Introduction:The common theme of today’s readings is that the greedy acquisition of wealth and power is futile, because everything and everyone is “here today and gone tomorrow.” So the meaning of life cannot be found in selfishly hoarding wealth and possessions, but only in sharing these with the needy.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from Ecclesiastes, reminds us that the greedy acquisition of goods and the selfish hoarding of them are useless because when the hoarder dies he goes to eternity empty-handed, and his heir gains, and perhaps squanders, his riches. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), the Psalmist challenges us to listen to God and allow Him to soften our hearts that we may share our blessings with others. The Psalm Response urges, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 95:8). In the second reading, Paul directs our attention to lasting, Heavenly treasures and warns that greed for wealth and influence is idolatry. He advises, "Putto death, your parts that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, andthe greed that is idolatry”(Colossians 3: 5).In today’s Gospel, Jesus, telling the parable of the foolish rich man, warns us against all types of greed, because greed takes our life’s focus away from God and away from serving and loving Him in other people. Jesus says God calls the greedy rich man a fool because the man thought he would not die soon and that he was not accountable for the way he used his riches. The rich man had forgotten that his wealth was lent to him by God for sharing with the needy. Jesus also warns us that our eternal life does not consist of earthly possessions (Luke 12: 15), which we should share to gain eternal life.
Life messages:1) We are invited to share our blessings with others. The parable of the rich fool gives us a warning as well as an invitation. It reminds us that our possessions are merely loaned to us by God, and that we are accountable for their use. We must be generous in sharing our time, our treasure, and our talents in Christian stewardship. Even if we are poor financially, we may be blessed with intelligence, good will, a sense of humor or the ability to console, encourage, inspire and support and help others. God expects us to give our thanks to Him for all these blessings by sharing them with others for His glory. The Old Testament Scriptures are clear about tithing – giving 10% of our income for God’s cause and for helping the needy. God never allows tithers to regret their generosity. 2) Let us control our greed. Our greed takes different shapes and forms. For some it may be the desire for the approval and praise of others. For others it is the uncontrolled desire for power, control or fame. For still others greed takes the form of excessive and sinful indulgence in eating, drinking, gambling, drugs or sexual activities. Greed also turns our life away from God and away from serving and loving Him in other people. As greed directs all our energy and attention to fulfilling the self, its objects become our false gods, and they will consume us, unless we become rich in the sight of God.
OT XVIII (July 31) Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21
Anecdote # 1:Candle in the Wind:The wedding ofPrincess Diana (Diana Spencer), in 1981, was watched by 750 million people. Her funeral in 1997 was viewed by 2.5 billion people. At her funeral, singer Elton John brought tears to the eyes of hundreds of mourners in Westminster Abbey when he sang: “Candle in the Wind.” Interestingly, this song – with the line “Goodbye, Norma Rose” – was originally written for an equally glamorous woman, Norma Jeanne, who assumed the stage name ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and died on August 5, 1962, due to an overdose of sleeping pills. Diana and Marilyn share many things in common – both were beautiful and wealthy, photographed by paparazzi worldwide, yet, unhappy in marriage, and both died tragically in August aged but 36 – young icons snuffed out like candles in the wind. Ecclesiastes gives bad news for those who base their hopes on the perishable wealth and goods of this world, echoing a stark message: vanity of vanities, all is vanity! All of human life is ultimately meaningless if viewed in itself, apart from God. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds).
# 2: “Generous people are rarely mentally ill.” Dr. Carl Menninger, the world-renowned psychiatrist, was talking on one occasion to an unhappy but wealthy patient. He asked the patient what he was going to do with so much money. The patient replied, “Just worry about it, I suppose.” Menninger asked, “Well, do you get that much pleasure from worrying about it?” “No,” responded the patient, “but I get terrified when I think of giving some of it to somebody else.” Then Dr. Menninger went on to say something quite profound. He said, “Generous people are rarely mentally ill.” (David A. Renwick, http://www.2preslex.org/S020217.htm.) I didn’t say that. Dr. Carl Menninger said it. “Generous people are rarely mentally ill.” He is right. People who cannot share with others have deep-seated problems. If your level of giving to the work of God and the service of others requires no sacrifice, then you have Jesus locked in a cupboard, and he is not really living in every part of your life. In today’s Gospel Jesus’ parable, God calls such people “fools.”
# 3: $100 million divorce money and $20 for church and charities: Did you read about the couple in Florida who had been married twenty-one years and were getting a divorce? The terms of the settlement called for the woman to be able to maintain "a reasonable lifestyle." Since the couple listed their assets at $100 million, here's what the judge decided: She could fly to New York once a month to get her hair fixed; she would receive $2,600 a month to eat out; and she would receive a liberal expense account for gasoline, oil, and maintenance of her $100,000 Mercedes. In addition, she was to receive, each month: $10,446 for vacations; $6,452 for clothing; $1,592 for groceries; $1,440 for local beauty parlors; $1,407 miscellaneous; $171 for pet care; and $20 for Church and charities. ("The Messenger," Bacon Heights Baptist Church, Lubbock, Texas, 1991.) Is there something wrong with this picture? One hundred million dollars and she's giving $20 a month to Church and charities? I believe Christ would say to her, "You fool!" Wealth is for sharing. Sure, there is satisfaction in the little luxuries of life, but not as much as being involved in something great and lasting.
Introduction:The common theme of today’s readings is the futility of the greedy acquisition of wealth and power because everything and everyone is “here today and gone tomorrow.” Therefore, the meaning of life cannot be found in possessions but in the sharing of time, treasure and talents with the needy. The first reading, taken from Ecclesiastes, reminds us that the greedy acquisition and the selfish hoarding of goods are useless because when the hoarder dies he goes to eternity empty-handed, and his heir gains, and perhaps squanders, his riches. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), the Psalmist challenges us to listen to God and allow Him to soften our hearts that we may share our blessings with others. The Psalm Response urges, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 95: 8). In the second reading, Paul directs our attention to lasting Heavenly treasures and warns that greed for wealth and influence is idolatry. He advises the Colossians, “Put to death, your parts that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, andthe greed that is idolatry”(Colossians 3: 5).In today’s Gospel, Jesus, telling the parable of the foolish rich man, warns the disputing brothers, and us, against all types of greed, because greed takes our life’s focus away from God and away from serving and loving Him in other people. Jesus says God called the greedy rich man a fool because the man thought he would not die soon and that he was not accountable for his riches. He forgot that his wealth was lent to him by God for sharing with the needy. Jesus also warns us that our eternal life does not consist of earthly possessions (Luke 12: 15), and so we should share our possessions to gain eternal life.
First reading: Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2: 21-23: The book of Ecclesiastes (also called Qoheleth), is the most pessimistic and cynical book in the whole Bible. The author claims that he has “seen all things that are done under the sun” and found them to be “a chase after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). He expresses a ruthlessly honest pessimism about the prospects for finding true happiness in the greedy acquisition of earthly goods, because the greedy hoarder leaves everything behind at his death, and his heir may squander his hard earned wealth. Even while he is alive, wealth and power give man worry and sleeplessness. "All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest” (Ecclesiastes 2: 23). Hence, greed and selfishness are not worth the effort. Thus, the statement, "Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!" (Ecclesiastes 1: 2), is a blunt summation of Qoheleth’s disturbingly candid skepticism, underscoring the transitory and fleeting character of life. According to an old legend, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), commanded that when he died and was carried forth to his grave, his hands should not be wrapped in the burial clothes, as was the custom, but should be left outside so that all might see them, and might see also, that they were empty. In the brief span of his thirty-three years, Alexander had conquered and possessed the riches of an empire that extended from Greece to India. Yet, in death, his hands were empty; none of his wealth could survive the passage through death.
