November 3 : Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time: Zacchaeus’ Transformation

October 29th, 2013




In the figure of Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel, we have a portrait of a lost soul. He is a chief tax collector, a rich man who has apparently gained his living by fraud by profession and so a“sinner” excluded from Israel’s religious life. But Zacchaeus’ faith & humility bring salvation to his house. He expresses his faith in his fervent desire to “see” Jesus, even humbling himself to climb a tree just to watch Him pass by. While those of loftier religious stature react to Jesus with grumbling, Zacchaeus receives Him with joy. Beneath the loving gaze of Christ, the heart of Zacchaeus warms to love of neighbour. From a feeling of isolation, which had led him to enrich himself without caring about what others had to suffer, he moves to an attitude of sharing. In another passage of the Gospel Jesus states that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 19:23). In the case of Zacchaeus we see that precisely what seems impossible actually happens: "He," St. Jerome comments, "gave away his wealth and immediately replaced it with the wealth of the Kingdom of Heaven" (Homily on Psalm 83:3). And Maximus of Turin adds: "Riches, for the foolish, feed dishonesty, but for the wise they are a help to virtue; for the latter they offer a chance of salvation, for the former they procure a stumbling block and perdition" (Sermon 95). And it is only at this point that the love of God achieves its purpose, and salvation is accomplished: 'Today salvation has come to this house' (v 9)."

October 27 : Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Prayer of the Humble Man

October 23rd, 2013



Jesus draws a blunt picture in today’s Gospel. The Pharisee’s prayer is almost a parody of the thanksgiving psalms (see for example Psalms 30,118). Instead of praising God for His mighty works, the Pharisee congratulates himself for his own deeds, which he presents to God in some detail. The tax collector stands at a distance, too ashamed even to raise his eyes to God (see Ezra 9:6). He prays with a humble and contrite heart (see Psalm 51:19). He knows that before God no one is righteous, no one has cause to boast (see Roman 3:10; 4:2). We see in the Liturgy today one of Scripture’s abiding themes - that God “knows no favorites,” as today’s First Reading tells us (see 2 Chronicles 19:7; Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11). God cannot be bribed (see Deuteronomy 10:17). We cannot curry favor with Him or impress Him - even with our good deeds or our faithful observance of religious duties such as tithing and fasting. If we try to exalt ourselves before the Lord, as the Pharisee does, we will be brought low (see Luke 1:52). This should be a warning to us - not to take pride in our piety, not to slip into the self-righteousness of thinking that we’re better than others, that we’re “not like the rest of sinful humanity.” If we clothe ourselves with humility (see 1 Peter 5:5-6) - recognize that all of us are sinners in need of His mercy - we will be exalted (see Proverbs 29:33). The prayer of the lowly, the humble, pierces the clouds. Paul testifies to this in today’s Epistle, as He thanks the Lord for giving him strength during his imprisonment. Paul tells us what the Psalmist sings today - that the Lord redeems the lives of His humble servants. We too must serve Him willingly. And He will hear us in our distress, deliver us from evil, and bring us safely to His heavenly kingdom.

Oct 20 : Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Persistent Widow

October 16th, 2013



The Lord is our guardian, beside us at our right hand, interceding for us in all our spiritual battles. In today’s Psalm we’re told to lift our eyes to the mountains, that our help will come from Mount Zion and the Temple - the dwelling of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Joshua and the Israelites, in today’s First Reading, are also told to look to the hilltops. They are to find their help there - through the intercession of Moses - as they defend themselves against their mortal foes, the Amalekites. Notice the image: Aaron and Hur standing on each side of Moses, holding his weary arms so that he can raise the staff of God above his head. Moses is being shown here as a figure of Jesus, who also climbed a hilltop, and on Mount Calvary stretched out His hands between heaven and earth to intercede for us against the final enemy - sin and death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26). By the staff of God, Moses bested Israel’s enemies (see Exodus 7:8-12;8:1-2), parted the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:16) and brought water from the Rock (see Exodus 17:6). The Cross of Jesus is the new staff of God, bringing about a new liberation from sin, bringing forth living waters from the body of Christ, the new Temple of God (see John 2:19-21; 7:37-39; 19:34; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Like the Israelites and the widow in today’s Gospel, we face opposition and injustice - at times from godless and pitiless adversaries. We, too, must lift our eyes to the mountains - to Calvary and the God who will guard us from all evil. We must pray always (persevere in prayer) and not be wearied by our trials, Jesus tells us today. As Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle, we need to remain faithful, to turn to the inspired Scriptures - given by God to train us in righteousness. We must persist, so that when the Son of Man comes again in kingly power, He will indeed find faith on earth.

October 13 : Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Give thanks with a grateful heart

October 10th, 2013


Today's readings are about remembering and thanksgiving, healing and salvation. In the Old Testament reading, (Second Kings 5:14-17) Naaman the Syrian remembers to thank Elisha for his cure, and one of the 10 lepers cured by Jesus remembered to turn up and thank his healer. It is the foreigner who returns, who praises God and who expresses gratitude to Jesus. When Jesus says: “Your faith has made you well," the blessing certainly refers to some benefit other than that which all, including the other nine, had received earlier. The verb “made well” is the same very often translated “to be saved.” The stories of the lepers teach us some powerful lessons about remembrance, gratitude, healing and salvation. Grateful hearts are the hallmark of authentic Christians. Those who possess the virtue of gratitude are truly rich. They not only know how richly they have been blessed, but they continuously remember that all good things come from God. There is an old saying: Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve. Grace is when you get what you don’t deserve. I like you get asked a dozen times a day, “How are you doing?” I have trained myself to often answer, “More blessed than I deserve.” Yes, All is gift. Thankful people store up in their grateful memory all the good experiences of the past, just as the French proverb states:“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”

October 6th: Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Faith as a mustered seed

October 1st, 2013




The power of our faith doesn't depend on its quantity but its quality; It seems to me that this is why, when the apostles said increase our faith, Jesus took them immediately out of the area of quantity, and brought them to the smallest seed he could think of, the mustard seed. Jesus could have said, for example: If your faith were the size of a grain of sand, or a speck of dust, but the point of the comparison with the mustard seed is that it is living; it has a living power which a grain of sand does not. Just as a small weed can split a slab of concrete, or a mustard seed can produce a huge tree in which the birds of the air find shelter, so the living power of faith can move mountains. The secret of the living power which faith has is that it is built on the living word of God. Faith, trust and deep commitment to the wonderful things that God does through the strangeness of his ways, are the basis of the Christian life. Through a deep and trusting acceptance of the goodness, yet strangeness of God’s ways, revealed to us through the loving gift of His Son, we can make sense of our lives. We, who have received this gift of living faith in God’s Word, have a responsibility for its growth in us, or more precisely, we have a responsibility to grow in this gift of faith.

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