Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the need for true humility which leads to a generous blessed sharing with the needy. The readings also warn us against all forms of pride and self-glorification. They present humility not only as a virtue but also as a means of opening our hearts, our minds and our hands to the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged and the marginalized people in our society – a personal responsibility for every authentic Christian.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the book of Sirach, reminds us that if we are humble, we will find favor with God, and others will love us. The second reading, taken from Hebrews, gives another reason for us to be humble. Jesus was humble, so his followers are expected to be humble, trying to imitate his humility. Paul reminds us that Jesus was lowly, particularly in his suffering and death for our salvation (Heb 2:5-18), so we should be like him in order to be exalted with him at the resurrection of the righteous. Paul also seems to imply that we need to follow Christ’s example of humility in our relationships with the less fortunate members of our society. In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains the practical benefits of humility, connecting it with the common wisdom about dining etiquette. Jesus advises the guests to go to the lowest place instead of seeking places of honor, so that the host may give them the place they really deserve. Jesus’ words concerning the seating of guests at a wedding banquet should prompt us to honor those whom others ignore, because if we are generous and just in our dealings with those in need, we can be confident of the Lord’s blessings.
Life Message: We need to practice humility in personal and social life: Humility is based on the psychological awareness that everything I have is a gift from God and, therefore, I have no reason to elevate myself above others. On the contrary, I must use these God-given gifts to help others. True humility requires us neither to overestimate nor to underestimate our worth. We must admit the truths that we are sinners, that we do not know everything and that we do not always act properly. Nevertheless, we must also recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and that we are called to help build the kingdom of God with our God-given gifts. We are of value, not because of those gifts, but because we are loved by God as His children, redeemed by the precious blood of His son Jesus. The quality of humility that Jesus is talking about also has a sociological dimension. For Jesus is inviting us to associate with the so-called "lower classes" of the society -- even the outcasts. Jesus invites us to change our social patterns in such a way that we connect with and serve the homeless, the handicapped, the elderly, and the impoverished -- the "street people" of the world with agápe love. (L/16)
OT XXII [C] (Aug 28): Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a; Lk 14:1, 7-14
Anecdote: 1) Cardinal Léger's option for the poor: Most Rev. Paul-Émile Léger served as Archbishop of Montreal from 1950 to 1968, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1953 by Pope Pius XII. He was one of the most powerful men in Canada and within the Catholic Church. He was a man of deep conviction and humility. Then on April 20, 1968 he resigned his office and leaving his red vestments, crosier, miter, and pallium in his Montreal office, disappeared. Years later, he was found living among the lepers and disabled, outcasts of a small African village. When a Canadian journalist asked him, "Why?" here is what Cardinal Léger had to say: "It will be the great scandal of the history of our century that 600 million people are eating well and living luxuriously and three billion people starve, and every year millions of children are dying of hunger. I am too old to change all that. The only thing I can do which makes sense is to be present. I must simply be in the midst of them. So, just tell people in Canada that you met an old priest. I am a priest who is happy to be old and still a priest and among those who suffer. I am happy to be here and to take them into my heart." (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/a-or09-2-keeping.php Is that your calling? Is it mine? Probably not. Today’s Gospel says: “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (For a short biography of Cardinal Leger (visit: http://www.sulpc.org/evsulpc_leger_en.php) (Barry Robinson)
2) The humble Gandhi: One man who took Jesus seriously was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi acknowledged that he had been much influenced by the Gospels and touched by the life of Christ. As he once remarked, "I might have become a Christian had it not been for Christians!" Gandhi did not lead the masses by standing like a monarch above them but by identifying with them and sharing in their circumstances. He identified himself with the half-naked rural masses by rejecting his attorney’s pants and coat and dressing himself with a loincloth and cotton shawl. While the other high caste Indian politicians were not willing to associate themselves with the untouchables, Gandhi chose to live, eat and march with the untouchables, and he gave them a new dignity and a new name. He honored them by calling them “harijans,” "the people of God."
