falling numbers and lack of response on the state of our society. We rarely pray specifically for vocations to the priesthood; we act as though we can manage very well without. Meanwhile the harvest is in danger of being lost. If we are to take seriously God’s will to associate us in His work then we should be more concerned and active.

3. The seventy-two return rejoicing from their mission. It would not always be so successful and the earlier comment by Jesus about being like lambs among wolves is ominous. They were also instructed to leave behind even the dirt from their feet in those towns which rejected His Kingdom. The Kingdom cannot be compromised and not even a handful of dust would be allowed to enter until it acknowledged Christ as King. Opposition soon arose and continues today. The devils will indeed submit but not without first taking their toll. Sometimes we must rejoice not in success but in the fact we have been chosen for the work and we gave our lives to it.

15th Sunday Year C

15 July Lk 10.25-37

1. A lawyer will seek the course of action which will prove just sufficient, no more no less. The Law of Moses cannot be treated in this way since it contains the word ‘love’ which does not admit of a course of action which is only’ sufficient. Seeking still to restrict the prescription, the lawyer wants Jesus to define His terms. Ever since Cain asked God if he was his brother’s keeper (Gen 4.9) we have been trying to restrict God’s definition of neighbour. With this parable and His own death Jesus settled the dispute. He shed His blood for everyone and asks us to do the same.

2.We usually use the word ‘neighbour’ to refer to someone who lives nearby. Jesus takes a man from Jerusalem and one from Samaria as part of His parable, two places which hated each other, They meet on the road which indicates neutral territory. The only’ thing which separates them is the history of hatred from their different places of birth. The Samaritan saw not a Jew but a helpless person. His actions cost him time and money. It must have cost the Jew his prejudice and hatred. They must have finished by seeing each other simply as brothers. If so, then the fulfilment of the Law was within the grasp of both of them. Heaven seems cheaply bought on these terms!

3. Christ uses the image of a heretic Northerner to teach the Jews the meaning of the Law. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they abandoned the Law of Moses. The Priest and the Levite were thought to be followers of the Law but on this occasion they’ chose “the other side” in more ways than one. The Law of God is not like the Highway Code which we bend as far as we can get away with (and curse our luck when we are caught out). It is the expression of God’s will for us and the way to live which is truly human. We inherit eternal life if we live by it, not as a reward, but because through the Law and God’s grace we already begin to share in God’s life.

16th Sunday Year C

22 July Lk 10.38-42

1. It was Martha who invited Jesus and welcomed Him into her home. Her worries about the preparations for the meal are really only a manifestation of her whole life of fretting “about so many things”. It is a good and noble thing to work, but work can sometimes be used as a way to avoid facing more important aspects of life. In this case it becomes an escape from the one thing necessary which is our relationship with God. Perhaps Martha has not got the courage to sit and listen for fear of what she might hear about herself. 2. Another aspect of the ‘work-filled’

lifestyle should be considered – especially by priests. It betrays a lack of trust in God’s capacity to work. Activism is not only an escape from deeper realities but an attitude which puts more faith in the endeavours of men than in the movement of the Spirit. It is a statement that prayer cannot really achieve what human effort can. The creation story of Genesis I is perhaps the best lesson. God fixed the universe with the simple command of His word. Finally, on the last day He did absolutely nothing!

3. Mary’s attitude is described by the word ‘listening’. This is the human being at the height of its dignity. God made us so that we might know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world. We can only do that if we are open to His self-communication. Human beings were created to listen to the voice of God. Mary, sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, hanging on His every word, sums up what it is to be human.

17th Sunday Year C

29 July Lk 11.1-13

1. The ‘Our Father’ only appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The version in Matthew is longer and is taught in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Here in Luke it comes about because the disciples see Jesus praying and want to do the same. Jesus Christ shows what every man could be and in fact should be. It is not surprising that this impulse to imitate occurs when they see Jesus in prayer. Prayer. communication with our God, is what makes us truly human, As the Old Catechism said. God made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him. This requires that we be in communication with Him. Prayer fulfils the very’ reason we were created. The disciples sense this: so do we.