Second reading: Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11: We are living in a culture that caters to our desire for immediate gratification. It encourages us to amass possessions, and in many ways it thrives on deceit.Hence,Paul directs our attention to those treasures that endure, warning that greed for wealth and influence is idolatry and that the faith-life of a believer requires Christ as its first priority. Baptism is our participation in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Paul reminds us that, since we have been raised with Christ through Baptism and are going in a Heavenly direction, we have to “put to death immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry”(Colossians 3: 5).The desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied by what is here today and gone tomorrow because we have been made for“what is above”(Colossians 3: 1). For Paul, the whole process of joining Christ in glory revolves around “taking off our old self with its practices and putting on the new self, which is being renewed..., in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3: 9-10). Although power, influence and possessions come and go, our new self will endure because it is grounded in the power of the risen Lord.
Exegesis: The greed behind a property dispute:The Jewish rabbis were often asked to settle disputes among their countrymen. They judged cases using the Mosaic Law as given in the Torah - the Jewish book of civil, religious and liturgical laws. In matters concerning the distribution of property in a family with two children, the Torah (Deut. 21; 15-17, Numbers 27: 1-11, 36: 7-9), granted two thirds of the wealth to the elder son and one third to the younger. If there were several sons, the first-born would receive double the inheritance of his younger brothers and would serve as the patriarch of the family and executor of his father's estate. In the case related in today's Gospel, either the older brother had delayed the partition of property or else the younger brother was greedy. Jesus refused to be an arbitrator in this property dispute between two brothers because he had come to bring people to God by preaching the Good News of God’s forgiving and sharing love. But he used the occasion as a "teachable moment,” instructing the audience on the folly of greed and selfishness, while contradicting the Epicurean motto: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Why did Jesus say God called the rich man a fool? Traditional Jewish good works included prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Blessed with an excellent harvest, the rich landowner in Jesus’ parable did the opposite of giving alms. Instead of thanking God and sharing with the hungry, he planned to give himself over to a pagan orgy - "eat, drink and be merry." Jesus called him a fool because: 1) “He never saw beyond himself.” He was focused on himself and was selfish to the core. He liberally used the “aggressively possessive” pronouns “I” (six times) and “my” (five times). He was possessed by his possessions, instead of possessing them. In the process, he evicted God from his heart and never thought to thank God for having blessed him with a rich harvest. As God had been ousted from his heart, that heart became narrow and constricted with no space left for others in it. Hence, the rich man gave no thought to the poor workers who had labored in his field, nor to his poor relatives, nor to the poor people in his community. In doing this, he turned his back on his Jewish heritage, for the Torah demands that gleanings from a harvest be left for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the immigrant (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Dt. 24:21). The rich man in the parable did not care about others who were suffering. He did not show any regard for the hurting and needy. He did not voice any concern for keeping the community of which he was a part safe from unexpected droughts, famines, or plagues. The richer the man grew, the greedier he became, as suggested by the Roman proverb: “Money is like sea water; the more a man drinks the thirstier he becomes.” The rich man was called fool because he did not consider sharing the wealth. In other words, he left other people out of his possessions.
2) The foolish rich man “never saw beyond this world.” He forgot that he was going to die, sooner or later. He also forgot that God had given him everything he had – the land, the good growing season and the excellent – not for himself alone but for all those around him who were in need. It was as he was planning to build new barns and warehouses to store his wealth, that he heard the words all creatures will hear one day from their creator: "This night your life will be demanded of you!" He left his soul out of his thoughts and, hence, left eternity out of his plans. This, as Jesus warns us in the parable, is folly.
3) He failed to become “rich in what matters to God.” He left God out of his gratitude. He was not thankful to God for His blessings; instead, he considered them as solely the fruit of his own labor. He also failed in his stewardship duties – the returning to God of His portion in paying his tithe. Third, he did not recognize his possessions as on loan from God, given to him to share with others. Fourth, he was taken up with worries or anxieties about his wealth. He was starving to death spiritually in the midst of God’s abundance. Yet, though he may have prayed the beautiful prayer in the book of Proverbs: "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30: 8-9), he did not change.
Life messages: 1)We are invited to share our blessings with others. The parable of the rich fool gives us a warning as well as an invitation. It reminds us that our possessions are merely lent to us by God, and that we are accountable for their use. We must be generous in sharing our time, our treasure, and our talents, the three elements of Christian stewardship. Every one of us is rich in one thing or another. The parable instructs us to share these gifts. Even if we are poor financially, we may be blessed with intelligence, good will, a sense of humor or the ability to encourage, inspire and support others. God expects us to give our thanks to Him for all these blessings by sharing them with others for His glory. Giving God the first fruits of our labors, not the meager leftovers, is a traditional way of becoming “rich in what matters to God.” The Old Testament Scriptures are clear about tithing – 10% -- and that’s the top 10%, not the last 10%. God never allows tithers to regret their generosity. Not only are tithers better off economically but also they feel a sense of personal satisfaction.
2) Let us control our greed. Our greed takes different shapes and forms. For some it may be the desire for the approval and praise of others. For others it is the uncontrolled desire for power, control or fame. For a few others it takes the form of desire for excessive and sinful indulgence in eating, drinking, gambling, drugs or sexual activities. Greed also turns our life away from God, away from serving and loving other people. As greed directs all our energy and attention to fulfilling the self, its objects become our false gods, and they will consume us unless we become rich in the sight of God.
(Homily prepared by Fr. Tony (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: The main themes of today’s Scripture readings are the power of intercessory prayer, the Our Father as the ideal prayer, and the necessity for persistence and perseverance in prayer with trusting faith and boldness. In short, they teach us what to pray and how to pray. The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis, gives us the model for intercessory prayer provided by Abraham in his dialogue with God. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138), with the Psalm Response, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me,” is a hymn of hope and trust in the Lord, reminding us that God is close to the humble of heart and to all those who call upon Him in their need.The second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, does not deal with prayer directly, but it provides a basis for all Christian prayers, especially for liturgical prayer: the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul assures us that even when we were dead in sin, God gave us new life through Jesus and pardoned all our sins. In the Gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their Heavenly Father with the same boldness, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance Abraham displayed and the friend in need in the parable employed. He gives us the assurance that God will not be irritated by our requests or unwilling to meet them with generosity.
Life Messages: 1) Prayer is essential for Christian family life.To remain faithful in marriage, the spouses must pray, not only individually, but together. They must thank God and offer intercessory prayers for each other, for their children and for their dear ones. Daily prayer will help married couples tocelebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality and honor life from conception to natural death. Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple: "Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this every day." 2) Let not lame excuses turn us away from prayer: Modern Christians give four lame excuses for not praying. a) The first excuse: We are too busy. Often the first thing given up by a busy Christian is his prayer life, thus disconnecting himself from the real source of spiritual power. b) A second excuse: We don’t believe that prayer does that much good, other than giving us psychological motivation to be better persons. Prayer establishes and augments our relationship with God, the source of our power. c) A third excuse: A loving God should provide for us and protect us without our asking Him. Prayer expresses our awareness of our need for God and our dependence on Him. d) A fourth excuse: Prayer is boring. It is never boring if we learn to talk to God and listen to Him.
