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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.



Daily Word 2019

SEASONS of:
Advent
Christmastide
Lent
Eastertide

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

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
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 1
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

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

Readings for the 23rd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 23

1st Reading: Colossians 1:24-2:3

To spread the faith, Paul suffers on behalf of the Church

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

Responsorial: Psalm 61:6-7, 9

R./: In God is my safety and my glory.

In God alone be at rest, my soul;
 all my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
 my fortress; I stand firm. (R./)

Take refuge in God all you people.
 Trust him at all times.
 Pour out your hearts before him
 for God is our refuge. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:6-11

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

On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might 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

"Just Do It!"

It is unlikely that Our Lord meant to stir up a quarrel in the synagogue that sabbath day. But he sensed a trap by his enemies to put him in a negative light. A disabled man was being used to make Jesus look like a law-breaker, using the man's handicap to get at the volatile preacher from Nazareth. There is a common tendency to corral the love of God within limits, that would limit or exclude individuals or whole groups from his help. But the power of Jesus cannot be bound by rigid traditions. Facile reasons can be advanced for not doing the right thing. "It's the wrong day of the week to come looking for help; come next Saturday." Or we may fear criticism if we speak up on behalf of the unemployed or disabled. Or we dare not even mildly correct an influential person, for obvious wrongdoing. People even see reasons why God should not act generously. But following Jesus' example we should "Just Do It!"


A hope-filled presence

Jesus is often portrayed as giving hope to those who are desperately in need of healing. His arrival in the synagogue gave hope to the man with the withered hand, in spite of the hostile comments of others. And hope was not disappointed. In Luke 23 his last words were a promise of hope to a condemned man crucified alongside him, "today, you will be with me in Paradise."

He remains a hopeful presence in all of our lives. Paul even calls him "Christ among you, your hope of glory." Jesus lives invisibly among us, and his presence is the foretaste of eternal life. Right here and now he inspires us to expect a fuller life with him in eternity. This hope says St Paul, will not be disappointed. As believers in him, we are always people of hope.


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Tuesday of Week 23

1st Reading: Colossians 2:6-15

Spiritually, baptism "buries" us with Christ and raises us to live in and with him

As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aide, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Responsorial: Psalm 144:1-2, 8-11

R./: The Lord is compassionate to all his creatures.

I will give you glory, O God my King,
 I will bless your name for ever.
 I will bless you day after day
 and praise your name for ever. (R./)

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
 slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
 compassionate to all his creatures. (R./)

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. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:12-19

Jesus spends the night in prayer and afterwards calls the twelve

Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the whole 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

Keep to the basics

While later in Colossians Paul will offer more detailed moral guidance, in chapter 2 he traces the underlying principle of Christian life. He is concerned about them possibly losing touch with their allegiance of faith, or “not holding fast to the head” (vs 19) and letting some other guru take the place of Christ as their leader.

The precise nature of the threat to the Colossian community is not spelled out. We get some hints, however, that resemble some temptations faced by the church today, namely, dualism, and idolatry. He warns them not be taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit. Probably this to some severe regime of bodily asceticism. It seems like a spirituality of self-imposed piety, and the severe treatment of the body” (vs 23). It sounds like a form of dualism whereby the body was thought to belong to a lower realm than soul, spirituality, esoteric wisdom, and the like.

Against this Paul declares that false asceticism does not really curb the appetites of the body. And he offers them deeper insight into Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God's wisdom and life in this world. Turning the basic tenet of dualism on its head he writes that in Jesus "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him". Later, Saint John will put this insight even more memorably, saying the "the Word became flesh and lived among us, that we may be children of God. Our basic vocation is to stay close to Christ and let him be the impulse for all that we do.


The healing touch

Notice the last line in this gospel, "everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all" People wanted to touch this man through whom God was working so powerfully. It wasn't just enough to hear him or to see him; they needed to touch him. Touching the Lord is a more intimate, a more personal, form of communication with him than hearing or seeing. The sense of touch remains important in the faith life of us all. We too want to touch the Lord, and to be touched by him.

It is above all in and through the Sacraments that we touch the Lord and allow him to touch our lives. In the Eucharist, for example, we take the bread in our hands or on our tongue and eat it; we take the chalice in our hands and drink from it. The sense of touch is very real there. As we take the bread and take the cup, as we touch the Lord in this way, the Lord takes us; he touches our lives. Like the people in the gospel, we too can experience the healing and renewing power that comes from him. The Lord who touches us in the Eucharist sends us forth to touch the lives of others in life-giving ways.


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Wednesday of Week 23

1st Reading: Colossians 3:1-11

You have been raised with Christ, so set your heart where Christ is

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things--anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Responsorial: Psalm 144:2-3, 10-13

R./: The Lord is compassionate to all his creatures.

I will bless you day after day
 and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
 his greatness cannot be measured. (R./)

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. (R./)

To make known to men your mighty deeds
 and the glorious splendour of your reign.
Yours is an everlasting kingdom;
 your rule lasts from age to age. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:20-26

Luke's version of the Beatitudes: blessings and woes

Then 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

The things that are above

We are pilgrims in this world, who have here no lasting city. This is the thought in Colossians, a stirring call to live as pilgrims on the earth, Paul urges us to "Be intent on the things above" and to be "formed anew in the image of the Creator." He offers practical examples of what is needed: put an end to fornication, uncleanness, evil desires; put aside anger, quick temper, malice and foul language; don't tell lies. But the positive goals are unity and charity, signs of our union with Christ, who is "everything in all of you."

The Beatitudes, in Luke's version, are significantly more stark and direct than Matthew's longer list. In Matthew's version, the Beatitudes are addressed to the disciples who followed Jesus up the mountain, and they are phrased in the third person, "How blessed are the poor in spirit, for the reign of God is theirs." Luke has Jesus coming down from the mountain to a level place where a large crowd of people came to hear him. His Beatitudes are probably closer to Jesus' original words, phrased in the second person: Happy are you who are poor ; you who hunger, etc. Luke is not writing a general catechetical discourse but has Jesus specifically addressing people who are poor and hungry and in need. We are told, rather bluntly, that God accomplishes more with our poverty than with our wealth, more with our weakness than with our activity. Wealth, celebrity and exclusivity can restrict a person's options and weigh one down with anxieties.

 


A counter-cultural vision

The beatitudes sound strange to our ears. How can people be happy if they are poor, hungry or in mourning? How can people who have their fill of everything be called unfortunate? These pronouncements go against common sense, and jar with how we normally see life. How often the teaching of Jesus forces us to rethink how we normally view life. He proclaimed a God who specially favours the distressed and the downtrodden. Jesus calls them blessed, because God is on their side and wants a more just and sharing world. Knowing our need can open up space for God to work in our lives, whereas in time of plenty we can easily be self-satisfied and dispense with God.

People often seek God with greater energy when their need is greater, whether individually or in society. We come before the Lord in our poverty, our hunger, our sadness because in such times we realize that we are not self-sufficient. It is recorded that as Jesus hung from the cross one of the two thieves asked him, "remember me when you come into your kingdom." To this doomed 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.


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Thursday of Week 23

1st Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

As God's chosen ones, clothe yourselves with mercy, meekness and patience

As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Responsorial: Psalm 150:1-6

R./: Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

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 of cymbals.
Let everything that lives and that breathes
 give praise to the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:27-38

Be compassionate, like your Father in heaven

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I say to you that listen, 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

Exalted ideals

The ideals set by Saint Paul are based on his belief that baptised believers really are "God's chosen ones." If that is our core identity, we need to live worthy of that identity. Generosity and love are not beyond our power as "holy and beloved." God has drawn us into the Christ-life, as members of his body, so that inspiration and grace can infuse us like breath or blood. Because Christ is already alive within us, we must be marked by love, kindness, patience and generosity.

This is also the spirit of today's Gospel, where Jesus asks us to "bless those who curse you," "turn the other cheek," and (most difficult of all) "love your enemy." These are the hallmarks of a Christian life. These ideals are grounded in the idea that, as we are formed in the image of God, our lifestyle should mirror God's own mercy. Jesus wants us to be merciful, as your Father is merciful. This is the high road to sharing in the life of God: "Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High."


Imitating God

At the heart of Jesus' teaching is the call to love our enemies and to give to those who will never be in a position to pay us back. In the ordinary run of thins, people who are in a position to be generous will expect some return of gratitude at least. Giving to others put them in debt to you. We struggle to be completely selfless in our giving.

Jesus calls for more than the ordinary idea of giving with a view to receiving. Ideally, love has no self-seeking in it, and it imitates how God loves us. God is good even to the ungrateful and the wicked. Jesus says that we can be be God-like in our loving and in our giving. He promises that if we give in this God-like way, we will be blessed abundantly. A full measure of reward will be poured into our lap. We are invited, in the words of the first reading, to let this word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with us.


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Friday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14

Paul is grateful for the pardon and grace granted to him

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial: Psalm 15:1-2, 5, 7-8, 11

R./: You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
 I say to the Lord: 'You are my God.
 My happiness lies in you alone.'
 O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
 it is you yourself who are my prize. (R./)

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
 who even at night directs my heart.
 I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
 since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. (R./)

You will show me the path of life,
 the fullness of joy in your presence,
 at your right hand happiness for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:39-42

Can the blind lead the blind? Don't be judgmental of others

Jesus told his disciples 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

Respect and service

Today's readings are mainly about leadership but in some ways they apply to all human relationships. We are meant to interact with one another, not as superior to inferior but as equals in God's family, each one recognizing the gifts of each other. Sometimes differing view or talents can cause problems arise and helpful direction is necessary. What Paul says of himself in First Timothy, that he was appointed to the service of God, can apply to each of us. However, he ad mites that he came to realise this only after years when he "acted ignorantly in unbelief." At times we can act out of ignorance or misguided zeal and so treat others arrogantly. We too have received the grace of our Lord, in full measure. If grace could convert a persecutor like Saul of Tarsus into the missionary Paul, it can do the same for us.

We should respect, admire and learn from the gifts of one another. One can become arrogant and too sure that one's views are the only valid ones--like those autocratic people who once defended their repressive attitudes towards heresy on the grounds that error has no rights! They need to consider whether they are not like a blind man trying to guide another blind person. Both will fall into the pit, both teacher and student. Each of us needs the wisdom of others to balance our own special insights and strengths. We need the wisdom of others to keep us united, at the service of all, in the spirit so well evoked in the recent words and gestures of pope Francis, as he calls for renewed fraternity and inclusiveness in our church.


What we might not see

Jesus suggests that our limited insight into each other makes it very difficult for us to many judgments about others. It can be very tempting to think that we see clearly whereas others are blind. Jesus seems to indicate that we are all blind to some degree and that it is a very often a case of the blind leading the blind rather than the enlightened leading the blind.

Changing the metaphor somewhat, Jesus gives us the comic image of someone trying to take a splinter out of someone else's eye while being oblivious to the plank in his or her own eye. In calling on us to take the plank out of our own eye first he suggests that we need to be more attentive to our own failings than to those of others. Because of our own faults and failings we do not see clearly enough to understand what is really going on in another person, and, therefore, we need to be very slow to judge and to condemn. God, who sees clearly into every heart, is compassionate and merciful to all, even the unworthy. Somehow we strive to be merciful and compassionate like that.


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Saturday of Week 23

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 1:15-17

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. All are called

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 112:1-7

R./: Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever.

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 has risen on high to his throne
 yet stoops from the heights to look down,
 to look down upon heaven and earth?
 From the dust he lifts up the lowly,
 from the dung heap he raises the poor. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 6:43-49

The house of faith, built 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

Founded on Rock

Patience is the virtue of a person who has built upon rock. When hard times hit, when the storm breaks and clouds pour down in floods, that house remains standing if it is built with deep foundations in the rocky subsoil. The image of "Rock" has various meanings in the Bible, but they all converge on strength, consistency, fidelity, and continuity. The rock struck by Moses' rod produced sweet water in the desert (Num 20:11). St Paul imagines that rock following the Israelites through the desert ... and that was Christ! (1 Cor 10:4) In Isaiah the rock supports the Jerusalem temple where God dwells among his people (28:16). In Psalm 95 God himself is acclaimed as the rock of salvation. And in Matthew Peter is the rock or foundation of the church (Mt 16:18).

If we try to stitch these passages into a pattern, rock indicates the steady assurance of God's grace, the presence of God in temple or church, the human representatives of God as Rock.

Patience builds on a rock like this. Impatient and selfish people build on sand and so are not dependable. They react impulsively, with little regard for the feelings of others. Anger takes control of them before they can think. Rash words are spoken that cannot easily be forgotten. In hard times, this kind of character is not dependable. "When the torrent rushed on it, it immediately fell in and was destroyed." May the Lord, our living Rock, be our guide!


The invisible foundation

From the outside, the two houses in today's parable looked the same. But they were fundamentally different, because their foundations were different. One was built on sand and the other on rock. Their foundations were not visible on the surface. We need to get the foundations of our lives right, what's below the surface of daily living. Just as the houses in the parable had to withstand severe flooding, the equivalent in our lives can be critical situations. We can be hit with all kinds of difficulties, whether relating to our health, our relationships, our work. Our ability to deal with those crisis situations will depend on our moral and spiritual foundations.

Jesus presents himself as the solid foundation to build on. Listening to his words and acting on them, ensures that our lives are built on rock, and that we can face the storms of life when they arise. If we build on the Lord, we can hold on when we are tested. He needs us to actively choose him as the foundation of our lives. If we are to know the security which only he can give us, we need to entrust ourselves to him, and say with Mary his mother and ours, "Let it be to me according to your word."



Readings for the 24th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Prayers for the civil authorities, for peaceful governance

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all - this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.

Responsorial: Psalm 27:2, 7-9

R./: Blest be the Lord for he has heard my prayer.

Hear the voice of my pleading
 as I call for help,
 as I lift up my hands in prayer
 to your holy place. (R./)

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
 in him my heart trusts.
 I was helped, my heart rejoices
 and I praise him with my song. (R./)

The Lord is the strength of his people,
 the stronghold where his anointed find salvation.
 Save your people; bless Israel your heritage.
 Be their shepherd and carry them for ever. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 7:1-10

For his faith, the Roman centurion receives from Jesus the cure of 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

So that all can be saved

While Paul proclaims the Gospel's outreach to the world, the Roman centurion shows how well prepared outsiders can be, to accept Gospel values.

The mission statement in 1 Timothy is clear and engaging: God wants all to be saved and to know the truth; Jesus gave himself as ransom for all; and Paul has a mission to all nations. Since God wants all to be saved, it seems that the bulk of humanity are being saved without explicitly accepting the Gospel. Much less than fifty percent of the world's population is Christian. Therefore it is not explicit faith that determines the ultimate fate of an individual but the quality of a live as lived. The difference between faith and unbelief is between the strength of relying on Jesus and the uncertainty of living without his inspiration. Paul prays that all may be saved and "come to know the truth." The truth of Jesus sets us free and inspires us, brings us peace and deepens our respect for life. As Paul says, since God is one, all God's children form one human family, with a mighty mediator between God and ourselves, the man Christ Jesus.

In the Gospel the outsider, a Gentile centurion, shows stronger faith than the Jews. In our own context, the spark of faith in a Buddhist or a Muslim, or even a person of no religion, can take a Christian by surprise. The Roman centurion shows great concern, simplicity and graciousness towards the distress of his servant. He asks Jesus for help, risking refusal as a member of the hated Roman army. He also shows a courteous spirit, "Sir, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter my house." Open and honest, he does not beat around the bush and is not afraid to publicly admit his trust in the healing power of Jesus. This man courteously sent a delegation of Jewish elders to intercede for him and his slave. He seems a consummate diplomat and his faith is highly praised.


Though we be unworthy

The words of the Roman centurion are echoed in our Eucharistic when we say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof." The centurion spoke as a pagan who did not want Jesus the Jew to be in breach of the Jewish Law by entering the house of a pagan. He also showed great faith in the life-giving power of Jesus' word. Jesus acknowledges his remarkable faith and declares it to be greater than any faith he had found in Israel.

The least likely person can come to faith in Jesus. We should not quickly judge who is a person of faith and who is not. This centurion's faith can inspire us at every Eucharist.


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Tuesday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-13

Qualities needed in church officials--hospitable, respected, truthful, skilled managers

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way - for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial: Psalm 100:1-3, 5, 6

R./: I will walk with blameless heart.

My song is of mercy and justice;
 I sing to you, O Lord.
 I will walk in the way of perfection.
 O when, Lord, will you come? (R./)

I will walk with blameless heart
 within my house;
 I will not set before my eyes
 whatever is base. (R./)

The man who slanders his neighbour in secret
 I will bring to silence.
 The man of proud looks and haughty heart
 I will never endure. (R./)

I look to the faithful in the land
 that they may dwell with me.
 He who walks in the way of perfection
 shall be my friend. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 7:11-17

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

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

Variety of jobs to be done

Paul's guidance to Timothy suggests some levels of formal leadership emerging in the early church. There is no mention of the roles of apostle, prophet or healer, as in the days of Jesus, and the focus has turned to the roles of bishop, deacon, deaconess and (later) on presbyter and widow.

As the church expanded in number through the Mediterranean world, and faced crises of internal leadership and external persecution, its need of careful organization grew. The development from the more charismatic to the more organizational way of directing the community is normal and necessary. If the more charismatic, freer type of leadership is chronologically closer to Jesus, the later church is also called the body of Christ. St Paul says: The body is one and has many members, but all the members are one body as is Christ. He reflects on the various kinds of gifts and abilities needed in church life.

The quiet virtues expected of bishop, deacon and deaconess are admirable indeed: irreproachable, married only once, of even temper, self-controlled, modest, hospitable, not addicted to drink, a good manager of one's own household, holding fast to the divinely revealed faith with a clear conscience. Today we need to pray that people of this quality will still be inspired to offer themselves for the service of God's people.


The one in need

Widows were usually financially and socially very vulnerable. Without their husbands, they had to depend on their children, particularly their sons, to provide for them. A widow who lost her only son through death was, therefore, the most vulnerable of all. It is such a widow that Jesus encounters in today's gospel. The gospel reading tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion by this woman's plight. That inner movement of compassion resulted in action on his part, as he restores her son to life and gives him back to his mother. It is striking that the widow in this story did not take any initiative towards Jesus; she did not cry out to him for help. Without waiting to be asked, Jesus simply responded to a situation of human grief and loss.

The same Lord is with us today in our situations of grief and loss, without waiting to be asked. When we are at our most vulnerable, his compassion is most certain. We don't have to carry our grief and loss on our own; the compassionate Lord carries us with us; he suffers with us -- "to suffer with" is the literal meaning of compassion. Just as his compassion touches us, he wants us to be channels of compassion to each other in our hour of need, to help carry each other's burdens, and help each other through this life.


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Wednesday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 3:14-16

The church is entrusted with the mystery of salvation, meant for the whole world

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:

He was revealed in flesh,
 vindicated in spirit,
 seen by angels,
 proclaimed among Gentiles,
 believed in throughout the world,
 taken up in glory.

Responsorial: Psalm 110:1-6

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 7:31-35

Some will not respond to others, whether by dancing or mourning

Jesus said to his disciples, "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 church as a large family

Ideally, the members of the church are all "members of God's household." Paul quotes a confession of faith, popular among believers:" He was revealed in flesh, / vindicated in spirit," etc. The Gospel cites a piece of ancient wisdom, echoing the Book of Proverbs and repeated from parent to child, rabbi to student. Scholars have suggested that St Paul probably did not compose this hymn-like verse, but was citing a well-known hymnic statement of the early church.

In a wholesome family the members are respectful of each others' giftedness. Paul envisaged a church gifted with many talents, but says that in the end there are three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. To love in such an way, the leaders of God's household cannot be dominant autocrats or narrow careerists, but people who care for the family quality of life in the church. If there is strength in unity, these are the leaders who strengthen our common faith.


Dancing to the Lord's tune

Jesus uses a striking image to describe how the people of his generation responded to his ministry and that of John the Baptist. They are like children who refuse to dance when other children in the playground play the pipes; they are also like children refuse to cry when other children in the playground sing dirges. He identifies himself with those who play the pipes and John with those who sing dirges. It may seem odd to think of Jesus as a piper who plays a tune that invites people to dance to it, but in a sense, that is what we are about as his followers or disciples.

Christians are people who dance to Jesus' tune. The idea of dancing to someone else's tune is usually a negative one. But as followers of Jesus we should attune our ears to his rhythm, to the music of his life, and then try and move in time with his music. We need to let the music that Jesus plays by his life, death and resurrection, shape our lives. Attentive listening is very important in our relationship with the Lord, because it is only then that we can move to the divine music. Our blessed Lady listened attentively to the Lord's word, and she, more than anyone was in tune with the music of Jesus. She is our model and our inspiration as we try to live in harmony with that life-giving tune.


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Thursday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 4:12-16

Timothy is urged to exercise the ministry entrusted to him by the laying on of hands

Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Responsorial: Psalm 110:7-10

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

His works are justice and truth:
 his precepts are all of them sure,
 standing firm for ever and ever:
 they are made in uprightness and truth. (R./)

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

To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
 all who do so prove themselves wise.
His praise shall last for ever! (R./)

Gospel: Luke 7:36-50

A parable commending the woman who wept at Jesus' feet

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." And 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?" And he said to the woman, "our faith has saved you; go in peace."

BIBLE

Ministry for the Gospel

Paul reflects on the qualities needed in church leaders. He encourages young Timothy, who felt so diffident in offering guidance to others. His advice is a classic of avuncular inspiration. He assures the younger man of his genuine talents, appreciates his high ideals, and assures him of his ability to teach and preach and lead the community in prayer.

Luke shows how Jesus could be stern with the proud, but protective towards the humble who repent. In the parable we see God's generous initiative in loving and forgiving. In this provocative story, the person with the heavier load of sin seems to be loved more by God than the one with lesser sins. This can seem unjust, until we remember that pride is a worse sin than sexual excess. But surely there is hope for the proud person also, if the woman can be forgiven this easily. All authority of the church is under the ideals of the Gospel, with encouragement and esteem for the young, with concern for the repentant, but reminding the proud and self-righteous of the centrality of God's love.


An uninvited guest

We would not intrude on a meal unless we are invited. Yet the woman in today's gospel intrudes without invitation. She did so because she wanted to come near Jesus and show him a service of hospitality and love. This invited guest showed Jesus the hospitality that his host should have but failed to show him. She honoured Jesus in an extravagant way in return for what she had already received from him. She had felt God's forgiving love through Jesus, and such was her gratitude for this gift of love that she wanted to offer love in return.

The woman is an example to all followers of Jesus. Like her, we have received great graces and "from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." Like her, this sense of having been abundantly gifted with grace moves us to do something in return. We are inspired to serve him as he has served us. The woman in the house of the Pharisee shows us how to receive from the Lord and how to love him in return.


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Friday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 6:2-12

The value of good order, detachment from wealth and living one's faith

These are the duties you must teach and urge the community to follow. Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Responsorial: Psalm 48:6-10, 17-20

R./: Happy the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!

