Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP
October 9, 2016
Reading 1 (2 KGS 5:14-17)
Reading 2 (2 TM 2:8-13)
Gospel (LK 17:11-19)
Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP
September 25, 2016
Reading 1 (AM 6:1A, 4-7)
Reading 2 (1 TM 6:11-16)
Gospel (LK 16:19-31)
The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time continues with the theme of wealth-related issues. Last weekend’s readings dealt with the dishonest steward. We heard praise for him, even though he was dishonest. Jesus used the story to ask, “Why are the people of this world more prudent and more creative than the Children of Light?”
This week, Luke’s Gospel is much more specific. It tells us about the very rich man, who ate wonderfully, sitting in his purple garments and silk clothes, feasting, while Lazarus, outside his door, was starving. Lazarus would have loved to just eat the scraps from his table.
Eventually Lazarus died and was in the bosom of Abraham in heaven. The rich man also died, and the Scripture says he was sent to the netherworld. He saw Abraham holding Lazarus, and he cried out to him for a drink of water.
The rich man had a lot of good in his lifetime, and Lazarus didn’t. Now, their roles and their stories are reversed. It’s an unsettling story for us to hear. It is meant to cause us to think about our own wealth and our own generosity in relationship to that wealth.
The Gospel parallels the first reading from Amos, in which the Prophet of Justice is slamming those people who are taking advantage of their wealth and enjoying it in luxurious ways, while not paying attention to those who have nothing. Amos lets them have it for being so self-indulgent, and showing no care for the plight of others.
In chapter five from Amos, he says, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
That is Amos at his toughest, encouraging us to realize our wealth is not just about us. Our wealth will never be just about us. It will always be about how we can help God through our wealth and because of our wealth.
We get these challenging readings in the fall to challenge us–not to do something we’ve never done before–but to remind us of who we are. I suspect every one of us realizes whatever good we have received is meant to be shared. I suspect every one of us is very generous and creative. These Sundays of Ordinary Time are telling us to stay committed to that.
Realize we are blessed in ways we cannot measure, and pray for the grace to be extremely generous with our blessings and our wealth. If we have yet to start, then this weekend is the time to begin.
Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP
September 18, 2016
Reading 1 (AM 8:4-7)
Reading 2 (1 TIM 2:1-8)
Gospel (LK 16:1-13)
This week, we celebrate the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time. As you know, the readings have been more challenging that we are sometimes comfortable with. August and September Sundays do not give us a break. They treat us like adults who are intelligent, thinking people, who are secure in our faith and willing to wrestle with our faith to try and understand it more deeply—like adults who are open to challenge, and daring enough to grow.
Our first reading is from the prophet, Amos, and it deals with a cheating steward. The Gospel from Saint Luke deals with another cheating steward and the commendation of the steward’s master. We may wonder if, in telling this story, Jesus is complimenting the unjust steward, and his lying.
In the first reading (AM 8:4-7) we hear the prophet denouncing cheaters as unscrupulous merchants, for their false piety and dishonest business practices. We can all decide for ourselves whether we have encountered people like this in our lives—people who take advantage of the disadvantaged—people of privilege who take advantage of the underprivileged. At the end of the reading, Amos says, “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a think they have done!”
We see a parallel with the reading from Amos in the Gospel according to Luke, in which Jesus tells a similar story of a merchant cheating other people, as well as his own master. His master catches him, and fires him as household manager.
The steward is very shrewd, and realizes he needs to find a job before he leaves his master. So, he calls all of his master’s debtors in he cuts whatever they owed. In this way, he is multiplying his dishonesty by cheating his master. All this, so when he is fired, and out on the street, someone else will be so indebted to him, that they will hire him.
The master actually commends the man for being so shrewd—for using his head, for thinking, and for knowing how to care for himself. It’s not Jesus who commends the steward, it is the master himself. Jesus uses this story to challenge us to ask why people are so shrewd, and know how to do business–even when it’s wrong—and the children of light don’t take their faith so seriously.
Why do we not take from the example of this man? The cheaters are sometimes more creative than the believers. Why are we not being more creative in our belief? Jesus is challenging us to grow in our faith.
To conclude, a quote from scripture scholars, Sr. Dianne Burgant and Fr. Richard Fragomeni from Chicago Theological Union:
“The men in today’s readings are not condemned because of their economic privilege, but because they used it only to their own advantage. We are more than insatiable consumers. Our value is not found in the measure of our possessions, it is in the quality of our relationships—in particular with our relationships with our deprived sisters and brothers. We are not called to disown the world, but we are called to live it gently, using what we need and sharing what we can.”
