Introduction: The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility must be the hallmark of our pcrayers. However, the central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer itself, but rather on pride, humility and the role of grace in our salvation.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, from Sirach, is a perfect companion piece to the Gospel parable. In one striking image from Sirach, the writer talks about "the prayer of the lowly, piercing the clouds to reach the unseen throne of God.” Such prayers are heard because they come from the hearts of people who know how much they need God. Although God has no favorites and answers the prayers of all, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and those who can least help themselves are His special concern. The best prayer is humble and selfless service. In the second reading, Paul, a former Pharisee, humbly acknowledges his work as accomplished by the grace of God, and he thanks God for enabling him to fight a good battle -- to run a good race while keeping his Faith intact and proclaiming it. In today’s Gospel parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus reminds us that God hears the prayers those who approach Him in humility with a repentant heart. God did not hear the prayer of the Pharisee because he exalted himself. His prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not as evil as other people. He announced to God his freedom from sin and detailed his fidelity in observing the prescribed fast and in giving tithes. The tax collector’s prayer, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” was heard because he humbled himself, acknowledging his sins and requesting God’s mercy.
Life messages: 1) Let us evict the Pharisee and revive the publican in each of us. We become the proud Pharisee when we brag about our achievements giving no credit to God, when we seek praise and recognition from others for our accomplishments, and when we degrade others with insensitive comments, hurting their feelings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to imitate the humble publican (tax collector), by acknowledging our total dependence on God and His grace for all our achievements and blessings; by confessing to God daily our sinfulness and asking for His pardon and forgiveness; by praying for God’s continued daily support through His grace and for His strengthening through the daily anointing and of His Holy Spirit living within us; and by becoming more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, serving them as best as we can. 2) Let us include all the necessary ingredients in our prayers. Our personal prayers must include our request for pardon and forgiveness for our sins, thanksgiving for the numerous blessings we receive daily from God, praise and worship, surrendering of our life and all our activities completely and unconditionally to God, acknowledging our weakness and total dependence on Him, and finally, presenting our needs and petitions, accompanied by the fervent request for God’s strengthening in our weakness and temptations by the daily anointing of His Holy Spirit. Let us pray every day: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.”
OT XXX [C] (Oct 23): Sir 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18; Lk 18:9-14
Anecdote # 1: "Proud about what?" A news reporter once asked Mother Teresa if she had ever been tempted to be proud. Mother Theresa retorted with a smile, "Proud about what?" The reporter replied, “Why, about the wonderful things you have been doing for the poorest of the poor!” Then came her answer, "I never knew I had done anything, because it was God who worked in and through my Sisters and volunteers.” True humility differentiates a saint from a sinner. If we are proud of our talents, our family connections, our reputation, or our achievements in life, today’s Gospel tells us that we need Jesus to rid us of our pride and make us truly humble.
#2: “No, Madam, he did not.” William Barclay tells the story of the woman tourist in Germany. The guide took a group through Beethoven's house. He showed them the piano on which the genius had composed his Moonlight Sonata. A woman in the group immediately sat down and played some bars from the sonata. The guide told the group that Paderewski (world renowned Polish pianist and composer) had recently been shown the piano. The woman gushed, "And I wager he sat down and played just as I did." Archly the guide said, "No, Madam. He said he was not worthy to touch those keys."
# 3: Truly humble of heart: Dorothy Day died in November 1980 at the age of 84. Reporting on her death, the New York Times called her the most influential person in the history of American Catholicism. In her book, From Union Square to Rome, she describes her conversion to Christ. One of her first attractions came in childhood. One day she discovered the mother of one of her girlfriends kneeling in prayer. The sight of this kneeling woman moved her deeply. She never forgot it. In the same book she tells how, in the days before her conversion, she often spent the entire night in a tavern. Then she would go to an early morning Mass at St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Avenue. What attracted her to St. Joseph’s were the people kneeling in prayer. She writes: “I longed for their Faith… So I used to go in and kneel in a back pew.” Eventually Dorothy Day received the gift of Faith and entered the Church. (Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies)’
# 4: "Don't you know this is a fast-day?" Once there was a rabbi who was at the point of death. The Jewish community proclaimed a day of fasting in order to induce the Heavenly Judge to commute the sentence of death. When the entire congregation was gathered in the synagogue for penance and prayer, the village drunkard went to the village tavern for some schnapps (white brandy). Another Jew saw him and rebuked him saying, "Don't you know this is a fast-day and everyone is in the synagogue praying for the healing of our rabbi? You shouldn't be drinking." The drunkard agreed, went to the synagogue and prayed, "Dear God! Please restore our rabbi to good health so that I can have my schnapps!" The rabbi recovered, and his healing was seen to be granted because of the sincere prayer of the drunkard. Addressing his people on the following Sabbath, the rabbi prayed: "May God preserve our village drunkard until he is a hundred and twenty years! Know that his prayer was heard by God when yours were not because he put his whole heart and soul into his prayer!" [Nathan Ausubel, ed., A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, p. 161). Today’s Gospel tells us how God heard the prayers of a humble sinner and ignored the proud prayer of a self-righteous Pharisee.
Introduction: The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility must be the hallmark of our prayers. However, the central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer itself, but rather on pride, humility and the role of grace in our salvation. The first reading, taken from Sirach, is a perfect companion piece to the Gospel parable. In one striking image from Sirach, the writer talks about "the prayer of the lowly, piercing the clouds to reach the unseen throne of God.” Such prayers are heard because they come from the hearts of people who know how much they need God. Although God has no favorites and answers the prayers of all, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and those who can least help themselves are His special concern. The best prayer is humble and selfless service. In the second reading, Paul celebrates the fact that he is near the finish line of his life, like a runner running a race, and that he has kept the Faith right up to this point. He humbly awaits "the crown of righteousness" that only God can give him. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith!" In today’s Gospel parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus reminds us that God hears the prayers those who approach Him in humility. God did not hear the prayer of the Pharisee because he exalted himself. His prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not as evil as other people; he announced to God his freedom from sin and detailed his fidelity in observing the prescribed fasts and in giving tithes. The tax collector’s prayer, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” was heard because he humbled himself acknowledging his sins and requesting God’s mercy.
First reading, Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18: Around 175 BC, many Jews, living in cities where pagans were in the majority, unknowingly assimilated their culture. Hence Sirach, a wise Jew, taught them how faithful Jews should live a good life, what moral and spiritual choices they should make and what behavior would be honorable in religious people. Chapter 35 begins with a discussion of the kinds of sacrifice that would be truly acceptable to God. These include keeping the law, observing the commandments (verse 1), doing works of charity, giving alms (verse 2), refraining from evil and avoiding injustice (verse 3). In the passage chosen for the first reading, Sirach asserts that the just God has no favorites. Rather, He always hears and grants the humble prayers of the widows, the orphans, the lowly, the weak and the oppressed.
Second Reading, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18: Paul sees his imminent martyrdom in terms of sacrificial worship. That's what he means by the expression, "I am already being poured out like a libation." The New Jerusalem Bible says, in a footnote to this verse, "Libations of wine, water or oil were poured over the victims not only in Gentile sacrifices but also in Jewish ones, see Exodus 29:40 and Numbers 28:7." In the second paragraph, Paul thanks God for vindicating him in his first trial before the Roman magistrate, giving him a chance to bear witness to the Gospel before the pagans. But, though rescued once from the lion's mouth, Paul is realistic in predicting that he is bound for the Lord's Heavenly Kingdom, finishing his life’s race as a humble “Apostle of the Gentiles.” He writes, "I have finished the race; I have kept the Faith. From now on, the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for His appearance." Although, like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, Paul reports his accomplishments, like the publican, he humbly acknowledges the source of strength for the success of his apostolate: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.”
Exegesis. The context: Luke's Gospel shows special concern for the poor and the outsider. Luke may have included the parable we hear today, which concerns the acceptability of the prayers of the humble publican as opposed to those of the proud Pharisee, at least in part, to encourage the Gentile converts who did not practice the Jewish Law as the Pharisees did. In this parable, we see that God values the prayer of any humble and contrite heart. Luke puts greater emphasis on prayer than do the other Gospel writers, and he often mentions Jesus’ prayers (Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:18; 9:28, 29; 11:1). The parables about prayer unique to Luke’s Gospel are: 1) The Friend at Midnight (11:5-8), 2) The Widow and the Judge (18:1-8), and 3) The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14). These parables teach us to pray persistently, and humbly. The central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer, but rather on pride, humility and the role of grace in our salvation.