Why should I fear in evil days
 the malice of the foes who surround me,
men who trust in their wealth,
  and boast of the vastness of their riches? (R./)

For no man can buy his own ransom,
 or pay a price to God for his life.
The ransom of his soul is beyond him.
 He cannot buy life without end,
 nor avoid coming to the grave. (R./)

Then do not fear when a man grows rich,
 when the glory of his house increases.
He takes nothing with him when he dies,
 his glory does not follow him below. (R./)

Though he flattered himself while he lived:
 'Men will praise me for doing well for myself.'
Yet he will go to join his fathers,
 who will never see the light any more.
 (R./)

Gospel: Luke 8:1-3

Jesus's companions on his travels included some generous women

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

The Gospel of women

Because of its frequent mention of women, Luke's Gospel is sometimes called The Gospel of Women. Today's summary of the ministry is idyllic, like a glorious tour when Jesus was winning everyone for the kingdom of God. The community of disciples around him, including the apostles and a group of apostolic women, impress us with their serene harmony of life. Some had been cured of illness or physical handicap. The seven devils purged from Mary Magdalene do not necessarily mean sinfulness, much less demonic possession, but suggest a deep change in her life. Luke gives women an honoured place in this peaceful scene. He mentions the names of some prominent women in the circle around Jesus, noting that Johanna was the wife of Herod's steward, Chuza. Luke anticipates the outcome of the cross, redemption, when there will no longer be distinction between male and female, slave and free, Jew and Greek, but all will be united in Christ (Gal 3:28).

 


Interdependency

We honour Jesus as the servant of all, who said that he came not to be served but to serve. Yet even Jesus needed to be served at times. He was dependent at times on the service that others gave him. Today's gospel draws attention to the ways that some women served him. Luke states that, as Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, several women provided for him out of their own resources. Their service of him enabled him to serve others.

If Jesus needed the help of others at times, we also need it. We are called to serve, but also to accept the service of others, because we need their help. Serving others calls for generosity. Letting ourselves be served calls for humility. As Saint Paul taught, 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's be grateful to those who journey with us and who help us through life.


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Saturday of Week 24

1st Reading: 1 Timothy 6:13-16

Live without reproach until Jesus Christ returns in glory

In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time -- he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 99

R./: Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.

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 8:4-15

The parable of the seed and the sower is explained only to the apostles

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, Jesus 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!"

When his disciples asked him what this parable meant, Jesus 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

Realising our potential

First Timothy urges us to respect those secret stirrings of new life as God's command to us. Our truest self, not yet visible, is like a divine word of command. To know ourselves we must be attuned to our deepest hopes and desires. Then we are charged to keep God's commands faithfully. If we ask "for how long?" the answer is simply, "until Jesus Christ appears." These secret parts of ourselves will outlast all trials and be the source of our new existence. We dare not deny or compromise this mystery which is our very self.

Matthew's explanation of the parable of the sower gives further pointers about life. As the seed can fall on the footpaths and be trampled down, so life's mystery must not be subjected to foolish opinions. If the seed is scattered on rocky ground where it finds no root but quickly dries up, God's inspiration must sink its roots deeply into our lives and become a part of ourselves. Neither should the seed be dispersed amid briars, as it would be if we lose ourselves in a whirlwind pursuit of pleasure, and lose our taste for prayer, reflection and the self-denial which every mature person needs. The seed that falls on good ground and yields a plentiful harvest suggests how the grace of God must be thoroughly integrated into ourselves. The harvest depends on the quality of our lives over a long period of time.


A growth-friendly environment

In the parable of the sower and the seed, not all of the seed produces a crop. Indeed much of it goes to waste. Only some found the right soil and went on to provide a harvest. The seed is vulnerable; all kinds of forces work against it. The environment is not always supportive. The same could be said of our life of faith. The seed of faith that is sown in our hearts at baptism is vulnerable. Today's environment is not always supportive of our faith. Trials can come our way and shake our faith. The worries and riches and pleasures of life can choke it. We need to nurture the seed of faith that we have received.

We play a part in providing the good soil the seed needs. Part of this good soil is prayer, both our personal prayer and the prayer of the community. The reading makes reference to hearing the word and taking it to heart. A prayerful spirit creates an environment that allows the seed of faith to grow, the prayer of real listening to the word of the Lord, the kind of listening that overflows into how we live and relate to others. It is a good time to ask ourselves, what we can do to help the seed of faith we have received to grow to its full potential.



Readings for the 25th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 25

1st Reading: Ezra 1:1-6

Cyrus lets the Jews return home and makes their neighbours help them rebuild the temple

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, so that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: "Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people - may their God be with them! - are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel - he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem."

The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites - everyone whose spirit God had stirred - got ready to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbours aided them with silver vessels, with gold, with goods, with animals, and with valuable gifts, besides all that was freely offered.

Responsorial: Psalm 125

R./: The Lord has done marvels for us

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
 it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
 on our lips there were songs. (R./)

The heathens themselves said:
 'What marvels the Lord worked for them!'
 What marvels the Lord worked for us!
 Indeed we were glad. (R./)

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
 as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
 will sing when they reap. (R./)

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
 carrying seed for the sowing:
 they come back, they come back, full of song,
 carrying their sheaves. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 8:16-18

A lamp must go on a lampstand, to brighten the house

Jesus said in a parable: "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

The return of the exiles

For the next three weeks our readings are from the early post-exilic period, namely from Ezra and Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Baruch, Jonah, Malachi and Joel. A common concern for these writers was the temple as the central shrine of Judaism. While the wisdom writers pay little attention to ritual matters, the Jews who returned from Babylon to resettle in Israel placed a high value on their rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. This era is generally known as the Second Temple period.

We are introduced to this period (539 B.C. onward) by the Book of Ezra. The returning exiles left most of their property behind when they headed back to Israel. Their life in Babylon (by then a province of Persia, conquered by king Cyrus) had prospered. The Jews who stayed in Babylon eventually produced the famous Babylonian Talmud, a detailed code of Jewish practice. To return to Judea meant accepting lower living standards, in order to live in the land the Lord had given their ancestors. For them, it was like taking a lamp from under a bucket, to set it on a lampstand. Their return was like a light of hope for other Jews, and even called on God-fearing Gentiles to share in the light of the God of Israel. Other people can be enriched, if we leave all behind us for the Lord's sake. If we seek the house of the Lord, all that we need will be given to us.


Letting faith shine out

The image about lighting a lamp refers to an oil-amp with a wick that could be lit. Many such ancient oil lamps have been found in the Mediterranean area. Such lamps would light up a house when darkness came. As Jesus says, no one who lit such a lamp would hide it under a bowl or a bed, for that would make no sense.

If the lamp of faith is lit in a human life, it is not meant to be covered or hidden; rather it should shed light. The light of our faith needs to shine through how we live, what we do and how we do it. To nurture the light of faith we listen to the Lord's word. Jesus says, "Take care how you hear, for anyone who has will be given more." After listening to his word, we let that light of faith shine out, through our words and our lifestyle.


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Tuesday of Week 25

1st Reading: Ezra 6:7-8, 12, 14-20

How the Jews rebuilt and rededicated their temple

King Darius decreed: "Do not impede the work on this house of God; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God: the cost is to be paid to these people, in full and without delay, from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province Beyond the River. May the God who has established his name there overthrow any king or people that shall put forth a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, make a decree; let it be done with all diligence."

So the elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished their building by command of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia; and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered at the dedication of this house of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. Then they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their courses for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.

On the fourteenth day of the first month the returned exiles kept the Passover. Both the priests and the Levites had purified themselves and all of them were clean. So they killed the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by all who had joined them and separated themselves from the pollutions of the nations of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread seven days; for the Lord had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

Responsorial: Psalm 121:1-5

R./: Let us go rejoicing 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 8:19-21

Those who hear the word of God and act on it

Then his mother and his brothers 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

From knowing to doing

The will of God was made known in a variety of ways. Ezra refers to imperial decrees from the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius, messages of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah read later this week), and financial help from Persia, as supporting the sanctuary liturgy and the functions of priests and Levites.

In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah the shape of Judaism that would last until Jesus' time and beyond was laid down. It codified the principles of Judaism by which the people kept their identity even into our own time. Religion regulated every aspect of life, and life found its principal meaning within the faith. Even if Ezra's story seems monotonous and impractical to us, it was vital for the future of Judaism. While Christians have abandoned this legalistic form of religion, we are challenged to entwine our faith with our lifestyle, as they did.

Whatever our level of faith, we need an openness to the real world and cordial relations with other people. Perhaps that was what Jesus meant in his reply to the message of his mother Mary and his relatives. His words may have seemed a repudiation of family ties: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it." More positively, they declare his total commitment to spreading God's word.


Hearers of the word

We call Jesus "Lord" and "Son of God" for so indeed he is. But in today's Gospel he says that his real family are those who hear the word of God and live by it. Clearly, Jesus wants to relate to us as family. He calls us brother and sister, and wants us to belong to his spiritual. The condition he lays down is for us to hear the word of God and put it into practice. Clearly, Jesus wants to relate to us as family. He calls us brother and sister, and wants us to belong to his spiritual. The condition he lays down is for us to hear the word of God and put it into practice.

The whole focus of Jesus was on the word of God, the will of God. He heard that word so completely that it shaped everything he said and did. John's gospel goes so far as to call Jesus the Word made flesh. Our vocation as Christians is to hear the word and live by it. Like the seed that fell on good soil, we must take the word to ourselves and yield a harvest through perseverance. If we listen to the word of God and let it form us, we are family to Jesus our Lord.


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Wednesday of Week 25

1st Reading: Ezra 9:5-9

At the time of the evening sacrifice, Ezra declares God's mercy

At the evening sacrifice I, Ezra, got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,

"O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case. But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, so that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem."

Responsorial Tobit 13:2, 4, 6-8

R./: Blessed be God who lives for ever.

God punishes, he also has mercy,
he leads men to the depths of the grave,
he restores them from the great destruction.
No man can escape his hand. (R./)

It is he who scattered us among the nations.
Among them must we show forth his greatness
and exalt him in the presence of all living;
for he is our Lord and our God,
our Father and our God for ever. (R./)

Now think what he has done for you,
give thanks to him with all your voice.
Give praise to the Lord for his justice
and exalt the kings of all ages. (R./)

In this land of exile I will thank him,
and show forth his greatness and might to the race of sinful men.
Sinners, come back to him, do what is right before him.
Who knows but he will receive you with pity? (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:1-6

Jesus sends out the twelve apostles, travelling light, dependent on alms

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

Showing the way

Ezra was like another Moses, urging his people to faithfully keep their covenant with God. Although the Jews returned from exile in 537 B.C., on reaching the Promised Land they accomplished apart from rebuilding a bedraggled city and a small temple. Ezra set out to encourage and guide this weary people. He reedited the Books of Moses as their guide to living, and added interpretations of the law that developed in later centuries into the famous Talmud.

He begins with an abject confession of sin, identifying himself with his people's guilt, "My God, I am too ashamed to raise my face to you, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads." Then he declares that divine mercy has blessed them again; they are a remnant, like a sapling firmly planted in the holy land. By God's providence they also enjoy the goodwill of the Persian king, who helped rebuild the house of God. Sober realism marks this sermon of Ezra. Sometimes we need to be told things bluntly, admit our mistakes and take responsibility for them, and then count our blessings, for things are not as bad as we suppose. There is a future for us and for our people, our church.

On a happier note, the gospel shows Jesus sending out the apostles, to cure the sick and promote the reign of God. These missionaries need not carry bread or money, not even staff and traveling bag. They brought a blessing by their joy and trust, inviting others to share their trust in God. Occasionally the shadow of a living saint crosses our path in somebody we meet. We should encourage their ideals, support them, and welcome them into our homes. Then the grace of God will be among us.


Travelling light

When Jesus sent out his twelve on mission he wanted them to travel light. They were to depend on the hospitality of those to whom they preach the gospel. Rather than be overly self-reliant, they needed to be reliant on others, to trust in the Lord, who would help them through the kindness of strangers.

We all like to be independent, and to some extent we need to be. But we are never completely self-sufficient. We began life completely dependent on parents and others, and as we come towards the end of life we will equally need others to care for us. Even between these two points of high dependence, we depend on others for what we do not have within ourselves. Why deprive ourselves of rich resources that others can offer us? The Lord wants us to welcome the kindly service of others. Each of us has much to give and much to receive. The Lord who uses us to serve others also wants us to avail of others' help.


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Thursday of Week 25

1st Reading: Haggai 1:1-8

Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the temple

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house.

Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: "Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 149:1-6, 9

R./: The Lord takes delight in his people.

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,
 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 9:7-9

Herod was perplexed about Jesus and became very curious to see him

Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place and 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 wanted to see Jesus.

BIBLE

Sharing the faith

The prophet Haggai instructs the people to fetch lumber and rebuild the house of the Lord. He says it in plain, unadorned Hebrew, whereas other prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke in poetic symbols and parables. But alone of all the prophets, Haggai lived to see his mission accomplished. In 515 B.C. the temple was completed, as we read some days ago. The Jews continued to make progress on the temple, encouraged by the prophets, and finished the building according to the command of God and the decrees of Cyrus and Darius (Ezra 6:14).

Haggai reminds us to put aside pompous airs and address what needs to be done. He also sees the importance of the temple as a place for community and prayer. Without a strong symbol that we are a people of God, with spiritual aspirations, we easily sink into materialism. Even in our poverty we can cling to our trinkets and be jealous of others for theirs. Without community or family prayer, we will miss the encouragement to be a prayerful people. Without prayer we end up saying, what's the use of it all?

Then we have the sad portrait of Herod the Tetrarch, for whom religion was a curiosity, a practical way to win the people's loyalty. How ironic that his wish to see the Nazarene prophet was fulfilled only when, for political reasons, Pilate sent Jesus to him as a prisoner. On that occasion Herod was "extremely pleased to see Jesus" (Luke 23:8). If religion is used for politics or for mere curiosity, it has nothing to do with authentic faith. What we seek is a faith that is practiced with love.


Fruitful and unfruitful curiosity

King Herod Antipas ruled the province of Galilee on behalf of Rome. Luke portrays the trivial attitude of this Herod Antipas. When he heard what was being done by Jesus the king was puzzled and was anxious to see this famous prophetic figure. When they finally met it was in the course of the passion, when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for a second opinion about his guilt. After questioning Jesus at length, in the end Herod treated him with contempt and mocked him. He was curious about Jesus, it was idle curiosity that did not lead to faith.

Other people wondered about Jesus and their curiosity led them to faith. Nathanael and Nicodemus come to mind. Even for people of faith, there is much to wonder about in the life of Jesus. The question asked by Herod Antipas, "Who is this?" is one for us all to ponder. We should always be searchers in regard to Jesus since we can never fully know him. As Saint Paul says, "now we see as in a mirror dimly." We seek to know him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.


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Friday of Week 25

1st Reading: Haggai (2:1-9

The Lord will make the new temple more glorious than Solomon's

In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying:

Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?

Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.

For thus says the Lord of hosts: "Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendour, says the Lord of hosts.

The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendour of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity," says the Lord of hosts.

Responsorial: Psalm 42:1-4

R./: Hope in God, I will praise him, my saviour and my God

Defend me, O God, and plead my cause
 against a godless nation.
From deceitful and cunning men
 rescue me, O God. (R./)

Since you, O God, are my stronghold,
 why have you rejected me?
Why do I go mourning
 oppressed by the foe? (R./)

O sent forth your light and your truth;
 let these be my guide.
Let them bring me to your holy mountain
 to the place where you dwell. (R./)

And I will come to the altar of God,
 the God of my joy.
My redeemer, I will thank you on the harp,
 O God, my God. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:18-22

When Peter confesses him as Messiah, Jesus predicts his Passion

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

Courage from the past

Haggai does not banish painful memories of the past but puts them to good use. Facing up to their discouragement, he asks the people to recall in its former glory the temple built by Solomon and demolished by the invaders. "And how do you see it now? Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes?" But if he can awaken painful memories, he is also entitled to remember happier times. He evokes the days of Moses and the covenant at Mount Sinai, "This is the pact that I made with you when you came out of Egypt, and my spirit continues in your midst. Do not fear." To revive their courage, he recalls Israel's early days of dedication and achievement, their joy at receiving the covenant and their achievement during the glorious reigns of David and Solomon.

After of the tragedy of the exile and the austere years that followed, God inspired in Haggai this cry of messianic hope. We too will be blessed with spiritual insight if we are patient through suffering and persevere in hope.


Two questions

Luke, more than the other evangelists, regularly portrays Jesus at prayer. It was after Jesus had prayed that he asked his disciples the two questions, "Who do others say I am?" and "Who do you say I am?" They were important questions. The first was general and easy enough to answer; the second was much more personal and more demanding. It asks each of us to say who Jesus is for us, for me personally. It is easier to guess what he means to people in general; it takes a little more reflection to say what he means to me personally. But it is the answer to that second question that matters. He wants us to express our personal faith in him. He asks us, "What do you believe?"


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Saturday of Week 25

1st Reading: Zechariah 2:1-4, 10-11

Jerusalem will be a centre of peace where many will come to dwell

I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I asked, "Where are you going?" He answered, "To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length."

Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him and said to him, "Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it. For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it."

"Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst," says the Lord. "Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you."

Responsorial Psalm. . . Jeremiah 31:10-13

R./: The Lord will guard us, like a shepherd guarding his flock.

O nations, hear the word of the Lord,
 proclaim it to the far-off coasts.
Say: 'He who scattered Israel will gather him,
 and guard him as a shepherd guards his flock.' (R./)

For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
 has saved him from an overpowering hand.
They will come and shout for joy on Mount Zion,
 they will stream to the blessings of the Lord. (R./)

Then the young girls will rejoice and will dance,
 the men, young and old, will be glad.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
 I will console them, give gladness for grief. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:43-45

Jesus' predicts his death and the disciples are afraid

While everyone was amazed at all that Jesus was doing, he 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

Life's possibilities

The vision of Zechariah is from the early part of the prophecy. Such visions were helpful to maintain the people's sense of identity when times were bleak, and during the early post-exilic period the temple was still in ruins, the people were discouraged and their high priest Joshua was clad in filthy rags (Zech 3:3). This was prophet who believed in the day of small beginnings (4:10). He dreams of a better future and of a Jerusalem so peaceful that no walls are needed, with the glory of the Lord at its centre.

Zechariah says not to be too gloomy or pessimistic. Each sorrow can be transformed into a reason for hope. In God's name he says, "I will favour Jerusalem and the house of Judah; do not fear." Then he lays out some basic moral guidelines: "Speak the truth to each other; let there be honesty and peace in your judgments." He combined visions with earthy practicality, for he was a moral reformer.

Jesus was preparing himself and his disciples for the difficult time ahead, when he wouldl be "delivered into the hands of men." If the disciples failed to understand this, it was because they were unwilling to hear it. They would not ask about it, in case he repeated what they thought he said. But he repeated the warning as they approached Jerusalem. Hope for resurrection grew out of the reality of death. Like Zechariah, Jesus had a vision that sustained him through the bleakness of life, to reach the promised land.


What really drives us?

The admiration of others can be fickle. It can be there one day and gone the next, and Jesus was very aware of this. Sometimes the crowd was full of admiration for him. But at the height of his celebrity he predicted, "the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men." Jesus was not motivated by celebrity, but by the desire to do God's will, to complete his mission. Therefore he had to go up to Jerusalem, dangerous as it was, because that city too needed to hear the goods news of God's grace.

The life of Christ invites us to ask ourselves, "What really drives us?" Is it the need for recognition by others, or is it something deeper? We need to make Jesus' desires and priorities our own, to be about the Father's business, to keep sharing in God's work, in keeping with our station in life. Then we will know not just the satisfaction of human approval but the deeper joy that comes from fitting in with God's purpose for our lives.



Readings for the 26th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 26

1st Reading: Zechariah 8:1-8

Jerusalem shall be filled with those who were scattered across the earth

The word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain."

Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets."

Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me?"

Thus says the Lord of hosts: "I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness."

Responsorial: Psalm 101:16-21, 29, 22-23

R./: The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.

The nations shall fear the name of the Lord
 and all the earth's kings your glory,
when the Lord shall build up Zion again
 and appear in all his glory.
Then he will turn to the prayers of the helpless;
 he will not despise their prayers. (R./)

Let this be written for ages to come
 that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord;
 for the Lord leaned down from his sanctuary on high.
 He looked down from heaven to the earth
that he might hear the groans of the prisoners
 and free those condemned to die. (R./)

The sons of your servants shall dwell untroubled
 and their race shall endure before you
that the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion
 and his praise in the heart of Jerusalem,
 when peoples and kingdoms are gathered together
 to pay their homage to the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:46-50

Jesus declares the least to be the greatest

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of 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

Children's potential

Children can give us a glimpse of the new Jerusalem, Zechariah pictures the city with "boys and girls playing in the streets" and in the gospel Jesus turns to children to teach about the "greatest in the Kingdom of God."

Children manifest life and enthusiasm, whereas many people in Zechariah's day were weary of life. The prophet's hopes for new life and bright future were greeted with a yawn. On his advice and that of Haggai the people had rebuilt the temple. But the splendid hope of a new Jerusalem seemed impossible in their eyes. Zechariah imagines God asking, "Shall it; be impossible in my eyes also?"

Children make us think in terms of family and that means sharing possessions with the wider family. They make us ponder the mystery of life. As adults, we must think and consider all the responsibilities of life. But some secret part of our life belongs solely to God. Not only in the process of conception, pregnancy and birth, but also in many other important moments of our existence, we can have intuitions or inspirations which take us by surprise.

Children quarrel, yes, but they quickly make up again. The gospel sketches two scenes of envy and pettiness. The disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. Jesus turns to some children and says that to welcome a child is to welcome him, and "The least one among you is the greatest." This statement is puzzling if it applies also to Jesus himself. Is he the least? He is, supremely, the child of his Father, always receiving the Father's life and then totally sharing it.


Meeting him in ordinary, day-to-day ways

In reply to the disciples' quarrel about which of them was the most important, Jesus identifies with the least important, like a child. In that culture children were regarded as without rights or power or influence. They had none of what the disciples wanted, in their dispute about which of them was the greatest. The Lord sides with those whom the world considers unimportant. Therefore we meet him above all in the weak, the vulnerable. He is present in the ordinary, in those who seem to have least to offer. Since he can be met in such ordinary ways, it is easy to miss him. Yes, we meet the Lord in a special way in the Eucharist, but our meeting with him in the Eucharist alerts us to the many ordinary, day-to-day ways in which we meet him and he meets us.


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Tuesday of Week 26

1st Reading: Zechariah 8:20-23

Peoples of every nationality will embrace the faith of the Jews

Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Peoples shall yet come, the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, "Come, let us go to entreat the favour of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going." Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favour of the Lord.'

Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."'

Responsorial: Psalm 86

R./: The Lord God is with us

On the holy mountain is his city cherished by the Lord.
 The Lord prefers the gates of Zion to all Jacob's dwellings.
 Of you are told glorious things, O city of God! (R./)

Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me;
 Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia, these will be her children
 and Zion shall be called 'Mother' for all shall be her children. (R./)

It is he, the Lord Most High, who gives each his place.
 In his register of peoples he writes: 'These are her children'
 and while they dance they will sing; 'In you all find their home.' (R./)

Gospel: Luke 9:51-56

The Journey begins as Jesus proceeds towards Jerusalem

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus 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

In face of rejection

Rejection is a painful experience, especially if we are rejected by someone who matters a lot to us, whom we trusted as a friend. Sich a rejection can leave so us angry or bitter, we might be tempted to retaliate in kind. Jesus experienced rejection, when he was denied entry to a Samaritan village. He was obviously a Jew heading for Jerusalem, and that was enough to make them reject him and say "keep out." Just as hatred was a standard Samaritan response to Jews, so was the disciples' anger a standard Jewish response to Samaritans. Their reaction to rejection was to call on God to destroy the Samaritans' village. Above all they wanted revenge.

Jesus' responded very differently. He simply turned around and walked away, to preach the gospel elsewhere. He stayed calm and patient in the face of hostility and rejection. He opted to peacefully accept their choice. and that is meant to become our way too. Who we are - and how we relate to others - must not be totally determined by how they treat us. How we behave in the face of rejection should be determined by something deeper, by our relationship with the Lord and our being formed in his spirit.