September 11, 2016
Reading 1 (EX 32:7-11, 13-14)
Reading 2 (1 TM 1:12-17)
Gospel (LK 15:1-32)
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP
At Mother Teresa’s canonization, Pope Francis said she was a tireless worker of mercy and a tireless dispenser of divine mercy—and that is at the heart of the readings for Sunday, September 11th.
We see, in the first reading from Exodus (EX 32:7-11, 13-14) that Moses is pleading with God to have mercy on his people and to be the faithful, merciful God that he promised his descendants. Moses reminds God, “They are not my people; they are your people.”
The Psalmist responds, “I will rise and go to my father.” We’re all invited to pray ourselves for those places that we may need mercy. “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.”
The heart of compassion is mercy.
That is what God offers all of us, who are basically pardoned sinners. Mercy is always available, when we reach out to God.
In the Gospel, the theme continues with three very familiar parables from Saint Luke. It begins with the Pharisees and the scribes complaining about Jesus spending too much time with sinners and tax collectors. Why is he with them? Because they are the ones who need mercy.
We’re all familiar with having lost things and wanting to find them. We always find joy when we find something that has been lost, and that is the point in these parables. Whether it is things that are lost (the one sheep or a coin) or a person that is lost (the Prodigal Son).
The truly scandalous behavior is the father’s absurd mercy—a mercy that can only be found in the divine heart. Our attitude must be that of the father, to be concerned with what God is concerned about—that which is lost—that must be found. And mercy is the door.
September 4, 2016
Reading 1 (WIS 9:13-18B)
Reading 2 (PH MN 9-10, 12-17)
Gospel (LK 14:25-33)
Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP
Each Sunday, the readings at Mass are challenging. But this Sunday, they are almost shocking.
The Gospel according to Luke really gets our attention as it discusses three themes. In the first, Jesus says, “Unless you hate members of your family, you cannot be my disciple.” The second is, “Unless you take up your cross, daily, you cannot follow me.” Finally, the Gospel ends with, “Unless you renounce all your worldly possessions, you cannot be with me.” All this is very shocking.
We are overwhelmed by the challenge, but also reminded that Catholics do not take these readings literally. Instead, we are to look for the deeper truth in the words Jesus is saying. Jesus is using hyperbole and exaggeration to catch the people’s attention. He’s telling us that we need to think very profoundly about what we believe and how what we believe impacts our daily lives.
Our faith, our spirituality, our practice of Catholicism, our being close to God and desiring to be close to God is not limited to Sunday attendance at Mass. It is an everyday occurrence, all day long. Do we make God first? Do we make Jesus first?
We know we cannot take this reading literally, because Jesus’ entire foundation of teaching was about love. He would never tell us to hate our family members. He is trying to get us to understand that our love of God must be even greater than our love of neighbor. He is telling us our love of God must be more important than whether or not life is easy for us or if we have a daily cross to bear. Our love of God must be more important than all of our possessions. Is God more important than everything else we know?
This forces us to ask very serious questions about how we practice our faith and how much a part God has in our daily lives. The renunciation of possessions warns us not to allow your possessions to possess you. Make sure what you own doesn’t own you. That is a challenge for many Americans and for many Catholics.
Don’t run away from your cross such that you’re not able to identify in your suffering and in some of your struggles with everything Jesus came to teach.
Make sure God is first.
In the first reading from the book of Wisdom, we are asked, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid.” It’s difficult enough for us even know what life is about, let alone what might be in God’s mind. Still, we are challenged to take time every day to ponder God’s mind. We should take time daily, if not several times a day to just meditate, wonder, and ponder the goodness of God in our lives. Let those times take us through everything else going on in our lives.
This weekend contains exaggerated statements from Jesus challenging us to make sure God is first.
August 28, 2016
Reading 1 (SIR 3:17-18, 20, 28-29)
Reading 2 (HEB 12:18-19, 22-24A)
Gospel (LK 14:1, 7-14)
Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP
The readings from the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time are all about humility.
In the Gospel, Jesus is visiting the home of one of the Pharisees. As everyone watches to see whether or not he will follow the ritualistic and traditional practices before he eats. Jesus takes this time to teach them about humility—a theme we constantly need to revisit.
Jesus tells the people, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at the table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.” Instead, Jesus says, “when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’”
It seems like Jesus is feeding our egos and saying we should start out humble so we can eventually be exalted. In fact, that is the lesson that comes from this Gospel. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. The reading is asking us to revisit humility and challenge ourselves.
In the reading from Sirach, listen for the challenge to conduct your affairs with humility. It says, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.”
We need to hear that over and over again today. “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.” Pope Francis understands this and has been a great example of it.
When you go to church this weekend, listen for the message of humility. Then, pray yourself to be humble and to witness to humility. Pray to teach humility to your children and grandchildren. How else will they learn it in this world?