Analysis: The parable has a two-fold meaning, giving us i) a warning against pride and contempt for others, and ii) an admonition to approach God with a humble and repentant heart. The parable was mainly intended to convict the Pharisees who, on the one hand, proudly claimed they obeyed all the rules and regulations of the Jewish Law, while on the other hand, they ignored the Mosaic precepts of mercy and compassion. The Pharisees were looked upon as devout, law-abiding citizens and models of righteousness. But they were proud and self-righteous. The tax collectors, on the other hand, were the most-hated group because they collected taxes for a foreign empire, and became rich by cheating people, often threatening them with false accusations. In other words, they collaborated with the Romans and stole from the Jews. Hence, they were considered by their fellow-Jews to be traitors, unclean and sinful. The parable, however, shows that both men were sinners: the difference was that the publican realized that he was, but the Pharisee did not.
The assessment of their prayers: Devout Jews observed three prayer-times daily, at nine AM, twelve midday and three PM. They also considered prayer in the Temple as more efficacious than that made anywhere else. In the parable, Jesus tells us about two men who went to pray, a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stood in the very front section of the Temple, distancing himself from his inferiors, and his prayer was egotistical. He looked upon himself as superior to other people, and listed all his pious acts. The Jewish Law required fasting only on the Day of Atonement, but this Pharisee fasted twice a week, possibly, on Monday and Friday, the market days, when the largest possible audience would see his whitened face and disheveled clothing -- the external marks of his fasting. Although he was required to tithe only on his agricultural produce (Dt 14:22; Nm 18:21), this Pharisee paid tithes on all his wealth. He was sure that he had done all that the law of God required --and even more, thus creating a “surplus” of righteousness and making the Almighty his “debtor.”
The Pharisee’s prayer: In short, the proud and self-righteous Pharisee did not really go to pray to God, but only to tell God how good he was in the guise of thanking Him. He said this prayer "to himself"! His prayer was also ineffective because he was proud, despising all others, including the tax collector, labeling them sinners. He was really a good man, but he lacked compassion for others. If the first big mistake of the Pharisee was to think that God would be impressed by his boasting, the second was in his thinking that he was better than others. The Pharisee got what he asked for, which was nothing, while the sinner got what he asked for, which was everything. Two things especially make our prayers void and of no effect: a proud sense of our own righteousness, and a contempt for others. But a humble heart is contrary to both of these.
The tax collector’s prayer: The second person was the tax collector. He stood at the back of the Temple and would not even lift his eyes to God. He confessed his sins and humbly asked for God’s mercy: “Kyrie, eleison”- "O God, be merciful to me--a sinner." His prayer was short, but to the purpose. His heartbroken, humble prayer won him acceptance before God. His only virtue was his humility, which led him to repentance and prompted him to ask for mercy. While the Pharisee asked God, in effect, “Am I not better than my fellow-men?” the tax collector’s question to himself was, "Am I as good as God?" Having defrauded his neighbors on behalf of the Roman overlords, the tax collector had much to be humble about. He was a sinner, personally and corporately, a state which prompted him to pray: "God be merciful to me -- a sinner.” The Pharisee prayed as one who needed no forgiveness, and he got none; the tax collector prayed as one who needed forgiveness, and he received it. “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” (Soren Kierkegaard). “If no change occurs as a result of prayer, then one has not really prayed.” (Fr. Raymond Brown).
We might object to God’s forgiving the tax collector as he did not formally confess any sins, make a statement of repentance, offer to change his life or make any reparations for his sins (as the tax collector, Zacchaeus, did). God’s approval of his prayer might appear to us to be a cheap form of grace. But let us remember that the humble prayer of the tax collector implied all the formalities of repentance, restitution and change of life, and framed them in his awareness of his total unworthiness compared to the holiness of God. And so, as Jesus tells his audience and us, as a reward of his humble prayer for mercy, the tax collector received it and went home truly "justified," i.e., "reconciled to God." St. Paul reminds us: “Not because of any righteous deeds we have done but because of His mercy, He has saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus: 3:5). The last words of the Gospel reading are a warning to us all: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled; those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Life messages: 1) Let us evict the Pharisee and revive the publican in each of us. We become the proud Pharisee when we brag about our achievements giving no credit to God, when we seek praise and recognition from others for our accomplishments, and when we degrade others with insensitive comments, hurting their feelings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to imitate the humble publican (tax collector) by acknowledging our total dependence on God and His grace for all our achievements and blessings; by confessing to God daily our sinfulness and asking for His pardon and forgiveness; by praying for God’s continued daily support through His grace and for His strengthening through the daily anointing and of His Holy Spirit living within us; and by becoming more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, serving them as best as we can. 2) Let us include all the necessary ingredients in our prayers. Our personal prayers must include our request for pardon and forgiveness for our sins, thanksgiving for the numerous blessings we receive daily from God, praise and worship, surrendering of our life and all our activities completely and unconditionally to God, acknowledging our weakness and total dependence on Him and finally, presenting our needs and petitions, accompanied by the fervent request for God’s strengthening in our weakness and temptations by the daily anointing of His Holy Spirit. Let us pray every day: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.”
3) Let us rid ourselves of self-justification: It is a tragedy that those who justify themselves leave no room to receive grace. Morally they may be living exemplary lives, yet their self-justification leaves no room for the grace of God to take hold. God cannot give grace to them because they are not ready to receive it; they are too full. If we are proud and complacent, there is not much room for God. On the other hand, if we are truly humble we will find grace, mercy and peace. There must be a space in our lives for grace to enter and work its miracle. One lesson of the parable for us is that we must keep our focus entirely on God and our relationship with Him, recognizing that we are constantly in need of His mercy and forgiveness.
4) Let us ask for God’s unconditional love and mercy during the Holy Mass. The Gospel is about God’s Divine Mercy. The tax collector saw this clearly: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.” We repeat this phrase at the Holy Mass and in the Divine Mercy Prayer: “Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” This is why we are gathered together every Sunday morning. We tell God that we offer Him His dearly beloved Son in atonement for our sins. Let us conclude with the Divine Mercy Prayer: “For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.”
(Prepared by Fr. Tony (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: Today’s readings are mainly about prayer -- perseverance in prayer, constancy in prayer and trust in God as we pray. They are also about the Trustworthiness and Justice of God, the type of Justice that reaches out to the poor and the weak, enabling them to fight against injustice.
Scripture lessons:In thefirst reading, Moses, after sending Joshua to fight against Amalek, is presented as making tireless intercession with constancy for the victory of Israel’s army. Both Moses and the widow in today’s Gospel story teach us how we should pray with trusting Faith and perseverance. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs Timothy to persevere in his ministry, to proclaim the word of God with persistence in all circumstances and to use it to “correct, reprove and appeal with patience.”
By introducing the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow in today’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes the “necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Constancy in prayer is Faith in action. Jesus presents the widow in today’s Gospel as a model of the trust and tenacity with which his disciples are to pray. The widow was asking for something which God would certainly want for her - justice.
Life messages:1) We need to combine formal prayers with action prayer: It is ideal that we start our prayers by reading from the Bible, especially the Psalms and the Gospels. Formal, memorized and liturgical prayers are also essential for the Christian prayer life. Personal prayer is of great importance in our life of prayer. Talking to God in our own words -- praising Him, thanking Him and presenting our needs before Him -- transforms our whole life into prayer. We should perfect our prayers by bringing ourselves into God’s presence during our work several times during the day and by offering all that we are, that we have and that we do to God. Along with formal and memorized prayers, this type of prayer life enables us to pray always and pray with constancy and trusting perseverance.
2) We should not expect to get whatever we pray for. This parable does not suggest that God writes a blank check, guaranteeing whatever we want whenever we want it in the form we ask for. But we conveniently forget the fact that, often, a loving father has to refuse the request of a child, because he knows that what the child asks would hurt rather than help him (e.g., a knife). God is like that. He knows what to give, when to give and how to give it. Only God sees time whole, and, therefore, only God knows what is good for us in the long run. That is why Jesus said that we must never be discouraged in prayer. Instead, we have to leave the answer to God’s decision saying, “Thy will be done.” Sincere and persistent prayer makes us ready to accept His will.
OT XXIX [C] (October 16) Ex 17:8-13, II Tm 3:14--4:2, Lk 18:1-8
Anecdote# 1: Gideon’s experiment with prayer: Many years ago a man named Dalton suggested that the prayer of petition should be put to the test. One-half of England, he said, should pray for rain and then compare the rainfall with the other half who did not pray for rain. He was not, in fact, the first believer with a flair for experimentation. In the Book of Judges, Gideon said to God, "If you really mean to deliver Israel by my hand, as you have declared, see now, I spread out a fleece. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is left dry, then I shall know." Gideon had the mind of a true experimenter. The following night he reversed his experiment to test God a second time. He prayed, "Do not be angry with me if I speak once again…. Let the fleece alone be dry, and let there be dew on the ground all around it" (Jgs 6:36-40). Prayer isn't just a way of getting what we want, but some people go to the opposite extreme of never asking God for anything (while having no problem with the prayer of praise, thanks, and so on). If it makes sense to thank God for something, it must make sense to ask God for it and to persevere in that prayer as Jesus proposes in today’s Gospel (Bible Diary 2004).