2. Holding God’s name as Holy is the attitude of being a creature towards our creator. It sums up our whole existence. Yet the ‘Our Father’ focuses in on one particular aspect of our lives: forgiveness of others. This is the only part of the prayer which demands a commitment and pledge from the one praying. When we forgive we are not finding excuses for the one who has wronged us. Nor are we being asked to consider the hurt caused to us as insignificant or petty. No-one can buy or earn forgiveness. Many wrongs can never really be righted. To forgive, then, is to give an absolutely free gift. This makes the forgiver God-like. In prayer we enter communion with God and become more like Him. Forgiveness is an active instance of a deep prayer life.

3. From the ‘Our Father’ we see that prayer is not just asking for things from God. But we should not feel bad that we spend much of our prayer in petition. Behind the selfish motives in petitioner prayer is a deep recognition that God is the source and the only source, of everything which can bring our happiness and wellbeing. This brings practical consequences. We must persevere, since perseverance proves our trust that only God has the power and wants to make us happy’. Also, only He knows fully what good things we need for our well-being and happiness. Many of our prayers crash on the rocks of our plans and selfish motives. We must have the trust to leave the finer details to ‘Our Father.

18th Sunday Year C

5 August Lk 12: 13-21

1. A man shouts from the crowd. Whoever he was, he made no attempt to enter into any personal relationship with Jesus yet he wished to use Jesus’ authority for his own ends. The man in the Gospel called on the justice of God, or at least wished to turn the justice of God towards his own desires. Among many today the trend is to call on the love of God or at least to turn the love and mercy of God to their own desires. It is usually called upon to excuse any manner of behaviour and life-style, even that which is clearly’ in opposition to the words of Jesus in the Gospels. Again, an unwillingness to enter into a personal relationship with God usually accompanies this attitude. When we meet Jesus face to face we usually seek to turn our lives towards His demands not vice versa.

2. The rich man in the parable is certainly not lazy. He has worked for a good harvest, reacts swiftly to consolidate and preserve his gains and plans for the future. Who can begrudge a few years rest to a hard-working self-made man? He is not lazy, but he is a fool. There is no gift from God which cannot be used profitably in His service. So often we put these gifts at the service of other gods. usually money and sometimes ourselves. Most of us will give God part. but not the whole, of our lives. This too is foolish. If we put all our gifts at His service then it will be God who says to us. “Eat. drink, have a good time!” Better to hear these words from His lips than the one word in the parable which summed up the rich man’s life: “Fool!”

3. Much of our daily news and most of our political energy centres upon the economic welfare of the citizens of our land. It is easy to be led into thinking that this is indeed the most important aspect of our lives. Such an attitude can easily take over. We may not reject God outright, but our quiet disregard for Him is just as devastating. The fact that it is quiet and unnoticed makes it all the more dangerous for us. In the end, our financial well-being is no more permanent than castles in the sand, washed away by the ebb and flow of the tide. When faced with death even mighty rulers would readily swap ‘their kingdom for a horse’. Let us not leave our reckoning to such a late stage. since eternal happiness can begin here in time when we hoard up treasure with God.

19th Sunday Year C

12 August Lk 12.32-48

1. In this Gospel we hear instructions on selling possessions, being always vigilant and receiving punishment. These are generally considered in a negative context. But this Gospel passage begins with encouraging words. Christ calls His disciples His “little flock”, a term of endearment. He also states that the Father is pleased to give them the Kingdom. In this light we see that renouncing possessions is necessary so that our hands and hearts are free to be able to take hold of the kingdom already’ offered. If we already’ have our ‘hands full’ with the things of this world there will be no room for the things of the next.

2. To watch and be vigilant is also a positive thing. When we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of someone or something which will give us joy and pleasure we cannot take our eyes off the road which will bring them. If we really do hold the Kingdom of God as our greatest treasure then a watchful attentiveness is natural. Our God is so ready to invite us to His table that He has offered to serve us Himself. Indeed, in the parable Christ describes how the master will put on an apron, the garment of a servant. He has in fact already done much more than this. He put on the nature of His creatures. And He did it in such a way that He will never put it off as we might take off an apron.