OT XVII [C] (7/24/2016) Gen 18:20-32, Col 2:12-14, Lk 11:1-13
Anecdote# 1:“Never give up!" Years ago in Illinois, a young man with six months schooling and self- education competed in the state and national elections nine times and got defeated six times. First he ran for an office in the legislature when he was 23 and was beaten. Next he entered business with a partner but failed in that too, and spent the next seventeen years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady and they became engaged, but she died. The next year he had a nervous breakdown. Relying on the power of prayer, he ran for the post of Speaker(at 29), of Elector (at 31) and for a seat in Congress (at 34). He was defeated each time. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office as commissioner, but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated in an election to the Senate (at 46). He ran for office once more and was elected the sixteenth President of the United States in 1860 when he was 51. That man was Abraham Lincoln who put his trust in the power of persistent prayer coupled with never-fading Faith in God’s goodness. It took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English! Ironically, he was asked many years later to give the commencement address at Oxford University. His famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never give up!" In today’s Gospel, after teaching the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us that we should never give up in our prayer life.
# 2: Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again.”In his book, Moments For Mothers (New Leaf Press: 1996), Robert Strand relates the story of a young boy named Benjamin who wrote a prayer-letter to God to ask for a baby sister. “Dear God, I’ve been a very good boy. . .” and then stopped, thinking that God might not be convinced by his claim. Taking a new sheet of paper, he began again, “Dear God, most of the time, I’ve been good. . .” Again he stopped, dissatisfied that his plea was not sufficiently moving. After a few thoughtful moments, the young boy got a towel from the linen closet and laid it carefully on a chair in the living room. Then he went to the mantle over the fireplace and very slowly lifted down the statue of Mary. He had often seen his mother carefully dust the statue and knew it to be a special family heirloom. Very gently, Benjamin placed the Madonna in the middle of the towel, carefully folding over the edges. Then, after he secured the towel with rubber bands, he carried his parcel back to his desk, took another piece of paper and made his third attempt at a letter. . . “Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again. . .” Strand entitled his amusing story “Irreverent Manipulation”; however, given today’s readings from Genesis and Luke, it is feasible that Benjamin was being neither irreverent or manipulative. Perhaps his child’s heart already knew that he could be bold and daring in his prayer because he knew himself to be loved by a bold and daring God. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez)
#3: "Why don't you just try putting on the emergency brake?" Father Barry Foster, a priest in Dublin, Ireland, parked his car on a rather steep slope close to his church. His little dog was lying on the rear seat and could not be seen by anyone outside the vehicle. Father Foster got out of the car and turned to lock the door with his usual parting command to the dog. "Stay!" he ordered loudly, to an apparently empty car. "Stay!" An elderly man was watching the performance with amused interest. Grinning, he suggested, "Why don't you just try putting on the emergency brake?" (Colin Jeffery, Catholic Digest, May 1992, p. 72). The theme of today’s Gospel is prayer and model prayer. To the unbeliever, prayer is an exercise in futility like ordering "Stay," to an automobile fully expecting it to obey. But to the believer, prayer is the most powerful and the most reliable force in the world today by which we communicate with God.
Introduction: The main themes of today’s Scripture readings are the power of intercessory prayer, the Our Father as the ideal prayer, and the necessity for persistence and perseverance in prayer, with trusting faith and boldness. In short, they teach us what to pray and how to pray. The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis, gives us the model for intercessory prayer provided by Abraham in his dialogue with God. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 138), with the Psalm Response, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me,” is a hymn of hope and trust in the Lord, reminding us that God is close to the humble of heart and to all those who call upon Him in their need.The second reading, taken from the Letter to the Colossians, does not deal with prayer directly, but it provides a basis for all Christian prayers, especially for liturgical prayer: the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul assures us that even when we were dead in sin, God gave us new life through Jesus and pardoned all our sins. In the Gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their Heavenly Father with the same boldness, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance Abraham displayed and the friend in need in the parable employed. He gives us the assurance that God will not be irritated by our requests or unwilling to meet them with generosity.
First reading: Genesis 20: 18-32: The first reading is the story of Abraham's negotiating for mercy with God on behalf of some innocent potential victims of Sodom and Gomorrah (including his nephew Lot and his family), when God had decided to destroy those cities which were almost entirely inhabited by people who led wicked and sexually-perverted lives. Abraham acknowledged that (1) hewas“dust and ashes” breathed into existence by the very breath of God (Genesis 2:7), (2) he had been called to become a covenantal partner of God (15:1-18), and (3) he had been blessed with the Divine promise of land, progeny protection and prosperity (12:1-3). But, as a close friend of God, the great patriarch of the Jews felt free to bargain with God when God told him He had decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: “If you find fifty righteous people in those wicked and immoral cities," Abraham said,” you won’t destroy it, will you, God?” God said, “No, if I find fifty righteous people in the city, I will not destroy it.” “How about forty, thirty, twenty?ten?” Although there were not even ten just people in those cities, God went beyond the terms of negotiation and spared the only just inhabitants of the cities, Abraham's nephew and his family, because God is much more merciful than we are.Sodom’s destruction, in spite of Abraham’s intercession, teaches contemporary believers the valuable lesson that those who tolerate the evils perpetrated in human society and who refuse to protest against them by word, prayer and example leave themselves open to being swallowed up by them.
Second Reading: Colossians 2:12-14: The Christians at Colossae were being exposed to a variety of philosophical and theological teachings, many of which were incompatible with the Gospel. Hence, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul tried to establish that Christ was superior to any other possible mediator between humanity and God. In today’s passage, Paul answered the question, “How, then, do we get Christ in us?" Assuming that the ritual of Baptism obviously simulates burial and resurrection, Paul's declared that when we were buried in the waters of Baptism, we were united with Jesus in his saving death, and when we emerged from the baptismal font we were joined to Christ in his Resurrection. Long before "confession" came into existence, Paul taught that our sins were forgiven because the person who had committed those sins was no longer alive. That person died when he or she became one with the risen Jesus through Baptism. The new person who had come into existence at that point was not responsible for the dead person's transgressions. His or her sins had been literally wiped out or erased from the mind and memory of God, having been snatched up and nailed to the cross (v. 14), i.e. put to death, through the saving sacrifice of Jesus.
Exegesis: Luke’s version and Matthew’s version:Matthew's version of the Lord’s Prayer is given in the context of the Sermon on the Mount as part of Jesus' teaching on how to pray, while Luke's version is set in one of those occasions just after our Lord had been at prayer. Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer is shorter than the more familiar version found in Matthew's Gospel. However, it teaches us all we need to know about how to pray and what to pray for. It has only five petitions while Mathew adds two more ("Your will be done…" and "deliver us from the evil one.") The first two petitions have to do with praise and worship of God, while the next three petitions present to Him our needs – daily bread, forgiveness and protection from the evil one.The Church uses the longer form of the Lord's Prayer.
The structure of the Our Father: The prayer consists of two parts. In the first part, we praise and worship God and express our ardent desire for His rule in human hearts, enabling us to do His will in the most perfect way. In the second part we present our needs before God our Father with filial love and trusting Faith. We offer before God our present (daily bread), our past (forgiveness of sins) and our future (protection against temptations). By this prayer we also invite the Trinitarian God into our lives: God the Father, the Creator and Provider, by asking for daily bread; God the Son, Jesus, our Savior, by requesting forgiveness of our sins; and God the Holy Spirit by asking for deliverance from temptations (“the final test.”).
The petitions: The petitions cover our present needs, the forgiveness of our past sins, and protection from future temptations. We need not only bodily nourishment, but also daily spiritual nourishment, so that we may be strong enough to forgive those who offend us. In the next petition, Jesus links the giving and receiving of forgiveness. If we expect God to forgive us, we must forgive one another (“Forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us”). The last petition- "and do not subject us to the final test"- covers future trials and temptations. We need God's protection both from the evil one (the devil) and from the evils in society that seek to destroy us. It is quite appropriate for us to pray for deliverance from evil for ourselves, our loved ones, our community, our nation, and our world.
