Sunday Scriptures — OT C 22, Aug. 28, 2016

The first reading and the gospel speak of humility and helping the poor; the second reading is about the community within which we worship.

 
The second reading — Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a — is the last of four selections from Hebrews 11 and 12 that were proclaimed on the 19 through the 22nd Sundays. (We also hear readings from Hebrews on Christmas, Good Friday, five Sundays in Year B, and 24 successive weekdays in odd-numbered years.) This passage contrasts God’s appearance at Mount Sinai, when he gave the Law, and the heavenly worship in which we participate in our liturgy. At Sinai God was unapproachable (except by Moses) and the manifestation of his presence was terrifying to the people. But now God has made himself approachable, and the assembly of angels and saints is joyful. We join this assembly through Jesus and the covenant ratified by the shedding of his blood, which is figuratively sprinkled on us when we receive it in holy Communion.

 
The first reading — Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 — begins with a recommendation similar to the advice Jesus seemingly gives in the gospel: humility will win you love. Next, though, it tells us that God favors those who are humble. One aspect of humility is knowing your limitations. Finally, there is a seemingly abrupt turn to a recommendation of almsgiving.

The responsorial psalm — verses taken from Psalm 68 — picks up the thought of the poor and needy: the beneficiaries of our almsgiving. God cares for them; his blessings on the land are for their good.

 
The gospel pericope — Luke 14:1, 7-14 — has two sections after the initial verse setting the scene: the advice to the guests, and the advice to the host. The advice to the guests, taken literally, seems strange coming from Jesus. But the message is not to be taken literally, however effective such a tactic might be in certain contexts. It becomes clearer when we realize, as St. Paul says in Philippians 2:5-11, that Jesus is the one who took the lowest place: laying aside divinity, becoming human, and accepting death by crucifixion. Then the host of the eternal banquet called him to the highest position. We, too, must not cling to our status; we must be willing to accept whatever cross comes our way for the sake of others. This is easy to say, but not at all easy to do.

The advice to the host furnishes a way for taking the advice given to the guests. As in the first reading, the advice is to give to the needy — which is truly giving because one doesn’t receive comparable value in return. This is what Jesus did when he humbled himself. He brought us all to the banquet with the Father, despite the fact that none of us has any way of repaying him. We are all recipients of God’s mercy and should try to show it to others. Humility includes realizing that we’re not inherently better than anybody else, and we don’t deserve to be better off than they are.

Sunday Scriptures — OT C 18 & 19, Jul. 31 & Aug. 7, 2016

Super late once more, but here goes.

July 31 — 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

You can’t take it with you. The first reading — Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 — gives us the well known opening verse,”Vanity of vanities … All things are vanity.” It continues with the case of one who works hard to amass wealth which will go to another when he dies. All his hard work and anxiety don’t bring a proportionate enjoyment.

In the gospel — Luke 12: 13-21 — Jesus offers the parable of the rich landowner who dies the very night after he has decided that his years of working at amassing wealth have paid off so well that now he can retire and enjoy “the good life.” This parable is framed by two teachings: avoid greed (which is so much a part of our culture that most of us don’t even realize how greedy we are); and what we should really strive for is to be “rich in what matters to God.”

The second reading — Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 — gives a teaching from Paul about what matters to God. It is what is above, where Jesus is with the Father. Our true life is life in Jesus. We become rich by leaving sinful conduct behind us and living a life of virtue in a community of the redeemed in which all are equal.

 

August 7 — 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the gospel — Luke 12:32-48 — Jesus begins by harking back to last week’s theme of having treasure in heaven, which we attain by avoiding greed: instead, selling what we have and giving alms. Next the lesson is to be prepared for his return. We don’t know when that will be, but if we live according to God’s will, we are always prepared

In the first reading — Wisdom 18:6-9 — we hear of how the Israelites were prepared for God’s intervention to set them free with the Exodus. They had faith in God and offered the Passover sacrifice, just as we have faith in God and offer our Paschal Sacrifice, Jesus on the cross.

The second reading — Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 — gives us the example of Abraham’s life of faith, leaving his home, traveling to Canaan, being prepared to offer Isaac, his son, in sacrifice (just as the Father sacrificed his Son, Jesus, on Calvary).

 

We see that faith is much more than accepting the doctrines found in the Nicene Creed which we recite every Sunday at Mass. It means expecting the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Our prepared ness isn’t just to meet the Lord at the end of our lives or at the end of time. The Lord can come unexpectedly at any moment to furnish his guidance, as her did many times for Abraham. It may have to do with a vocation in life; it may have to do with accepting a job offer; it may have to do with marriage; it may have to do with moving to a new home or any other decision however large or seemingly small. Bu we won’t hear God’s call unless we’re listening. So we need to cultivate that attitude of confident expectation, that reliance on God’s presence “now and at the hour of our death,” as we pray in the Hail Mary.