Sunday, October 23, 2016

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Last Sunday's parable of the widow and the unjust judge was a call to diligent prayer. The widow's persistence wore down the judge's resistence. This Sunday, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18: 9-14) illustrates how we should pray: with humility. Here is part of a commentary by St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444 AD:
The Pharisee and the Publican, unidentified manuscript
But what of the publican? He stood, it says, “afar off,” not even venturing, so to speak, to raise up his eyes on high. You see him abstaining from all boldness of speech, as having no right thereto, and smitten by the reproaches of conscience: for he was afraid of being even seen by God, as one who had been careless of His laws, and had led an unchaste and dissolute life.... And what is the result? Let us hear what the Judge says, “This man, He says, went down to his house justified rather than the other.”
Let us therefore “pray without ceasing,” according to the expression of the blessed Paul: but let us be careful to do so aright.... Yes, though you lead an excellent and elect life, don't exact wages from the Lord; but rather ask of Him a gift. As being good, He will promise it you: as a loving Father, He will aid you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Pray always and do not lose heart is the message Jesus gives his disciples today (Luke 18:1-8). He illustrates it with the parable of a widow and an unjust judge. The widow is persistent and the judge finally grants her request: Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.

Here are some thoughts on persistent prayer from Pope Emeritus Benedict, given during a homily on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2012: 
Praying without ceasing means never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light. Only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God. Only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.

The restless heart, … echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us.... [L]et yourselves be touched by God’s unrest, so that God’s longing for man may be fulfilled.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.

Jesus speaks these words to the ten lepers in today's gospel (Lk 17:19). Pope Benedict commented on them at the Twentieth World Day of the Sick, on February 11, 2012:
The encounter of Jesus with the ten lepers, narrated by the Gospel of Saint Luke (cf. Lk 17:11-19), and in particular the words that the Lord addresses to one of them, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (v. 19), help us to become aware of the importance of faith for those who, burdened by suffering and illness, draw near to the Lord. In their encounter with him they can truly experience that he who believes is never alone! God, indeed, in his Son, does not abandon us to our anguish and sufferings, but is close to us, helps us to bear them, and wishes to heal us in the depths of our hearts (cf. Mk 2:1-12).
The faith of the lone leper who, on seeing that he was healed, full of amazement and joy, and unlike the others, immediately went back to Jesus to express his gratitude, enables us to perceive that reacquired health is a sign of something more precious than mere physical healing, it is a sign of the salvation that God gives us through Christ; it finds expression in the words of Jesus: your faith has saved you. He who in suffering and illness prays to the Lord is certain that God’s love will never abandon him, and also that the love of the Church, the extension in time of the Lord’s saving work, will never fail. Physical healing, an outward expression of the deepest salvation, thus reveals the importance that man – in his entirety of soul and body – has for the Lord.
Healing of the Ten Lepers, Codex Aureus of Echternach, ca 1030-1050

Saturday, October 1, 2016

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Increase our faith! the Apostles ask Jesus in today's gospel (Luke 17: 5-10). And the Lord replies, 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.

Here are the words of Pope Francis in an audience in St. Peter's Square on this Sunday three years ago:
I think that all of us can make this request our own. We, like the Apostles, also say to Jesus: “Increase our faith!”
Mulberry Tree, Vincent Van Gogh (1889)
Yes, Lord, our faith is small, our faith is weak, fragile, but we offer it to you just as it is, so that you will make it grow. It seems to me that it would be good for all of us to repeat this together: “Lord, increase our faith!” 
The mustard seed is very small, but Jesus says that it is enough to have a faith like this, small, but true, sincere to do things that are humanly impossible, unthinkable. And it is true! We all know people who are simple, humble, but with an incredibly strong faith, who truly move mountains!
Think, for example, of certain mammas and papas who face very hard situations; or certain sick people, even gravely sick people, who convey serenity to those who visit them. These people, precisely because of their faith, do not boast about what they do, rather, as Jesus asks in the Gospel, they say: “We are useless servants. We have done what we were supposed to do” (Luke 17:10).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In the gospel for today, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man "dressed in purple and fine linen," and Lazarus, the beggar "covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table." The beggar dies and is carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom, while the rich man is in the torments of hell. At Vigils this morning, we have a reading from St. John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407), Archbishop of Constantinople, who preached eloquently against the abuse of wealth:
It is worthwhile enquiring why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s arms, and not in the company of some other righteous person. The reason is that Abraham was hospitable, and so the sight of Lazarus with Abraham was meant to reproach the rich man for his own inhospitality. Abraham used to pursue even passers-by and drag them into his home, whereas the rich man disregarded someone lying in his own doorway. Although he had within his grasp so great a treasure, such an opportunity to win salvation, he ignored the poor man day after day....

And this is true of you also. If you show much eagerness in welcoming some famous and distinguished person you do nothing remarkable; often the high rank of a guest compiles even reluctant host to show every sign of courtesy. But we do something truly great and admirable when we given a most courteous welcome to all, even the outcasts of society or people of humble condition.... And so Abraham also, knowing this, did not ask who travellers were or where they came from, as we do today, but simply welcomed them all. Anyone wishing to show kindness should not inquire into other people’s lives, but has only to alleviate their poverty and supply their needs, as Christ commanded when he said: Imitate your Father in heaven, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
Lazarus at the Rich Man's door, illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach (11th c.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In today's gospel from Luke 16:1-13, Jesus relates the parable of the unjust steward. In his homily during Mass in the Chapel of Santa Marta on November 15, 2013, Pope Francis commented on this parable:
Parable of the Unjust Steward, Marinus van Reymerswaele
The Lord speaks to us again about the spirit of the world, about worldliness: how this worldliness works and how perilous it is. In his prayer after the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus besought the Father not to allow his disciples to fall into worldliness.... 
Some of you might say: "But this man [the unjust steward] only did what everyone does!" No, not everyone! Some company administrators, public administrators, government administrators … but perhaps not many. It’s an attitude of taking short cuts, of taking the easy road to earn a living.
But it is a serious sin, Pope Francis explained, "because it is so against our dignity... That dignity by which we are united through our work."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In today's Gospel (Luke 15:1-32) the Pharisees and scribes criticize Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them. He responds by telling the well-known parable of the lost sheep. What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it.  Here's part of commentary on the story by St. Peter Chrysologus:
Christ the Good Shepherd
(Exeter Cathedral mosaic)
Finding something we have lost gives us a fresh joy, and we are happier at having found the lost object then we should have been had we never lost it. This parable, however, is concerned more with divine tenderness and compassion than with human behavior, and it expresses a great truth. Humans are too greedy to forsake things of value for love of anything inferior. That is something only God can do. For God not only brought what was not to into being, but he also went after what was lost while still protecting what he left behind, and found what was lost without losing what he had in safe keeping....
Brothers and sisters, Christ sought us on earth; let us seek him in heaven. He has borne us up to the glory of his divinity; let us bear him in our bodies by holiness. As the Apostle says: Glorify and bear God in your bodies. That person bears God in his body whose bodily activities are free from sin.