3) America's "First Lady of Etiquette," Emily Post, versus Jesus Christ: Luke 14 focuses on etiquette for guests and hosts at dinner parties. I thought I should see what the original "Miss Manners," Emily Post, had to say on that subject. So I did consult the twelfth edition of Emily Post's Etiquette. I learned to kneel, kiss his ring, and address him as "Your Holiness" when having a private audience with the Pope. I learned replies to lunch invitations to the White House must always be handwritten and always returned that same day -- and the answer is always, "Yes." Emily Post was very specific about planning formal dinners. Seating charts were included showing which seats the guests of honor should get. Who's seated next to whom is also important. Emily Post sums it up: "The requisites for a perfect formal dinner ... are ... Guests who are congenial, Servants who are competent, A lovely table setting -- Food that is perfectly prepared ... A cordial and hospitable host and a charming hostess" (and a good seating chart). And there is another source we can turn to on how to throw a perfect party. The source is Scripture. And the "etiquette expert" is Jesus himself. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives guidance on party protocol while attending a formal dinner. When God is throwing a party, all the "right" people will be there -- that is everyone who responds to (God's) invitation. But seated next to the host (Jesus) in the places of honor are not the dignitaries, the celebrities, the distinguished people of position and prominence, but rather the poor, the hurting, the outcast -- people who have distinguished themselves only by their need.
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the need for true humility which leads to a generous blessed sharing with the needy. The readings warn us against all forms of pride and self-glorification. They present humility not only as a virtue but also as a means of opening our hearts, our minds and our hands to the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged and the marginalized of society. For Jesus, the daily human needs of the poor are the personal responsibility of every authentic, humble believer. The first reading, taken from the book of Sirach, reminds us that if we are humble we will find favor with God, and others will love us. The second reading, taken from Hebrews, gives another reason for us to be humble. Jesus was humble, so his followers are expected to be humble, trying to imitate his humility. Paul reminds us that Jesus was lowly, particularly in his suffering and death for our salvation (Heb 2:5-18), so we should be like him that we may be exalted with him at the resurrection of the righteous. Paul seems to imply that we have to follow Christ’s example of humility in our relationships with the less fortunate members of our society. In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains the practical benefits of humility, connecting it with the common wisdom about dining etiquette (see Prov. 25:6-7; Sir. 3:17-20). Jesus advises the guests to go to the lowest place instead of seeking places of honor so that the host may give them the place they deserve. Jesus’ words concerning the seating of guests at a wedding banquet should prompt us to honor those whom others ignore, because if we are generous and just in our dealings with those in need we can be confident of the Lord’s blessings. On the other hand, if we act out of pride and selfishness we can be sure that our efforts will come to nothing.
The first reading, (Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29): Today’s reading, taken from Sirach, gives a lesson in humility. Sirach is a book of moral instruction and wise sayings written by a devout Jewish sage about 175 years before the time of Jesus. It is part of the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. As a world traveler (34:12-13) and a respected scribe and teacher, Jesus ben Eleazar ben Sirach, presided as the headmaster of an academy for young men (57:23-30). Today’s reading represents excerpted portions of two of ben Sirach’s short essays, the first on humility (3:17-24), the second on docility, almsgiving and social conduct (3:25-4:10). Like a parent or an elder brother offering wise counsel, the author recommends that his readers find true greatness in living humbly. "Conduct your affairs in humility," ben Sirach writes. "The more you humble yourselves, the greater you are." He instructs us to be honest about ourselves and to become conscious of our limitations, acknowledging our true position before God as creatures and sinners.
The second reading: (Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24): The Letter to the Hebrews was written in the last quarter of first century AD. Although many of the apostolic eye-witnesses to Jesus had died, the expected Second Coming of Jesus had not taken place. So the Hebrew Christians (Judeo-Christians), subjected to hostilities from both Judaism and the Roman Empire, grew lax in their commitment. Hence, the author of Hebrews asks his readers to choose either the ways of the former Covenant, symbolized by the fire, storm, darkness, trumpet blast and the voice, speaking words that they begged not to hear, or the ways of the new Covenant, mediated by Jesus and celebrated by the angels and the assembly of the firstborn. St. Paul compares and contrasts the picture of God in the Old Testament with that found in the New Testament. Instead of the frightening manifestation of God’s glory in the Old Covenant, the New Testament offers the picture of a loving and humble God as revealed by Christ. Paul seems to imply that we need to follow Christ’s example of humility in our relationship with those members of our society less fortunate than we. We are gathered around "Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel." Jesus was lowly, particularly in his suffering and death for our salvation (Heb 2:5-18). If we are humble, like Jesus and with him, we will be exalted with Him at the resurrection of the righteous.