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Wednesday of Week 26

1st Reading: Nehemiah 2:1-8

King Artaxerxes sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem, to restore its walls and graves

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was served him, I carried the wine and gave it to the king. Now, I had never been sad in his presence before. So the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart." Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my ancestors' graves, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favour with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors' graves, so that I may rebuild it." The king said to me (the queen also was sitting beside him), "How long will you be gone, and when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me, and I set him a date. Then I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may grant me passage until I arrive in Judah; and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, directing him to give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple fortress, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy." And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me.

Responsorial: Psalm 136:1-6

R./: Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!

By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept,
 remembering Zion;
 on the poplars that grew there
 we hung up our harps. (R./)

For it was there that they asked us,
 our captors, for songs,
 our oppressors, for joy.
 'Sing to us,' they said, 'one of Zion's songs.' (R./)

O how could we sing the song of the Lord
 on alien soil?
 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
 let my right hand wither! (R./)

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth
 if I remember you not,
 if I prize not Jerusalem
 above all my joys! (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

Willing to take the initiative

In career terms, Nehemiah reached his pinnacle as valet to the Persian king, Artaxerxes I (464-423 B.C.). An incidental detail suggests that he was the one who first tasted the king's food and drink, to guard against poisoning. He was with the king every day, and so in a position to make requests on behalf of others. As a Jew he was sad to see the famous city of his Jewish ancestors so run-down. Even the half-rebuilt temple was clearly open to hostile invaders. The great prophecies of Ezekiel and Second Isaiah, spoken during the Babylonian exile, seemed to Nehemiah like visions without substance, mere whistling in the dark.

His gloomy mood at his people's prospects was so dark that the king enquired what ailed him. He first prayed for guidance and then asked King Artaxerxes for permission to travel to Israel and speed up the rebuilding and fortification of the Temple. Nehemiah was practical enough to get letters of introduction to local governors along his journey, and to have Asaph, the royal park-keeper, provide wood for the city gates, the temple-citadel and his own residence in Jerusalem. Nehemiah's account ends with a reference to the favour God had shown him.

Few would face risking their lives for a cause, nor should life be planned that way. But risky moments of initiative moments can challenge us all at times, and then we need to remember some of Jesus' warnings, such as, "Take up your cross and follow me," "nowhere to lay his head" or "Whoever puts his hand to the plough but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God." Today's gospel also sets a pattern for being prepared for risking change and facing adversity. For this day's challenge to us, we need to discern which of these readings best applies to our present circumstances.


No easy option

Three people show interest in becoming followers of Jesus, but they don't know what in involved and lack any sense of urgency. Two of them claim they have important duties to attend to first. One would think that burying one's father and saying goodbye to people at home were indeed important. But Jesus insists that following him straight away is the more urgent duty. This is one of several very uncomfortable gospel sayings. Jesus seems to be so demanding and following him, and remaining his disciple, is a tough challenge. It is never going to be a soft option.

Yes, Jesus asks for a greater level of allegiance to himself than even our loyalty to family, even though it is not incompatible with our family ties. It is possible that following the values of the gospel could put us at odds with those closest to us. Today's gospel shows that walking in the way of the Lord is a serious business, calling for everything we've got!


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Thursday of Week 26

1st Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-4a, 5-6, 7-12

Ezra gets his people to renew their loyalty to God and to share their gifts

In the seventh month all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the purpose. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherbiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, "Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved." And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Responsorial: Psalm 18:8-11

R./: The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
 it revives the soul.
 The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
 it gives wisdom to the simple. (R./)

The precepts of the Lord are right,
 they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
 it gives light to the eyes. (R./)

The fear of the Lord is holy,
 abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
 and all of them just. (R./)

They are more to be desired than gold,
 than the purest of gold
 and sweeter are they than honey,
 than honey from the comb. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:1-12

Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples to announce the reign of God

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, 'Eve 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

Where's the hurry?

There's an urgency in each of today's readings, calling on people to choose their basic purpose in life. Ezra gathers all the people, even the teenagers ("children old enough to understand"), to hear about God's guidance to each Israelite, through the Torah received by Moses. Then Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples with no provisions, but with an urgent mission to announce that God is near. While these texts share a call to decision, they part company in their vision of what lies in store. Ezra foresees a long stretch of history on earth. He tries to prepare his people by renewing the covenant of Israel, based on God's written law, while Jesus predicts that human hopes would soon be fulfilled in the reign of God.

We need both perspectives, both the choosing of priorities and some plan for the future. Jesus told his messengers, "If the people of any town you enter do not welcome you, move on." Facing some choices in life we may have time to think, and then like Ezra to carefully prepare for the future. At other times we need to choose instantly, and only our best impulses can help us then. We may have time later to correct mistakes, or on the contrary (like the towns that rejected our Lord's messengers,) some decisions are fixed in stone, unchangeable. For the rest of life, possibly for eternity, we must live with the consequences.

We need Ezra-like leadership in the Church, authentic leaders whom we can confidently follow. He explained the book of God's law plainly, so that all could understand it. The good Lord did not intend the Torah as a burden but as a joyful help to living. When Ezra saw his people in tears of repentance, he urged them in a friendly tone not to be gloomy, but to ... eat and drink, and share with those who have nothing . Like pope Francis in our time, Ezra urged joy along with an orderly lifestyle, and so proposed a way of life to last into the future. With this kind of inspirational leadership, our Church can emerge strengthened from the travails of our recent past. If we commit ourselves to living under the guidance of God, we have the living presence of Jesus right here, in the midst of us.


Labourers needed, for the harvest

Luke reports Jesus sending out seventy two missionaries, asking the Lord of the harvest to send out still more labourers into the harvest. The Lord's work in its various forms cannot be entrusted to just a small little group; it requires a large number of helpers. Because the harvest is great and varied, the more labourers the better. This is a very important message for the church in our own day. More and more people are needed to take responsibility for the life of the church, for the work of the Lord.

When sending out this large group, Jesus draws attention to the difficulties they will face. He anticipates that some towns will not make them feel welcome. But Jesus emphasizes that whether people make them welcome or not the disciples are to proclaim, "the kingdom of God is very near to you." The Lord is very near whether he is welcomed or not. The Lord is present whether he is received or not. The Lord continues to work in and through those who are ready to be his labourers, whether or not that work is appreciated. We are constantly confronted by the presence of God's kingdom, God's rule in and through his Son; there is no getting away from that reality. The question is how we are responding to that ultimate reality.

 


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Friday of Week 26

1st Reading: Baruch 1:15-22

From our time in Egypt until now, we have disregarded the voice of the Lord

The Lord our God is in the right, but there is open shame on us today, on the people of Judah, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on our kings, our rulers, our priests, our prophets, and our ancestors, because we have sinned before the Lord. We have disobeyed him, and have not heeded the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in the statutes of the Lord that he set before us. From the time when the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until today, we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, and we have been negligent, in not heeding his voice. So to this day there have clung to us the calamities and the curse that the Lord declared through his servant Moses at the time when he brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt to give to us a land flowing with milk and honey. We did not listen to the voice of the Lord our God in all the words of the prophets whom he sent to us, but all of us followed the intent of our own wicked hearts by serving other gods and doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord our God.

Responsorial: Psalm 78:1-5, 8-9

R./: For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.

O God, the nations have invaded your land,
 they have profaned your holy temple.
 They have made Jerusalem a heap of ruins.
They have handed over the bodies of your servants
 as food to feed the birds of heaven
 and the flesh of your faithful
 to the beasts of the earth. (R./)

They have poured out blood like water in Jerusalem,
 leaving no one to bury the dead.
 We have become the taunt of our neighbours,
 the mockery and scorn of those who surround us.
How long, O Lord? Will you be angry for ever,
 how long will your anger burn like fire? (R./)

Do not hold the guilt of our fathers against us.
 Let your compassion hasten to meet us
 for we are in the depths of distress. (R./)

O God our saviour, come to our help,
 come for the sake of the glory of your name.
 O Lord our God, forgive us our sins;
 rescue us for the sake of your name. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:13-16

Tyre and Sidon would have repented, had they seen the miracles done by Jesus

Jesus said to the people,

"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

When we're weary, feeling down

The prophecy of Baruch dates from the Babylonian exile (587-539 B.C.), and its context was the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. A collection was being made, to send to Jerusalem for offering sacrifices and feed the poor in the holy city. The feast of Tabernacles (i.e. tents) was originally a thanksgiving festival for the harvest. But during the exile and in the post-exilic period, there was a glaring contrast between the joyful ritual and the harsh reality of their life. Then the people's joy was tinged with such sadness that they needed to be told, "Do not be saddened -- for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength" (Neh 8:9-10). Our plight is our own fault, says Baruch. We should blush with shame, for we have been disobedient. Yet the merciful God of the Exodus is still with us today. We just need to repent and reform our ways and, most of all, have hope.

Sometimes we too, like the Jews, tend to question God's ways in the unfolding of our lives. But like them, we too belong to God's family. Like them, we believe in the goodness of God. Jesus reminds us this and holds out to us the promise of new life, transformed by his presence.


Appreciating grace

The people of Chorazin and Bethsaida did not appreciate what Jesus had done among them. They were indifferent to his healing ministry, and were not inclined to turn back to God. We too can fail to see how the Lord is moving among us. His presence among us is expressed in very ordinary, unspectacular ways. It might take the form of an unexpected kindness that someone shows to us, an invitation that we had not expected, a word of appreciation or support at a time when it was needed, a positive, generous response to a request we make.

Jesus is present to us in and through each other. "Whoever listens to you listens to me." We don't always notice his presence. But the Lord is indeed gracing us in different ways. At evening, it can be good to look back over the day, to discern hints of our Lord's gracious presence, and to quietly give thanks for that.


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Saturday of Week 26

1st Reading: Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29

Grieving for the Jews in exile, he begs them to turn again and seek God

Take courage, my people, who perpetuate Israel's name! It was not for destruction that you were sold to the nations, but you were handed over to your enemies because you angered God. For you provoked the one who made you by sacrificing to demons and not to God. You forgot the everlasting God, who brought you up, and you grieved Jerusalem, who reared you. For she saw the wrath that came upon you from God, and she said:

Listen, you neighbours of Zion, God has brought great sorrow upon me; for I have seen the exile of my sons and daughters, which the Everlasting brought upon them. With joy I nurtured them, but I sent them away with weeping and sorrow. Let no one rejoice over me, a widow and bereaved of many; I was left desolate because of the sins of my children, because they turned away from the law of God.

Take courage, my children, and cry to God, for you will be remembered by the one who brought this upon you. For just as you were disposed to go astray from God, return with tenfold zeal to seek him. For the one who brought these calamities upon you will bring you everlasting joy with your salvation.

Responsorial: Psalm 68:33-37

R./: The Lord listens to the poor

The poor when they see it will be glad
 and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
 and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise,
 the sea and all its living creatures. (R./)

For God will bring help to Zion
 and rebuild the cities of Judah
 and men shall dwell there in possession.
 The sons of his servants shall inherit it;
 those who love his name shall dwell there. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:17-24

Jesus rejoices in the graces reserved for the humble of heart

The seventy returned to Jesus 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's to be glad about?

Strangely, even so good a person as Job must "repent in dust and ashes." He now felt humbled by the overpowering mystery of God's presence. He had presumed to question God and to argue his case, as with an equal colleague, but now he disowns his words and repents, in light of his new insight into the majesty of God. The conclusion to the Book of Job invites all human beings to be humble before God. If we follow Job's example, we will be blessed like him.

Our gospel allows us a rare glimpse into the heartfelt prayer of Jesus himself. The Evangelists, especially Luke, often mention the fact that Jesus prayed, but seldom suggest what he prayed about. Here he speaks his prayer aloud, inspired by a s urge of joy. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, he thanks the Father that what was hidden from the learned and the clever, but revealed to merest children. We also try to respond to the giftedness of life, and try to share our spirit of gratitude with others.


Taking pride in our work

We take natural pride in our work, when we have done it well. That was the mood of the disciples as they returned in upbeat mood from a successful mission. With great satisfaction they report that they have even succeeded in casting out devils. Jesus affirms the success of their work, but tells them to focus on something else. More basic than their apparent success is in the fact that their names are written in heaven. The deepest source of their joy, and ourse, must be our relationship with God. It is this link with God which ultimately makes our work worthwhile. Jesus declared, "Happy the eyes that see what you see." They recognised the presence of God in the person of Jesus. They believed in his special relationship with the Father and felt a share in that relationship. That is the basic source of their joy, after doing their best.

Our sharing in Jesus' relationship with God is our greatest treasure, beyond any success we may have in life. Sharing in Jesus' relationship with the Father is what "many prophets and kings longed to see and hear", and is our deepest reason for joy and gratitude. Even when our working life ends, our share in Jesus' relationship with God endures.



Readings for the 27th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 27

1st Reading: Jonah 1:1--2:1

Jonah is swallowed by the whale and brought back to Israel

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, 'Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.' But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, 'What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.'
The sailors said to one another, 'Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.' So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.Then they said to him, 'Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?' 'I am a Hebrew,' he replied. 'I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.'Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, 'What is this that you have done!' For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they said to Jonah, 'What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?' For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, 'Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.' Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, 'Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man's life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.' So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

Responsorial: Jonah 2:3-5, 8

R./: You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

Out of my distress I cried to the Lord
 and he answered me;
 from the belly of Sheol I cried,
 and you have heard my voice. (R./)

You cast me into the abyss,
 into the heart of the sea,
 and the flood surrounded me.
 All your waves, your billows,
 washed over me. (R./)

And I said: I am cast out from your sight
How shall I ever look again on your Holy Temple? (R./)

While my soul was fainting within me,
 I remembered the Lord,
 and my prayer came before you
 into your holy Temple. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:25-37

The parable of the Good Samaritan

A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 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

Who is really my neighbour?

In today's gospel a lawyer-theologian poses a problem to Jesus about everlasting life, the deepest and most serious of all theological questions. On hearing the Love-commandment and how we are required to love our neighbour, the theologian asks a question to which he already must know the answer. He asks, "Who is my neighbour?" For an answer Jesus instances the Samaritans, a people who were despised and rejected by Israel as heretics and spoilers of the Torah.

Who would be today's equivalent to this "Samaritan" neighbour, those we hate or look down on, who are ignorant and willfully wrong, who have harmed us and taken advantage of us? Listen, Jesus says, listen to them as they teach you how to pray and to follow God's holy will. Listen as they silently turn aside and care for their wounded enemy along the road. Listen, because we who are correct can be so biased and self-righteous, so proud and pious that we miss the signals of wonder and goodness flashed through the darkness to keep us on the course of God's blessed will.


Two interlinked questions

In today's gospel a lawyer asks Jesus two very important questions. The first was, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Subsequently he asked, "Who is my neighbour?" In reply to that second question Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. But the parable doesn't explicitly way who the neighbour is. Rather it raises another question, "Which of these three proved himself a neighbour?" In other words, the parable addresses the question on a practical rather than a theoretical level. It illustrates what it actually means to be a neighbour, in action. It suggests that it is more important to prove oneself a neighbour to others than to define "who is my neighbour?"

The implicit answer to the lawyer's first question, on how to inherit eternal life, is "Be a caring neighbour." If you want to know what it means to be a neighbour, practice the Samaritan's compassion. What the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan all had in common is that they all noticed the wounded man lying on the roadside. What distinguished the Samaritan is that he responded to what he saw. His seeing led to an act of compassion. It is the kind of seeing that characterized Jesus' ministry. The real answer to the lawyer's first question is "Be a neighbour in the way that I am."


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Tuesday of Week 27

1st Reading: Jonah 3:1-10

At Jonah's preaching, the Ninevites and their king repent and so their city is spared

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across.

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish."

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Responsorial: Psalm 129:1-4, 7-8

R./: If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
 Lord, hear my voice!
 O let your ears be attentive
 to the voice of my pleading. (R./)

If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
 Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness;
 for this we revere you. (R./)

Because with the Lord there is mercy
 and fullness of redemption.
 Israel indeed he will redeem
 from all its iniquity.
 (R./)

Gospel: Luke 10:38-42

Jesus defends Mary's right to listen, while Martha is busy with hospitality

As they went on their way, 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

Activity and passivity

We need a healthy balance between contemplation and action, so that each of us reflects the characteristics of both Martha and Mary, Paul and Peter, Jonah and the Ninevites. They are all icons for something God expects of us. This does not deny their individual reality but enshrines Paul's view that "everything in the Scriptures was written for our instruction" (Rom 15:4).

Jonah was a man of action, though not always prudent or praiseworthy action. When given a mandate to to preach repentance in Nineveh, he acted promptly but went off in the wrong direction. He could have avoided all trouble by ignoring his mission and sleeping away his life at home in Israel. Martha is like others who threw parties, in Luke's version of the Good News, beginning with Simon Peter's mother-in-law (4:39) and including the father of the prodigal son (15:22-24), Zacchaeus the tax collector (19:5-6) and indeed the Last Supper (22:7-13). Silent contemplation is the exception, not the rule, in both the Old and New Testament. In Jonah's case, repentance meant more than the ritual acts of sackcloth and ashes. All persons were required to "turn from their evil ways," a phrase repeated twice in this book, as signs of true conversion. Both ritual and moral repentance were expected.

The more contemplative attitude of Martha's sister Mary is also a valid option. We may be surprised at Jesus telling Martha not to be so anxious and upset about things, for only one thing is required. "Mary has chosen the better portion." Was he implying that the "Mary spirit" should exist in Martha too, and in each of us. He bids not to be overly anxious or upset. We need to be reminded of the secret, inner aspect of life. The "better portion," praised by Jesus in no way makes activity unimportant, but we need to make time for spirit and soul, direction love and concern. We each need to imitate both Martha and Mary.


In sympathy with Martha

Most Christians feel sympathy for Martha of Bethany. She was working hard to prepare a meal, and yet Jesus declares that Mary has chosen the better part. "Poor old Martha" would be a normal response. Surely Jesus is not opposed in principle to people working hard in the service of others. In the parable of the Good Samaritan he praises compassion and active love. But as the book of Ecclesiastes says, "there is a time for every matter under heaven," which could be paraphrases as "there is a time to be active and a time to be silent and listen."

For Jesus, this visit to the two sisters was a time to simply listen to his word. He had something vital to say that they both needed to hear. Mary instinctively recognized that this was the kind of hospitality required on this occasion, listening rather than doing. Mary was more attuned than Martha to what the Lord really wanted. Christ wants us to work on his behalf, but he also wants us to listen to him. Wisdom prompts us when to be active and busy and when to simply to sit and listen to his word.


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Wednesday of Week 27

1st Reading: Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah is angry that God shows mercy to the Ninevites

Jonah was displeased and became very angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." And the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east win, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live."

But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." Then the Lord said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"

Responsorial: Psalm 85:3-6, 9-10

R./: Lord, you are tender and full of love.

You are my God, have mercy on me, Lord,
 for I cry to you all the day long.
 Give joy to your servant, O Lord,
 for to you I lift up my soul. (R./)

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
 full of love to all who call.
Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
 and attend to the sound of my voice. (R./)

All the nations shall come to adore you
 and glorify your name, O Lord:
 for you are great and do marvellous deeds,
 you who alone are God. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:1-4

The Our Father stresses daily needs and daily temptation

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

Even prophets can have blind spots

Jonah shows the contrast between principles and their application, just as yesterday's Gospel made a contrast between contemplation (Mary) and activism (Martha).

What a glaring paradox between Jonah's creed and his actions. This prophet who claimed to worship the Lord who made the sea and the dry land seeks to flee from his mission by a long sea voyage. The paradox becomes even more poignant when eventually he has no choice but to preach to the Ninevites. He knew in his heart that God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness" but was unwilling to spread that good news. He feared that God would show compassion to that hated nation, the people of Nineveh.

Jonah cannot abide the idea of Israel's enemies receiving mercy, after the harm they had done to his own people. He had pleaded to be allowed bypass Nineveh and leave it to destruction, but he becomes angry when God fails to save the gourd plant. The selfish prophet thinks God must spare this little tree, to shade him from the fierce sun and burning east wind. God's reply ironically chides Jonah, while declaring the doctrine of universal divine mercy. "You are concerned for the plant… Should I not be concerned for Nineveh, with all its inhabitants?"


Teach us to pray

Jesus, Luke tells us, was "praying in a certain place". His prayer prompts one of his disciples to ask, "Lord, teach us to pray." We can all identify with that request, that need for guidance when it comes to prayer. In response to that request, Jesus tells us the best form of prayer. We all need to ask God's help from time to time; and Jesus teaches that our petitions should focus first on what God wants, "your name be held holy, your kingdom come," and then ask for our most basic needs.

All our prayers should spring from a basic desire that our whole human world may be transformed as God desires. Jesus goes on to name some basic gifts we really need -- the forgiveness of our sins, sustenance for the day, and God's help when our faith is put to the test. Those need to be our priority petitions, and, by implication, all other petitions must link to those fundamental ones.


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Thursday of Week 27

1st Reading: Malachi 3:13-18

Religion seems to brings no benefit. Yet on the day of the Lord all will be revealed

You have spoken harsh words against me, says the Lord. Yet you say, "How have we spoken against you?" You have said, "It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the Lord of hosts? Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape."

Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Responsorial: Psalm 1

R./: Happy are they who hope in the Lord.

Happy indeed is the man
 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 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 11:5-13

Persevere in prayer, confident of the Father's love to all who ask it

Jesus said to his disciples, "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

The power of persistence

Perseverance is based on the confidence that we can reach the final destiny we seek. Luke uses a more secular word, "persistence." While "perseverance" connotes the lifelong way to heaven, "persistence" is the refusal to be denied what we seek here and now. Such is the tone and attitude of Jesus' short parable.

The social norms of Jewish culture required hospitality to any friend who came to one's door, in the middle of the night. Certainly it was inconsiderate to knock on a neighbour's door at midnight, looking for food. Jesus is not proposing it as something we should normally do. The point of his parable is kept for the last line. The householder eventually obliges, not because of friendship but because of his neighbour's persistence, and then gives as much as he needs.

Jesus takes the parable further by appealing to parents' care and provision for their children. Does a mother give a snake when a child asks for fish? He acknowledges the basic goodness and fidelity of parents, but wants our relationships to become completely reliable, with God's help. If parents, despite their human weakness, know how to provide good things for their children, how much more will God our Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. God radiates into us his own Holy Spirit so that any good we do are the effects of divine goodness working through us. It is this grace at work, when we persevere on the right path.


God's hospitality

In the Middle Eastern culture of Jesus' time hospitality was a sacred duty. It was inconceivable that someone in desperate need who knocks on the door of a friend would be locked out, even if it was in the middle of the night. The parable invites us to persevere in prayer. If people are prepared to get up in the middle of the night when a friend comes knocking, we should not hesitate to knock on God's door because God's hospitality is even more reliable. We should feel welcome to knock on God's door, to seek God's help, in whatever we need, at any time. The parable is a ringing endorsement of the prayer of petition.

What should we ask God for? Jesus redirects that question to suggest the main things God wishes to give us. Ultimately, what God wants to give us is the Holy Spirit. "How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." God wants us to have what we most need, and what we need most is the Holy Spirit. It is twith the Holy Spirit's help that we can follow the path God wants us to take, leading to fullness of life for ourselves and for others. If we keep asking for that most precious gift, it is ours for the asking.