Prayer: persistent and persevering: In the second part of today’s Gospel, by presenting the parable of a friend in need, Jesus emphasizes our need for persistent and persevering prayer, acknowledging our total dependence on God. In the ancient Hebrew world, hospitality was the essence of one's goodness. To welcome a visitor without food and drink was unthinkable. A traveler who was traveling in the evening to avoid the heat of the afternoon, might well arrive late at night. But the villagers used to go to bed early, as they had no electricity. So in this parable, when a man received unexpected guests late at night and found his cupboard bare, he went to his neighbor and woke him in order to borrow a loaf of bread. In those days, people generally slept in one room, the children bedded down with the adults. Rising to answer the door would disrupt the whole family and hence the neighbor was reluctant to get up. Finally, however, because of the persistence of his guest, he got up and gave bread to his neighbor.This parable does not mean that God is a reluctant giver. Rather it stresses the necessity of our persisting in prayer as the expression of our total dependence on God. Persevering in prayer helps us to purify our prayer, to make clear to ourselves our values and hopes, and to lead us to ask for what is really in our very best interests. St. Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing” (Romans), “pray at all times” (Ephesians), “be steadfast in prayer” (Colossians), and “pray constantly” (Thessalonians). Jesus assures us, "Knock and the door shall be opened."
The misconception: The parable teaches us that prayer is not putting coins in a vending machine called God to get whatever we wish. We must not look upon God as a sort of genie who grants all our requests. God is our loving Father Who knows what to give, when to give and how to give. This includes not only our daily bread to satisfy our physical hunger but also “bread” to satisfy our spiritual hunger. Prayer is a relationship -- an intimate, loving, caring, parent-child relationship. The Greek text means: "Ask and you will receive something good,"--not just whatever we ask for. The New Testament Greek also instructs us, "ask and keep on asking...seek and keep on seeking...knock and keep on knocking.” Hence, we are to be persistent declaring our trusting faith and dependence on God. One thing that is sometimes overlooked in this story is that this, like the story of Abraham bargaining with God for the lives of Lot and his family, is primarily a story about intercessory prayer. One friend goes to another friend on behalf of someone else.
"Prayer doesn't change God; it changes me."A colleague asked C.S. Lewis if he really thought he could change God with his prayer for the cure of his wife’s cancer. Lewis replied: "Prayer doesn't change God; it changes me."William McGill summed it up this way. "The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear God." Keep in mind that Jesus has taught us to address God as Father. A loving Father listens to his child, but does not blindly endorse every request. Instead, the loving Father provides what is needed, including discipline. Bishop Sheen has this comment on prayer: "The man who thinks only of himself says prayers of petition. He who thinks of his neighbor says prayers of intercession. He who thinks only of loving and serving God says prayers of abandonment to God's will, and that is the prayer of the saints." The Our Father is the "summary of the whole Gospel" (Tertullian) andit is the “perfect prayer” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
Life messages: 1) Lame reasons why we don’t pray and the sad result.Modern Christians give four lame excuses for not praying. a) The first excuse: We are too busy. The richer a culture is, the less time it has for prayer, because money and wealth provide distractions. Researchers say that the average Christian living in a wealthy country prays four minutes a day. Often the first thing given up by a busy Christian is his prayer life. b) A second excuse: We don’t believe prayer does that much good, other than giving us psychological motivation to be better persons. Besides psychological motivation, prayer establishes and augments our relationship with God, the source of our power. c) A third excuse: A loving God should provide for us and protect us from the disasters of life, such as disease or accidents, without our asking Him. Prayer expresses our awareness of our need for God and our dependence on Him. d) A fourth excuse: Prayer is boring. People who use this excuse forget the fact that prayer is a conversation with God: listening to God speaking to us through the Bible and talking to God. You can’t have a close relationship with anyone, including God, without persistent and intimate conversation. Four minutes a day is not much intimate conversation. Since our society concludes that prayer doesn’t work, it turns to sex, violence and unhealthy addictions resulting in broken marriages, broken families, psychological problems, moral decadence, spiritual poverty, law-and-order problems, and prison populations.
2) Prayer is essential for Christian family life.Fidelity is one of the original blessings of married life. To be truly faithful in marriage, spouses must pray, not only individually, but together. Married couples should come together before God every day as prayer partners, thanking God and offering intercessory prayers for each other, for their children and for their dear ones. Daily prayer will help married couples tocelebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality and honor life from conception to natural death. Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple who asked him how to pray: "Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this every day."
(Prepared by Fr. Tony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: The central themes of today’s readings are the importance of hospitality in Christian life and the necessity of listening to God before acting. The key to the Christian life is setting priorities: Jesus Christ first, then everything else. The only way really to learn that lesson is to spend some time every day, "sitting at the feet of Jesus."
Scripture lessons: Today’s first reading describes how Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality to angels in the guise of strangers was rewarded by God, Who blessed them with a son in their old age. In the second reading, Paul declares that he was commissioned by God to minister to the Church, as the revealer of the mystery of salvation and the preacher of the word in its fullness (v. 25). He invites believers to open their hearts and minds and to show their hospitality to the mystery of Christ which he preaches. He challenges us also to cultivate that quality of hospitality which welcomes all others in Christ. The Gospel passage describes how Martha, a true child of Abraham, wanted to extend the traditional generous hospitality of her people to Jesus, the true Messiah, by preparing an elaborate meal for him, while her sister Mary spent her time in talking to him and listening to him. Presenting Martha as a dynamo of action and Mary as a true listener to the word of God, today’s Gospel invites us to serve others with Martha’s diligence after recharging our spiritual batteries every day by prayer - listening to God and talking to God – as Mary did. We are able to minister truly to the needs of others only after welcoming God’s Word into in our hearts and minds.
Life Messages: 1) We need to recharge our spiritual batteries: We should put aside the work we do for the Lord in serving others and just spend some time being with Him, talking to Him and listening to Him, fully aware of His holy presence in our souls. We may also recharge our spiritual energy by means of our personal and family prayers, our meditative reading of the Bible and our participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass. 2) We need listening Marthas and serving Marys: Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world and our parish churches need such dynamic and generous men, women, boys and girls. We need them to sing in the choir, to help in the Church, to teach in the Sunday school, to visit the sick and the shut-ins and to serve in all other ministries of the parish community. 3) We need to be good listeners, like Mary, at home and in the workplace. Active and busy as we are, we have to find time every day to listen to God, to our spouse, kids and neighbors. Listening and quiet caring are essential for the success of married life, of family life and of the rearing of children with love, affection and a sense of discipline. Human love begins at home, and it begins with listening
OT XVI [C] (July 17) Gen 18:1-10a; Col 1:24-28; Lk 10:38-42
Anecdote: # 1: Southern Marthas & Mary-Marthas: Southern women are great Marthas and proud of it. These women, who have traditional southern hospitality refined to an art, never sit. They hover. Plates are never allowed to go empty. Guests are continually asked if they need anything. In fact, many times the hostess will continue to cook all through the meal. When does the hostess eat? This is one of the South’s mysteries. The hostess keeps working, huffing around the table. She misses all dinner conversation, all sharing of feelings and information, and gives herself totally to serving. A second type of southern women is Mary-Martha. Unflustered, she greets the guests at the door. The table is already set and the kitchen is spotless. This hostess sits, talks, laughs and eats the appetizers with her guests. She excuses herself, goes to the kitchen, and returns with food that’s prepared and ready to eat. At dinner, she remains around the table, getting to know the guests, asking about their lives, sharing her own thoughts and feelings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus expresses his preference for Mary-Marthas over Southern Marthas. (Mary W. Ander).