# 2: Never give up!Years ago there was a young man in Illinois with only six months of formal school education. His mother home-schooled him and taught him to have a dream and to keep trying to realize that dream, relying on the power of persistent prayer. First he ran for an office in the legislature and was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed at that, too, and spent the next 17 years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming young lady and they became engaged. But she died which led the young man to a short-term nervous breakdown. Next, he ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office, but didn’t succeed. With strong belief in the power of prayer, he ran for U. S. Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated again for the office of Senator. He ran for office once more and was elected the 16th President of the United States, thus realizing his dream by the power of persistent prayer. He was Abraham Lincoln. It took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English – of all things! Ironically, he was asked many years later to give the commencement address at Oxford University. His now famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never give up!” And that is the message of today’s Gospel parable of the poor widow and the corrupt judge. (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks! Listen).
# 3:The persistent widow in our midst:It may be a spouse’s Parkinson’s disease, a parent’s Alzheimer’s, a sister’s breast cancer, a child’s leukemia. The illness of a loved one, a catastrophe striking their family, the suffering of someone dear to them transforms these moms and dads and sons and daughters and friends into dedicated advocates and determined guardians. They fight hospitals and insurance companies for the critical medical care needed by their loved one. They take on the most obstinate bureaucracies for the assistance and services their child is entitled to but denied. They work tirelessly to raise awareness, raise money, and, when necessary, raise Cain, so that their loved one may live as fully a life as possible, so that a cure might be found, so that other families will not have to experience the pain and anguish they have known. These dedicated men and women are the Gospel widow in our midst. They face down the “dishonest judges” of arrogance and avarice; they take on the “fearful judges” of insensitivity and unawareness; they go toe-to-toe with the “judges who fear neither God nor respect any human being,” save themselves.Their love for the sick and suffering enables them to carry on “day and night;” their faith and conviction in the rightness of their cause empowers them to carry on despite the frustration and inaction they face. The very compassion of God is their hope and assurance that their prayer will be heard. (Conections).
Introduction: Today’s readings are mainly about prayer -- perseverance in prayer, constancy in prayer and trust in God as we pray. They are also about the Trustworthiness and Justice of God, a Justice that reaches out to the poor and the weak, enabling them to fight against injustice. In thefirst reading, Moses, after sending Joshua to fight against Amalek, is presented as making tireless intercession with constancy for the victory of Israel’s army. Both Moses and the widow in today’s Gospel story teach us how we should pray. In the second reading, St. Paul instructs Timothy to persevere in his ministry, to proclaim the word of God with persistence in all circumstances and to use it to “correct, reprove and appeal with patience.” By introducing the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow in today’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes the “necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Constancy in prayer is Faith in action. Jesus presents the widow in today’s Gospel as a model of the trust and tenacity with which his disciples are to pray. The widow was asking for something which God would certainly want for her - justice.
First reading: Exodus 18: 8-13: Clearly, Moses and Aaron understood the “necessity of praying always and not losing heart,” when Joshua was fighting the battle against the Amalekites. At that time, Israel’s resources were inadequate, and their morale was at a low ebb. The Amalekites were a group of people who stood between Israel and the land God had promised her. They had waged war on Israel, and Israel had no choice but to fight back. Staff in hand, Moses stood on top of the mountain overlooking the battleground. He was praying fervently for Israel with raised, outstretched arms. As he grew weary, his two aides, Aaron and Hur, seated him on a rock and propped up his arms. “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” When we join the army with Jesus, who prayed for us with outstretched arms on the cross, we will surely win the battle with our own Amalekites: the temptations and evil tendencies in our lives.
Second reading: II Timothy 3:14-4:2: Paul recommends to Timothy—and to all of us -- perseverance in prayer, in the practice of the Faith and in preaching the word of God. At the time Paul was writing, pressure groups were trying to force Timothy to water down his doctrines of Faith. Therefore, Paul advised Timothy to "preach the word, stay with the task, whether convenient or inconvenient, correcting, reproving, appealing, constantly teaching and never losing patience." “Whether the time is favorable or unfavorable,” Paul continued, “proclaim the message” and “carry out your ministry fully.” Our own ministry is to worship the Lord, share the Gospel with others and bear witness to Christ by growing in discipleship and serving our neighbors lovingly, as Jesus did. Paul then reminded Timothy that the Holy Scriptures were meant to help him in these duties: "All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (II Tim 3: 16-17).
Exegesis:The context:When Luke wrote this Gospel, the Parousia or Second Coming of Jesus had been delayed beyond what the early Church had expected. In addition, the Church was experiencing persecution from both the Jews and the Romans. The persecuted early Christians were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their Faith. Hence, today’s Gospel lesson addresses the issues of Faith in difficult times. It reassures the disciples that God is listening to their persistent prayers and will grant them justice and vindicate their Faith in the end. The Gospel today seems to be a classic example of the link between perseverance and blessing. Luke sets the story in the context of a challenge Jesus makes to his disciples to pray always and not lose heart, that is, to persevere in prayer and receive God’s blessings.
The historical background: This parable is based on the corrupt Roman legal practices prevalent in Palestine at the time of Jesus. We know that the judge in the parable was not a Jewish judge, because ordinary Jewish disputes were judged before the Jewish elders. In Dt 1:16-17, Moses charged the judges to render fair and honest decisions regardless of the wealth or social standing of the petitioner. Hence, we conclude that the judge in the parable was one of the paid magistrates appointed either by Herod or by the Romans. Since such judges were avaricious, corrupt and without fear of God or the public, people called them “DayyanehGezeloth”, robber judges. Although the Hebrew Scriptures demand protection for widows, orphans, and aliens (Dt 10:18-19, 24:17-21, Ex 22:22-24), the widows were not included in Hebrew laws on inheritance, and they became common symbols of the exploited and the oppressed. Prophets like Isaiah (1:23; 10:2), and Malachi (3:5), criticized the harsh treatment widows received, and throughout the Bible, widows are viewed as being under the special protection of God (Jer 49:11; Ps 68:5; Jas 1:27). The widow in Jesus’ parable was the symbol of all who were poor, defenseless, and without hope of ever obtaining justice. Her opponent was probably rich, crooked and influential.
Persistence of the widow: But the widow in Jesus’ parable had one powerful weapon—a dogged persistence which gave the judge no peace. Her persistence was a very public event, and the entire community witnessed the widow’s repeated encounters with the judge. By publicly badgering the judge every day, the woman was trying to shame this shameless person. Finally, the unjust judge was forced to yield. Hence, this parable is not only about the efficacy of persistent prayer, but also about the character of God, His Trustworthiness and Justice, a type of Justice that reaches out to the poor and the weak, enabling them to fight against injustice. God’s Justice goes far beyond human limits and can bring fullness of life to the poorest and the most vulnerable people in our world. Jesus ends the parable with a question: Will his followers continue to have confidence in God’s Justice until He comes again in Final Judgment?
God is not being likened to, but contrasted with, an unjust judge.God is not compared to the unjust and insensitive judge, needing to be bribed or forced by our persistent prayers to give us what we need. Jesus is contrasting God to him.Jesus is asking us to persevere in prayer that opens our hearts and minds to God’s always available grace.Prayer does not seek to move God’s heart for what we want. Prayer is the opening up of our own heart and spirit to what God wants for us. God hears the cry of the people and God answers that cry speedily, although that does not seem to fit with our actual experience of unanswered prayers, even in our dire needs. How, then, does He answer? It is by His active presence in our lives. The truth is that God is intimately present in all the turmoil and terror of life, vindicating those who cry out in Faith. God is, in fact, with us, even before the cry for help leaves our mouth. God is present, experiencing our pain and distress, and Jesus is the guarantee. In his ministry, Jesus shared this immediacy of God’s love for the deaf, blind, diseased, mentally-ill, poor, weak, despised, alone and the crippled, as well as the dead and those who mourned them. His response to the cries of people was speedy. But Jesus himself seemed to be God-forsaken on the cross. God was in Jesus, bearing our sins and carrying our sorrows. The same God is with us, savouring the joy of our laughter and feeling the agony of pain and grief, as our Immanuel: God-with-us.
Faith is the condition of God’s vindication of us: Luke seems to be the first author of the Christian Scriptures who concludes that he and everyone in his community will die a natural death before Jesus returns in the Parousia or “second coming.” (Lk 18:1-8). That’s why, throughout his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, he emphasizes persistence in Faith. In other words, God will take care of His obligations, and our job is to take care of our obligations. God will vindicate us, His persecuted community, provided we stay watchful and persevere in Faith and prayer. We have to trust God to bring about that which He has promised. In praying, we show our confidence that our God hears, and cares, and acts. When we pray for something as essential as “daily bread,” we are making a rather amazing statement of Faith in the Goodness of a loving and providing God. Jesus calls us, with the example of the widow and the unjust judge, to have Faith, to trust that God in his Goodness will bring about the Justice we all seek, the blessing we all require. But we should continue in prayer for these things until they happen, as an expression of our trusting Faith and dependence on God. Thus, the purpose of all our prayers is the augmentation of our trusting Faith in a loving and caring God who is our Father.