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Friday of Week 27

1st Reading: Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2

A call to fasting and prayer, for the day of the Lord is near

Priests, put on sackcloth and lament; wail, you ministers of the altar. Come, pass the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God! Grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near--a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

Responsorial: Psalm 9:2-3, 6, 16, 8-9

R./: The Lord will judge the world with justice.

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
  I will recount all your wonders.
I will rejoice in you and be glad,
  and sing psalms to your name O Most High. (R./)

You have checked nations and destroyed the wicked;
  you have wiped out their name for ever and ever.
The nations have fallen in the pit which they made,
  their feet caught in the snare they laid. (R./)

But the Lord sits enthroned for ever;
  he has set up his throne for judgment.
He will judge the world with justice,
  he will judge the peoples with his truth. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:15-26

Jesus casts out devils by the finger of God, not by Beelzebul

When Jesus had cast out a demon some of them said, "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

By the Finger of God

A favourite rabbinical way of answering a question, also used by Jesus, is to ask another. While our culture demands instant answers, Biblical questions induce a meditative attitude in God's presence. There was a deep-rooted Jewish faith that ultimately God will transform the universe for the better. While they were as aware as we are of the destructive forces in the natural world, they trusted that the transforming love of God would ultimately prevail. Joel recalls the covenant with Moses on the holy mountain, Sinai. What they experienced on the mountain was a God who was "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness." Even when tested to the limits of our patience, we can trust that God has plans for us beyond the horizons of this earthly life.

Jesus acknowledges the existence of supernatural forces of good and evil. As he wrestles against the evil powers, his envious opponents among the Pharisees accuse him of being in league with the devil, "by Beelzebul, he casts out devils!" He rejects this wild claim, for it is with the power of God that he faces down the power of evil. So we too can make God our refuge against all evil and temptation.


Asking for signs

Some people challenged Jesus to perform some sign from heaven, some spectacular miracle. They could not see the presence of God in the person of Jesus itself. God is powerfully at work in his ministry if only people had eyes to see it. There was no need for spectacular signs, in order to accept the gospel. As he would say to doubting Thomas after the resurrection, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."

Sometimes Christians can be too drawn to "signs and wonders", obsessed with shrines and miracles. We can fail to see how the Lord is present among us in and through the goodness and kindness and hospitality of others, in all kinds of ordinary expressions of love, in people's quiet prayerfulness. We can miss the divine presence in the everyday and the familiar. In a fine poem, Joseph Mary Plunkett 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 our relationships can speak to us of God.


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Saturday of Week 27

1st Reading: Joel 4:12-21

A time of peace and prosperity will come to God's holy mountain

The Lord says:
 "Let the nations rouse themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the neighbouring nations.

Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.

The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the Lord is a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. So you shall know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it.

In that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Wadi Shittim. Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate desert, because of the violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they have shed innocent blood. But Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the Lord dwells in Zion."

Responsorial: Psalm 96:1-2, 5-6, 11-12

R./: Let the just rejoice in the Lord.

The Lord is king, let earth rejoice,
 the many coastlands be glad.
 Cloud and darkness are his raiment;
 his throne, justice and right. (R./)

The mountains melt like wax
 before the Lord of all the earth.
The skies proclaim his justice;
 all peoples see his glory. (R./)

Light shines forth for the just
 and joy for the upright of heart.
 Rejoice, you just, in the Lord;
 give glory to his holy name. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:27-28

More blessed than giving birth to Jesus is hearing God's word and keeping 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 sharp sword

A sword of sorrow seems to be wielded in today's texts. Joel announces a severe judgment against the nations, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (="Yahweh judges.") And Luke seems to have in mind Simeon's prophecy to Mary that her heart would be "pierced with a sword." With what bewilderment must Mary have interpreted her son's reply to a woman who shouted out words of spontaneous praise for the one who nursed Jesus, when he said, "Rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it."

Even if such symbols are not to be taken literally, they are to be taken seriously. As blood is seen as the locus of life (Lev 17:11), Joel warns that the life of all the created universe must be re-consecrated to God in the valley of decision. We must rethink our entire existence, and evaluate our loyalty to family, country, race and even our church, if the Lord is to be our refuge and our stronghold. We reconsider our relationship with foreigners and with business, employment and government, possibly what is meant by the references to Egypt, Edom and Judah. In all of these rich symbolic expressions, Joel bids us to rethink the heart and source of all our relationships.

Nobody escapes the sharp sword of God's word, not even Jesus' own blessed mother. Her role does not stop with her physical motherhood and her gentle, life-giving care of the infant Jesus at her breast. She too was to listen continually to God's word and to act on its new inspirations. In Luke's gospel, Mary is presented in just that way, treasuring God's word, spoken through her wide reach of neighbours, and reflecting on them in her heart (Luke 2:19). We too must listen again this day to God's word and act on it with new faith and confidence, and reach out with new bonds of love to our faith-family across the world, as close to us as brothers and sisters


Who is more blessed?

Today's gospel must be the shortest in the Lectionary, just two verses long. This brief exchange between Jesus and a nameless woman is reported only by St Luke. Women feature so prominently in Luke's gospel as to suggest that he took particular note of anything about them in the stories he heard about Jesus, as he researched his work. Of all the Evangelists, he offers the best balance between male and female disciples. On this particular occasion, a woman was so impressed by Jesus that she spontaneously burst out with a word of praise for Jesus' mother, whom she declared as highly blessed, for being the mother of such a son.

While Jesus had the highest regard for his mother, he transferred this word of praise to a much wider group. Even happier and more blessed than his own mother are those who hear the word of God and keep it, he says. Of course, Jesus' mother belonged to that wider group. She, more than anyone else, heard the word of God and kept it. Mary's blessedness is due especially to giving herself over to hearing and doing God's word. To that word her lifelong answer was, "Let it be to be according to your word." If like her, we devote ourselves to hearing and doing God's word, we will be blessed just as as she is.



Readings for the 28th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 28

1st Reading: Romans 1:1-7

Jesus, descendant of David is recognised as Son of God by the resurrection

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Responsorial: Psalm 97:1-4

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 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./)

Gospel: Luke 11:29-32

The Ninevites and the queen of Sheba will blame the people of 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 true believers

Some non-Christians seem to live with more gentleness and honesty than many Christian believers. This was foreseen by Jesus himself, when he compared the gentiles with his Jewish compatriots. The queen of the south represents Africa, most likely Ethiopia. To most Israelites, that distant land would have seemed almost impossible to reach. But Ethiopia came to visit Solomon in the person of the queen of the south (1 Kings 10:1-13). Similarly, the Ninevites, those hated Assyrians who caused such havoc and destruction to neighbouring countries, could be converted by the preaching of Jonah. In spite of their little religious background, these pagans came to a vibrant faith in God. We who follow Jesus have seen and heard from him all that we need for a living faith. What a shame if we who have so much should achieve so little to promote the faith.

Each of us, says Saint Paul, is governed by not one but two life-principles. We are born of the flesh in the natural order, and born of the spirit in the supernatural order. The first follows the natural law of generation: conception, birth, life in the flesh. Paul compares this to Judaism with its multiple laws to regulate each moment of human existence. Our rebirth through the Spirit surpasses our natural potency, and leads to eternal life. Human flesh is doomed to die, but the spirit is promised eternal life. The spirit co-exists with our corruptible human nature and liberates us from its slavery to death.

This dual life-principle is modelled in Jesus, says Paul, in his opening words to the Romans. Jesus was descended from David according to the flesh but was made Son of God in power, by his resurrection from the dead. Salvation comes through the Spirit, not only in Jesus' case but for all of humanity. The Spirit is somehow present in every person in the world. Like the first Christians in Rome, we have the benefit of the Scriptures, the sacred liturgy and a long tradition of saints. In our lives too, the Holy Spirit brings the fruits of love, joy and peace. Already here on earth we anticipate eternal life, for Jesus, far greater than Solomon or Jonah, dwells among us.


Appreciated or not

If the people of Nineveh responded with faith to Jonah and if the Queen of the South showed such trust in Solomon, how much more should Jesus' contemporaries have responded to him. The same Jesus who preached and healed in the villages of Galileeis present to us as risen Lord. But we can fail to appreciate his presence among us.

Like his contemporaries, we can engage in a futile search for miracles without recognizing the quiet signs of his presence all around us. The greatest sign of the Lord's presence is during our Eucharistic gatherings. There, our Lord is present to us with his assurance, "This is my body; This is my blood." Receiving the holy Eucharist we are coming to someone greater than Jonah or Solomon. Jesus is present to us in other ways also. We respond to him by following in his way, as the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah's call. Gifted and graced by his presence, we are to live under his inspiration and example.


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Tuesday of Week 28

1st Reading: Romans 1:16-25

Refusal to worship the true God leads to immorality

I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith."

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 18:2-5

R./: The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God
 and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands
 . Day unto day takes up the story
 and night unto night makes known the message. (R./)

No speech, no word, no voice is heard
 yet their span goes forth through all the earth,
 their words to the utmost bounds of the world. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:37-41

Inner cleanliness is more important than external appearance

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

Two sides of the cup

According to St Paul, the visible manifestation of God's power in the created world leads the mind to know the reality of the Creator. Jesus insists that the inside of the cup is more important than what is outside, and generosity is more essential than the washing of hands. The passage from Romans moves from the outside in, the gospel from the inside out.

The Epistle to the Romans is not easily interpreted. Paul's mind is full to bursting as he glides from one aspect of salvation to another. His ideas come into focus in one key theme, that the just person lives by faith. For him, Faith implies fidelity and trust over the long run. He sees the capacity for faith as imbedded in each person's soul. True to his Jewish tradition, "justice" is a basic value for Paul. It means that God, humanity, and the entire created universe should live up to their proper nature. Actions flow from nature. God is just by keeping the covenant with his people. When Paul says that the gospel reveals "the justice of God which begins and ends with faith," he means to say that God's fidelity is the firm foundation for our faith and our hope.

Jesus calls for the active expression of faith through works of love. We should give whatever we can as alms. We are to care for the needy and be generous to them. Then, "everything will be clean for you." This is a curious thought. Hygiene and cleanliness are more of a challenge for poor people than for the more leisured class. The poor work longer hours, are involved with dirt, grease and dust, and do not have as easy access to washing facilities. Was this why Jesus had not washed his hands before sitting down to eat at the Pharisee's house?


First things first

The expression "missing the wood for the trees" warns against losing sight of essentials. An example of this tendency was when a Pharisee who had invited Jesus to a meal was taken aback that his guest did not wash his hands before eating. Why not observe the usual Jewish rituals? In answer, Jesus accuses the Pharisees as a group of being preoccupied with external rules while ignoring some essential values, such as giving alms to the poor. In our faith, we constantly need to keep returning to the basics.

During the Second Vatican Council in the mid 20th century the whole Church was invited to get back to essentials. Saint Paul too focussed on essentials when describing the our Christian identity "The one who is righteous will live by faith." Later he states his view more plainly, "what matters is faith that operates through love." Basic Christianity can be summarised as faith working through love. Our faith in Jesus is proven by love, letting the love of Christ flow through us to others. Everything else is secondary.


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Wednesday of Week 28

1st Reading: Romans 2:1-11

Jew and gentile will be judged by the same criteria

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth." Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one's deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

Responsorial: Psalm 61:2-3, 6-7, 9

R./: Lord, you give back to all according to their works

In God alone be at rest, my soul;
 for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
 my fortress: I stand firm. (R./)

Take refuge in God all you people.
Trust him at all times.
 Pour out your hearts before him
 for God is our refuge. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:42-46

Woe to Pharisees and lawyers who insist on impossible legal details

Jesus said, "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

Liberty, not Licence

The Scriptures promote freedom and the primacy of love, but warn against libertinism and individualism. Jesus' teaching on this is carefully nuanced. He criticises how the Pharisees put a priority on payment of tithes, while neglecting justice and the love of God. The latter are more important, says Jesus, but he adds, "without omitting the other." He did not campaign against the Mosaic law. In fact, he observed it carefully and always gave a good reason for departing from it, such as when defending his disciples for eating grains of corn on the Sabbath.

Proper discernment helps us distinguish the essential from the non-essential, and avoid rashly judging others. The more that we multiply rules, the more we try to control other people's lives and are tempted to judge them. We run the danger of Pharisaism by insisting on external observance. Our insistence on punctilio can be a barrier to holiness. Jesus did not reject all rules and regulations, in this case, the duty of each Jew to support the temple. But he taught that the love of God and social justice came before all other obligations. We need to similarly avoid judging people by narrow, external criteria. Some would esteem the appearance of a home more than the happy life within the home. If we quick to judge others, we have probably lost touch with the more central values of love.

St Paul offers a harsh estimate about the sinfulness of the pagan Roman empire. But he adds an important guiding principle, "With God there is no favouritism." He notes the cultural diversity between Jews and Romans and their different scale of values. A person from one culture must try to be fair to people from a different background. Even if some absolute moral truths exist, these are modified within different cultures. Jesus adds key word of advice: Before judging others we must first try to lighten their burden. Perhaps then we would recognise their good qualities, and see them in a new light.


Status seekers, beware!

Jesus blames the Pharisees for taking the V.I.P. seats in the synagogues. Publin honour and status was highly prized in the culture of those days. Most of the generous giving for public parks, baths and temples was with a view to gaining honour from the public. The donor's name was clearly inscribed for all to see. Things haven't really changed much in that regard. Jesus taught a different attitude to honour and prestige. He certainly did not seek it for himself, nor did he want his disciples to seek fame, even though they were prone to doing so, each one competing to be a celebrity.

James and John wanted the most prominent seats in the future kingdom of God. But according to Jesus we should direct all honour to God and not seek fame for ourselves. Any good works we do should be for the honour of God and not to for our own glory. At the beginning of the sermon on the mount he invites us to, "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." Status seekers, beware!


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Thursday of Week 28

1st Reading: Romans 3:21-30

All have sinned, but can be justified by faith in Jesus Christ

Now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.

Responsorial: Psalm 129:1-6

R./: With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
 Lord, hear my voice!
 O let your ears be attentive
 to the voice of my pleading. (R./)

If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
 Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
 for this we revere you. (R./)

My soul is waiting for the Lord,
 I count on his word.
 My soul is longing for the Lord
 more than watchman for daybreak. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 11:47-54

In attacking Jesus, his enemies align with thir ancestors who killed the prophets

Jesus said to scribes and Pharisees,
"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.

BIBLE

Honouring the martyrs

Paul bases his entire ministry on the belief that all human beings, of whatever race, are saved through Jesus Christ. By contrast, today's gospel alludes to the murder of many prophets in Old Testament times.

Many Old Testament terms resonate in Paul's writings. They include: the justice of God, the glory of God, redemption, blood, the law or Torah, choice by God, divine favour, mystery, fullness of time, the promise of a messianic saviour. For our meditation let's reflect on the connection between blood and life. Through shedding his blood Christ achieves expiation for all who believe; his blood joined to that of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world. Clearly a positive life-giving meaning is assigned to the blood of Christ.

When Paul affirms that God made the blood of Christ the means of expiation for all believers, he is drawing from the imagery of Old Testament sacrifices that were meant to purge away sin. This notion of vicarious atonement is alien to many Christians today, who seek a different explanation for the saving power of the cross. At any rate, Paul believes that Christ's death and resurrection were and are life-giving. They have established a bond of life in all who believe in Jesus. The focus of his attention is not on the Passion itself, but on the new life which the self-giving of Christ suffuses into our midst. Because the outpoured life-blood of Christ is so pure, vigorous and divine, we are cleansed of all impurities and are given a share in divine life.

Jesus mentions the blood of martyrs in his controversy with Pharisees and lawyers. When he condemns them for putting monuments over the graves of the prophets, it is not that he objects to honouring the prophets. We ought to honour the dead, not by monuments to their mortal remains, but by imitating their concern for others. Like the prophets, we are meant to stand up for the cause of justice, for other people's dignity and rights.


Both teachers and learners

Jesus criticizes the lawyers, experts in the Jewish Law, for taking away the key of knowledge. They have rejected the teaching of Jesus and now prevent others from coming to authentically know God. They have not been true to their calling as teachers of the ways of God. Jesus reveals God more fully than any other human being could. In rejecting his words, the lawyers were taking away the key of knowledge, failing to recognize how God was at work in Jesus.

God has given us the key to knowing him, by giving us Jesus. He is the key to this special knowledge and we will always be learners from him. The mistake is to think ourselves fully informed about God. We are more like infants, always having much to learn. That is why Jesus had prayed to the Lord of heaven and earth, "You have hidden these things from the learned and the clever and have revealed them to infants." When we recognize this we will come to know God more fully.


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Friday of Week 28

1st Reading: Romans 4:1-8

For the believer, faith is credited as justice. This is how Abraham was justified

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin."

Responsorial: Psalm 31:1-2, 5, 11

R./: I turn to you Lord in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
 whose sin is remitted.
 O happy the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
 in whose spirit is no guile. (R./)

But now I have acknowledged my sins;
 my guilt I did not hide.
 I said: 'I will confess my offence to the Lord.'
 And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin. (R./)

Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord,
 exult, you just!
 O come, ring out your joy,
 all you upright of heart. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:1-7

What you hear or say in secret, proclaim from the rooftops

The people had gathered in their thousands so that they were treading on one another. And Jesus began to speak first of all 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

Who are God's chosen ones?

In Romans Paul tends to be sober and cautious due to the atmosphere of controversy generated by his earlier epistle to the Galatians. Paul is still battling against the Judaizers in the early Church who required every disciple of Jesus to fully observe of the Mosaic law. He turns to the example of Abraham, to illustrate that justification is by faith rather than by works. The Torah says that "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as justice," but since Abraham preceded Moses by hundreds of years, he could not have observed the Mosaic law. If Paul states this obvious fact, it was meant to counter a tradition that Abraham knew in advance by revelation the entire Mosaic law, and was blessed for obeying it. The wise Ben Sirach had said, "Abraham, father of many peoples, observed the precepts of the Most High, and when tested, he was found loyal. Therefore, God promised him with an oath that in his descendants the nations would be blessed" (Sir 44:19-21).

Paul disdains this later tradition and takes his case back to Genesis. First came God's choice and call (Gen 12), then Abraham's faith (Gen 15) and only later did God require circumcision (Gen 17), and finally Abraham proved himself faithful in a radical, shocking test (Gen 22). If God's gift to Abraham, and like Abraham now to the gentiles, was so freely bestowed, we need no longer think of past sins. Nor will we be concerned about offenses against a law that is no longer binding on us.

Exuberance and liberty of spirit are expressed in today's gospel. What was said in the dark we are to proclaim from rooftops. If our merciful God is concerned about sparrows, then we need to fear nothing. "You are more precious than a whole flock of sparrows." Justification by faith in this God liberates us more than from the law. It makes us free, confident and already part-way to heaven.


More than sparrows

God is so involved with the details of creation that even the humble sparrow is not insignificant or forgotten. There is a temptation for those in authority that the more exalted their rank, the less in touch they are with ordinary life. Today's gospel says that this does not apply to God. The Maker of all creation is actively and personally involved with the details of that creation, says Jesus. He coins the memorable image, "not one sparrow is forgotten in God's sight."

Regarding our own lives too, "Every hair on your head has been counted; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows." If even a sparrow is not forgotten in God's sight, how much more is that true of us. Jesus reveals a God who is near to us and cares about our ups and downs, our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures. If this is true, we can speak to God about all our experiences, both in sorrow and joy. We can bring to God the details of our lives in prayer, knowing that he is deeply concerned about us. We can speak from the heart to God, as to our closest friend, sure of being understood.


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Saturday of Week 28

1st Reading: Romans 4:13, 16-18

Hoping against hope, Abraham became the father of many nations

The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

For this reason it depends on faith, so that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations")--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be."

Responsorial: Psalm 104:6-9, 42-43

R./: The Lord remembers his covenant for ever

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

He remembers his covenant for ever,
 his promise for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
 the oath he swore to Isaac. (R./)

For he remembered his holy word,
 which he gave to Abraham his servant.
So he brought out his people with joy,
 his chosen ones with shouts of rejoicing. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:8-12

Do not worry about defending yourselves. The Holy Spirit will teach you what to say

Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before he angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say."

BIBLE

Forefather in faith

That Abraham contintued to hope must have seemed odd, even to Sarah his wife. Who would ever think that this elderly couple could give birth to a great nation? A person without Abraham's faith would call this hope ridiculous. When a situation seems humanly hopeless, we should recall Abraham and Sarah.

Paul calls us to "look to Abraham and to Sarah," so that the Lord may turn our barren existence into a paradise like Eden. Abraham himself never witnessed how marvellous this promised land would be. He saw only his son Isaac. Abraham's faith had to reach beyond his own death to the future of his people. For this reason Jesus appeals to the example of Abraham for belief in the resurrection.

Close followers of Jesus would never say a word against the Holy Spirit, who is God's inspiring presence with us. We have a promise from Jesus that at any moment of crisis, the Holy Spirit will teach us what needs to be said.


Bearing witness

Jesus asks his disciples to courageously bear witness to him, to speak about him and share his gospel with others. He promises that in bearing witness to him they won't be left without the help they need. When faced with difficulties, the Holy Spirit will teach them what they must say.

Sharing our faith today can be difficult because of the climate in which we live which is so often hostile to religion, and our Catholic faith in particular. With so much hostile and negative media comment against the church, we can be cowed into silence and invisibility. But we need to resist that temptation and share our convictions with others in whatever way we can. For this we have the promise that the Holy Spirit will be with us. As Paul says, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We need to keep on praying for the courage to be true to the Lord who gave himself for us, giving us life through his death on a cross.



Readings for the 29th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 29

1st Reading: Romans 4:20-25

Like Abraham's faith, our faith will be credited to us by God

No distrust made Abraham waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness." Now the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Responsorial: Luke 1:69-75

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

He has raised up for us a mighty saviour
 in the house of David his servant,
 as he promised by the lips of holy men,
 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 12:13-21

Our Lord warns against greed in all its forms

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."

BIBLE

Faults of omission

While Paul affirms the justifying power of faith, he does not intend to undervalue good works, as though we need do no more than believe. He was as aware as we are of the example of Jesus himself, who went about doing good, taching, healing, listening, defending and supporting the poor. If faith were enough on its own without being accompanied by good action, would Paul have forgotten the great prophets like Isaiah, whose message promoted a faith flourishing through works of justice? Paul's favourite Old Testament guide was Isaiah, who wrote the stirring, almost untranslatable couplet: Unless your faith is firm, You shall not be affirmed (Isa 7:9). This same Isaiah laid equal stress upon morality in action. Condemning Israel's liturgy as sterile and useless, he called for conversion: "Make justice your aim: redress the wrongs, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow" (Isa 1:16,23).

The gospel reminds us of the faults of omission of which otherwise good and wealthy people are often guilty. They can be so tenacious about keeping for themselves what they own as private property. They build their security on property and respectability. To this streak in most of us, Jesus gives this warning: Avoid greed in all its forms. Possessions do not guarantee life. Do not selfishly hoard all that you have, instead of growing rich in the sight of the Lord.


Inheritance and greed

Wills, legacies and inheritance can be very divisive issues. Friends and relatives have been known to quarrel and splinter over the contents of a will. Reluctant to get involved with a family dispute over an inheritance, Jesus took the opportunity to comment on the dangers of greed, which he illustrated with a parable. It is about a farmer who once had a wonderful harvest, but the sheer abundance of his crops caused him a problem. He immediately began to worry about how to store all his extra grain. He devotes his energies to building bigger barns to store all his surplus goods, so as to secure his future. But just after completing this work on the new barns he dies. He thought he was now set up for a life of ease and luxury, but it turned out to be a false security.