# 2: “Start each day with an hour of prayer. “ A true story is told about an advertising executive at Reader’s Digest, who found her emptiness filled in by prayer, listening to God, as Mary did in today’s Gospel. In spite of her successful career, she had felt emptiness in her life. One morning, during a breakfast meeting with her marketing consultant, she mentioned that emptiness. “Do you want to fill it?” her colleague asked. “Of course I do,” she said. He looked at her and replied, “Then start each day with an hour of prayer.” She looked at him and said, “Don, you’ve got to be kidding. If I tried that, I’d go off my rocker.” Don smiled and said, “That’s exactly what I said 20 years ago.” The woman left the restaurant in turmoil. Begin each morning with prayer? Begin each morning with an hour of prayer? Absolutely out of the question! Yet, the next morning she found herself doing exactly that. And she’s been doing it ever since. This woman is the first to admit that it has not always been easy. There have been mornings when she was filled with great peace and joy. But there have been other mornings when she was filled with nothing but weariness. And it was on these weary mornings that she remembered something else that her marketing consultant said. “There will be times when your mind just won’t go into God’s sanctuary. That’s when you spend your hour in God’s waiting room. Still, you’re there, and God appreciates your struggle to stay there.” Today’s Gospel reminds us of the need to combine work and prayer.
# 3: "I would like to be married to both of them": Some single men in a Bible study group were discussing who would make the better wife--Martha or Mary. One fellow said, "Well, I think Martha would make the better wife. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. It sounds like Martha surely knew how to cook. I would love to be married to a woman like that!" Another man said, "I think Mary would make the better wife. She was always so thoughtful, sweet and loving. I could be very happy, married to a woman like Mary!" Finally, another fellow settled the argument when he said, "Well, I would like to be married to both of them. I would like Martha before supper and Mary after supper." Today’s Gospel challenges us to combine the listening spirit of Mary with the dynamic spirit of Martha in our Christian lives.
#4: "She can sit all evening at the feet of a friend and not say anything.” The headline on the cover of Sports Illustrated some time back read: "Sportswoman of the Year." One of the pictures on the cover showed Mary Decker pressing the tape as she defeated, by inches, the Soviet champion, Zamira Zaitseva, in the 1500-meter world championship race. The article went on to describe Decker's phenomenal performances in San Diego, Los Angeles, Gateshead (England), Stockholm, Paris, and Oslo. One comment was made about Mary Decker by the writer of the article that is relevant to our discussion today. He wrote, "She can sit all evening at the feet of a friend and not say anything, just smile and let the talk wash over her."[Kenny Moore, "She Runs and We Are Lifted," Sports Illustrated (December 26, 1983), p. 38.] Today’s Gospel tells us about another Mary, Mary of Bethany, who did the same thing when Jesus made his last visit to her home.
Introduction: The central themes of today’s readings are the importance of hospitality in Christian life and the necessity of listening to God before acting. Jesus welcomed and tended to the needs of all, reflecting in his actions the very hospitality of God. The key to the Christian life is SETTING PRIORITIES: Jesus Christ first, then everything else. The only way really to learn that lesson is to spend some time every day, "sitting at the feet of Jesus." Today’s first reading describes how Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality to strangers was rewarded by God. The Gospel passage describes how Martha, a true child of Abraham, wanted to extend the traditional generous hospitality of her people to Jesus, the true Messiah, by preparing an elaborate meal for him, while her sister Mary spent her time in talking to him and listening to him. Presenting Martha as a dynamo of action and Mary as a true listener to the word of God, today’s Gospel invites us to serve others with Martha’s diligence, after recharging our spiritual batteries every day by prayer - listening to God and talking to God – as Mary did. We are able to minister truly to the needs of others only after welcoming God’s Word into our hearts and minds.
First reading -- Genesis 18: 1-10: This is the story of Abraham and Sarah and their offering of hospitality to three strangers. Both the ancient Jews and the early Christians believed that the best way to show their dedication to God was to be dedicated to hospitality. Three visitors appeared unexpectedly before Abraham’s tent. Abraham was wealthy enough to play the very generous host with the best of his contemporaries, and he was spiritually keen, sensing that his visitors were disguised angels. He and his wife, Sarah promptly started making preparations for a lavish meal with which to refresh their guests. Their generous hospitality was even more generously rewarded. God, speaking through the guests, promised that the aged couple would have a son within a year! The birth announcement was a sign of the fulfillment of God’s promises of progeny, prosperity, and property, a homeland for Abraham. If we open our hearts and our homes to God, the impossible can happen – God’s presence can overturn things. For the Israelites, this story was a sign of how God’s plan of salvation would be carried out through them, and they waited for the promised Messiah from the offspring of Abraham and Sarah. Because of his exemplary hospitality, Abraham has been featured in rabbinic stories as the founder of inns for travelers and the inventor and teacher of grace after meals. He may have been the inspiration for the missionary host who insisted that his guests praise Israel’s God for their room and board or pay cash for it!
Second reading -- Colossians 1: 24-28: Paul did not establish the Christian community at Colossae. But the elders there appealed to him for help in some doctrinal and disciplinary issues, and Paul agreed to assist them. In the second reading, Paul presents his credentials to the Colossians. Saint Paul had suffered many hardships in preaching the Good News brought by Jesus, the same Messiah whom he had encountered on the way to Damascus. He reported that he had not only been invited to join the suffering ministry of the risen Jesus, but had also been given the insight that he was actually suffering "on behalf of His body, which is the Church." Paul could honestly look even at the Gentiles and state that he saw "Christ in you, the hope for glory.” Paul was speaking figuratively when he stated that he filled up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ (v. 24). Obviously, the saving sacrifice of Jesus was absolute and complete. Therefore, Paul's statement should be understood as a metaphorical expression of the author’s incredible closeness to Christ as a member of His Body, the Church, a closeness which enabled him to make Jesus’ suffering his own. What was lacking was not the atoning power of the cross but its manifestation in the Church as a present reality. Paul also believed that he had been commissioned by God to minister to the Church, as the revealer of the mystery of salvation and the preacher of the word in its fullness (v. 25). Paul invites believers to open their hearts and minds to welcome the mystery of Christ. Those who consent, by faith, to become “hosts” of the mystery are thereby challenged to cultivate that quality of hospitality that welcomes all others in Christ.
Exegesis: Home away from home: Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary were good friends of Jesus. Their little village of Bethany was located two miles from Jerusalem, and according to the Gospel of John, Jesus visited Jerusalem at least six times. In other words, Jesus, the most popular rabbi of the time, often visited the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus as their closest family friend. In addition, Jesus was the Messiah who had raised Lazarus from death and given him back to his sisters. It was Mary's simple statement of Faith that brought tears to our Lord's eyes; “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” [John 11:32]. Furthermore, Jesus had made no secret that this was his last journey, as he had stated repeatedly that he would die in Jerusalem. Since Martha owned the house, and she was the older sister, she decided to make the last dinner for their great friend something very special.
The problem of hospitality in the early House Churches: Luke might have been using this incident from the life of Jesus to address a common problem of hospitality in House Churches (the only kind of Churches there were!) where the early Christians gathered for prayer and the Eucharistic service. Traditional values and hospitality would have placed a heavy expectation on the woman of the house, while the guests were listening to the preaching of the apostles or elders. The story is thus an indirect invitation for all the participants to share in the arrangements and preparation of the food. That would enable every one to participate in the whole Eucharistic service and would save the host family from unnecessary worries. The assembled Marys should approach the Martha of the house and say “Let’s listen to the preacher first, and then let’s work together in the kitchen to feed the assembled ones.” Everyone was to be included and no one was to be left aside, trapped in a cooking role which kept her from participating in the entire service.