Life messages:1) We need to combine formal prayers with action prayer: It is ideal that we start our prayers by reading from the Bible, especially the Psalms and the Gospels. Formal, memorized and liturgical prayers are also essential for the Christian prayer life. Personal prayer is of great importance in our life of prayer. Talking to God in our own words -- praising Him, thanking Him and presenting our needs before Him -- transforms our whole life into prayer. We should perfect our prayers by bringing ourselves into God’s presence during our work several times during the day and by offering all that we are, that we have and that we do to God. This will help us to bring all our successes and failures, joys and sorrows, highs and lows to God in prayer. Along with formal and memorized prayers, this type of prayer life enables us to pray always and pray with constancy and trusting perseverance.
2) We should not expect to get whatever we pray for. This parable does not suggest that God writes a blank check, guaranteeing whatever we want whenever we want it in the form we ask for. But we conveniently forget the fact that, often, a loving father has to refuse the request of a child, because he knows that what the child asks would hurt rather than help him (e.g., a knife). God is like that. He knows what to give, when to give and how to give it. Only God sees time whole, and, therefore, only God knows what is good for us in the long run. That is why Jesus said that we must never be discouraged in prayer. Instead we have to leave the answer to God’s decision saying, as he did in Gethsemane, “Thy will be done.”
3) To make our prayers effective, we do not have to nag God. Long, meaningless prayers -- although a natural expression of our misery -- should not be used as bargaining chips with God. The parable teaches that our prayers do not change God's will. Instead, they bring our minds into line with His purposes. Persistent prayer -- continuing communion with God -- reshapes our hearts to God's original design. Such prayer does not change God; instead, it changes us. Sincere and persistent prayer makes us ready to accept His will. In Priests for the Third Millennium, Monsignor Timothy Dolan observes that prayer must become like eating and breathing. We have to eat daily, not stock up on food on Monday, and then take off the rest of the week. Do we take ten deep breaths and say, “Good, that’s over for a while, I won’t have to breathe for a couple of hour.
(Prepared by Fr. Tony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction:The central theme of today’s readings is gratitude– in particular, the expression of gratitude God expects from us. Today’s Gospel presents a God Who desires gratitude from us for the many blessings we receive from Him, and Who feels pain at our ingratitude.
Scripture lessons:Naaman, the Syrian military commander in the first reading, was an outcast not only because of his leprosy; he was also a non-Israelite. But he returned to thank the Prophet Elisha for the cure of his leprosy, and as a sign of his gratitude, transferred his allegiance to the God of Israel. St. Paul, in the second reading, advises Timothy to be grateful to God even in his physical sufferings and amid the dangers associated with spreading the Word of God because God will always be faithful to His people. Today’s Gospel story tells us of a single non-Jewish leper (a “Samaritan heretic”), who returned to thank Jesus for healing him, while the nine Jewish lepers went their way. Perhaps under the false impression that healing was their right as God’s chosen people, they hurried off to obtain health certificates from the priests. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asked the crowd. Today’s readings also remind us that Faith and healing go hand in hand. It was Faith that prompted Naaman to plunge himself into the waters of the Jordan River, and it was Faith in Jesus which prompted the lepers to present themselves first to Jesus and then to the priests. The readings also demonstrate the universal love of God for all peoples, including the Samaritans (whom the Israelites hated), and the pagans, Israel's enemies whom Naaman represented.
Life Messages:1) We need to learn to be thankful to God and to others. We can express our gratitude to our loving and providing God by offering grace before meals and by allotting a few minutes of the day for family prayer. Let us show our gratitude to our forgiving God by forgiving others, and to a loving God by radiating His love, mercy and compassion to others, including our families and friends. It is by taking good care of our old and sick parents that we express our gratitude to them for the sacrifices they made in raising us.
2) We need to celebrate the Holy Eucharist as the supreme act of thanksgiving:The Greek word “Eucharist” meansprofoundly religious and thoroughly spiritual “thanksgiving.” When we celebrate Holy Mass together, we are thanking God for giving us the great gift of His Son in the Holy Eucharist so that we can share His Divine life and recharge our spiritual batteries and for giving us His teaching, guiding and strengthening Holy Spirit. We express our thanks to God as a parish community by sharing our time, talents and material blessings in the various ministries and services of the parish and by our active participation in its outreach programs in the community.
OT XXVIII [C] (Oct 9): II Kgs 5:14-17; II Tm 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19
Anecdote: # 1: "Then where’s his hat?" Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of the little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older sailor, heedless of the great danger to himself, dove into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally, exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy’s mother came with him to the same pier, seeking the sailor who rescued her son. Finding him, she asked, "You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?" "I did," he replied. The mother quickly demanded, "Then where’s his hat?" In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the story of nine ungrateful lepers.
# 2: "I'm just so glad and thankful I can hear and see." Perhaps the most grateful person I've ever heard of was an old woman in an extended care hospital. She had some kind of wasting disease, her different powers fading away over the march of months. A student of mine happened to meet her on a coincidental visit. The student kept going back, drawn by the strange force of the woman's joy. Though she could no longer move her arms and legs, she would say, "I'm just so happy and grateful to God that I can move my neck." When she could no longer move her neck, she would say, "I'm just so glad and thankful I can hear and see." When the young student finally asked the old woman what would happen if she lost her senses of hearing and sight, the gentle lady said, "I'll just be so grateful that you come to visit." (Rev. John Kavanaugh S. J.)
#3: "Accept my sincere acknowledgments." James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, is known as the Father of the American Constitution. Madison was known for his spotless character. In his old age, the venerable ex-President suffered from many diseases, took a variety of medicines and managed to live a long life. An old friend from the adjoining county of Albemarle sent him a box of vegetable pills and begged to be informed whether they helped him. In due time Madison replied as follows: "My dear friend, I thank you very much for the box of pills. I have taken them all, and while I cannot say that I am better since taking them, it is quite possible that I might have been worse if I had not taken them, and so I beg you to accept my sincere acknowledgments."
# 4: Expressing our gratitude: In 1976 Louise Fletcher was awarded an Oscar for best actress for her role as Nurse Ratched in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She had given up acting for eleven years to raise her children before she won that role after five big-name actresses had turned it down. In accepting her Academy Award, Louise Fletcher did a very dramatic thing. With her voice breaking with emotion she faced a national television audience and said: “For my mother and my father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true.” Louise Fletcher delivered the message in sign language at the same time, because both of her parents were deaf mutes and were watching from their home in Alabama. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
Introduction:The central theme of today’s readings is gratitude - in particular, the expression of gratitude God expects from us. By describing Jesus' miraculous healing of the ten lepers from a physically devastating and socially isolating disease, today’s Gospel presents a God Who desires gratitude from us for the many blessings we receive from Him, and Who feels pain at our ingratitude. Naaman, the Syrian Military General in the first reading, was an outcast not only because of his illness; he was also a non-Israelite. But he returned to thank the Prophet Elisha for the cure of his leprosy, and as a sign of his gratitude transferred his allegiance to the God of Israel. St. Paul, in the second reading, advises Timothy to be grateful to God even in his physical sufferings and amid the dangers associated with spreading the Word of God, because God will always be faithful to His people. Today’s Gospel story tells us of a single non-Jewish leper (a “Samaritan heretic”), who returned to thank Jesus for healing him, while the nine Jewish lepers went their way, perhaps under the false impression that healing was their right as God’s chosen people. They did not seem to feel indebted to Jesus or to God for the singular favor they had received. Instead, they hurried off to obtain a health certificate from the priests. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asked the Samaritan leper and the crowd. “Did only one come back to say 'thank you?'” Today’s readings also remind us that Faith and healing go hand in hand, as do Faith and reconciliation. It was Faith that prompted Naaman to plunge himself into the waters of the Jordan River, and it was Faith in Jesus which prompted the lepers to present themselves first to Jesus and then to the priests. Finally, the readings demonstrate God's love for all peoples, including the Samaritans (whom the Israelites hated), and the pagans, Israel's enemies whom Naaman represented.
First reading, 2 Kings 5:14-17:describes a vivid expression of thanksgiving (hodah) made by the pagan Naaman, the army commander of the King of Aram, (in present-day Syria; its capital was Damascus), at his healing from leprosy through the power of Yahweh. When the prophet Elisha refused to accept Naaman’s costly gifts as reward for the healing, the grateful Naaman asked the prophet’s permission to take two mule-loads of earth with him from Yahweh’s land of Israel, so that when he got back to Damascus, he could place an altar for Yahweh on the soil, and so pray to Yahweh on the soil of Israel. Most people at that time had a crude, physical and territorial notion of Divinity. It was just understood that one god governed the land of Aram, and another god held sway over the territory of Israel, and so on. If you wanted to worship the God of Israel in another country, you had to take some of Israel's soil with you, dump it on the ground in the other country and stand on it. That way, you would "be in Israel," and so could worship Israel's God. The grateful Naaman promised that he would accept Yahweh as his only God and offer holocausts to Him in thanksgiving for the healing.