At the end, our real security consists not in storing up massive surpluses, but in becoming rich in the sight of God. This we do by giving of ourselves as Jesus did so that others may have a fuller life. If by faith we see God is our ultimate security, it frees us to give generously of what we have been given, after the example of Jesus.


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Tuesday of Week 29

1st Reading: Romans 5:12, 17-21

Through Adam, sin and death came to us all; through Jesus Christ, grace far surpasses all sin

Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 39:7-10, 17

R./: Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

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./)

O let there be rejoicing and gladness
 for all who seek you.
Let them ever say: 'The Lord is great',
 who love your saving help. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:35-38

Good for those servants whom the master finds wide awake at his return

Jesus said to his disciples: "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

Grace abounding

By the time Luke wrote his gospel, around 85 a.D., Christians were no longer obsessed with the proximate return of Jesus in glory. The idea of waiting for the Day of the Lord was no longer such an urgent hope among them. As with the petition for daily bread in the Our Father, they were aware of a daily presence of the Lord Jesus in their community and in contemporary events. We must still be waiting, yes, ready to open the door of our heart, and share what we have, should Jesus come even at midnight or before sunrise. If we live our daily lives well, we will be ready to welcome his special coming at the end of life.

In his brief reference to the master's return, Jesus overturns oriental custom in a remarkable way. When the lord of a large household returns from absence, his servants must wait on him. But Jesus imagines a reversal of roles. The master will put on an apron, seat the servants at table, and proceed to wait on them. It was exactly what he would do for his disciples at the last supper, and is an iconic example for us to imitate.

No one can go through life without some sharing of the cross. But our sacrifice is inspired by that of Jesus. The love of Christ forms our human race into a world family, just as God wants. As St Paul says in Romans, we are all descendants of Adam and are united still more by our bond with Jesus. Through Adam we share in the sins, prejudices and selfish pride inherent in human nature, but through Jesus there is an overflowing grace that can change our lives. The is the abounding, amazing grace of salvation, leading us towards eternal life.


One who serves

Imagine the master of a household putting on an apron, getting his servants to sit down at table and then waiting on them. The scene portrayed by Jesus had no place in the culture of those days. But it does remind us of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Normally, the roles of master and servant are at opposite ends of a spectrum, but in Jesus they are combined.

The master shows this sign of honour to his servants in response to their faithful vigilance. The Lord who sustain us expects us to be faithful and vigilant, so that we are ready to open the door to him at any time. In the Book of Revelation the risen Lord says, "behold, I stand at the door and knock." Somehow Jesus is always knocking at our door. If we welcome his daily coming, he will serve and sustain us in all kinds of ways.


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Wednesday of Week 29

1st Reading: Romans 6:12-18

Serve God and you will come from death to life

Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient servants, you are servants of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been servants of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become servants of righteousness.

Responsorial: Psalm 123

R./: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

'If the Lord had not been on our side,'
 this is Israel's song.
 'If the Lord had not been on our side
 when men rose against us,
 then would they have swallowed us alive
 when their anger was kindled. (R./)

'Then would the waters have engulfed us,
 the torrent gone over us;
 over our head would have swept the raging waters.'
Blessed be the Lord who did not give us
 a prey to their teeth! (R./)

Our life, like a bird, has escaped from the snare of the fowler. Indeed the snare has been broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:39-48

The Son of Man will come when we least expect it

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be aware of 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 slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave 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 slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave 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 slave 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 o whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

BIBLE

Servants of righteousness

Paul regards his Christians as people who have come from death to life, because the risen Christ dwells within us. The gospel imagines Jesus (the Son of man) as having gone on a long journey from which he will one day return to judge the world. These are contrasting viewpoints, between the "already" of the present state of grace in which we stand, and the "not yet" of our final destiny. But as we ponder these two texts, their divergence does not seem quite so contradictory. We are advised to live daily, even moment by moment, as though the Son of Man were already at the door, ready to come in to enhance our life.

A link between our texts is the occurence of the word doulos ("servant" or "slave") in both. Paul advises us to be "servants of justice." This "justice" includes but goes beyond the fair distribution of this world's goods. It is rooted in God's utter fidelity, being true to God's own nature which is life-giving. On Mount Sinai Moses encountered "a merciful and gracious God rich in kindness and fidelity" (Ex 34:6). As servants of justice we must make kindness and fidelity our own ideals, in imitation of God's own nature.

It is when we live as servants of righteousness that we are true to our authentic personality, made as we are in the image of God. The concept of servant recurs repeatedly in the gospel. The wise person is meant to be just and faithful in God's service, trusting that this is how we were meant to live.

If the master comes back unexpectedly, we will be glad to welcome him. Meanwhile, as stewards of God's household, we have duties to fullfil. We must show respect to all and care for people in need. And of course, to act responsibly in caring for God's good earth. Any moment, any time Jesus will come knocking, and our work will be done.


Ready for the unexpected

We may not like sudden surprises. We prefer to have a good idea of what is coming down the road and when it is coming. But sometimes the unexpected does happen. The experience of the unexpected is central to today's gospel. The burglar suddenly breaks into a house at midnight, or the master arrives home at a time when his lazy servant is not expecting him. Jesus invites us to be prepared for unexpected encounters with him.

The Son of Man comes at an hour we do not expect. This could refer to our death, since sudden and unexpected death is possible. But the various ways he comes to us in the course of our lives can also be unexpected. God may call us to do something special, or prompt us to take some path we have not taken before. He can encounter us through unexpected people, whom we would not think of as messengers of grace. His word may speak to us in ways we have not heard before. The gospel tells us to expect the unexpected. As Isaiah says, God's ways are not our ways. What is important is to be open and receptive to his grace at all times.


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Thursday of Week 29

1st Reading: Romans 6:19-23

Freed from sin and now serving God, and destined for eternal life

If I may speak in human terms because of your natural limitations, just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 1:1-4, 6

R./: Happy are they who hope in the Lord.

Happy indeed is the man
 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 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 12:49-53

Jesus lights a fire on the earth, through the baptism of his Passion

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

If the heart is enslaved

Today's readings are rich in paradox. In Romans Paul speaks of being servants or slaves of God; surely he does not imagine God as a slave-driver? There's a sharp paradox between the idea of Jesus having come "not to establish peace but division" and his comforting assurance "my peace I give to you" (Jn 14:27). We must meditate quietly, to let the deeper harmonies of the holy Scriptures appear to us.

Paul affirms God's love for us, a love that goes beyond all logic. We can hardly explain fully to other people's satisfaction or even our own, why we love someone. In a sense, love enslaves us, but it not a slavery that robs us of human dignity but a slavery that paradoxically frees us from shame and fear. If we are swept up by love and want to risk everything for the sake of Christ, we experience a new kind of integrity.

In the gospel Jesus is enslaved by love to the Father's holy will. His words express a strong sense of desire, "How I wish it were blazing already!" He seems swept beyond himself in his desire to do whatever the Father wants. The baptism with which he is to be baptized refers to his passion and death, particularly as Luke describes Jesus as setting his face to go to Jerusalem, where he would meet his fate. As the time came closer, he struggled in the garden of Gethsemane and prayed, "Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me." But such was his total self-giving that he then said, "Not my will but yours be done."


Setting us on fire

Jesus came to bring fire to the earth and wishes that it were already blazing. This prefigures the fire of the Holy Spirit; at the beginning of the Acts, Luke describes the Holy Spirit coming down on the disciples like tongues of fire. But Jesus knows he cannot send the Holy Spirit until he has undergone his passion and death, what he calls a "baptism I must receive." Knowing he will soon suffer this ordeal, he admits that his distress is great until it is over.

He desperately wanted to get through his ordeal, so that the fire of the Holy Spirit could begin to blaze. This ordeal will be shared by his disciples also. Because of sharing in the mission of Jesus some families will be divided. Some family members will welcome the gospel and some will reject it. The Lord's coming and presence touches the depths of our humanity in ways that can cause deep divisions. Regardless of the consequences, our vocation is to let the fire that Jesus has ignited burn within us. We trust in the Holy Spirit to enkindle in us the fire of his love.


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Friday of Week 29

1st Reading: Romans 7:18-25

Who can resolve my inner conflict? Only God, through Jesus Christ

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

Responsorial: Psalm 118:66, 68, 76-77, 93-94

R./: Teach me your laws, O Lord.

Teach me discernment and knowledge
 for I trust in your commands.
You are good and your deeds are good;
 teach me your statutes. (R./)

Let your love be ready to console me
 by your promise to your servant.
 Let your love come to me and I shall live
 for your law is my delight. (R./)

I will never forget your precepts
 for with them you give me life.
Save me, for I am yours
 since I seek your precepts (R./)

Gospel: Luke 12:54-59

If you can foretell the weather, why can't you read the signs of the time?

Jesus said to the crowds, "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

When it's hard to hope

Hope is a difficult virtue to appreciate and safeguard, since in many ways faith and love are more obvious. Faith can be clarified by studying nature, the Bible and theology, while love can clearly be practiced (or not) in our response to the needs of our neighbour. Hope is perhaps the most intangible the three major virtues.

In today's text from Romans Paul offers an existential view of hope. He views life's challenges not in calm detachment but how he feels inside his own complicated self. Although a gifted and creative apostle, he proved to be a thorny character for many, especially for Peter and the Jewish Christians. Sometimes he feels frustrated and despondent at others' rejection of him. At other times he acts so impulsively that his actions almost seemed against his own will. Paul agonizes at length over his inner tensions: "My inner self agrees with the law of God, but I see in myself another law at war with the law of my mind." This leads him to the impassioned cry, "What a wretch I am. Who can free me from this body under the power of death?" This bout of self-criticism does not end up in futile moaning. Instead it blossoms into an act of thanksgiving, "All praise to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" He is candidly aware of being conflicted, confused, caught between his ideals and the danger of selfish pride, but is still full of hope.

Today's gospel shows how impulsiveness can be turned into a necessary virtue. Some chances do not come a second time, and our failure to rise to an occasion could mean losing a golden opportunity. Some graces belong to the day and the hour, the kairos, a favourite biblical term. Kairos is not just an ordinary moment like any other in the long sequence of time (chronos) but a very special moment with vital implications. The moment must be seized, for the sake of love and fidelity. The stakes are high, and not to decide is itself a negative decision.


Signs of the times

We tend to talk a lot about the weather in Ireland. It is a regular topic of conversation. We find it a useful thing to talk about when we have nothing much else to say. Because the weather in Ireland is so changeable and variable, there is always something to say about it. It has either been raining or is raining or is about to rain. Even when it doesn't rain for days we consider it worthy of comment.

The Galileans were equally aware of changing weather conditions. They knew what weather to expect from the direction of the wind and could read the face of the earth and the sky. Still they were not able to read signs of the times they were living in. They failed to recognize from what Jesus was saying and doing that God was moving among them in a special way. We too can be good at weather forecasting but not so aware of the Lord's presence in our lives. Jesus promised to be with us always until the end of time. The signs of his presence can be subtle and non-dramatic, but it is very real. We pray for a better understanding of grace in our lives, in the course of every day.


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Saturday of Week 29

1st Reading: Romans 8:1-11

God sent his Son to share our life and share his Spirit with us

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law--indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Responsorial: Psalm 23:1-6

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 13:1-9

Tragedy is random... yet we should yield good fruit

Some people told Jesus about the Galilean pilgrims whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. So he 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

Bearing fruit together

The Bible proposes interdependence as the ideal state of the people of God. Individuals are seldom considered in isolation, but as a member of the nation, and in the New Testament this view reaches out to all the human race. Paul builds on this insight when he says that through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and that on a higher level, through one man, Jesus, the grace of God is freely available to all. For Paul, all share the same flesh and all should be gifted by the same Holy Spirit. "Flesh" for him indicates weakness and moral instability, while "Spirit" indicates life, purity and permanence. The Spirit gives character, quality, dignity and integrity.

Ideally, each member enhances the lives of others and is helped by them on the pilgrimage of life. In practice, the variety of gifts and roles can provoke envy, antagonism, and even an ugly form of dominance. The administrator must not be over-bearing, the teacher must avoid pompous pride, the practical-minded person must not neglect study and reflection, nor the spiritual person abandon everything to devote herself to prayer. Each gift must function as a genuine service "to build up the body of Christ," and therefore depends on others, even while serving them. If we share a common bond of flesh and spirit, as we read in Romans, then we both drag each other down and build each other up. The same person's talents can help and complement us, or annoy and threaten us.

As we live in interaction, as members of one family with Jesus and with one another, we suffer together and we lift each other up. Together we grieve for each other's sins, so that together we can bear fruit. If we do not transmit life together, we are like the persons whom Jesus warned, "You will all come to a dreadful end." Or again, "If the tree does not bear good fruit, it shall be cut down."


Where ther's life there's hope

The parables get us thinking and reflecting, to tease out what they might mean. In today's parable we have a fig tree in a vineyard that seems as good as dead. It has failed to bear fruit for three successive years. The reaction of the owner of the vineyard seems quite reasonable; have the fig tree cut down because it is only taking up space that could be used for vines. However, the owner's worker had a different perspective. He looked at the apparently useless fig tree and he saw the possibility that it could still bear fruit. He had a more generous vision of the fig tree, a more hopeful vision.

In truth all was not lost; there was still time for the fig tree to come good. The parable may be saying that this is how the Lord looks upon us, for he sees not just what we have failed to do in the past but what we are capable of doing in the future. He looks on us with generous and hopeful eyes. That is the way we are to look at each other and, indeed, at every situation in life. Like the worker in the vineyard, we need to be patient and look beneath the surface for the faint signs of new life that may be there.



Readings for the 30th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 30

1st Reading: Romans 8:12-17

In the Spirit, we are God's children; he is our "Aba--Father"

So then, my brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ--if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Responsorial: Psalm 67:2, 4, 6-7, 20-21

R./: Our God is the God of salvation.

Let God arise, let his foes be scattered.
 Let those who hate him flee before him.
But the just shall rejoice at the presence of God,
 they shall exult and dance for joy. (R./)

Father of the orphan, defender of the widow,
 such is God in his holy place.
God gives the lonely a home to live in;
 he leads the prisoners forth into freedom. (R./)

May the Lord be blessed day after day.
 He bears our burdens, God our saviour.
This God of ours is a God who saves.
 The Lord our God holds the keys of death. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

Jesus cures a woman on the sabbath, causing indignation

Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 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."

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 al the wonderful things that he was doing.

BIBLE

Putting healing first

Seeing badly stooped older people, their backs curved from constant manual labour, is a sadly common sight in developing countries. They have spent their strength by back-breaking work in rice fields or elsewhere; they have for so long had to look at the ground that they are almost unable to stand up straight. But despite their hysical condition such people are often spiritually strong. Their words carry earthy common sense and they reject idle speculations. Their calloused hands can hold their infant grandchild with delicate care and their old eyes still communicate contentment and peace.

Jesus saw one such woman while teaching in a synagogue one sabbath day. He knew that tradition forbade any work to be done on the sabbath, but he was instinctually drawn to help and to heal, whenever his help was needed, whether on a workday or on the sabbath. In the Law, the reason for not working on the sabbath was to imitate the Creator. After the work of creation was complete, God "rested on the sabbath day" (Exod 20:11). On this particular sabbath, the creative, healing force within Jesus would not let him rest until this ailing woman was restored to what she was meant to be.

Seeing her, Jesus says a word of healing and laid his hands on her. He was guided by his certainty that the sabbath was meant to bring people fullness of life. When the synagogue ruler indignantly protests against healing on the sabbath, Jesus gave a witty and common-sense reply. "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?"

On a more doctrinal level, Paul affirms the mysterious presence of God's spirit within humankind. The Holy Spirit reveals to our human spirit that we are children of God. Later he is even more pointed, "The whole created world eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God." The cure of the stooped woman was one small step in the direction of this restored humanity. Such an act of healing renews our faith that God is still at work in us, to fulfil our stature as children of God. The faith of our crippled or handicapped neighbours can deepen our own trust in the healing power of God.


Life-enhancing activity

A synagogue official sternly insists that no work should be done on the Sabbath. In reply Jesus says that God's work can be done on any day of the week. He was doing God's work by releasing a woman from an arthritic condition. By easing her rheumatic pains, he set her free to live a fuller life.

His principle is that any loving, life-enhancing action is lawful and good at any time. There is no day, no time, when helpful actions are forbidden. Each of us who follow Jesus are invited to share in his work of releasing our neighbours from pain and distress. We are to be helpful friends, aware of people's needs, forgiving each other as God has forgiven us in Christ, loving as Christ has loved us. All of us share in the Lord's life-giving, liberating work.

In his healing ministry, Jesus was not seeking fame or praise for himself. We are told that the cure of the woman led her to praise God. "immediately she stood up straight and began praising God." When we take our part in the Lord's work, it is not for our own glory but so that God be praised.


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Tuesday of Week 30

1st Reading: Romans 8:18-25

Eternal life is already begun within us, like a seed waiting to flower

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Responsorial: Psalm 125

R./: The Lord has done marvels for us.

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
 it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
 on our lips there were songs. (R./)

The heathens themselves said:
 'What marvels the Lord worked for them!'
What marvels the Lord worked for us!
  Indeed we were glad. (R./)

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
 as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears,
 will sing when they reap. (R./)

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
 carrying seed for the sowing.
They come back, they come back, full of song,
 carrying their sheaves. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:18-21

God's reign is like a mustard seed, or like yeast to make the dough rise

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

Fermentation and growth

Deep within us is planted a seed that will grow to full flowerin; there is an inner "yeast" to transform and ferment us as yeast does in the dough that is baked into fresh bread, the staff of life. The whole created world eagerly awaits the revelation of what is already stirring within it, and of ourselves as children of God.

Paul's letter to the Romans sparkles with a magnificent hope. He believes that that every human being carries the seed of eternal life, that we are called to be children of God. A grace of transformation has come through Jesus Christ for all of humanity. Even the billions of non-Christians in the world also carry within themselves the seed or image or eternal life with God. The goodness and humanity in the pagan world, and among Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims or the strong monotheistic religion of Islam, represent a yearning for what is yet to be revealed.

To live our lives to the full, we must nurture the hidden mustard seed of divine possibility within us. Like the woman who kneads the yeast into the dough that will be baked into life-sustaining bread, we can do our part to contribute freshness, life and dignity, wherever we are.


Two images, one focus

Both parables in today's gospel, one about a man (gardening) and the other about a woman (baking), have the same focus. Each draws a contrast between something that starts very small and the great effect it can have. A tiny mustard seed produces a tree offering shelter to nesting birds. A tiny pinch of leaven ferments a large amount of flour. Jesus says that the kingdom of God works like that. In the eyes of God what starts very small can bring a rich result.

Even small acts of kindness can have an impact for good our expectations. Small initiatives in the service of the Lord can be very helpful for others. We need not think that unless some church event is big and impressive it counts for little. the two images in today's gospel suggest that even small actions and initiatives, unnoticed by most people, can help promote the kingdom of God.


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Wednesday of Week 30

1st Reading: Romans 8:26-30

All things work together for good

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Responsorial: Psalm 12:4-6

R./: All my hope, O Lord, is in your loving kindness.

Look at me, answer me, Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death,
 lest my enemy say: 'I have overcome him';
 lest my foes rejoice to see my fall. (R./)

As for me, I trust in your merciful love.
Let my heart rejoice in your saving help:
Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me,
 singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

Outsiders will enter God's kingdom while insiders will be excluded

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

Who will be saved?

When asked, "Will there be only a few saved?" Jesus doesn't directly answer the question. Instead, he uses it as homiletic opportunity. He invites all those aeround him to "Strive to enter by the narrow door." Speculating about how many will be saved is not helpful. Rather than speculate about how many will be saved, we should strive to do the will of God, which is the sure gateway to eternal life.

In this dialogue Jesus puts a high value on human effort and fidelity. It is easy to enter through an ample, wide doorway. But to get through a narrow entrance, we need to be focused and pay attention to what we are doing. By this image, he teaches that staying on the path that leads to life involves struggle and effort. There is a striving involved, even though we are supported by the grace of God and the promptings of the Spirit. It need not be an anxious striving, because the Lord wants us to succeed.

To counter-balance that image about the narrow door, we can recall many other Gospel sayings about the help God gives for our salvation. It is God's will that people from east and west, from north and south, will enter and take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Whenever Christians might be tempted to discouragement, they need to remember that "The Spirit helps us in our weakness". Paul goes on to say that those who trust in Jesus are "predestined" to be saved, and that "that all things work together for good for those who love God."


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Thursday of Week 30

1st Reading: Romans 8:31-39

Nothing can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 108:21-22, 26-27, 30-31

R./: Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.

For your name's sake act in my defence;
 in the goodness of your love be my rescuer.
 For I am poor and needy
 and my heart is pierced within me. (R./)

Help me, Lord my God;
 save me because of your love.
Let them know that this is your work,
 that this is your doing, O Lord. (R./)

Loud thanks to the Lord are on my lips.
 I will praise him in the midst of the throng,
 for he stands at the poor man's side
 to save him from those who condemn him. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 13:31-35

Jesus laments over Jerusalem and its coming destruction

Some Pharisees 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 Jerusalem.'

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

Choosing the right way

Coming up to Halloween, we might ponder if there really is a world of invisible spirits surrounding us. The Apostle Paul sees life as a battle between good and evil forces, in which we are all engaged. But it's a battle we can wage with confidence because Christ is on our side. "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" With his assurance that nothing outside ourselves can separate us from the love of God, Paul does not dispense us from the struggles of life. Dilemmas and problems will still face us but they are no reason for despair. With the help of Jesus we can meet each challenge as it comes.

He reaches a high level of eloquence abut how Christ helps us in every circumstance. Whatever trials we may face, we are "more than conquerors because of him who loved us." The love of Christ is the secret ingredient that always tilts the balance in our favour. Paul evokes the passion of Jesus and the love which prompted his total acceptance of the the cross on our behalf. So he asks rhetorically: "Will not the God who gave his own Son for us, grant us everything we need?"

The gospel recognizes the certainty of Jesus' destiny with death, and his struggle to accept it. He knows that "No prophet can be allowed to die anywhere except in Jerusalem." Yet the malice of the leaders in Jerusalem does not make Jesus hate that city. Instead, he feels a mixture of love and sorrow for the city and its inhabitants, many of whom will die by the sword a few decades later. How he would have wanted to gather them together and bring them to God. It is equally his wish to gather and lead each of us into the kingdom of God. We welcome his help with open arms and open hearts.


As a hen cares for her chickens

Jesus compares himself to a mother hen gathering her brood under her wings. How he wished to gather the people of Jerusalem together and show them the way to safety and salvation. Tragically, Jerusalem refused to be gathered and shown the right way. He expresses his powerlessness in face of their refulal. His longing to gather and save the people went unfulfilled, because they refused to listen to him. Jesus was greatly distressed that they preferred their traditions rather than the gospel.

He admits his powerlessness to bring people where they do not wish to God. Of course the existential mystery of human freedom affects us too. God needs to find in us a level of desire for salvation, if his plan for our lives is to be fulfilled. Even if St Paul holds that "nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ," he also taught that we must fight the good fight and coperate with the grace of God. With the Psalmist we can pray to the Lord, "save me because of your love."