Our priorities: The episode is also intended to teach us how we should set our priorities. Traditionally, today’s Gospel story has been interpreted to mean that the quiet life of contemplation and prayer led by monks and nuns and personified in Mary, is superior to a busy life of activity and action, personified in Martha. Jesus did not intend to belittle Martha and her activity, but rather to show that hearing the word of God is the foundation of all action, and that the word of God must permeate all other concerns. The highest priority must be given to listening to the word. Prayer and actions must be continuous, complementary and mutually dependent. Prayer without action is sterile, and action without prayer is empty. We are expected to be "contemplative in action" because only those who listen carefully to the Word of God know how to behave in the way that God wants, when they show deep concern for the well-being of other people. That is why Jesus reminds Martha that proper service for him is attention to his instruction, not just an elaborate provision for his physical needs. Mary shows her love for the Lord by listening to him. Jesus in fact, needed Mary and Martha to keep him company and to listen to him because he was preparing to face the cross.
Expression of love: In his Gospel, Luke frequently shows women in places of honor. Here, Mary is presented as sitting at Jesus’ feet to receive his teaching, the posture of a disciple, a man’s role in that time and place. Mary’s presumptuous posture and the attention she was receiving may have embarrassed Martha. Martha may have suspected, as many cast in her mold do, that Jesus loved her ‘spiritual’ sister better than herself, and that Jesus had little regard for the mundane work she was doing in the kitchen. Hence, it is no wonder that Martha was distracted! Her hands were busy but her resentments were busier. How are we to understand the complementarities of Martha’s hospitality in meeting Jesus’ need for food, and Mary’s longing for personal communion with him? Our love of God must become incarnate in whatever we do to meet the needs of others. Thus, our good work – whether cooking a meal or voting for a bill in Congress – becomes a sacrament or an effective sign of our self-giving love.
Life Messages: 1) We need to recharge our spiritual batteries: It is a well-known fact that those who are in the caring professions, like doctors, nurses, pastors, social workers and even parents, often suffer from burnout and terminal exhaustion as Martha did. People suffering from burnout often end up angry, anxious, and worried. Hence, occasionally we need to put aside the work we do for the Lord in serving others and just spend some time being with Him, talking to Him and listening to Him, fully aware of His holy presence in our souls. We may do the recharging of our spiritual energy also by our personal and family prayers, by the meditative reading of the Bible and by participating in the celebration of the Holy Mass. Christian husbands and wives should develop “couple spirituality” and seek more opportunities to pray together. The Martha and Mary episode teaches us the need for balance between service and prayer and the need for spending time with the Lord, learning from Him and recharging our spiritual batteries with the power of the Holy Spirit.
2) We need listening Marthas and serving Marys: Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world needs such men, women, boys and girls, and so does the Church. How would the Church survive if not for the Marthas and Bills who sing in the choir, run the altar guild, work with the homeless, work with the youth, and build the Church? The Church could not exist without them. The same is true with the family. We need responsible people to do the work in the house: to cook, to clean, to keep the house operating, to pay the bills, to keep the cars running, not to speak of rearing the children and loving the spouse. Households can’t survive without Marthas and Bills. Nor can offices, schools or businesses. There is nothing wrong with being a responsible, action-oriented, get-it-done kind of person. But we must find time to listen to God speaking to us through His word and time to talk to God. Jesus clearly said: be hearers and doers of the word. Jesus never reversed that order.
3) We need to be good listeners, like Mary, at home and in the workplace. Martha has become a symbol of you and me in the modern world. We have become so active and busy with living our lives that we no longer have time to slow down and quietly listen to God, or even to our spouse, kids or friends. We become so active in doing good things that our activities become a cover-up for our lack of listening and quiet caring. We come home from a day of work and the kids are talking to us at the kitchen table. We nod affirmatively at their words without listening. Our spouse wants to share what has happened during the day and we don’t hear a word that is spoken, being entirely preoccupied with what has happened at our workplace. Human love begins at home, and it begins with listening. The more one listens, the more love grows. The less one listens, the less love there is. This is certainly true in marriage. Any good marriage will show us a man and woman who have discovered what it means to listen to one another. That is also true in good families and in good businesses. We can so easily get the Martha-syndrome because there is always so much work to do: at our place of employment, at home with the kids or in the yard, at Church and school, at the various groups we or our children are a part of. But let's not be like Martha who got distracted with much serving. Rather, let us take time out every day to listen to Jesus, to get to know Jesus better, to be His guest and to welcome Him as ours.
4) We need to serve the Lord with Martha’s diligence: Some of mankind's greatest contributions have come from people who decided that no sacrifice was too large and no effort too great to accomplish what they set out to do. Edward Gibbon spent 26 years writing The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Noah Webster worked diligently for 36 years to bring into print the first edition of his Webster’s Dictionary. It is said that the Roman orator Cicero practiced before friends every day for 30 years in order to perfect his public speaking. Most of the famous scientists sacrificed their whole lives on their research for the betterment of human lives. Now let's think about how much energy we put into the Lord's work in an age when people are self-serving, self-centered, and self-indulgent. Why is our service for Christ sometimes performed in a halfhearted manner? Why do some people who pursue earthly goals put us to shame with their diligence?
5) God does us a favor by hosting a meal for us every Sunday: We don’t do God a favor by showing up for Church on Sunday and throwing something into the plate. This does nothing for God. It does not enhance his dignity or add anything to His power or glory. God does us a favor by hosting a meal for us every Sunday in which He offers Himself to us as food, in the most intimate act of communion with Himself imaginable. Mass is not about what we do for God, but about what God does for us. At this Sunday’s Mass, let’s pray more intensely for God to work in our hearts, to forgive our sin and transform the way we think and act, that we can become like the man of Psalm 15 who is suitable to dwell in God’s presence; or like Mary, who understood the “one thing” necessary and was willing to say “No” to distractions and demands in order to soak in the presence and teaching of Jesus. (The Sacred Space)
(Prepared by Fr. Tony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI
Introduction: The central theme of today’s Scripture readings is that we gain eternal life by loving God living in our neighbors by becoming good neighbors.
Scripture lessons:The first reading, taken from Deuteronomy, reminds us that God not only gives us His Commandments in Holy Scriptures, but that they are also written in our hearts so that we may obey them and inherit eternal life with God. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Colossians, and us, that just as Christ Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible God,” so our neighbors are the visible image of Christ living in our midst. In today’s Gospel, a scribe asked Jesus a very basic religious question: “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” In answer to the question, Jesus directed the scribe’s attention to the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptural answer is, “love God and express it by loving your neighbor.” However, to the scribe the word “neighbor” meant another scribe or Pharisee – never a Samaritan or a Gentile. Hence, the scribe insisted on clarification of the word “neighbor.” So Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable clearly indicates that a “neighbor” is anyone who needs help. Thus, the correct approach is not to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” but rather to ask, “Am I a good neighbor to others?” Jesus, the Heavenly Good Samaritan, gave us a final commandment during the Last Supper, “Love one another as I have loved you,” because the invisible God dwells in every human being.