Second Reading, 2 Timothy 2:8-13: In the Church at Ephesus, Timothy held an office that would evolve into that of a Bishop. Paul, a senior Apostle now in prison, loved his young, one-time missionary companion and friend of long standing. Today's passage is part of Paul's encouragement to Timothy. Paul tells Timothy that he willingly accepts his suffering --"even to the point of chains, like a criminal” – as a grateful Apostle of Jesus, "for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory"(vv 9, 10).Part of the Christian life-experience includes the physical sufferings and dangers associated with spreading the Word of God [1 Cor. 15:31; 2 Cor. 4:8-11]. Paul reminds us that, “even if we are unfaithful, God will remain faithful;” and, hence, we must be grateful to God, even in our sufferings. “I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you.”(Rom 1:8)
Exegesis:Leprosy as God’s punishment: Jesus was on the border between Galilee and Samaria where He was met by a band of ten lepers, including both Jews and Samaritans who were drawn together by their common misery and who ignored their traditional enmity. Biblical leprosy rarely included Hansen’s disease (leprosy proper). It was mostly skin diseases like ringworm, psoriasis, leukoderma, and vitiligo. The suffering of lepers in Biblical times was chiefly due to the way they were treated by the religious society of the day (Interpreter’s Bible). They were deemed unclean, unfit to be counted among a people who considered themselves “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). “Leprosy” was a terrible disease becauseits victims were separated from their families and society. Lepers were treated as sinners who were being punished by God with a contagious disease. The punishment given to Miriam (the complaining sister of Moses in Numbers 12:9-10), to Gehazi (the greedy servant of the prophet Elisha: “The leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever"-II Kings 5: 27) and to King Uzziah (for burning incense in the Temple, a right reserved for priests, Chronicles 26:19), supported this Jewish belief that leprosy was God’s punishment for sins.
Mosaic restrictions on lepers: The Mosaic Law, as given in Leviticus 13: 44-46, demands that a) the priest shall declare the leper unclean, b) the leper shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, c) he shall muffle his beard and he shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean,' and d) he shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp. The Book of Numbers (5:2-3) commands the Israelites "to put out of the camp everyone who is leprous." Over 3000 words in Leviticus (chapters 13-14), govern the inspection of suspected lepers, their isolation, and the procedure for declaring the healed leper clean. As a general rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest to confirm that he was now clean and was permitted to mix with the general public.
The parallels: The Fathers of the Church note three parallels between the Gospel story and the story of Naaman, the Gentile who was also healed of leprosy. First, both Naaman and the Samaritan leper were foreigners who sought healing from a Godly Jew. Second, both were ordered to perform a small, seemingly irrelevant action. Elisha told Naaman to bathe in the river Jordan seven times. Jesus told the ten lepers to show themselves to the priest who could certify a healing. In both stories, healing took place only after they left His presence to obey. Third, both Naaman and the Samaritan returned to praise God.
The Samaritan hero: A Samaritan is presented as the model of faith and gratitude. Luke was himself a Gentile, a foreigner and so he delights in recounting stories of foreigners whom God has blessed. A Samaritan is the hero of this episode. The thanks and praise of the Samaritan was a natural response to the free and undeserved mercy of God. The Samaritan knew that he was in the right place at the right time, and such an opportunity might never occur again for him. The Samaritan had not earned the kindness of God. He simply asked for it--and it was freely given. He knew he couldn't earn it; he was an outcast, a Samaritan. Having accepted God's grace, thanks and praise was his natural response. Both the author of 2 Kings and the Evangelist Luke wanted to make an important theological point about outsiders. No story in all the Gospels so poignantly shows man's ingratitude. The lepers came to Jesus with desperate longing, and the merciful Lord cured them. But nine of them never came back to give thanks.
Ingratitude and gratitude: In both the Old Testament and the New Testaments, God laments over man’s ingratitude. “Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the LORD speaks: Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me! An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master's manger; But Israel does not know, My people have not understood. Ah! Sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil race, corrupt children! They have forsaken the LORD, spurned the Holy One of Israel and apostatized” (Isaiah; 1: 2-4). “He came to what was his own, but his own people 7 did not accept him” (John 1:11). Hence, the Word of God invites us to be thankful. At the tomb of LazarusJesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me” (John 11:41). St.Paul advises us: “Give thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5: 20). “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”(Colossians 3: 17). Psalms 107:1 advises us: "Give thanks to the LORD Who is good, Whose love endures forever!"The medieval Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, suggests that if the only prayer we say in our lifetime is "Thank-You," that would suffice.
Life Messages:1) We need to learn to be thankful to God and to others. Often we are ungrateful to God. Although we receive so much from Him, we often take it for granted, without appreciating His gifts. We allow the negatives of our lives to hide from ourselves the blessings we have received -- minor negatives like some health problems, financial worries, conflict with a neighbor or co-worker or spouse. Besides, we are often thankful only when we compare ourselves with less fortunate people. In times of need, we pray with desperate intensity; but as time passes we forget God. Many of us fail to offer a grace before meals or allot a few minutes of the day for family prayer. God gave us his only Son, but we seldom give Him a word of thanks. Often we are ungrateful to our parents and consider them a nuisance, although in the past we were dependent on them for literally everything. Similarly, we owe a great debt of gratitude to our friends, teachers, doctors, pastors--but we often fail to thank them. Hence, in the future, let us be filled with daily thanksgiving to God and to others for the countless gifts we have received. Let us show our gratitude to our forgiving God by forgiving others, and to a loving God by radiating His love, mercy and compassion to others.
2) We need to celebrate the Holy Eucharist as the supreme act of thanksgiving:The Greek word “Eucharist” meansprofoundly religious and thoroughly spiritual “thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving is the attitude we should adopt in worship. When we celebrate Holy Mass together, we are thanking God for the great gift of His Son whose sacrifice formed us into the People of God. We thank God for the gift of the Spirit, through Whom we bring the presence of the Lord to others. Saying thanks to God together with the parish community, sharing our time, talents and material blessings in the parish and sharing the Heavenly Bread of Thanksgiving, the Holy Eucharist, are the simple forms of thanksgiving we can offer every Sunday in response to God's blessings.
3) Let us realize the truth that we all need healing from our spiritual leprosy.Although we may not suffer from physical leprosy, we may suffer from the “spiritual leprosy" of sin which makes us unclean. Jesus is our Savior who wants to heal us from this leprosy of sin. Since Jesus is not afraid to touch our deepest impurities, let us not hide them. Just as the lepers cried out to Jesus for healing, let us also ask Him to heal us from the spiritual leprosy of sins including impurity, injustice, hatred and prejudice.
(Prepared by Fr. Tony Kadavil (Stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: All three readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak a lot about "Faith” and how it works in our lives. They give us three dimensions of Faith. The theological virtue of Faith enables us to believe something to be true and therefore worthy of trust because it has been revealed to us by God. Paul, who elsewhere defined Faith as “the assurance of the things hoped for,” shows it as a believing, trusting, loving relationship with Christ in his instructions to Timothy. Finally, Christian Faith is that trusting Faith in God in action, expressed by steadfast loyalty, fidelity and total commitment to Him, resulting in our offering to Him in those we encounter our humble and loving service.
Scripture lessons: The first reading presents Faith as trusting in God and living with fidelity to the Covenant. Here, Faith is shown as hope and steadfast expectation in the face of suffering and delay. God assures the prophet that Faith gives us access to Divine power, and, hence, the just will live righteous lives in the midst of encircling evil because of their Faith. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 95), God is characterized as a sturdy rock and a caring shepherd, surely worthy of our trusting Faith. In the second reading,Paul presents Faith as our acceptance of Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of God. Paul stresses the need for a living Faith in, and loyalty to, Christ’s teachings handed down to us by the Church. Hence, Faith is belief in, and acceptance of, revealed truths based on the authority and veracity of God, and Hope is trust in God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his Apostles that Faith is sharing in God’s power, and, hence, even in small quantities it allows God to work miracles in our lives and in the lives of others. It is Faith, meaning reliance on, or confidence in, God, which makes one just, putting him into right relation with God and neighbor. While the Apostles ask for an increase in the quantity of their Faith Jesus reminds them that the quality of their Faith is more important. Using a master-servant parable, Jesus also teaches them that for Faith to be effective, it must be linked with trust, obedience and total commitment — an active submission to God with a willingness to do whatever He commands.
Life messages: 1)We need to thank God, giving Him the credit for our well- being. Most of us are inclined to forget God’s providence when our earthly affairs are going well. We pray to Him only when trouble strikes. In His Infinite Goodness God often answers such prayers. Stronger Faith enables us to accept the adversities and the trials of life asking God, “Increase our Faith, Lord!” at all times.