Exegesis: Instruction at a party: The reason why Jesus was invited to the dinner party was that he was already a sort of celebrity, noted for curing the sick. People are always drawn toward celebrities. But Jesus was not interested in such fame. Without putting on an air of superiority, he used the occasion to teach a lesson about the Kingdom, presenting humility as the essential condition for God’s invitation to His Heavenly banquet. Humility must be expressed in the recognition of one’s lowliness before God and one's need for salvation. Based on his observation of a gross breach of social etiquette at that party, Jesus taught those Jewish religious teachers what genuine humility was and what the dangers of pride were. "Go and take the lowest place," Jesus recommends, "so that when the host comes to you he may say, `My friend, move up to a higher position.'" In other words, we are always to situate ourselves in such a manner that the only way we can go is up.
Importance of humility: When God became man, He chose to occupy the lowest possible seat. Paul described in Phil. 2:7-8, the six steps in humility that God took in coming to this earth. "Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." Humility was Jesus’ favorite theme. "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11); "Whoever humbles himself like a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of God" (Matthew 18:4); “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart"(Matthew 11:29). Humility is a strange phenomenon. As a rule, when we discover we have it, we lose it. Humility is like a rare flower -- put it on display, and it instantly wilts and loses its fragrance! St. Augustine said: "Humility is so necessary for Christian perfection that among all the ways to reach perfection, humility is first, humility is second, and humility is third." He added, "Humility makes men angels, and pride makes angels devils." St. Bernard declared, "Pride sends man from the highest elevation to the lowest abyss, but humility raises him from the lowest abyss to the highest elevation."
Humility with a hook: Here is a portion of one of Mother Teresa’s exhortations to her novices: "If I try to make myself as small as I can, I'll never become humble. It is humility with a hook. True humility is truth. Humility comes when I stand as tall as I can, and look at all of my strengths, and the reality about me, but put myself alongside Jesus Christ. And it's there, when I humble myself before Him, and realize the truth of who he is, when I accept God's estimate of myself, stop being fooled about myself and impressed with myself, that I begin to learn humility. The higher I am in grace, the lower I should be in my own estimation because I am comparing myself with the Lord God." Thus, humility is an attempt to see ourselves as God sees us. It is also the acknowledgement that our talents come from God who has seen it fit to work through us. Baron Rothschild once, when asked about seating important guests, said, "Those that matter won’t mind where they sit, and those who do mind, don’t matter."
Lesson in true humility: In today’s Gospel story, Jesus gives his host a lesson in humility. "When you hold a banquet, don't invite friends or relatives or wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather invite the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind, who are unable to repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Thomas Carlyle, the British historian, put it succinctly, “Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are.” The Pharisees were preoccupied with "earning" a high place in heaven. Jesus counsels them to practice what they preach about God's concern for the poor and thereby to gain true merit. In other words, Jesus suggests, “Do something really different! Invite to your parties the people who have little to bring with them. The blessing, recognition and benefit you are worried about will come, though not through the means you expect.” The freedom that comes with knowing we are loved and sustained by God is a freedom to give generously of our resources, to give the best place to others without concern for ourselves. Just as Jesus challenges his fellow guests, so he challenges us. He warns us that those who will be saved will not be people like the Pharisees. The deeper message of this parable is that if we exalt ourselves, we are going to face embarrassment before the judgment seat of God, the Host who has invited us to the banquet of life.
Life Message: 1) We need to practice humility in personal and social life: Humility is grounded in a psychological awareness that everything I have is a gift from God, and, therefore, I have no reason to boast. I must not use these God-given gifts to elevate myself above others. Hence, humility means the proper understanding of our own worth. It requires us neither to overestimate nor to underestimate our worth. The humility that the Gospel urges upon us has nothing to do with a self-deprecation that leaves a person without proper self-esteem. We must simply admit the truth about ourselves: we do not know everything, we do not do everything correctly and we are all imperfect and sinners. Nevertheless, we also recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are called to help build the kingdom of God with our God-given gifts. We are not of value because of those gifts but because we are loved by God as His children, redeemed by the precious blood of His son Jesus. The quality of humility that Jesus is talking about has a sociological dimension too. For Jesus is inviting us to associate with the so-called "lower classes" of society -- even the outcasts. Jesus invites us to change our social patterns in such a way that we connect with the homeless, the handicapped, the elderly, and the impoverished -- the "street people" of the world – with agápe love.