Life messages: 1) Let us remember that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho passes right through our home, parish, school and work place. We may find our spouse, children or parents lying “wounded” by bitter words or scathing criticism or by other more blatant forms of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. Hence, Jesus invites us to show our love to others, in our own home, in school, in the workplace, and in the neighborhood, as the Good Samaritan did.2) Let us check to see if we are good neighbors. We are invited to be people of generosity, kindness, and mercy toward all who are suffering. A sincere smile, a cheery greeting, an encouraging word of appreciation, a heartfelt “thank you” can all work wonders for a suffering soul. 3) Let us allow the ‘Good Samaritans’ to touch our lives.Let us be willing to touch, or be touched by, persons we have once despised. For some of us, it may be persons of another color or race; for others, it may mean persons of a different political persuasion. Let us pray that the Spirit of the Living God may melt us, mold us and use us, so that there will no longer be even one person who is untouchable or outside the boundaries of compassion. 4) Let us accept the invitation to be loving and merciful to our enemies. This means people we hate, as well as those who hate us. It is an invitation for people of all times to love their enemies--to love those they have previously hated.
OT XV [C] (July 10) Dt 30:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Lk10:25-37
Anecdote #1: Einstein’s little neighbor:When Einstein fled Nazi Germany, he came to America and bought a two-story house within walking distance of Princeton University. There he entertained some of the most distinguished people of his day and discussed with them far-ranging issues from physics to human rights. But Einstein had another frequent visitor. She was not, in the world's eyes, an important person like his other guests. Emmy, a ten-year old neighboring girl had heard that a very kind man who knew all about mathematics had moved into her neighborhood. Since she was having trouble with her fourth-grade mathematics, she decided to visit the man down the block and see if he would help with her problems. Einstein was very willing and explained everything to her so that she could understand it. He also told her she was welcome to come anytime she needed help. A few weeks later, one of the neighbors told Emmy's mother that Emmy was seen entering the house of the world-famous physicist. Horrified, she told her daughter that Einstein was a very important man, whose time was very valuable, and shouldn't be bothered with the problems of a little schoolgirl. She then rushed over to Einstein's house, and when Einstein answered the door, she started trying to blurt out an apology for her daughter's intrusion -- for being such a bother. But Einstein cut her off. He said, "She has not been bothering me! When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don't stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome in this house anytime." -And that's how it is with God! He is our neighbor and He wants us to come to His house anytime! (Fr. John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho)
# 2: Operation Smile: I was reading sometime back about Dr. William Magee Jr., a plastic surgeon in Norfolk, Va. In 1981, Dr. Magee traveled to the Philippines to operate on children with cleft lips and other facial deformities. Unfortunately, there were so many children with this deformity, a deformity that can render it impossible for them to speak or eat, that hundreds had to be turned away. This caused Dr. Magee and his wife to found an organization called Operation Smile. Operation Smile sends volunteer doctors to perform reconstructive facial surgery for children worldwide. “It wasn’t a strategic plan,” said Magee. “It was just a matter of emotion and passion to make sure children didn’t have to live this way.” The group, which already has treated 50,000 children worldwide, also trains doctors in other nations to perform the procedure. Magee hopes to use satellite technology in the future, so he can teach a greater number of medical professionals the necessary techniques. (The Associated Press.) Dr. Magee didn’t have to do that. He could have justified himself. “What’s in it for me? There are so many children in my own city whose parents or whose insurance company could pay for this surgery. I’m a busy doctor here. I don’t have to go halfway around the world and minister to indigent children. Not my problem.” I doubt if Dr. Magee even wondered if this act of service would get him into Heaven. He simply saw a need and filled it. He became a Good Samaritan, encouraging fellow surgeons to become Good Samaritans.
# 3: “You owe this debt to any stranger who comes to you in need:” V.P. Menon was a significant political figure in India during its struggle for independence from Britain after World War II. Menon had a splendid reputation for personal charity. His daughter explained the background of this trait after he died. When Menon arrived in Delhi to seek a job in government, all his possessions, including his money and I.D., were stolen at the railroad station. He would have to return home on foot, defeated. In desperation he turned to an elderly Sikh, explained his troubles, and asked for a temporary loan of fifteen rupees to tide him over until he could get a job. The Sikh gave him the money. When Menon asked for his address so that he could repay the man, the Sikh said that Menon owed the debt not to him but to any stranger who came to him in need, as long as he lived. The help came from a stranger and was to be repaid to a stranger. Menon never forgot that debt. His daughter said that the day before Menon died, a beggar came to the family home in Bangalore asking for help to buy new sandals, for his feet were covered with sores. Menon asked his daughter to take fifteen rupees out of his wallet to give to the man. It was Menon's last conscious act. Menon ministered to strangers because a stranger had ministered to him. [Robert A. Fulgham, All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten (New York: Villard Books, 1988).] Why have Christians been historically so charitable, so caring? It is because once we were lying beside the road broken, and bleeding, nail-scarred hands reached down to us and ministered to us in our need. While we were unworthy, Christ the Divine Good Samaritan died for us.
Introduction: A scribe asked Jesus a very basic religious question: “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” In answer to the question, Jesus directed the Scribe’s attention to the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptural answer is “love God and express it by loving your neighbor.” However, to the scribe, the word “neighbor” meant another scribe or Pharisee – never a Samaritan or a Gentile. Hence, the scribe insisted on a clarification of the word “neighbor.” So Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable clearly indicates that a “neighbor” is anyone who needs help. Thus, the correct approach is not to ask the question “Who is my neighbor?” but rather to ask, “Am I a good neighbor to others?” The first reading, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, reminds us that God not only gives us His Commandments in Holy Scriptures, but that they are also written in our hearts so that we may obey them and inherit eternal life with God. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Colossians, and us, that just as Christ Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible God,” so our neighbors are the visible image of Christ living in our midst. Jesus, the Heavenly Good Samaritan, gave us a final commandment during the Last Supper, “Love one another as I have loved you,” because the invisible God dwells in every human being.
The first reading: Deuteronomy 30: 10-14:Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in the course of a discussion about the Law which occurred in the context of Jesus’ fateful journey toward Jerusalem and his coming death. Jesus dared to ask people to go beyond the Law of Moses, and that is one of the things that got him in so much trouble. To prepare us for that lesson, the Church selects from the Hebrew Scriptures a description of the Law that captures its greatness. Today’s passage, taken from the book of Deuteronomy, reminds us that God is not beyond human reach. Pagan religions of Moses’ time taught that God was accessible only through the mediation of specially selected persons who made that contact by acquiring secret knowledge and by performing bizarre rituals or by using hallucinogenic drugs. But God reveals to Moses that His Law is not across the sea or up in the sky or locked in a tabernacle. God has written his life-giving and salvific law in the human heart (v. 14; see also Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26-27). This Law is "not in heaven... nor is it beyond the seas," outside our reach. No, "it is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance." Hence, Moses urges the people of Israel to hear the voice of God from the Law and to keep His Commandments. He tells us that God is very near to us – in the neighbors we shall encounter each day this week. When we act as neighbor to them, we act as neighbor to God Himself.
The second reading: Colossians: 1: 15-20: The Christians of Colossae were misled by some false teachers, Gnostics, who saw Jesus as only a man, though just under the angels in rank. They taught that Jesus became Lord and Christ only at his Resurrection. Hence, Paul quotes this early Christian hymn to assure the Colossian Christians of: (1) the primacy of Christ over and above all angels and cosmic powers; (2) the value and necessity of the cross; and (3) the cosmic effects of salvation. This hymn also affirms Christ’s power and position over the four ranks of angels (v. 16: thrones, dominations, principalities and powers) which, according to Hellenistic Judaism, guarded the seven levels of Heaven. It asserts that Jesus is the full revelation of God, and that it is through the person and mission of Jesus that God has reconciled all things in Heaven and on earth to Himself, making peace between us and Him. It is this Jesus who lives in us and in our neighbors.