2) We need to increase our Faith by becoming dutiful servants of God. We grow in Faith as we act in Faith. A sincere Christian can find many ways to help to make Christ known to his neighbor. A quiet word, a charitable gesture, an unselfish interest in a neighbor’s troubles can do more good than a series of sermons given by some renowned theologian.
3) We need to grow in Faith by using the means Christ has given us in his Church. We must cultivate our Faith through prayer, Bible study, participation in the Holy Mass (‘the mystery of Faith”) and leading a well-disciplined spiritual life.
OT XXVII [C] (Oct 2) Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4; II Tm 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
Anecdote:11) Blondin, the French tightrope walker became world-famous in June of 1859, when he walked on a tightrope stretched over quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls. He became the first person to accomplish this amazing feat. He walked across 160 feet above the waterfalls several times, each time with a different daring feat - once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once even carrying a stove and cooking an omelet! A large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oooooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another -- blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd's applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd enthusiastically shouted, "Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!" "Okay," said Blondin, "Get in the wheelbarrow....." The Blondin story goes that no one did although all had faith in his ability! Later in August of 1859, his manager, Harry Colcord, showed his faith in Blondin and did ride on Blondin's back across the Falls. (http://www.creativebiblestudy.com/Blondin-story.html). In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to have such a Faith in him so that they may work miracles in their lives.
2) Pavarotti: My Own Story: Luciano Pavarotti was the charismatic successor of the legendary opera tenor, Enrico Caruso. In his autobiography, Pavarotti: My Own Story, he describes how he was trained by a great master, Arrigo Pola. “Everything Pola asked me to do, I did, – day after day, blindly. For six months we did nothing but vocalize and work on vowels.” Pavarotti worked hard under Pola for two and a half years and then worked just as hard under Maestro Ettore Campogalliani for another five years. Finally after putting so much faith and trust in his mentors, Pavarotti made a breakthrough at a concert in Salsomaggiore in Northern Italy where he thrilled the audience and was catapulted into fame. This story about faith and trust leads us into today’s readings which focus on the same themes. As Luciano Pavarotti put his trust in his teachers, today’s Gospel instructs that we too must put our trust in our mentor Jesus Christ. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
3) Little child’s Faith in action:When Southern author and poet Laverne W. Hall was asked her definition of faith, she couched it in the following narrative. Summer sun and a lack of rain had left the fields parched and brown. As they tended their wilting crops, the townspeople worriedly searched the sky for any sign of relief. Days turned into arid weeks and still no rain came. The ministers of the local churches announced that there would be a special service to pray for rain on the following Saturday. They requested that everyone bring an object of Faith for inspiration. At the appointed hour, everyone turned out en masse, filling the town square with anxious faces and hopeful hearts. The ministers were touched to see the variety of objects clutched in prayerful hands; prayer books, Bibles, crosses, rosaries, etc. Just as the hour of prayer was concluding, and as if by some Divine cue, a soft rain began to fall. Cheers swept the crowd as they held their treasured objects high in gratitude and praise. From the middle of the crowd, one faith symbol seemed to overshadow all the others; a small nine-year-old child had brought an umbrella! Without speaking a word, the child enunciated that quality of authentic Faith which expresses itself in commitment. By bringing the umbrella, the child affirmed the fact that Faith is more than intellectual assent to a set of revealed truths or theological doctrines. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez)
Introduction: All three readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak a lot about "Faith” and how it works in our lives. They give us three dimensions of Faith. The theological virtue of Faith enables us to believe something to be true and therefore worthy of trust because it has been revealed to us by God.Paul, who elsewhere defined Faith as “the assurance of the things hoped for,” shows it as a believing, trusting, loving relationship with Christ in his instructions to Timothy. Finally, Christian Faith is that trusting Faith in God in action, expressed by steadfast loyalty, fidelity and total commitment to Him, resulting in our offering to Him in those we encounter our humble and loving service.
The first reading defines Faith as trusting in God and living with fidelity to the Covenant.Here Faith is presented as trust and steadfast expectation in the face of suffering and delay. God assures the prophet that although “the rash one” that is one who does not believe, “has no integrity, “the just one, because of his Faith, will live” because he will lead a righteous life in the midst of encircling evil. Faith, then, is the foundation of faithfulness; and faithfulness strengthens Faith. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 95), God is characterized as a sturdy rock and a caring shepherd, surely worthy of our trusting Faith. This reminds us of St. Augustine’s advice to “pray as though everything depended on God, and work as though everything depended on you.” The second readingexplains why Faith gives us a new way of looking at things and a new way of living. Paul presents Faith as our acceptance of Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of God. Paul stresses the need for a living Faith in, and loyalty to, Christ’s teachings, which have been handed down to us by the Church. Hence, Faith is belief in, and acceptance of, revealed truths, based on the authority and veracity of God, and Hope is trust in God. Faith not only enables us to be faithful; it also strengthens us to be courageous. Faith grows as we put it to use by obediently rendering humble service to God in others. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his Apostles that Faith allows us to share in God’s power, and, hence, even in small quantities, it enables Him to work miracles in our lives and in the lives of others. It is Faith which makes one just, putting him into right relation with God and neighbor. In the Bible, Faith means reliance on, or confidence in, God, and Hope is the expectation of a better future. While the Apostles ask for an increase in the quantity of their Faith, Jesus reminds them that the quality of their faith is more important. Using a master-servant parable, Jesus also teaches them that, for Faith to be effective, it must be linked with trust, loving obedience and total commitment — an active submission to God and a willingness to do whatever He commands, even in tough times.
First reading: Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4: Habakkuk was a minor prophet who lived during the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and encouraged his fellow Jews to retain their Faith during this disaster. He interprets Faith as a persistent confidence in God's saving power. The first two chapters of the book of Habakkuk are in the form of a dialogue between the prophet and God. The prophet repeatedly complains and the Lord answers each time. Around 600 BC, God's people had been unfaithful, and, as a deserved punishment for their sins, a pagan nation, Babylon, was preparing to invade Jerusalem. What distressed the prophet was that Judah's punishment came at the hands of brutal pagans who were overly aggressive. It looked as if bad were being punished by worse. To Habakkuk, it seemed that the Lord God was strengthening the arm of injustice in not punishing the excesses of His people’s enemy. He saw this as unworthy of God’s holiness and justice. Hence, the prophet cried out to God, "How long, Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen? I cry out to you, 'Violence!’--Yet you do not save.” But God told His prophet to trust in Him, to persevere and to be patient, because He was aware of both the goodness of the good people and the evil they fought against. The reading concludes with the positive answer from God: "The just man, because of faith, shall live" [Hb 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38]. This means that that the righteous, or just, one is steadfast in faithfulness, even in the midst of violence and destruction, and this faithfulness assures life. Faith here is not simply assent to a series of doctrines, but includes trust, with a steadfast expectation of release in the face of suffering and delay. The just man lives because he keeps his relationship with God. The word "Faith" (emunah) used here refers to a living Faith, a Faith expressed in actions, a Faith with works (James. 2:17, 26). Therefore, it can only be concluded that faith without works is indeed dead. "Faith is compounded of belief and love as well as of trust and confidence amid trials and tribulations" (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, page 297, # 39, 4b).
Second reading: II Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14:Raymond E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, New York: 1997) suggests that 2 Timothy was written not long after Paul’s death as a farewell testament by someone very close to him during his last days. Therefore, these words of encouragement should be understood as part of an eloquent and passionate appeal by the greatest Christian apostle that his work should continue beyond his death through generations of disciples. Although Timothy had been groomed as Paul's successor in the ministry, he had grown disillusioned at the Christian community's lukewarmness and was somewhat embarrassed by Paul's current status as prisoner. Hence, Paul encouraged Timothy to persevere, stressing the need for a living Faith: "Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the Faith and Love that are in Christ Jesus." The graces of ordination (which Timothy had received), include "power" to master every situation, self-sacrificing "love" expressed in affectionate service to the community, and the "self-control" essential for Christian leadership.The Deposit of Faith entrusted to him had to be handed on to the next generation, with Hope in, and Love for, Jesus Christ. Faith and love cannot be separated, and “Faith, Hope and Charity are the foundation of Christian moral activity. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being" (CCC #1813). In saying to Timothy, "I am reminding you to fan into flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you," Paul was saying to his people in effect,“Don’t look at yourselves; look at what God has given you. Get up and do something!" Our Christian Faith is our bond with God and our communion with one another in the Holy Spirit. We need to "fan it into a flame." That takes vigilance and effort. If we are really serious about our Faith, we will spend time with God in prayer, in reflection, in adoration.