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Friday of Week 30

1st Reading: Romans 9:1-5

Paul would endure anything to win his fellow-Jews to Christ

I am speaking the truth in Christ; I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20

R./: Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
 Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates,
 he has blessed the children within you. (R./)

He established peace on your borders,
 he feeds you with finest wheat.
He sends out his word to the earth
 and swiftly runs his command. (R./)

He makes his word known to Jacob,
 to Israel his laws and decrees.
He has not dealt thus with other nations;
 he has not taught them his decrees. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:1-6

What "keeping the sabbath" really means

Jesus went to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, 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

Keeping the sabbath

It's another Sabbath day encounter, with Jesus doing his usual service of teaching, healing, and getting himself into trouble! This marvelous story has many of the elements we love in the Gospel. He was spreading joy and breaking down barriers while the Pharisees fuss about, exasperated and fumbling to accuse him of something. But wasn't this covered in last Monday's reading? Indeed yes, for that sabbath healing was similar to today's. Both episodes show Jesus healing and both cures took place on the Sabbath. Both cures provoke an argument with the authorities about what is forbidden on the Sabbath, and in both cases Jesus has the last word.

But the stories are not identical. One story is set in a synagogue, and today's is in the house of a Pharisee. In last week's story, it was an arthritic woman that was healed; today it is a man with 'dropsy', which means that his limbs were swollen up with fluid. Jesus heals them both, and there is much rejoicing on the part of all, except for a rigid minority. His critics just can't accept how he apparently flouted the law of God by disobeying the commandment to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.

One senses a similar clash of views during episcopal gatherings in Rome. What seems to some an act of mercy is regarded by others as disobeying the will of God. That's the Pharisees' charge, and it's a serious one, and it's the sort of accusation they often made against Jesus. Although Jesus says that he came "not to abolish God's law but to fulfill it" (Matthew 5:17) he clearly did not interpret the divine law literally, as the religious leaders did. They had clearly defined rules about what may and may not be done on the Sabbath; but Jesus claimed a freedom to discern when mercy must override the rules.

Jesus didn't speak the same theological language as his critics. But didn't appeal to theology at all in these two sabbath stories. He answered their objections at an entirely secular level. His opponents are talking about the law of God what it forbids us to do. Jesus is focused on the women and men around him, and how to help them, even on the sabbath, as a farmer would tend his livestock on the sabbath. Clearly Jesus rebelled, whenever God's law was quoted in a way that was not life-affirming.


Authentic choices

It seems that the man with dropsy was deliberately brought into the Pharisee's house, to set a trap for Jesus. This man suffering from an ugly sickness would not normally have been invited to such a meal. He was there simply as a bait to trap Jesus, to test if he acknowledged the sabbath law. His enemies wanted to see if he would heal this man on the Sabbath. Jesus seems more than happy to fall into their trap, for he healed the man and sent him on his way. Whereas the Pharisees showed scant respect for the sick man by using him as bait, Jesus showed total respect for him by restoring him to a healthy life.

Claiming to be defenders of God's law, religious leaders sometimes show little respect for the needy individual. Jesus shows an authentic form of religion that treats others with respect for their dignity as people made in God's image and precious in God's sight. Pope Francis regularly speaks about our need to treat others with love and respect. As followers of Jesus we try to judge situations as he would. His way of relating to others is to be ours, and in this we have the help of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. When with the help of the Spirit we act in this way, then we will reach the full image of Christ, as children of God.


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Saturday of Week 30

1st Reading: Romans 11:1-2, 11-12, 25-29

The paradoxical status of God's people, when they reject Him

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob." "And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Responsorial: Psalm 93:12-15, 17-18

R./: The Lord will not abandon his people.

Happy the man whom you teach,
 O Lord, whom you train by means of your law:
 to him you give peace in evil days. (R./)

The Lord will not abandon his people
 nor forsake those who are his own.
For judgment shall again be just
 and all true hearts shall uphold it. (R./)

If the Lord were not to help me,
 I would soon go down into the silence.
When I think: 'I have lost my foothold,'
 your mercy, Lord, holds me up. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-11

Not choosing celebrity or status

Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, 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

Avoid spiritual blindness

Unlike the evangelists, St Paul does not record many words or actions of Jesus. Rather his message is about the risen Lord, now alive within the community. In his letter to the Romans, he presents the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, as a gfit to be shared with other nations (gentiles). They too are blessed with the grace of Christ and are called to spread his spirit in the world. This brings Paul to think about the future of his own people, the tribes of Israel, who as a group refused to recognize Jesus as Lord and Messiah, even though a minority of them did become disciples. Paul maintaints that, as a nation, they suffered from spiritual blindness. But with his usual optimism, he believes that the Jews' rejection of the gospel has served to spread it even more quickly among the Gentiles. "Blindness has come on part of Israel until the full number of Gentiles enter in." In spite of this "blindness" he trusts that God has not rejected his people; and he predicts that some time in the future, all Israel will be saved.

The gospel warns us against looking for celebrity and putting too high a value on titles, status and publicity. There is a temptation to want our virtues to be publicly known and admired, or to use ones wealth or status to become the priveleged guest of honour. Jesus is kind enough to understand this common weakness of even good people. So he advises them to sit in the lowest place "so that the host will say, 'My friend, come up higher,' then you will be honoured."It is as though to say, "If you must seek esteem, at least go about it in a proper, civilized way." The story ends with the most difficult guideline of all, be humble. True humility is a stumbling block to us all, even if honour is offered as a reward.


Unselfishness

"Whoever humbles himself will be exalted." This principle applies above all to Jesus himself. Saint Paul sums up the life of Christ in this way, "He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and then humbled himself still further, even unto death on a cross." This turned out to be his path to glory, for "God gave him a name above every other name." Having humbled himself, he is exalted in heaven and became the source of our salvation.

Jesus did not look for the place of honour whether at table or in public. Rather, in order to serve others he was prepared to endure dishonour, even the shame of crucifixion. But this self-emptying brought him the honour that is truly worth having, honour from God. He invites us to take the same path of humble service, and promises that this will bring us honour from God. For him the highest goal in life is to do God's will, and this is through humble, loving service of others.



Readings for the 31st Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 31

1st Reading: Romans 11:29-36

Paul concludes his meditation on Israel with the mysterious ways of God

The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient so that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 68:30-31, 33-34, 36-37

R./: Lord, in your great love, answer me.

As for me in my poverty and pain
 let your help, O God, lift me up.
I will praise God's name with a song;
 I will glorify him with thanksgiving. (R./)

The poor when they see it will be glad
 and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
 and does not spurn his servants in their chains. (R./)

For God will bring help to Zion
 and rebuild the cities of Judah
 and men shall dwell there in possession.
The Sons of his servants shall inherit it;
 those who love his name shall dwell there. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:12-14

Invite outsiders to your banquet

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, "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

Who should we invite?

In coversation with a wealthy Pharisee who had invited him to a meal, Jesus offers unexpected advice. The Pharisees tended to eat only with their own kind, but he says it would be good to include some guests from far outside their social circle. Jesus himself ate meals with all sorts of people, with the rich and the poor, with the educated and uneducated, with religious people and others who were branded as sinners, with women as well as men. This hospitality and table fellowship marked his whole ministry. He did not exclude anyone from his circle, but showed the year of God's mercy to everyone, especially to those most in need of that mercy.

By his whole lifestyle, including his choice of table companions, Jesus taught the loving hospitality of God. In contrast, the Pharisees notion of God was of a Judge who wanted to sentence more people than he acquitted. We are meant to reveal something of the hospitality of God by our own social habits. We can be unconsciously snobbish in our ways, and socialise exclusively with people who share our outlook, attitudes and interests. Maybe we should widen our circle so that it reflects the expansive heart of God as shown by Jesus.


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Tuesday of Week 31

1st Reading: Romans 12:5-16

Though many, we are one body in Christ, with a variety of gifts

We who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Responsorial: Psalm 130

R./: 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 14:15-24

God invites poor people from all sorts of places

One of the dinner guests said to Jesus, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"

In reply, 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 lanes, 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

Members of each other

Hope is not given to us simply for our private contentment, for unless it is shared, it is lost. A phrase used by St Paul in his final advice to the Romans is, "Rejoice in hope." He stresses the need to share our gifts with others, because we are "one body in Christ and individually members one of another." Each one, like an organ in the human body, must serve the entire body. He expands on this image with practical examples. When the hand brings food to the mouth it is not for the hand's sake but for the whole body. Likewise the mouth is never so absorbed with chewing that we eat only for the sake of our palate, but as fuel for the whole body.

Paul lists seven gifts bestowed on believers:

1. prophecy, to strengthen our shared faith in Christ;

2. ministry, to serve others in their material or physical needs;

3. teaching, that the mystery of Jesus be more fully appreciated;

4. exhortation, like joyfully encouraging children to use their talents;

5. almsgiving from one's private resources, generously and graciously;

6. administration which should be done as a service of love;

7. works of mercy, to be done cheerfully.

Not only does the entire church depend on the right functioning of each member within the body, but each member weakens, unless it is properly exercised. The Gospel reinforces this principle. We should not set our own individual goals against Christ's invitation into the church and into community. Remembering how helpless and impoverished we would be, left to our own devices only, we take our part in welcoming others into the hospitable family of God.


Accepting God's invitation

In Luke's gospel, Jesus is often shown talking with other guests at a meal. Today he is hosted by a leading Pharisee and other Pharisees and Jewish lawyers were present. One of the guests makes an enthusiastic outburst of faith in the form of a beatitude, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" In reply, our Lord tells a parable comparing God's kingdom to a great feast. But whereas the other guest's outburst looked forward to a great feast in the future, in the parable the invitations to the feast have already gone out in the present. Jesus draws people's attention back from the future to the here and now.

If the invitations have already gone out, what is to be our response to God's invitation? Ominously, we learn that some people who initially said "yes" to the invitation turned it down at the last minute, when the meal was ready to be served. They let themselves be distracted by various interests, which are all good in themselves but are not the primary good. The excuses they made are not unlike what we ourselves might make. But as a result of their refusal, their places are given to the kinds of people who normally get invited to nothing. These poor people had no other engagements and were delighted to accept. It's a reminder to say yes to the Lord's invitation in the present moment and not to let minor matters take all of our time, so that we are not longer free to say yes when God calls.


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Wednesday of Week 31

1st Reading: Romans 13:8-10

Paul's summary of all God's commandments,"love one another."

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet;" and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbour as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Responsorial: Psalm 111:1-2, 4-5, 9

R./: Happy the merciful who give to those in need.

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

He is a light in the darkness for the upright
 He is generous, merciful and just.
The good man takes pity and lends,
 he conducts his affairs with honour. (R./)

Open-handed, he gives to the poor;
 his justice stands firm for ever.
His head will be raised in glory. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

The self-denial Jesus asked of his disciples

Large crowds were traveling with him; and Jesus 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

Members of each other

Our deepest hope is given us by God and offers us great prospects. We cannot ignore or reject it without losing out in the process. Hope is not given simply for our private contentment, for unless it is shared, it is lost. The ever-hopeful watchword of Paul is, "Rejoice in hope." The reading from Romans begins with the need to share our gifts, because we are "one body in Christ and individually members one of another." Each one, compared to a member of the human body, must serve the entire body exercise one's gifts in such a way that the hand is never thinking just of the hand but of the mouth to which it offers food, and the mouth is never so absorbed with chewing as to overlook whether the stomach can digest the food and nourish the other parts of the body, including both arm and mouth.

He lists seven gifts bestowed on believers: 1. prophecy, in accordance with faith, so that the bond of unity in Christ be strengthened; 2. ministry, to represent the church in serving others in their material or physical needs; 3. teaching, that the mystery of Jesus be ever more profoundly appreciated; 4. exhortation, like parents joyfully encouraging then-children in their talents; 5. almsgiving from one's private resources, generously and graciously; 6. administration which should recognize its subordinate place on the list of gifts and act "with love"; 7. works of mercy, to be cheerfully performed. Not only does the entire church depend on the right functioning of each member within the body, but each member will shrivel and weaken, unless properly exercised.


Costly discipleship

Clearly, Jesus' expression about hating one's father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, cannot be taken literally. Earlier in the gospel, Jesus had called his people to love their enemies, to bless those who curse them, to pray for those who treat them badly. He embodies that teaching in his own life. He healed the ear of the enemy who had come out to arrest him; he prayed asking God's forgiveness for those who were crucified him.

Jesus is using deliberately exaggerated language to get across his core insight. He is really saying that those who want to follow him will have to love him even more than they love those for whom they would normally have the deepest natural affection. As God's representative, as God's Son, Jesus alone is to be loved in the way that God is to be loved, with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. Nothing less will do for God or for God's Son. Jesus seems to be saying that if we want to be his disciple, we can't be half-hearted about it. Our following of the Lord is not a casual affair; it needs to be carefully considered, just as someone who decides to build a tower or to go to war needs to think it through thoroughly beforehand.


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Thursday of Week 31

1st Reading: Romans 14:7-12

In life and in death we belong to God; hence we love each other

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Responsorial: Psalm 26:1, 4, 13-14

R./: I trust I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

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 15:1-10

Joy in heaven over finding the one lost sheep (or lost coin)

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 desert 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

Looking for the lost sheep

It seems that Jesus never refused an invitation to a dinner-party. Many of his sayings were spoken at meals with various hosts. Both parables conclude with the recovery of lost goods [a lost sheep or lost silver pieces] and the finder inviting friends and neighbours to share some food and drink, 'Rejoice with me, because I found what I lost!' Such happy encouters are compared with God's joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, more than over the ninety-nine righteous who have no need to repent.

We are all reflected in the ninety-nine sheep that stayed put, as well as in the one lost sheep that wandered off and would not stay under control. We have ideas and talents that we are well aware of and that help us make our living. These may constitute the ninety-nine percent of our righteous selves that does not need to repent. But perhaps God has put an unpredictable and unruly talent or quality into us. Stretching the parable a bit, this easily lost part of ourselves can be a special moment of time or a unique opportunity crossing our path, chances and graces so fleeting that they can easily pass us by. All of us possess some talents and inspirations, for ourselves or the church, for our family, neighbourhood or country, that seem too idealistic even to talk about. They might be spoiled or injured by ridicule or simply by cool indifference. Or they might turn out to demand so much of ourselves that we try to suppress them. Such inspirations could become crucial turning points in our lives--whether to forgive another and be reconciled, to volunteer assistance badly needed by a marginalised group, or to make a clear decision for marriage for priesthood or for some other vocational choice.

From this we can also appreciate Paul's injunction against harshly judging one's neighbour. We judge from the evidence we see; but what we see may be just the ninety-nine per cent, the one other one being lost to view. Our judgment seldom takes into consideration the value of the lost sheep or coin, which only God can see. But when the lost one is found, the ninety-nine also get new insight, for we must all be like the shepherd who never ceases to cares for those outside the margins, whom he came to find.


Divine searching

If one is prone to losing things, we occasionally have to search hard for something we have lost. It may be necessary to search for people too. Parents search for their children if they ramble off. Men and women seek out a special person to share their lives with. We all search for friends, people with whom we can journey and who want to journey with us. Underneath all our searching is a fundamental search, for the God who alone can satisfy the deepest longings in our hearts.

It has been said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God (St Augustine). Even more basic than our search for God is God's search for us. To paraphrase St John, God's love for us took flesh in the person of Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost. The whole life of Jesus made visible God's continual search for us. The shepherd who searches for his lost sheep and the woman who searches for her lost coin are images of this divine searching. God seeks us out because we are all lost in different ways. Our search for God is in response to God's search for us. In the words of the first letter of Saint John, "We love because God first loved us."


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Friday of Week 31

1st Reading: Romans 15:14-21

Paul marvels at what God has done through him among the gentiles

I feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Those who who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand."

Responsorial: Psalm 97:1-4

R./: The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

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./)

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./)

Gospel: Luke 16:1-8

The worldly often take shrewd initiatives; the parable about the unjust manager

Jesus said to his disciples,
"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; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light."

BIBLE

Examining our Motives?

From what motives and attitudes do we normally act? All too many are workaholics, distracted from any serious reflection on our basic motives or even about the end-result of our excessive activism. A hurricane sweeps through our lives and drives other people as well. To correct this frenetic motion Scriptures declares that "by waiting and by calm you shall be saved" (Isa 30:15). Yet the Scriptures do not canonize inactivity. We have the example of Paul, apostle of the gentiles, world traveller in the second part of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 13-28), prolific writer of letters, many of them preserved in the New Testament. In today's text he even boasts of the work he has done for God. We can study his writings for signs of how to modulate our own activity.

Paul treasures the gift of grace, believing that we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit. He tells the Christians of Rome, whom he has not yet met, about his service to the gospel in many ways, but admits that whatever he has achieved among the Gentiles was not really his own doing. Rather it was "what Christ has accomplished through me." It was the Spirit who prompted him to undertake difficult tasks, to preach where Christ's name was unknown. Yet with so much to be done, Paul did not succumb to relentless activism but found time to remember the source and motive of his mission, "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus."

The gospel today speaks in plainer, everyday language. We are invited to be enterprising and to act with initiative. Jesus notes how worldly people possess these qualities more than the other-worldly. We must plan ahead and be resourceful, for in making good use of our talents, we serve the God who created us in his image and likeness.


How is the unjust manager an example to follow?

This is maybe the most puzzling of all the Gospel parables. The main character is a steward who was dishonest and wasteful, and was therefore dismissed from his post. After being fired, he takes decisive action to provide for his future as best he can. Calling a meeting of his master's creditors, he reduces the debts they owe, probably by cancelling the cut that he would have taken for himself. In other words, he forfeited money he would have received to gain the future goodwill and hospitality of his master's debtors. In his moment of crisis he knew that some things are more important than immediate profitand, on that basis, he took decisive action.

Jesus told this parable because the children of light, his followers, have something to learn from this tricky character. As the unjust steward used money that was due to him to win friends for the future, we are to use our resources to win friends in heaven. If we are generous here and now, we will be paid back in the future, in this life and beyond. It is another angle on the priciple that "the measure you give is the measure you will get back."


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Saturday of Week 31

1st Reading: Romans 16:3-9, 22-27

Greeting Paul's co-workers, and praise of God's unfolding plan

Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith--to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

Responsorial: Psalm 144:2-5, 10-11

R./: I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

I will bless you day after day and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
 his greatness cannot be measured. (R./)

Age to age shall proclaim your works,
 shall declare your mighty deeds,
 shall speak of your splendour and glory,
 tell the tale of your wonderful works. (R./)

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. (R./)

(R./)

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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

Others as Co-workers

The list of colleagues named and praised by Paul in the final chapter of Romans shows how much he valued the contribution of others to the success of his own work. The list begins with Prisca and Aquila who "risked their lives for the sake of mine" and in whose house the congregation meets for prayer. Then there are: the beloved Epaenetus "first fruits" of his mission in Asia; Mary "who worked hard for you;" a couple named Adronicus and Junias, "fellow prisoners, outstanding apostles; who were in Christ even before me." Then we catch a glimpse of Paul's secretary, Tertius, who actually penned the letter, and sends his greetings and those from Paul's host, "Gaius, and Erastus, city treasurer, and our brother Quartus."

Clearly, Paul did not run a one-man show but believed in team ministry and endorsed the gifts and talents of many others. Nor was Paul anti-woman. In this list women receive as much attention as they do in Luke's gospel. In naming the Jewish couple, "Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers, " Paul names the woman first, she who risked her life for his sake. He praises the hard work of Mary and of Junia, an "outstanding apostle." The mention and endorsement of these co-workers is highly significant, here where Paul concludes his most careful, theological explanation of the gospel that he preaches wherever he goes.

The gospel, as in the preceding days, says unambiguously that we are to make good use of this world's goods. If we are faithful in these small matters, we can be trusted in greater things. But do not be the slave of money. And in financial matters, very often what humans think important, God holds in contempt.


Using money well

St Paul once wrote that money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). what concerns Jesus is not money in itself but rather about the use that money is put to. He advises, "use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity." He uses the language of trust in relation to money. It is something that we are entrusted to use well, and if we show ourselves to be worthy of that trust, by using it well, then the day will come when we will be blessed with genuine riches, the riches of eternal life. Jesus seems to be saying that more important even than what we have is what we do with what we have. Whatever resources come our way, we are called upon to use them in the service of others. The gospel challenges us every day to use what we have to benefit others, and what we have includes not only our material possessions, but our gifts and talents, our experience and our time. We all have much that can benefit others, if we are willing to give it away and to share it.



Readings for the 32nd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 32

1st Reading: Wisdom 1:1-7

Think of the Lord constantly, and seek his guidance truly

Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth, think of the Lord in goodness and seek him with sincerity of heart; because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him.

For perverse thoughts separate people from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish; because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin.

For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will leave foolish thoughts behind, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.

For wisdom is a kindly spirit, but will not free blasphemers from the guilt of their words; because God is witness of their inmost feelings, and a true observer of their hearts, and a hearer of their tongues.

Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world, and that which holds all things together knows what is said.

Responsorial: Psalm 139:1-10

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./)

Before ever a word is on my tongue
 you know it, O Lord, through and through.
 Behind and before you besiege me,
 your hand ever laid upon me.
Too wonderful for me, this knowledge,
too high, beyond my reach. (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./)

Gospel: Luke 17:1-6

Instruction on scandal, repeated forgiveness, and the power of 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

The path of righteousness

This week we read from the Book of Wisdom, the last of the "sapiential" (wisdom-inducing) books to be written. Then 33 and 34, will draw from the account of the Maccabee struggle and the Prophecy of Daniel, describing how Jews suffered for keeping to the Mosaic law, which was proscribed by powerful invaders. Both Daniel and Maccabees reflect intense persecution by foreigners; and as a glimmer of hope Daniel foresees the glorious coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.

The Book of Wisdom is very practical. We are meant to be aware of our behavious and live with two feet firmly planted on the ground. It offers pointers or warnings for keeping ourselves steady during life. We should value our personal integrity and not take foolish advice, nor put God to the test. It is our duty to rebuke injustice, be prudent in eating and drinking and keep guard over our tongue.

The teacher in Egypt who composed the book of Wisdom (probably in Alexandria) wanted to give an alternative schooling to that provided by the Greek philosophers. He offered his Jewish students a religious background for their reflections on life, with an awareness of God's presence within oneself and openness to a God-filled universe. His practical counsel are interwoven with a sense of God's presence in all things. Nothing is too small, no question too trifling, no dimension too immense nor any problem too complex, for the influence of God not to be near, helping us.

Today's gospel broaches a problem that can bother people who are high-minded, trustful and idealistic: how to cope with or ignore, if not restrain, the faults of others. In our multicultural age and with conflicting moral standards all accepted in civil law, maybe we just need to be more streetwise and tolerant of flamboyant lifestyles. However Jesus defends the value of moral innocence and warns his disciples against giving scandal. On the other hand, idealists often find it difficult to forgive. Because moral obligation seems obvious to them, they cannot empathise with the addictions felt by others. One can hold their own criteria of holiness so strongly and fail to see any value in the different principles held by others. If religious people seem so prissy as to totally reject the good intentions of the secular world, this could be a scandal to people outside the church. Our quest for holiness must be balanced by a trust that God is also guiding the lives of others.


If you can't help, at least don't hinder

Jesus warns against scandal, that is putting an obstacle (skandalon) that can trip someone else; leading them astray and away from the Lord. Its opposite is being supportive of people's faith, being present to them in ways that help them grow to their full personal stature. We can do that in various ways. Those who become faith-friends or prayer-friends to children preparing for the sacraments support their relationship with the Lord. If children know that adults are praying for them, it helps them appreciate their friendship with the Lord and his friendship with them.

In a fine example of faith friendship, Luke presents Mary and Elizabeth as mutually supportive in prayer. Each of them helped the other to put their full trust in God. Elizabeth's joyful affirmation of the special grace given to Mary inspired the wonderful Magnificat in praise of God's mercy. Perhaps we think that our own faith is not strong enough to offer spiritual support to others. Like the apostles we may find ourselves praying, "Lord, increase our faith." In response to that prayer, Jesus assures us that even a little faith can work wonders, even a small mustard-seed of faith can encourage the faith of others.