Exegesis:In the parable of the Good Samaritan,Jesus presents threephilosophies of lifeconcerning our relationship with our neighbor:
1) The philosophy of the thieves who robbed the Jewish traveler – Lust: “What is yours is mine; I will take it by force.” This has been the philosophy of Marxism and other revolutionary movements and of modern terrorist groups. In accepting this philosophy of life, the thieves, like their modern counterparts, terrorized others and exploited them, ignoring human rights and having selfish gain as their chief motive. In Jesus’ day, the steep, winding, country road from Jerusalem to Jerichowas the safe haven for such bandit groups. No wonder, the Jewish traveler was robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead on the Jericho Road! Some Bible scholars estimate there were at least 12,000 "thieves" in that Judean wilderness surrounding Jerusalem. These thugs roamed the countryside like packs of wild dogs, attacking innocent victims. In our world, many more thieves operate than we might realize. These are the privileged few, the "robber barons" of the modern world. They are the "Enron" executives of every company who just can't be satisfied with being wealthy; they have to have all the marbles. The robber who takes money that does not belong to him is a thief. The rapist who takes sexual pleasure from someone not his spouse is a thief. The adulterer who steals another man's wife is a thief. Corporate executives and CEOs who bilk innocent stockholders of billions of dollars are thieves. God has given us things to use, and God has given us people to love. But when we begin to love things and use people, we become thieves. If our attitude is: "I just make sure I get mine. I don't care about anyone else," we are probably thieves.
2) The philosophy of life of the Jewish priest and the Levite – Legalism: “What is mine is mine; I won’t part with it.” The priests were powerful upper-class authorities governing the Temple cult. The Levites were the priests’ associates, who provided music, incense, sacred bread, Temple curtains and adornments. Their duties also included “kosher meatpacking” and banking. In the parable, the representatives of these classes did not pay any attention to the wounded man because of their utter selfishness. Misplaced zeal for their religious duty gave them a couple of lame excuses: a)”If the man is dead and we touch him we will be unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11), and disqualified from Temple service.” Thus, they saw the wounded man on the road, not as a person needing help, but a possible source of ritual impurity. b) “This may be a trap set for us, by hiding bandits.” [This excuse has some validity, as bandits sometimes did use a “wounded” member to decoy a prospective victim into stopping, thus setting himself up for robbery.] The parable's priest and Levite, however, represent people who are always demanding their rights, but never talking about their responsibilities. These two men exercised their legal right to pass this man by, and forgot God in the process. These people don't say, "I do what I want to do," but, "I will only do what I have to do-I won't stick my neck out for anybody." When one does only do what one must do in life, one is not a good neighbor.
3) The philosophy of the Samaritan -- Love: “What is mine is yours as well. I shall share it with you.” The Samaritan was generous enough to seethewounded Jew as a neighbor. He ignored the long history of enmity between his people and the Jews. [The Samaritans were a bastard race by Judean standards. They presumably originated from the Israelites who remained behind in their homeland when the Assyrians, following their conquest in 722 BC, deported the leading families of the region. In the years that followed, the Israelites who remained intermarried with the foreign settlers brought in by the Assyrians. The new hybrid ethnic generation -- "Jewish Assyrians"—continued to regard the Torah as their law but erected their own temple on Mount Gerizim, just outside Shechem (modern Nablus), at a time when there was no Temple in Jerusalem. John Hyracanus, a Maccabaean Jewish ruler, destroyed this Shechem temple during his reign (134-104 BC), and thus created lasting enmity between the Judeans and the Samaritans. No wonder, every morning in his daily prayer a Pharisee would go to the Temple and, out loud, thank God he had not been born a woman, a Gentile, or a Samaritan. Yet, Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of the story.] The Good Samaritan was taking a real risk, since the robbers who had assaulted the traveler might still be nearby. Nevertheless, he gave first aid to the wounded Jew, took him to a nearby inn and made arrangements for his food and accommodation by giving the innkeeper two denarii. Two denarii was a lot of money—enough, in fact, to pay for more than three weeks’ board and lodging. The Samaritan also assured the innkeeper of further payment for any additional medical requirements of the wounded man. What made this Samaritan so special was not the color of his skin, but the compassion in his heart. No law could make the priest or the Levite stop, but love could make the Samaritan stop. Who would we have been that day -- the thief, the priest, the Levite, or the Good Samaritan?" If a person has a need that we can and should meet, that person is our neighbor. Every time we see a person in need, we immediately become a neighbor; we become a minister with a ministry. Columnist Ann Landers once wrote, "Be kind to people. The world needs kindness so much. You never know what sort of battles other people are fighting. Often just a soft word or a warm compliment can be immensely supportive. You can do a great deal of good by just being considerate, by extending a little friendship, going out of your way to do just one nice thing, or saying one good word." Mark Twain once wrote, "Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read."
Life messages: 1)We need to remember that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho passes right through our home, parish, school and work place. The Jericho Road is any place where people are being robbed of their dignity, their material goods or their value as human beings. It is any place where there is suffering and oppression. As a matter of fact, the Jericho Road may be our own home, the place where we are taking care of a mother or father, husband or wife, or even our own children. We may find our spouse, children or parents lying “wounded” by bitter words, scathing criticism or other, more blatant forms of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. Hence, Jesus invites us to have hearts of love. What God wants more than anything is for us to show our love to others, in our own home and school, in the workplace, and in the neighborhood, as the Good Samaritan did. Jesus is inviting us to have hearts of mercy for those who are being left hurt or mistreated on any of the “Jericho Roads” of life.
2) Are we good neighbors? A good neighbor does not say, "I do what I want to do," or even, "I do what I have to do," but, "I do what I ought to do." The lawyer’s question—“Who is my neighbor?”—reveals that he was really self-centered. The parable makes us realize that every human person is our neighbor. How have we been good neighbors this week? To whom did we behave in a neighborly way? The parable is a condemnation of our non-involvement as well as an invitation for us to be merciful and kind to those in need, including those in our family, school neighborhood and parish. We are invited to be people of generosity, kindness, and mercy toward all who are suffering. A sincere smile, a cheery greeting, an encouraging word of appreciation, a heartfelt “thank you” can work wonders for a suffering soul. Within every society, there is fear of those who are "different," who differ from us in religion, skin-color, dress or language. The parable invites us to make them neighbors. Why? Because "one’s neighbor is the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit. One’s neighbor must therefore be loved, even if he or she is an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her.” (Pope St. John Paul II, SollicitudoReiSocialis, 1987).
3) We need to allow the ‘Good Samaritans’ touch our lives.Do you recall the consternation and shock in so many areas years ago when PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands for the whole world to see? People from both Arafat's and Rabin's cultures were shocked by it and condemned that handshake! Let us be willing to touch and be touched by persons we have once despised. For some of us, these may be persons of another color or race; for others, these may be persons of a different political persuasion. For still others these may be former enemies who have hurt them, abused them or offended them. Let us pray that the Spirit of the living God may melt us, mold us and use us so that there will no longer be even one person who is untouchable or outside the boundaries of compassion.
4) An invitation to be loving and merciful to our enemies. "Enemies" include both people we hate, and those who hate us. The Jews and the Samaritans during the time of Jesus hated each other. When Jesus told the story of a Samaritan helping a Jew, everyone was probably shocked. A Samaritan outcast helping a Jew? Impossible! “Good Samaritan” would have sounded like a bad joke—a contradiction in terms. The parable was an invitation for Jews to love Samaritans and Samaritans to love Jews. It is an invitation for people of all times to love their enemies -- to love those they have previously hated.