Exegesis: The context: When Jesus demanded of his disciples that they respond with unconditional and unlimited forgiveness to their repentant offenders (vv 3-4), the disciples asked Jesus for more Faith so that they could meet this demand. In addition, the Apostles were asking for greater confidence and trust in God, so that they might work the miracles which they had seen Jesus perform, like the withering of a fig-tree by a simple command. Jesus responded by telling them of the power of Faith -- even a very little Faith (vv5-6). He used the parables of the mustard seed and the good servant to help them understand the need for strong Faith.
a) The parable of the mustard seed: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed." Faith is used here in three senses. 1) First, Faith means "trust." People "have faith in their banks" because their accounts are insured. Similarly, we must put our trust in the authority of God and in the truth of His doctrines. St. Paul defines Faith as confidence and certainty (Hebrews 11:1). 2) Second, Faith refers to assent to doctrines about God taught by Jesus and the Church (e.g., our belief in the truths listed in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed). 3) Third, Faith refers to a “bond” or “relationship,” with God. Jesus tells us that if we have even a small relationship with our Heavenly Father, we can do anything. No matter how weak it seems, Faith is an overwhelming power. Even a little Faith can direct our lives, comfort us when we are discouraged and challenge us when we are complacent. Jesus did not ask the Apostles to move trees or mountains, but rather to forgive their repentant brothers and sisters. Such a requirement demands Faith, and the Apostles (representing all Church leaders), responded by asking that their faith be increased to meet such a demanding challenge. Jesus reminds them that it is not the greatness of their Faith, but rather the greatness of God’s power working through them that will move mountains (Mt 17:20; Mk 11:23). Forgiveness is a gift of God’s grace, activated through Faith. When a person of Faith is trustingly receptive to God’s power, all things become possible — even moving mountains or forgiving bitter enemies.
Faith strong enough to plant a tree in the sea: Planting a tree in the sea using words alone sounds impossible and ridiculous to us. But, using this cartoon metaphor, Jesus challenges us to attempt the difficult things of life. The tree Jesus mentions is a variety of large, deeply rooted mulberry tree that grows in the Middle East. By this strange example, Jesus shows us that we, too, can perform miracles. We must be ready to attempt things that the worldly, the wise and the sophisticated laugh at. Here are two examples. 1) A middle-aged mother went back to complete her teacher training. She specialized in helping children with learning difficulties. In a large school she worked with a class of what others called “the retarded.” Because she had actually asked for this difficult class, some teachers treated her as though she were insane. Wasn’t this truly “planting trees in the sea?” 2) A priest in Africa deliberately committed a small crime in order to get himself put in a prison where he could minister to those who needed him most. He was “planting a tree in the sea!” He had true Faith!
b) The parable of the Under-Appreciated Servant: This parable teaches that Faith requires action. It also gives us a lesson in theological Humility, reminding us that, as followers of Jesus, we are God’s servants. This becomes evident in the parable about the master who expects his servant to carry out his orders. When the servant returns from working in the fields, he also has housework to do. His master does not feel indebted to his servant for his fidelity in doing what is all part of his duty. In the same manner, the Apostles, and we, are expected to carry out the orders Jesus gives us. They, and we, are the servants of the Gospel. So we can never feel that we have worked “enough.” We must regard ourselves as God’s servants, as did Jesus who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Service to God and neighbor is a voluntary or free act which springs from a generous and merciful heart. It is a sacred duty which we owe to God. When we serve the poor, we are simply serving at the Lord’s Table and waiting on Him while He eats and drinks. As we work for the Lord in Faith, He works in us.
Jesus instructs his disciples to say, “We are unprofitable servants.” The New English Bible gives the correct translation: "We are servants and deserve no credit."The Greek original suggests simply that these servants should not expect anything further, i.e., that they should not be looking for special attention or approval.We also must realize that our ability to lead a good life, to love other people, and to serve God is not our own doing. These things come from our relationship with God. Even when we forgive others, it is by the grace of God through Faith. He is our Source of power, and without His help we are useless servants. We acknowledge our bond with God as the source of our virtue. The stronger our relationship with God, the more will we be empowered to forgive others and do good to them.
Life messages: 1)We need to thank God, giving Him the credit for our well-being. Following the example of the Apostles, we must pray for greater Faith and trust in God. Most of us are inclined to forget God’s providence when our earthly affairs are going well. How often do we thank Him when we enjoy good health, or when our home-life and business are going smoothly? How many of us thank God for all the gifts we have received? We often attribute our good health to correct use of food and exercise. Often we attribute our success to our hard work and intelligence. It is only when a storm arises in our life that we think of God. We pray to Him only when trouble strikes. In His Infinite Goodness, God often answers such prayers. If, however, we had thought of Him every day and realized His place in our lives, with how much more confidence would we approach Him in our hour of need? If our own personal lives were stronger in Faith, how much more readily would we accept the adversities and the trials that God sends us? This is why we must ask God today to “increase our Faith” at all times.
2) We need to increase our Faith by becoming dutiful servants of God. A zealous Christian can speak more convincingly to his or her neighbor about the need for God and an upright life through his or her own daily actions than through explaining religious doctrines. A sincere Christian can find many ways to help to make Christ known to his neighbor. A quiet word, a charitable gesture, an unselfish interest in a neighbor’s troubles can do more good than a series of sermons given by some renowned theologian. There are always people around us who need help. We can help them — God expects it of us. Faith is increased by serving others, not by being served. Faith is increased when we manifest our love towards others, our family, friends and strangers. When we isolate ourselves from the world, we lose our Faith.
3) We need to grow in Faith by using the means Christ has given us in His Church. We must cultivate our Faith through prayer, Bible study, and leading a well-disciplined spiritual life. Faith is the gift of God—so we must pray that God will increase our Faith. Time spent with God in prayer is fundamental to the development of Faith. We must pray for a Faith that is strong enough to overcome the difficulties and crises we face daily. In addition, association with people of Faith builds Faith. Hence, our participation in the Holy Mass ("the mystery of Faith”), and the life of the Church is important. Because of the Eucharistic Meal on the altar and the Sacramental graces at our disposal, we find that we are not unprofitable servants, but instruments and agents of Jesus, Who, through the power of Divine Love, helps us to reap a harvest worthy of Him. Sacred Scriptures inform and correct our Faith. Without the guidance of the Scriptures, our Faith tends to be weak. We grow in Faith as we act in Faith. Every gift of God is strengthened by the exercise of it.
Introduction: The main theme of this Sunday's readings is the warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, like wealth, without sharing them with the poor and the needy is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment. Today’s readings stress the Covenant responsibility of the rich for the poor, reminding us of the truth that wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness.
Scripture lessons: Amos, in the first reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor and who spend their time and their money on themselves alone. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God with exile because they don’t care for their poor and suffering brothers. The Psalm praises Yahweh, who cares for the poor. In the second reading, Paul admonishes us to "pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness" – noble goals in an age of disillusionment – rather than riches. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished, not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught.
Life messages:1)We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others. God has blessed each one of us with wealth or health or special talents or social power or political influence or a combination of many blessings. The parable invites us to share what we have been given with others in various ways instead of using everything exclusively for selfish gains.
2) We need to remember that sharing is the criterion of Last Judgment: Matthew (25: 31ff) tells us that all six questions to be asked of each one of us by Jesus when He comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from him (food, drink, home, mercy and compassion), with others.
3) We need to treat the unborn as our brother/sister, Lazarus. The Lazarus of the 20th century is also our preborn brother and sister. Many of these babies are brutally executed in their mother’s wombs. Their cries for a chance to live are rejected 4400 times a day in our country. The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned for our selfishness if we do not treat the preborn as our brothers and sisters.
4) Our choices here determine the kind of eternity we will have. It has been put this way: "Where we go hereafter depends on what we go after, here." Where we will arrive depends on what road we travel. We will get what we choose, what we live for. We are shaping our moral character to fit in one of two places.
OT XXVI [C] (Sept 25): Am 6:1a, 4-7; 1Tm 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31
Anecdote: # 1: The parable thatchallenged Dr. Albert Schweitzer: What parable would make a man with three doctoral degrees (one in medicine, one in theology, one in philosophy), leave civilization with all its culture and amenities and depart for the jungles of darkest Africa to serve as a missionary doctor for 47 years? What parable could induce a man, who was recognized as one of the best concert organists in all Europe, to go to a place where there were no organs to play? What parable would so intensely motivate a man that he would give up a teaching position in Vienna, Austria to go to help people who were so deprived that they were still living in the superstitions of the dark ages, for all practical purposes? The man of course was Dr. Albert Schweitzer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952,and the single parable that so radically altered his life, according to him, was our text for this morning, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar. That parable convinced Schweitzer that the rich, Europe, should share its riches with the poor, Africa, and that he should start the process.
# 2: Half to doctors and half to lawyers:Cecil John Rhodes was an enormously wealthy man. He was an English-born businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. He was the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which today markets 40% of the world's rough diamonds and at one time marketed 90%. An ardent believer in colonialism and imperialism, he was the founder of the state of Rhodesia to perpetuate his name. One day a newspaperman asked him, "You must be very happy." Rhodes replied, "Happy! No! I spent my life amassing a fortune only to find that I have spent half of it on doctors to keep me out of the grave, and the other half on lawyers to keep me out of jail!" He reminds us of the rich man in Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel.