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Tuesday of Week 32

1st Reading: Wisdom 2:23-3:9

The dead may seem extinct, but their souls are in peace

God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.

Responsorial: Psalm 33:2-3, 16-19

R./: I will bless the Lord at all times.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
 his praise always on my lips;
 in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad. (R./)

The Lord turns his face against the wicked
 to destroy their remembrance from the earth.
The Lord turns his eyes to the just
 and his ears to their appeal. (R./)

They call and the Lord hears them
 and rescues them in all their distress.
 The Lord is close to the broken-hearted;
 those whose spirit is crushed he will save. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:7-10

We are servants who have done no more than 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

The Afterlife

The belief surfaced in Israel about two centuries before Jesus, that God has imbued human beings with something imperishable, a spark or portion of the divine nature itself. Each of us, regardless of race, gender or wealth, has a spark of godhead within us. We begin life created to the divine image; we end it by discovering the fullness of that image in Jesus Christ, when he returns in glory and welcomes us into the afterlife. In between, we trudge or jog along the path of human life. Iin God's mysterious ways, our life on planet earth lets us grow more fully into the divine image. Wisdom, that latest of our Old Testament books, offers this understanding of life. It praises those who have sacrificed their lives for their ideals. God tested them like gold in the furnace, then took them home. Life is a testing-place, a furnace that refines the divine image in us.

The parable about the master and the slave seems to accept customs which are not acceptable today; but Jesus drew a lesson simply from the realities he saw around him. He refers to slavery and to what a master can expect from the slave. The master would not necessarily say thinks for work well done, because the slave had just done his duty. Of course, Jesus was not endorsing slavery; rather he undermined all oppressive structures by affirming the dignity of everyone. He states that what God has in store for us will far surpass our human merits. It is a comforting thought that God blesses us much more than we deserve.


The wrong kind of pride

Many books, movies and guru-psychologists in today's culture urge us to be proud of who we are, to proclaim our ego at all times, so that at the end of the journey we can to say with satisfaction "I did it my way." But there is a destructive form of pride that is listed among the seven deadly sins, as something we have to keep in check. The more good we think we have done, the more we can be tempted to be proud, to see the limelight and be recognised by society.

Today's gospel calls for a less self-affirming approach, for a greater modesty about our achievements. Jesus warns against that tendency to be foo full of ourselves and declares, "When you have done all you ought to do, say, 'we are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty'." In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee displayed his virtues and boasted of the good life that he lived. He seemed to think that his good deeds gave him an absolute claim on God. But he was wrong.

The concept of merit is a dangerous one, even though it serves well enough in judging human behaviour on a day-to-day level. No matter how well we live, no matter how much good we do, the grace of God remains a free gift. The good news is, we don't need our own merits in order to have God's favour. God loves us and shows that love by giving us his Son. In response to love, we try to serve faithfully, by doing his will, as we discern it. Our service of God is simply the right thing to do, following our best human impulses.


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Wednesday of Week 32

1st Reading: Wisdom 6:1-11

God, as Creator of everything, provides for all alike

Listen, O kings, and understand; learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.

Give ear, you that rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations. For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High; he will search out your works and inquire into your plans. Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly, or keep the law, or walk according to the purpose of God, he will come upon you terribly and swiftly, because severe judgment falls on those in high places. For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested.

For the Lord of all will not stand in awe of anyone, or show deference to greatness; because he himself made both small and great, and he takes thought for all alike. But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty. To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed, so that you may learn wisdom and not transgress. For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness, and those who have been taught them will find a defense. Therefore set your desire on my words; long for them, and you will be instructed.

Responsorial: Psalm 81:3-4, 6-7

R./: Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth

Do justice for the weak and the orphan,
 defend the afflicted and the needy.
Rescue the weak and the poor;
 set them free from the hand of the wicked. (R./)

I have said to you: 'You are gods
 and all of you, sons of the Most High.'
And yet, you shall die like men,
 you shall fall like any of the princes. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

Of ten lepers healed, only one returned to give thanks

Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee, on his way to Jerusalem. 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

If we don't say thanks

"Your faith has made you well." What a wonderful gift that poor, suffering leper received, by the healing power of Jesus. We need faith like that, knowing our dependency on God for life and for health. Faith helps us cooperate with others on the journey of life. By faith we can encourage one another. To the Samaritan leper who expressed his thanks for being cured, Jesus said, "Stand up and go on your way." The man had been restored to dignity and hope, healed of his dreadful disease, and went his way. He was no longer prohibited from living beside other people, no longer ostracized as unclean. He could resume normal life, now blessed with new gratitude to God for his good health.

Alongside his response of gratitude is a commentary on human ingratitude. For Jesus asked "Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?" At that time the Samaritans were scorned, feared and avoided, after centuries of distrust. Five centuries earlier, the Jews refused to let Samaritans take any part in rebuilding the temple, and in return the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. From then on there was open hostility between Jews and Samaritans. Jesus wanted to lessen this antagonism by showing that even the outsiders could have true faith.

Was it their sudden, unexpected return to good health that distracted the other nine, so that they forgot the normal courtesy of returning to thank the healer for their cure? Strangely enough, God's finest gifts, our life and health, our ability to think and act creatively, are often taken for granted. With good reason the Book of Wisdom warns us to value and use our talents. Gratitude is better than pride, "For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested."


Graced and grateful

"Who has returned to give thanks to God, except this stranger?" We don't always remember that the ultimate source of our graces and gifts is God. That is what makes the Samaritan leper special, and distinguishes him from the other nine in today's gospel. All ten were equally healed by Jesus of a disease that left them only half-alive. But only one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice. This man knelt down in a gesture of deep appreciation. He thanked Jesus, but he praised God. He had the insight to understand that God had cured him.

Jesus praised this man's insight. He didn't ask any thanks for himself but for the healing power of God. "Nobody has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner." He goes on to assure him, "your faith has saved." This leper had a grateful heart. He recognized God at work in his recovery. We are called to that same gratitude, to recognize God at work in the graces that bless us in the course of our lives. God's grace invites our grateful praise.


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Thursday of Week 32

1st Reading: Wisdom 7:22-8:1

Wisdom reaches from end to end and governs all things well

Wisdom is a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.

Wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.

Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail. She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well.

Responsorial: Psalm 118:89-91, 130, 135, 175

R./: Your word is for ever, O Lord.

Your word, O Lord, for ever
 stands firm in the heavens.
Your truth lasts from age to age,
 like the earth you created. (R./)

By your decree it endures to this day;
 for all things serve you.
The unfolding of your word gives light
 and teaches the simple. (R./)

Let your face shine on your servant
 and teach me your decrees.
Give life to my soul that I may praise you.
 Let your decrees give me help. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:20-25

The reign of God is not "out there" but is already among us

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

Finding wisdom

Wisdom is like a golden thread interwoven in life, which is closely linked to the reign of God. This wisdom "penetrates and pervades all things." We in turn are called to live with integrity, and to form bonds of union with others so that the kingdom of God can flourish among us. Real integrity comes through wisdom, which is God's supreme gift. Our God as compassionate and good, always creatively at work in our world.

We become impatient with the hardships and injustice in our world and we press for an answer, "When will the reign of God come?" In his reply, Jesus shelves the question of when and focuses on how the kingdom of God will come. It is not to be identified with a point of time, contrary to those who try to predict the end of the world on such and such a day. He refuses to locate the reign of God "here" or "there." There is no all-holy place where God dwells, rather than in another. Jesus' answer is baffling but also consoling: The kingdom of God is already in your midst.

Within our own hearts, God's reign has already begun, through the work of Jesus among us. Already we have a foretaste of eternal life. From him we find strength to be loyal, for God's wisdom lives in us.


Right here and now

"Oh world invisible, we see thee . . . Inapprehensible we clutch thee," wrote Francis Thompson. Sometimes we miss something of great significance; it is right before us but somehow we fail to notice. When they asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, he said "the kingdom of God is already among you." The kingdom of God was present, but in a less dramatic form than they expected.

Christ is present in our lives in more ways than we realize. His presence will often be un-dramatic, without fanfare. Yet his influence is present day to day, and especially through people that build up and heal and bring life. "I am with you always," is his assurance that we will never be without his heling influence. What we need are eyes to see and ears to hear, with faith. We always need to pray, "Increase our faith."


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Friday of Week 32

1st Reading: Wisdom 13:1-9

The beauty of created things can lead us to their Maker

For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists, nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.

If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. And if people were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is the one who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.

Yet these people are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him. While they live among his works, they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?

Responsorial: Psalm 18:2-5

R./: The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God
 and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands.
 Day unto day takes up the story
 and night unto night makes known the message. (R./)

No speech, no word, no voice is heard
 yet their span extends through all the earth,
 their words to the utmost bounds of the world. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:26-37

The Son of Man comes suddenly. Be prepared

Jesus said to his disciples,
"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will 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 aid to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."

BIBLE

Distracted from God

It is possible for created things to distract us from God himself. Because the natural things in this world are so good, they can claim our total attention and stifle any desire to think about life beyond this good world. As a mundane example, once the meal is on the table, we seldom remember to thank the cook. The toys and gifts lavished on children are quickly taken for granted. But the Book of Wisdom asserts that from the greatness and the beauty of created things, we should acknowledge God as their author.

This raises important questions for the agnostic and atheist as well as for the believer. People are distracted by what they see, because the things see are so beautiful. For women and men of faith even certain habitual forms of prayer and worship can hold us back from God. Sometimes the rubrics of worship become more important than the One to whom we pray. Parents can be so concerned about what the neighbours might think, that fear of shame overrides their love for their children.

In all four Gospels, Jesus makes the challenging statement that "Whoever tries to spare their life, will lose it; whoever seems to forfeit it, will keep it." While living fully in the present, we must look behind the veil of signs to see the Creator. While loving one another, we need to be rooted in the love of Jesus, to deepen our capacity for authentic love. If we forget God, our loving becomes shallow and self-serving; and such love does not last. It seems as if only if we share with others, will God entrust us with eternal life; and to hold on to life we must find it with Jesus, who enables us to truly love one another.


What ultimately matters?

The gospel warns against being so absorbed in daily life that we neglect what ultimately matters. We are largely taken up with eating and drinking, writing and reading, buying and selling, planting and building, and keeping our relationships vibrant. These are the stuff of life and cannot be neglected. They are so important that we may to see them as all that matters, and neglect our spiritual life.

Above and beyond all our daily concerns there is a deeper reality, what Jesus calls the day of the Son of Man. The Son of Man is revealed at the end of time and also in the here and now. The Lord is near us, in and through the ordinary activities in which we are so engaged. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Always we are invited to be aware of the Lord who is at the heart of life. So even as we go about our daily lives, deep in our hearts we keep his presence in mind.


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Saturday of Week 32

1st Reading: Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9

In the peaceful stillness of the night God's Word came down

While gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of your authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.

For the whole creation in its nature was fashioned anew, complying with your commands, so that your children might be kept unharmed. The cloud was seen overshadowing the camp, and dry land emerging where water had stood before, an unhindered way out of the Red Sea, and a grassy plain out of the raging waves, where those protected by your hand passed through as one nation, after gazing on marvellous wonders. For they ranged like horses, and leaped like lambs, praising you, O Lord, who delivered them.

Responsorial: Psalm 104:2-3, 36-37, 42-43

R./: Remember the marvels the Lord has done.

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./)

He struck all the first-born in their land,
 the finest flower of their sons.
He led out Israel with silver and gold.
 In his tribes were none who fell behind. (R./)

For he remembered his holy word,
 which he gave to Abraham his servant.
So he brought out his people with joy,
 his chosen ones with shouts of rejoicing.
 (R./)

Gospel: Luke 18:1-8

God responds to persistent prayer like that of the widow

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.'

And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

BIBLE

Ready for his return

While in a crisis we may be willing to go the extra mile, today's texts ask for fidelity over the long haul, not the heroism of the single brave action, but the heroism of staying with the daily routine of duty. Our daily duties may seem very ordinary, but it takes God's extraordinary grace to keep at it.

This kind of daily faithfulness can accomplish much, keeping the family intact and the business afloat, or the parish functioning as a place of prayer and goodwill. Jesus addresses the paradox of seeming to be stuck in a rut and yet reaching our goal, as exemplified in the widow who kept coming to the judge, demanding her rights. Finally the judge's patience wears out, and so settles the case in her favour. the widow is a patroness of persistence. We can accomplish very much by not taking no for an answer.

This final verse is odd. No other parable in the gospels ends on a question-mark. "When he comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Originally it might refer to the threat of Roman imperialism but it speaks to any number of situations. A positive response to the question is to be involved in spreading our faith, each of us as an when possible. Then when "the all-powerful Word leaps from heaven, from the royal throne", we will find ourselves ready and waiting to greet him.


If at first we don't succeed

We have heard the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Here was a widow who refused to lose heart, even when rejected by a judge who neither feared God nor had any respected his neighbours. This powerless woman was faced down by a powerful judge and the odds were all stacked against her. But she refused to give up, certain that justice was on her side. Jesus proposes this woman as a model of faith in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles.

At the end of this parable, Jesus asks, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?" Will he will find the resilient faith of the widow or, will he find, rather, that people have lost heart and lost faith? God's faithfulness is not in doubt. The question is about our faithfulness. He gave this lesson about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. Our main way to keep faith in difficult times is through prayer.



Readings for the 33rd Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 33

1st Reading: 1 Maccabees (1:10-15 etc

The Jews suffering under persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes

There arose from them a sinful root, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus; he had been a hostage in Rome. He began to reign in the one hundred thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks. In those days certain renegades arose in Israel and misled many, saying, "Let us make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us." This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Very great wrath came upon Israel.

Responsorial: Psalm 118:53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158

R./: Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands

Lord I am seized with indignation
 at the wicked who forsake your law.
Though the nets of the wicked ensnared me
 I remembered your law. (R./)

Redeem me from man's oppression
 and I will keep your precepts.
Those who harm me unjustly draw near.
 They are far from your law. (R./)

Salvation is far from the wicked
 who are heedless of your statutes.
I look at the faithless with disgust;
 they ignore your promise. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 18:35-43

Jesus cures a blind man, who then praises God and follows him

As Jesus 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

The gift of sight

The rebellion of the Maccabees was against the attempted paganising of Israel around the year 168 B.C. Their political overlord, Antiochus of Syria, wanted to force his Jewish subjects to conform to all the Hellenistic laws and culture of the surrounding nations. He provoked a military crisis by trying to suppress Jewish religious traditions in order to make them embrace the ways of modernity. This kind of crisis has echoes in today's Ireland, where an influential elite are imposing a strongly secularist world view and lifestyle.

The blind man sitting at the Jericho gate needed the restoration of his eyesight, so he asked Jesus aloud, "Lord, that I may see!" Even when the bystanders wanted to silence him, he was willing to take his chances and shoulted even more loudly. After receiving back the gift of his sight, he began to follow Jesus, giving glory to God. His life now had a new focus. He could see his wife and children, his friends and surroundings, as treasured gifts. The shining sun, the palm trees in the oasis, the birds gliding in the sky, the bees buzzing in his garden, this whole wonderful world was visible as he followed Jesus along the way.

Our conversion may not be as total or dramatic, but we should ask for the vision to see the world and others as God's blessing, and to see how the Lord is leading us, right here and now.


Keep shouting

There is something endearing about the blind man who kept on shouting until somebody listened. In the face of opposition, he perseveres in his prayer. When he asked, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me," the onlookers scolded him and told him to keep quiet. But he simply shouted his prayer out louder, "Son of David, have pity on me." Undeterred by other people's intolerant attitude, he models for us what persevering prayer looks like. It was driven by his need and his confidence in Jesus.

Our own heartfelt petition can be driven by some deep need we feel. In bringing our need to God we open ourselves for a blessing, just as the blind man did when he brought his need to Jesus. He did not cease to pray when he was healed, though now his prayer was changed to thanksgiving and praise. The prayer of thanks may not come as naturally to us as the prayer of need. But we all have much to thank God for. The blind man teaches us not to forget to say thanks for all the ways the Lord has blessed us.


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Tuesday of Week 33

1st Reading: 2 Maccabees 6:18-31

Eleazar's refusal to be disloyal to Yahweh gives an example of virtue for the whole nation

Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine's flesh. But he, welcoming death with honour rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, as all ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life.

Those who were in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside because of their long acquaintance with him, and privately urged him to bring meat of his own providing, proper for him to use, and to pretend that he was eating the flesh of the sacrificial meal that had been commanded by the king, so that by doing this he might be saved from death, and be treated kindly on account of his old friendship with them. But making a high resolve, worthy of his years and the dignity of his old age and the gray hairs that he had reached with distinction and his excellent life even from childhood, and moreover according to the holy God-given law, he declared himself quickly, telling them to send him to Hades.

"Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life, " he said, "for many of the young might suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year had gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they would be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age. Even if for the present I would avoid the punishment of mortals, yet whether I live or die I will not escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by bravely giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws."

When he had said this, he went at once to the rack. Those who a little before had acted toward him with goodwill now changed to ill will, because the words he had uttered were in their opinion sheer madness. When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said: "It is clear to the Lord in his holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating, but in my soul I am glad to suffer these things because I fear him." So in this way he died, leaving in his death an example of nobility and a memorial of courage, not only to the young but to the great body of his nation.

Responsorial: Psalm 3:2-7

R./: The Lord upholds me

How many are my foes, O Lord!
 How many are rising up against me!
How many are saying about me:
 'There is no help for him in God.' (R./)

But you, Lord, are a shield about me,
 my glory, who lift up my head.
 I cry aloud to the Lord.
 He answers from his holy mountain. (R./)

I lie down to rest and I sleep.
 I wake, for the Lord upholds me.
 I will not fear even thousands of people
 who are ranged on every side against me. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

Jesus dines with Zacchaeus, to seek and save what was lost

He 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

Being found by Jesus

This story about Zacchaeus offers a central insight into the aims of Jesus. He understook his mission as "to seek out and save what was lost." Perhaps that saying can be reinterpreted to tell us that we cannot be found unless we know ourselves to be. Unless we are found by Jesus, we cannot be saved.

To be found by Jesus, Zacchaeus had to be willing give up a lot. He set aside his dignity by climbing up the sycamore tree, and then promised that most of his wealth would go in paying back those he had defrauded. Not only the tax-collector but Jesus too was willing to risk his reputation as a man of God by dining at the home of such a notorious sinner. Zacchaeus, after all, was the chief tax-collector of Jericho, a city through which many pilgrims passed on their way to festivals in the Jerusalem temple. Jericho funneled all the taxes of Jews coming from the East towards Jerusalem.

When Jesus came to where the little tax-collector was perched, up in the sycamore tree, he looked up and shouted, "Hurry on down!" for he had seen a spirit of true repentance in the heart of Zacchaeus. Indeed, his whole purpose in life was to search out and save what was lost.

Eleazar, in Maccabees, was called not to a change of lifestyle but to hand over his very life by martyrdom. Again, by losing, he gained much, and even at the point of death he declared his inner joy at staying true to the Lord God. Eleazar's martyrdom brought a blessing to his entire nation, leaving an unforgettable example of loyalty to what God required of them.


Seeking and searching

Zacchaeus was certainly was a seeker, a searcher. From the start he was anxious to see Jesus, and what kind of man he was. In his desire to see our Lord, he was ready to, quite literally, go out on a limb, the branch of a sycamore tree. This would have been an undignified thing for a man of his status. Zaccaeus goes to extravagant lengths to see Jesus, to come to know him. In the process he discovered that the one he wanted to meet was also searching for him. "I must stay at your house today," said the man whos purpose it was to seek out and to save the lost.

When we search for God we will find that God is also searching for us. When Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus to dine, he received an even greater hospitality, the hospitality of the mercy of God. Salvation came to his house, because he too was a child of Abraham. This tax-collector belonged to God's people and found a place at God's table, in spite of his past. Whenever we take a step towards the Lord, we discover that he was near us all the time.


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Wednesday of Week 33

1st Reading: 2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31

The mother of seven sons urges them to die rather than betray the covenant

It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and thongs, to partake of unlawful swine's flesh.

The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable Although she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors. Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman's reasoning with a man's courage, and said to them, "I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws."

Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his ancestors, and that he would take him for his Friend and entrust him with public affairs. Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native language as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things hat existed. And in the same way the human race came into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers."

While she was still speaking, the young man said, "What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king's command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our ancestors through Moses. But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God.

Responsorial: Psalm 16:1, 5-6, 8, 15

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 kept my feet firmly in your paths;
 there was no faltering in my steps.
 I am here and I call, you will hear me, O God.
 Turn your ear to me; hear my words. (R./)

Guard me as the apple of your eye.
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 19:11-28

A man entrusts property to his servants; returning, he rewards those who made it work

As they were listening to this, 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 over 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

Are we sure of the hereafter?

This text from Maccabees is the most explicit statement of belief in the afterlife in all the Old Testament. It reflects the piety of the dissident group which later evolved into the Pharisees, who opposed to the rigid conservatism of the Jerusalem priesthood and who hoped for the resurrection of the dead. This belief did not evolve from reflection and scholarship, but from radical trust in God's fidelity as they saw some of their friends martyred rather than abandon their religion. It was a belief also influenced by contact with other peoples, like the Greeks, whose belief in the afterlife was well established.

The Maccabean mother believed that God's fidelity to her and her seven children would bring them eternal life. In the face of execution, she made her vibrant declaration of faith in God, creator of the universe, and trusted in God's ultimate justice. Creation, pregnancy, death and rebirth are linked together in her mind. The living God loves his creatures with the same concern as a mother has for a child in her womb, and this divine love embraces faithful people even through the shadow of death.

In his parable of the talents, Jesus may be referring to how as a young man Herod the Great had fled for his life from Jerusalem, made his way to Rome and charmed the emperor Augustus into supporting him, and then returned to take over as king of Israel. Because the king will return to take his throne, we must be industrious and honest, for we must answer for our use of our talents. "Use them or lose them" applies to every human ability. Jesus taught that, Whoever uses their talents for the service of others will be given more; but those who share nothing with others will lose the little they have.


Attend to the here and now

The Gospel parable counterbalances any expectation that the coming of God's kingdom was imminent. They were too worried for the future, so Jesus directed them to the present. He told of a man of noble birth who went abroad for some years, but would eventually return as king. Instead of wondering when he would return his servants should be busily using the capital he had left them, to make a profit here and now.

Too much thought of the future can distract from the present. What matters is that we courageously use the resources the Lord has given us for the service of others, here and now. The servant who nervously hid his money safely had the wrong approach to life. In using our resources we may sometimes make mistakes, but Jesus sees efforts that fail as preferable to fearful inactivity.


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Thursday of Week 33

1st Reading: 1 Maccabees (2:15-29

Mattathias starts the Maccabee rebellion against pagan rule

The king's officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled. Then the king's officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: "You are a leader, honoured and great in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the people of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the Friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honoured with silver and gold and many gifts."

But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: "Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left."

When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein, according to the king's command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king's officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, just as Phinehas did against Zimri son of Salu.

Then Mattathias cried out in the town with a loud voice, saying: "Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!" Then he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the town.

At that time many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the desert to live there.

