Sunday, October 30, 2016

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector, declares this to Jesus in today's gospel (Luke 19:1-10). And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold. The faith of Zacchaeus is rewarded: Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Here's part of the commentary on this passage by Philoxenus (c. 440-523), bishop of Mabbug (Hieropolis):
Zaccheus in the Sycamore Tree, unidentified icon
All who were called by the Lord obeyed his summons at once, provided love of earthly things did not weigh them down. For worldly ties are a weight upon the mind and understanding, and for those bound by them it is difficult to hear the sound of God’s call. 
But the apostles, and the righteous people and patriarchs before them, were not like this. They obeyed like people really alive, and set out lightly, because no worldly possessions held them bound as though by heavy fetters. 
For faith’s only possession is God, and it refuses to own anything else besides him. Nothing can bind or impede the soul that senses God: it is open and ready, so that the light of the divine voice, each time it comes, finds the soul capable of receiving it.

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).