# 3: "The Fortunate Fifth" versus the "Forgotten Four-Fifths". America is increasingly becoming a caste society. We call it a two-coupon society - with severe social separation of the two coupon clippers. The top 10 or 20 percent of the population (50 million), clip their stock coupons and treasury certificates. Their kids go to private schools, while the public schools are deteriorating. Their mail goes Federal Express while the postal service is deteriorating. Their bottled water is delivered to the door while the water system becomes more and more contaminated. The rest of Americans, 200 million, are standing at supermarket check-outs, the poorest members clipping food stamps, while the dwindling middle-class members clip food coupons. Doug Henwood calls this "The Fortunate Fifth" versus the "Forgotten Four-Fifths." Neither group is able to see reality as it is – one group has its head in the clouds, arched in the air above the pain and poverty, while the other has its head is in the sand and dirt, enmeshed in the grind and grime of eking out a living in a service economy and unable to lift up its heads for hope or help or anything much else beyond survival. Whitehead groups the poor class into the "traditional poor" (primarily holding part-time service occupations with no benefits), and a frighteningly expanding new group of the poorer than poor known widely as "the underclass" - two million-plus Americans who are permanently homeless and psychologically hopeless, without voice or face in popular culture. New York University's Lawrence M. Mead shows how many of the ghetto poor are "seceding from mainstream institutions - breaking the law, dropping out of school, not learning English, declining to work." This "internal secession" he deems as threatening to the nation as the South's secession in 1861. [See Mead, "The Democrats' Dilemma," Commentary 93 (January 1992), 44.] Like the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel parable, these two groups are separated by a chasm predetermined by their economic status.
Introduction: The main theme of this Sunday is the warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, like wealth, with no share going to the poor and the needy, is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment. Today’s readings stress the truth that wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness. Amos, in the first reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor and who spend their time and their money only on themselves. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God with exile because they don’t care for their poor and suffering brothers. The Psalm praises Yahweh, who cares for the poor. In the second reading, Paul admonishes us to "pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness" – noble goals in an age of disillusionment – rather than riches. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished, not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught.
First reading, Amos 6:1, 4-7: Amos’ message from the Lord God was couched in a series of oracles, words and woes, and visions. Today’s first reading (Amos 6:1a, 4-7), is taken from the third woe (6:1-14), concerning self-indulgence, an excellent companion text for today’s Gospel. The prophet Amos laments the self-indulgence and fraternal indifference of the wealthy both in Zion (Southern Kingdom) and Samaria (Northern Kingdom, to which the Lord God had sent Amos as His prophet), who are “living a life of luxury, heedless of the misfortunes of others, of the ‘ruin of Joseph,’” notes the Navarre Bible. Because of this, the people of the Northern Kingdom will be conquered by the Assyrians and will go into exile first. They did so in 721 BC. The collapse of Joseph is not Judah’s collapse. But by designating the Northern Kingdom “Joseph,” the Lord God, through Amos, calls attention to the patriarchal traditions Israel shares with Judah. What kind of brother satisfies expensive tastes while his younger brother suffers? The Lord God tells them that the solidarityone expects of a brother cannot be found among Judah’s elite either; they, too, are people who prefer good food and drink to coming to the aid of other suffering members of the same family. Hence, the Lord God says that He will punish those rich and unsympathetic people of Judah with exile as well. The prophecy was fulfilled when the Southern Kingdom – Judah with Jerusalem as its capital- was razed to the ground in 587 BC by the army of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and its elite rich were led to a humiliating and punishing exile in Babylon.
Second Reading, 1 Timothy 6:11-16: Timothy held a position in the church at Ephesus like that of the modern Bishop. He was relatively young and of mixed Jewish and Gentile parentage. In the letter, the senior apostle Paul gives the young bishop advice and encouragement. After warning Timothy (6: 10) that "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the Faith and pierced themselves with many pains," he reminds Timothy, the ordained priest and consecrated Bishop, of the Faith he had confessed at his Baptism, of his obligation to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith love, patience and gentleness” and of his ongoing call to bear witness to Christ as a loyal teacher and practicer of that Faith.The message for us is that the generous sharing of our talents and resources is the necessary response of our Christian commitment.
Exegesis:Objectives: Jesus told this parable to condemn the Pharisees for their love of money and lack of mercy for the poor. He also used the parable to correct three Jewish misconceptions held and taught by the Sadducees: 1) Material prosperity in this life is God’s reward for moral uprightness, while poverty and illness are God’s punishment for sins. Hence, there is no need to help the poor and the sick for they have been cursed by God. 2) Since wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, the best way of thanking God is to enjoy it by leading a life of luxury and self-indulgence in dress, eating and drinking, of course, after giving God His portion as tithe. 3) The parable also addresses the false doctrine of the Sadducees denying the survival of the soul after death, and the consequent retribution our deeds and neglects in this life receive in the next. Jesus challenges these misconceptions through the parable and condemns the rich who ignore the poor they encounter. The parable also offers an invitation to each one of us to be conscious of the sufferings of those around us and to share our blessings generously.
One-act-play: The parable is presented as a one act play with two scenes. The opening scene presents the luxurious life of the rich man in costly dress, enjoying five course meals every day, in contrast to the miserable life of the poor and sick beggar living in the street by the rich man’s front door, competing with stray dogs for the crumbs discarded from the rich man’s dining table. As the curtain goes up for the second scene, the situation is reversed. The beggar Lazarus is enjoying Heavenly bliss as a reward for his fidelity to God in his poverty and suffering, while the rich man is thrown down into the excruciating suffering of Hell as punishment for not doing his duty of showing mercy to the poor by sharing with the beggar at his door the mercies and blessings God has given him
Why punish the innocent? Naturally, we are tempted to ask the question, why was the rich man punished? He did not drive either the poor beggar or the stray dogs from in front of his door nor did he prevent either from sharing the discarded crumbs and leftovers from his table. The Fathers of the Church find three culpable omissions in the rich man in the parable. a) He neglected the poor beggar at his door by not helping him to treat his illness or giving him a small house to live in. b) He ignored the scrolls of Sacred Scriptures kept on his table reminding him of Yahweh’s commandment in the book of Leviticus (15: 7-11) “Don’t deny help to the poor. Be liberal in helping the widows and the homeless.” c) He led a life of luxury and self-indulgence totally ignoring the poor people around him, with Cain’s attitude: “Am I the guardian of my brother?” It is not wrong to be rich, but it is wrong not to share our blessings with our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
The lessons taught: This parable teaches important lessons: a) It reminds us that eventually all of us will experience God’s justice after our death (“particular judgment”), when we are asked to give an account of our lives. b) It points to the Law and the Prophets (the Sacred Scriptures), as ways to learn how to practice righteousness and sacrificial sharing. c) It looks ahead to our resurrection ("neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead"), and the reality that the people who heed nothing and die unrepentant will suffer for it. d) God permits injustices in this life, though not in the next. e) Perhaps the main lesson of this parable is that supreme self-love is total moral depravity, and making self-gratification one's supreme goal in life does not merely lead to sin – it is sin.
Life messages:1)We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others. God has blessed each one of us with wealth or health or special talents or social power or political influence or a combination of many blessings. The parable invites us to share what we have been given with others in various ways, instead of using everything exclusively for selfish gains.
2) We need to remember that sharing is the criterion of Last Judgment: Matthew (25: 31ff), tells us that all six questions to be asked of each one of us by Jesus when He comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from Him (food, drink, home, mercy and compassion), with others. Here is the message given by Pope St. John Paul II in Yankee Stadium, New York during his first visit to the U.S., October 2, 1979. "The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need – openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advanced; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or halfhearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so. ...We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the 20th century stands at our doors.”
3) We need to treat the unborn as our brother/sister, Lazarus. The Lazarus of the 21st century is also our preborn brother and our preborn sister. These babies are brutally executed in their mother’s wombs. Their cries for a chance to live are rejected 4400 times a day in our country. This Lazarus is the person torn apart and thrown away by abortion. The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned for our selfishness if we do not treat the preborn as our brother and sister. "Who am I to interfere with a woman's choice to abort?" I am a brother, a sister of that child in the womb! I am a human being who has enough decency to stand up and say "NO!" when I see another human being about to be killed. I am a person gifted with enough wisdom to realize that injustice to one human being is injustice to every human being, and that my own life is only as safe as the life of the preborn child. Finally, I am a follower of the One who said, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me."
4) Our choices here determine the kind of eternity we will have. It has been put this way: "Where we go hereafter depends on what we go after, here." Where we will arrive depends on what road we travel. We get what we choose, what we live for. We are shaping our moral character to fit in one of two places.