Responsorial: Psalm 49:1-2, 5-6, 14-15

R./: To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

The God of gods, the Lord,
 has spoken and summoned the earth,
 from the rising of the sun to its setting.
 Out of Zion's perfect beauty he shines. (R./)

'Summon before me my people
 who made covenant with me by sacrifice.'
The heavens proclaim his justice,
 for he, God, is the judge. (R./)

'Pay your sacrifice of thanksgiving to God
 and render him your votive offerings.
 Call on me in the day of distress.
 I will free you and you shall honour me.' (R./)

Gospel: Luke 19:41-44

Jesus is upset over the forthcoming 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

Testing choices

Not surprisingly, struggle and warnings mark the readings for the final two weeks of the Church year. In the Book of Maccabees, from which our readings come, victory comes only after a severe struggle. The fidelity of Mattathias and his seven sons left an ideal of heroic resistance in Israel. The old man would not succumb to bribery or fear, "We will keep to the covenant of our ancestors. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments."

We need not debate the subsequent violent deeds of Mattathias in resisting the oppressor. It can be defended as a just war against foreign agression. A more immediate challenge faced by our generation is to learn to live more sustainably in our world. Unless we, and especially in the West, curb our insatiable use of fossil fuel and simplify our lifestyle, humanity could easily come to war about resources. This sets us before hard choices, and we must learn from the decisiveness of Mattathias and his family. Choices are not simple or easy. Thinking about impending climate change reminds us of Jesus as he grieved over Jerusalem, full of great sorrow and love.


Poor Jerusalem

Jesus cried tears of sorrow because Jerusalem did not receive him, and did not recognize the decisive choice it needed to make. The inhabitants had to live with the consequences of rejecting the Gospel. His grief was about a love that has been rejected. Jesus came to reveal God's hospitable love for all of humanity, but many rejected their messenger of good news. Jesus could not force himself on people; when rejected, he could only move on. He came to seek and to save the lost, but we need to be open and responsive to his love. He walks with us and wants to bond with us, but we need to admit our need of him. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus we pray, "Stay with us, Lord."


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Friday of Week 33

1st Reading: 1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59

The temple is purified and rededicated, at the first ever celebration of the feast of Hannukah

Then Judas and his brothers said, "See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it." So all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshipped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.

Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.

Responsorial: 1 Chronicles 29:10-12,

R./: We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.

Blessed are you, O Lord,
 the God of Israel our father,
 for ever, for ages unending. (R./)

Yours, Lord, are greatness and power,
 and splendour, triumph and glory.
 All is yours, in heaven and on earth. (R./)

Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom,
 you are supreme over all.
Both honour and riches come from you. (R./)

You are the ruler of all,
 from your hand come strength and power,
 from your hand come greatness and might. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 19:45-48

Jesus drives traders from the temple. The hierarchy wants to destroy him but the people treasured his words

Then he 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

Today's texts recall the re-consecration of God's temple. In Maccabees this happens in Jerusalem, after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes; and in the gospel, Jesus cleanses the sanctuary after its profanation by traders in the temple courts. We might ponder how to make of our lives and our church more truly a house of prayer, a temple pleasing to God.

Jesus has wept over Jerusalem for failing to recognize its time of grace. Today he enters the temple and drives out the merchants and traders. His objection is not to the ritual sacrifices but to the abuse of religion for financial gain by merchants and religious leaders who were more concerned for money than the worship of God.

To purify the temple means to let God be supreme in our lives. That means that our business and financial dealings as well as our politics must be moderated by God's law of justice and compassion. We should bring every aspect of our daily lives--family and neighbourhood, work and recreation--into the temple, so that these can be purified, sanctified and placed under God's protection. At first, this program seems sweet and easy. But Jesus' requirements may be as stern as in today's story. As we renew our attachment to him, God can say of us, "My house is a house of prayer." Every part of life, home and family, work and play, can contribute to the depth and sincerity of our prayer, with God enthroned everywhere in our being.


Institutions need renewal

The gospel reports Jesus' displeasure at what is happening in the Temple in Jerusalem. Instead of serving its original purpose as a house of prayer for everyone, it had come to serve the interests of a few. Every human institution needs constant reform and renewal, and that includes religious institutions, like the church. The Lord is always prompting us to reform and renew our institutions so that they serve God's purposes more fully, rather than our own purposes.

No human institution, no matter how revered, is perfect; it will always be in need of renewal, because it will always be shaped by people who are tainted by sin. We need to take this to heart in an ongoing way and be open to the Lord's call to repentance and renewal. This was not the case with those responsible for the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. After Jesus' actions in the temple, the gospel says that the chief priests and the scribes tried to do away with Jesus. To resist this renewal is to resist the Lord. Our journey towards God, both as individuals and as communities, will always involve repentance, a willing to keep on turning more fully towards what God wants for our lives.


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Saturday of Week 33

1st Reading: 1 Maccabees (6:1-13

Antiochus attributes his collapse to his persecution of the Jews

King Antiochus was going through the upper provinces when he heard that Elymais in Persia was a city famed for its wealth in silver and gold. Its temple was very rich, containing golden shields, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian king who first reigned over the Greeks. So he came and tried to take the city and plunder it, but he could not because his plan had become known to the citizens and they withstood him in battle. So he fled and in great disappointment left there to return to Babylon.

Then someone came to him in Persia and reported that the armies that had gone into the land of Judah had been routed; that Lysias had gone first with a strong force, but had turned and fled before the Jews; that the Jews had grown strong from the arms, supplies, and abundant spoils that they had taken from the armies they had cut down; that they had torn down the abomination that he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded the sanctuary with high walls as before, and also Beth-zur, his town.

When the king heard this news, he was astounded and badly shaken. He took to his bed and became sick from disappointment, because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. He lay there for many days, because deep disappointment continually gripped him, and he realized that he was dying. So he called all his Friends and said to them, "Sleep has departed from my eyes and I am downhearted with worry. I said to myself, "To what distress I have come! And into what a great flood I now am plunged! For I was kind and beloved in my power.' But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem. I seized all its vessels of silver and gold, and I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judah without good reason. I know that it is because of this that these misfortunes have come upon me; here I am, perishing of bitter disappointment in a strange land."

Responsorial: Psalm 9:2-4, 6, 16, 19

R./: I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
 I will recount all your wonders.
 I will rejoice in you and be glad,
 and sing psalms to your name, O Most High. (R./)

See how my enemies turn back,
 how they stumble and perish before you.
You have checked the nations, destroyed the wicked;
 you have wiped out their name for ever and ever. (R./)

The nations' feet have been caught in the snare they laid;
 for the needy shall not always be forgotten
 nor the hopes of the poor be in vain. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 20:27-40

Jesus affirms the resurrection, for God is the God of the living

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 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

What of life hereafter?

The Sadducees, who did not believe in any hope of life beyond our earthly existence, present a scenario to Jesus which seeks to make belief in life after death look ridiculous. It is obvious they understand that Jesus himself teaches the reality of life after death. Their challenge is based on the presumption that any life after death would simply be a continuation of our physical, earthly life. In his reply Jesus challenges this presumption and declares that those who belong to the world of resurrection beyond this earthly life no longer die, but live with a life that is eternal. Therefore, there is no need for procreation or for marriage where procreation occurs.

How we will relate to each other in the life after death will not be how we relate to each other now. Jesus does not explain how we will relate to each other then, but states that this will be qualitatively different to our relationships here and now. Referring to what lies beyond this life, he uses standard Jewish imagery about communal life, such as a great banquet of joy and sharing. His ministry focussed on gathering people into a sharing community. This community, soon to be called the church, was to be a positive sign of the life to come. It pointed ahead to God's kingdom, even if heaven is such that no earthly experience can compare with it.



Readings for the 34th Week, Ordinary Time (Cycle 1)

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Monday of Week 34

1st Reading: Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20

Daniel and his companions are more respected than all magicians and counselors in Babylon

In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods. Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king's palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king's court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. Now God allowed Daniel to receive favour and compassion from the palace master. The palace master said to Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king."

Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: "Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe." So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days.

At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams. At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king's court. In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

Responsorial: Daniel 3:52-56

R./: Glory and praise for ever.

You are blest, Lord God of our fathers. (R./)

Blest your glorious holy name. (R./)

You are blest in the temple of your glory. (R./)

You are blest on the throne of your kingdom. (R./)

You are blest who gaze into the depths. (R./)

You are blest in the firmament of heaven. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:1-4

The widow gave two coppers to the temple, but it means more than the wealthiest of benefactions

One day Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also noticed 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

Motivation matters

Daniel and the three companions had a critical choice to make. Their peaceful existence had been disrupted and they had to begin all over again at the royal court in Babylon. They were willing to adapt, learn the new language and be instructed in Babylonian customs, but refused to follow sinful practices that would compromise their fidelity to God. Their absolute refusal to eat unclean food may seem strange to us, but this matter was of vital importance, to be true to their Jewish religion. Eventually their courage made them admired and loved, for loyalty to God can bring an inner peace that is not otherwise available.

With the help of grace our integrity will sustain us through life. The trials of life do not destroy but purify the person of faith. The gospel praises the widow who drops her last two copper coins into the treasury. By giving what she could not afford, she gave more than the wealthiest donation. We must be ready when the spirit inspires us to go outside our comfort zone, ways that bond us with Jesus who gave himself totally on the cross. The widow contribute her coins, not caring if nobody saw what she was doing, never thinking it would be remembered forever. Only when the time comes will each of us realise what we have given to our neighbour and to God.


Giving a mite

The phrase "widow's mite" conveys the paradox that while giving a large donation, some people are actually sacrificing little, whereas others in giving a little, are actually giving a lot. The widow gave less than others to the temple treasury, but it counted for a lot, because she gave everything she had.

That lesson can be true in our own lives. Sometimes we appear to be giving little but it counts for a lot, because we are giving as much as we can . For various reasons, we can be below par. Our health may be impaired; our energy level may be low because of some personal issue at the time. In those circumstances, even to make a little effort can be giving a great deal. The widow reminds us that, even when we have little to give, it can count for a lot in the sight of God


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Tuesday of Week 34

1st Reading: Daniel 2:31-45

In a vision, Daniel sees four kingdoms destroyed by a stone falling from the mountain, which proceeds to fill the whole earth

Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, "You were looking, O king, and lo! there was a great statue. This statue was huge, its brilliance extraordinary; it was standing before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of that statue was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked on, a stone was cut out, not by human hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, were all broken in pieces and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

"This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings--to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the might, and the glory, into whose hand he has given human beings, wherever they live, the wild animals of the field, and the birds of the air, and whom he has established as ruler over them all--you are the head of gold. After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over the whole earth.

And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron crushes and smashes everything, it shall crush and shatter all these. As you saw the feet and toes partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the strength of iron shall be in it, as you saw the iron mixed with the clay. As the toes of the feet were part iron and part clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people. It shall crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from the mountain not by hands, and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. The great God has informed the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation trustworthy."

Responsorial: Daniel 3:57-61

R./: Give glory and eternal praise to him!

All things the Lord has made, bless the Lord.
(R./)

Angels of the Lord! all bless the Lord.
(R./)

Heavens! bless the Lord. (R./)

Waters above the heavens! bless the Lord.
(R./)

Powers of the Lord! all bless the Lord.
(R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:5-11

Don't be misled about the end of the world

Some people were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings. And Jesus 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

What is it, that will last?

At the end of the liturgical year we meet some of the most symbol-laden literature in the Bible, about the end of the world, which also ranks among the Bible's most popular parts among people with a taste for apocalyptic violence and science fiction. We must be careful in interpreting it, as the language is highly coloured and emotionally evocative. Jesus cautions us by saying, "Take care not to be misled." The liturgy provides the surest way to interpret these passages, bidding us take responsibility for our actions, examine where we are spiritually, and face our mortality. It tells us that the end of history will open up a new beginning for mankind. With the imminence of Advent and the feast of our Saviour's birth, we are offered a new lease of life.

Assessed by faith, all human efforts to dominate others will come to a sorry end. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of statue with its four principal sections represented the four great kingdoms that successively oppressed Israel: the Babylonians, Medes, Persians and Greeks. No matter how colossal they were, and how seemingly invincible, these kingdoms collapsed. For an oppressed people the message was that for all their power and prestige, material wealth and political clout, none of these proud empires could last forever. All that lasts is what God achieves in our lives. this will be the a "kingdom that shall never be destroyed." But we may have to pass through many difficulties before eventually all will be well, when the Son of Man comes in glory.


Dark thoughts

At this dark time of year, the readings tend to focus on the darker side of human experience. They speak of destruction, loss, conflict and deception. It is a suitable background to the dark days of November. When we begin the new liturgical year next Sunday with Advent, the days will remain dark, but the readings take on a brighter hue and look forward to the coming of the light.

Jesus foretold the destruction of the wonderful Temple in Jerusalem, as well as other tragic events. Nobody could imagine the temple in Jerusalem being destroyed. This magnificent structure had taken nearly fifty years to build, and was world famous. But even the finest buildings only last so long. We are meant not to get too attached to structures that do not last. Instead, we are to rely on Jesus, who is greater than the Temple. When all else fails and disappears, he endures, and through our relationship with him we too will last.


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Wednesday of Week 34

1st Reading: Daniel 5:1-6 etc

The writing appears on the wall and Daniel interprets its meaning

King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king's face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king said to Daniel, "So you are Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard of you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that enlightenment, understanding, and excellent wisdom are found in you. But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you are able to read the writing and tell me its interpretation, you shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around your neck, and rank third in the kingdom."

Then Daniel answered in the presence of the king, "Let your gifts be for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else! Nevertheless I will read the writing to the king and let him know the interpretation. You have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven! The vessels of his temple have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them. You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know; but the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honoured. "So from his presence the hand was sent and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENÉ, MENÉ, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENÉ, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PARSIN, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

Responsorial: Daniel 3:62-67

R./: Give glory and eternal praise to him.

Sun and moon! bless the Lord. (R./)

Stars of heaven! bless the Lord. (R./)

Showers and dews! all bless the Lord. (R./)

Winds! all bless the Lord. (R./)

Fire and heat! bless the Lord. (R./)

Cold and heat! bless the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:12-19

The disciples of Jesus will be persecuted, yet not a hair of their head will be harmed

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

The writing on the wall

As an encouragement to his disciples Jesus makes this important promise, "By your endurance you will gain your souls" (Another translation is, "By patience you will save your lives.") It is one of those floating principles that can fit into many situations. It occurred Earlier in Luke it says that the seed in the field bore fruit "through patience" (8:15). It echoes in Paul's urging the Romans to "patiently do what is right" (Rom 2:7). Later in Romans he says that "affliction produces patience, and patience produces character, and character produces hope" (Rom 5:3).

The Greek word for patience or endurance (hypomoné) suggests consistency and dependability. With this in mind, we can re-read today's scriptures and first of all, the gospel. Persecution cannot break such a steady person, nor can family relationships that seem to be strained beyond all limits. "You will be delivered up even by your parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends." In times such as this, we must continue in our loyalty to God. We need the conviction that sooner or later God will justify us, and at that moment because of continued fidelity our family and community will reunite. In the meanwhile Jesus promises "I will give you a wisdom which none of your opponents can take exception to or contradict." Our words will be prompted by true love and honest fidelity. Such words will have power to persuade and will gradually bear their good fruit.

Truly, "by patience you will save your lives" and the lives of all your loved ones. This line, which can fit into many different moments of our lives and enable us to carry onward towards the promised land, has a nice ring in the Latin translation of St Jerome: in patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras--"In your patience you will possess your souls."


The most enduring relationship

The gospel today reflects the hard reality of life for the church in the first century. Bearing witness to Jesus and to his values in that culture meant risking imprisonment and sometimes even death. Believers might be betrayed by family members or friends. To be recognised as a Christian could cost you everything. It was possible to keep one's faith a secret and to live a reasonably undisturbed life. But the danger was always there. The risk of following Jesus was very real

Our relationship with Jesus can't be hidden away in a purely private sphere. If it is the most important relationship in our lives, it will impact on our other relationships, on all we say and do. We don't just keep the faith in some kind of private space but live it visibly and tangibly. That is not easy, in our culture. But Christ our Saviour gives us the resources we need to live as his disciples and witness to our faith. His enduring presence to us gives us endurance too.


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Thursday of Week 34

1st Reading: Daniel 6:12-28

When Daniel is saved from the lion's den, the king recognizes Yahweh as deliverer and saviour

Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, "O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?" The king answered, "The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked." Then they responded to the king, "Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day." When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, "Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed."

Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!" A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?" Daniel then said to the king, "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong." Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions--they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: "May you have abundant prosperity! I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth; for he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions." So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Responsorial: Daniel 3:68-74

R./: Give glory and eternal praise to him.

Dews and sleets! bless the Lord. (R./)

Frost and cold! bless the Lord. (R./)

Ice and snow! bless the Lord. (R./)

Nights and days! bless the Lord. (R./)

Light and darkness! bless the Lord. (R./)

Lightning and clouds! bless the Lord. (R./)

Let the earth bless the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:20-28

Jerusalem will be destroyed when 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

Final vindication

While Mark combines the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem with the end of the world, Luke separates these two events. Writing after the collapse of the Holy City, Luke knew that its destruction did not lead to the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. His restatement of Jesus' words offers insight into our own existence, during the time betwen his first and second coming.

Daniel draws on traditions that went back into the Babylonian exile and had become part of Israel's heritage. Like Daniel, the whole people had been preserved alive from the dangers of the lions' den of the exile. About four hundred years later, during the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (among the heirs of Alexander the Great), Israel again experienced persecution and the collapse of the holy city. The long years in-between, silent, monotonous years, seemed to have achieved nothing. Despite their intense interest in the law of Moses and trying to obey that law punctiliously, this lowering cloud and whirlwind of destruction swept through their lives again.

Daniel advises the people that God has written a letter the nations of every language. This letter will proclaim that Yahweh, the God of Israel's ancestors, is the living God, enduring forever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, and he shall rule till the end of time. While in the monotonous years they kept fidelity with God, the tempestuous moment of trial is the divinely appointed way to lower the enemy walls and share our God and our faith with the world.


The days are short

We hear of wars and destruction, great upheavals and the fear they generate. But it also foretells the coming of the Son of Man and promises that those who welcome his coming will be set free. We all need to be freed from whatever it is that is holding us back from doing what we ought to do, from being the full person that we can be. It is only the Lord who can free us to live as we are meant to live.

These words of Jesus are like a ray of light in the dark, short days of November, "Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."


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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, 1000 years

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: Daniel 3:75-81

R./: Give glory and eternal praise to him.

Mountains and hills! bless the Lord. (R./)

Everything that grows on the earth! bless the Lord. (R./)

Springs of water! bless the Lord. (R./)

Seas and rivers! bless the Lord. (R./)

Sea beasts and everything that lives in water! bless the Lord. (R./)

Birds of heaven! bless the Lord. (R./)

Animals, wild and tame! bless the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:29-33

Know that the reign of God is near. My word will not pass away

Jesus 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

Colourful symbols for here and now

The Book of Revelation is typical of apocalyptic literature but today's gospel speaks in plainer language. From the example of the budding fig tree we can tell that summer is near. So "when you see all the things happening, know that the reign of God is near." Both the readings offer signs whose meaning must be discerned, and the instinct of faith attunes us to what God is saying by the world about us.

The wildly colourful book of Revelation was written under the pressure of persecution by the Roman empire, when the church felt hounded on all sides. The inspired seer of Patmos predicted the collapse of the tyrannical empire that would lead to a period of peace for the church. After that would come the second appearance of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, the new holy city Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, radiant as a bride prepared to meet her husband.

The fig tree is in full bloom and the harvest is near, yet in our everyday lives we have to be realists. A strange advice: to be sober amid the weird symbols of the apocalyptic seers. Realists in digging beneath the surface and perceptively listening for the hidden message. This message will not go away, for it is the word of God, predicting the new heavens and the new earth. Weird as the vision may seem to us, our world will blossom into the beautiful Jerusalem, like a lovely bride meeting her husband.


Disconcerting change

We live in a world of rapid change that many find disconcerting and unsettling. We need some constants in our lives, and we find change easier to manage if at least the basics remain the same. In the gospel Jesus speaks about change on a cosmic scale, hugely significant change, when heaven and earth will pass away; it is hard to imagine a more radical kind of change than that.

But after predicting radical change, he promised something unchangeable. His own words, he says, will never pass away. During even the most radical changes, the word of God remains constant, because God remains true. He is the rock that endures when all else passes. Even during disconcerting change we trust that when all else is shifting, he remains steady. Being anchored on him keeps us steady when all else seems ready to fall apart.


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Saturday of Week 34

1st Reading: Daniel 7:15-27

Daniel begs for an explanation of the vision. The persecuted saints will receive the kingdom

As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: "As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever--forever and ever."

Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped what was left with its feet; and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and concerning the other horn, which came up and to make room for which three of them fell out--the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that seemed greater than the others.

As I looked, this horn made war with the holy ones and was prevailing over them, until the Ancient One came; then judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom.

This is what he said: "As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth that shall be different from all the other kingdoms; it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them. This one shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High, and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law; and they shall be given into his power for a time, two times, and half a time. Then the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and totally destroyed. The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them."

Responsorial: Daniel 3:82-87

R./: Give glory and eternal praise to him.

Sons of men! bless the Lord. (R./)

Israel! bless the Lord. (R./)

Ye priests, bless the Lord. (R./)

Servants of the Lord! bless the Lord. (R./)

Spirits and souls of the virtuous! bless the Lord. (R./)

Devout and humble-hearted men, bless the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 21:34-36

The great day comes suddenly. 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

Hope amid darkness

This last Mass of the church's year mingles practical realism with high hopes. Dense clouds can be viewed from opposite sides; from below they threaten thunder and lightning, but from above they radiate reflected sunlight and are symbols of peace. Faith assures us of eventually crossing from darkness to light. Meanwhile one must trust in God's plan for us and for the entire world. Whether in darkness or light, we are not alone but are joined to all God's people, in the communion of saints.

Daniel the prophet was terrified by visions in the night. Persecution raged and the beast who ravaged the holy ones was victorious until the Ancient One arrived. There is an intriguing phrase about the time when the beast reigned, "a year, two years, and a half-year." Three and a half years is a symbolic number for great distress which may last a long time but must also end. We cannot explain the symbolism of many numbers in this literature, but the Bible says we must persevere as long as the trial lasts, and that this time will certainly end. Only then will we properly understand God's ways, and for now many details remain wrapped in darkness.

Though his gospel was written after a time of severe trial (the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.) Luke's readers were enjoying a peaceful breathing-space, before the persecution broke out again under emperor Domitian. Therefore, he warns them to be on guard against indulgence, drunkenness and worldly cares, or the final day will come suddenly like a trap. Our faith thrives more during hardship than in prosperity. So Luke also advises, "Pray constantly," to be ready for Christ when he comes in glory.

The thirty-four weeks of ordinary time are ending. They do so with an message that Jesus will come suddenly, soon and gloriously. We have been gifted with the Scriptures of the church year. We will now be further graced with four weeks of Advent alertness. Since in our life's pilgrimage we are surrounded by the grace of God, we can reach the glorious destiny Jesus has won for us.


Come Lord Jesus

We ought not become so immersed in the cares of life that we fail to see beyond them. We need to step back and find a space where we can feels God's presence to us. "Be on guard" says Jesus. We are meant to watch, attentive to the Lord within and around us. Such attentiveness is at the heart of prayer. "Stay awake, praying at all times." But how can we pray at all times? Is prayer not something we do from time to time? Paul says something similar at the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians when he urges them to "pray without ceasing."

We are invited to r a contemplative stance towards life, a prayerful attentiveness to God in the midst of our busy lives. To help us do this, we could take a phrase from the Scriptures and let echo quietly in our hearts. One example might be, "Lord, make haste to help me," or, the simple Advent prayer, "Come Lord Jesus."