Listen for it. Become it. Teach it.
August 21, 2016
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Entering through the narrow gate
Reading 1 (IS 66:18-21)
Reading 2 (HEB 12:5-7, 11-13)
Gospel (LK 13:22-30)
In the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus talk about entering through the narrow gate. In fact, it may seem like He is saying it will be difficult to get into heaven. As Fr. Mike Ford, OP explains in this week’s Know Before You Go video, Jesus is only saying it may not be easy, which is an important difference.
While it’s may seem difficult to live up to the life Jesus gave us, He did not leave us alone to do that. He left us the sacraments, the body and blood of His sacrifice, and for those times when we make mistakes, he gave us the sacrament of Reconciliation. He also gave us the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, for when we are ill and need healing.
In order to find our way through the narrow gate, all we need to do is the two things Jesus asked us to do: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. If we can do that, we don’t need to worry about how narrow that gate is, because it’ll be wide enough for each and every one of us to enter.
July 17, 2016
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is it better to be like Martha, like Mary, or like both?
Reading 1 (GN 18:1-10A)
Reading 2 (COL 1:24-28)
Gospel (LK 10:38-42)
As Br. Brent Bowen, OP explains in this week’s Know Before You Go video, the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time tells us the Gospel story of Martha and Mary.
Jesus encounters many people on his journey, and many of them invite Him into their homes to care for Him. In this story, we hear how Martha is preparing the dinner and Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening. Many of us misunderstand this reading, particularly when we hear Jesus say that Mary has chosen the better part. Many of us even sympathize with Martha’s concerns, because at first glance, she is the one who seems to be doing all the work while Mary is not. But, we often get so focused on the small details of the passage that we lose sight of the larger picture. The evangelist Luke places this story between two other very important stories—the Good Samaritan story, which we heard last week, and Jesus’ teachings on prayer. That is an important clue as to how we can interpret this story.
This placement is not accidental. On the one hand the story of the Good Samaritan is Martha’s story – the story of the person who works hard to spread God’s love in a tangible way by serving others. On the other hand Jesus’ teachings on prayer reflect Mary’s story – the story of a woman who takes the time to know Jesus intimately.
How does this apply to our lives here today? The mere placement of this passage between these two stories tells us something: Jesus does not prefer for us to choose one over the other (active service on the one hand or contemplative prayer on the other). However I believe we do disservice to this Gospel passage by placing Martha and Mary in opposition to one another. In fact, He wants us to choose both. The message that Luke wants to tell us in this Gospel story is that there is a time for everything – a time to serve God, and a time to pray. These two aspects of the Christian life are never in opposition to one another. Rather they are complimentary; both aspects require us to continually be in tune with how God is working – both in our lives and through our work to build up the Kingdom.
As you prepare to hear these readings on Sunday, I invite you to take some time to read this Gospel passage. As you do, I invite you to reflect upon where Christ may be challenging you to grow both in your life of prayer and in your life of service. God Bless you.
July 10, 2016
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Are we moved with compassion more than we sit in judgement?
Reading 1 (DT 30:10-14)
Reading 2 (COL 1:15-20)
Gospel (LK 10:25-37)
In the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we see how the first reading from Deuteronomy (DT 30:10-14) and the Gospel of St. Luke (LK 10:25-37) parallel each other. In the first reading, we hear the Word of God saying, “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord…” It says, “Return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.” It’s a perfect set-up for the Gospel of Luke, in which a scholar of the law approaches Jesus and asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Instead of giving the man a simple answer, Jesus challenges him to recall what the law says. The man replies, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Searching for clarity, the man asks, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. In it, a man fell victim to robbers on his way to Jericho. He was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest sees him, and walks by, as does a Levite. Then, a man from the hated community of Samaria sees him and is moved with compassion. He takes him to an inn and assures he is taken care of. Jesus tells us that is the meaning of neighbor.
So, we are challenged to ask, “Who are our neighbors?” Are we moved with compassion constantly and consistently for people we don’t even know, for people we don’t understand, for those with whom we might disagree, for those who frighten us, for those who we would rather avoid, or for those who we simply do not like?
Are we moved with compassion more than we sit in judgement?
If not, we have not yet understood this Gospel.
Even if we love God with all our heart, all our being, all our strength, and with all our mind, but we do not love our neighbors, then we risk loving God with only half our heart, half our being, half our strength, and half our mind. We risk loving God half-heartedly.
The 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time invites us to measure our love of God by our love of neighbor. It is not new or novel. We have heard it in the Gospel from the very beginning.
God bless you.
This Know Before You Go video series is a place to come each week as you prepare for the weekend’s Mass readings. This week, Fr. Jim Marchionda, OP reminds us that Sunday’s readings should be understood in the context of a larger story.