3. Even punishment in this context has a positive side. God has freely chosen to associate ordinary human beings in 1-lis work. We all of us have some responsibility to respond to God’s offer of the Kingdom. Some have been given even more so that they can share in the work of making known God’s great gift. When we abuse this responsibility’ the justice of God punishes. This is not a vindictive punishment but rather a proof that He takes us seriously. Our decisions and actions have consequences which touch eternity itself. No other creature is given such dignity.

20th Sunday Year C

19 August Lk 12, 49-53

1. Luke’s gospel is the gospel of the Holy Spirit, whose inspiration is characterized by joy and a universal message of salvation starting from Jerusalem. (cf. Lk 4, 14; 24,32; 24, 45-47) It is also the gospel with the hardest sayings and most uncompromising attitudes. (Lk 13, 5; 11,37-52). Jesus’ fire consumes complacency and shatters natural boundaries with a supernatural call to action for salvation. No revolutionary was half as radical as Christ, no fire-brand more shatteringly eloquent and to the point. The Good News burns hearts and divides families, but it also lights up the way through darkness. Faltering footsteps find no path to Christ. There is no going back. 2. But Jesus does not wish us to travel

any road that he has not already hallowed by his presence. The baptism of fire that he must undergo upon the Cross smoulders already in anticipation within his soul, not out of some weird craving for the atrocious pain of execution but because of the universal salvation that his Passion will effect in the world. Our Lord’s distress and natural revulsion from the agony of Calvary will later be intensified in Gethsemane.(Lk 22,39-46). For now his face is set like flint for Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9, 5-11) the city from which his salvation will ignite the world.

3. English history has seen all too literal an application of this hard saying in the sufferings of the Catholic martyrs of the Reformation period. It is true that many of every Christian denomination died for their conscience during this time and all are rightly commemorated in their various churches and ecclesial communions each year. But the preeminence of the Mass and loyalty to the successor of Peter are sublime truths so important for the mission of Christ and the integrity of the Church that those who were willing to give their lives to uphold them are worthy of special veneration.

21st Sunday Year C

26 August Lk 13: 22-30

1. The key to understanding this strange passage in Luke is the first verse we read (v.22) where we are told that Jesus was “making His way to Jerusalem.” In Luke Jerusalem is the place of suffering and death and also the point from which the Gospel of salvation will be spread through the whole world. The person in the crowd asks. “Will only a few be saved’?” Jesus with His face looking to Jerusalem concentrates not on numbers but on the means to salvation. Salvation begins in Jerusalem and so it begins with the cross. Where the Saviour has gone those wishing to be saved must follow. Many of us try to avoid the cross but still want salvation, like wanting to go for a swim but not wanting to get wet. This is the narrow door.

2. Because of the reality of sin the cross is an essential part of who Christ is. It must also be an essential part of who a Christian is. In the rite of baptism the sign of the cross is made on the person’s forehead at the doors of the Church. before they enter. It is as if the cross is the key to the door which opens the way to the Eucharistic banquet. If we try to avoid the cross we throw away’ the key’. The fact we have to knock on the door and request to be let in betrays that we have denied an essential part of what it is to be Christian. Of course Christ will not recognise us in such a changed state and so different to Him. The Eucharistic banquet itself is founded on the cross and is a sacrificial meal.

3. Jerusalem is not just the place of the cross but the beginning of salvation for the whole world. It is from here that all people from cast and west, from north and south are called. When Jesus looked to Jerusalem then. He not only saw the cross but also what it would achieve. The arms of the cross stretch out from Jerusalem to embrace the whole world. It is strange that a Gospel passage which began with a question of whether only a few will be saved now embraces every nation and every generation. The narrow door is summed up in the name Jerusalem. It is a door open to everyone, but it is a door opened only by the key of the cross.

Faith Magazine

July - August 2007