2) We need to remember that we are the invited guests: We celebrate that coming Banquet Feast in Heaven every time we come together for Our Lord's Supper in Holy Mass. We are the (spiritually) poor, crippled, lame, and blind that Christ calls to himself. Our place is assured. Let us accept Jesus’ invitation by actively participating in this Eucharistic celebration. Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer, on receiving Holy Communion, writes that, as he received the Sacrament for the first time, as an adult, he thought to himself: Heaven was entirely mine ... Christ, hidden in the small host, was giving himself for me and to me, and with himself the entire Godhead and Trinity ... Christ was born in me, his new Bethlehem, and sacrificed in me, his new Calvary, and risen in me ... (God) called out to me from his own immense depths [The Seven Story Mountain, (New York: Doubleday Image Books), pp. 273-274).] Thomas Merton sensed the wonder of God's invitation to Communion and received it joyfully. So should we.
(Prepared by Fr. Tony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is that we should courageously live out our religious convictions and principles in our lives, as Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus did theirs, even if doing so should result in our martyrdom and turn society upside down. If no one is ever offended by the quality of our commitment to Christ, then perhaps we are practicing “inoffensive Christianity.”
Scripture lessons:Jeremiah, in our First Reading, is presented as experiencing the consequences of the burning word of God within him. Jeremiah's preaching divided the city and incited such opposition that people sought his death. He showed the courage of his prophetic conviction by telling the king that he had to surrender to the mighty army of Babylonian empire to save Israel. The result was that Jeremiah was thrown into a deep, muddy cistern to die for his "treason." Standing in this prophetic tradition, Paul, in the second reading, challenges the Judeo-Christians to stand firm in their faith in Jesus, ignoring the ostracism imposed on them by their own former Jewish community. Jesus, too, in today’s Gospel, preaches the word of God which continues to divide families, a word which, he knew, would lead ultimately to his death. The fire Jesus brings is the fire of love and the fire of hope. The disruption, division and revolution Jesus and his true followers cause in society by the fire of sacrificial love and the fire of justice is necessary to re-set what's fractured, put right what's dislocated and cleanse what's infected. In other words, the curative pain caused by Jesus’ ideas and ideals is necessary for the establishment of real shalom of God. Even though Jesus brings a sword and causes division, he is the bringer of true and lasting peace. In pursuing his mission, Jesus brings division because some follow him and others oppose him. We must make a decision to follow him or not, to share his "baptism" or not. This choice can result in division, even within families.
Life messages:# 1: Let us learn to appreciate the contemporary prophets in the Church: The Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles, writing about the role of prophecy in the modern Church communities in his book Models of the Church, remarks: “Christianity is not healthy unless there is room in it for prophetic protest against abuses of authority.” God continues to send such prophets to every parish community and it is the duty of the bishop, pastor and parish council to listen to the well-intended and constructive criticisms of such Jeremiahs.
# 2: We should have fire in our hearts: On the day of our Baptism, we received the light of Christ and were instructed to keep that torch burning brightly until the return of Christ Jesus. In addition, the Holy Spirit was sent into our hearts at Confirmation to help set us on fire. “He who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” So, as Christians on fire, we have to inflame people to care, to serve, and to bless one another with all the gifts of Faith. We should allow that fire to burn off the impurities in us and to bring out the purity of the gold and silver within us.
OT XX [C] (August 14) Jer 38: 4-6, 8-10; Heb 12: 1-4; Lk 12: 49-53
Anecdote: 1: “Be God’s prophets and God’s microphones” (Oscar Romero). God sends His prophets to give the world His message in every century. Blessed Oscar Romero, Blessed Mother Teresa, Pope St. John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dom HelderCamara, Maura Clark, Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Jeanne Donovan, and Ella Baker were all twentieth century prophets who had the courage of their Christian convictions to follow Jesus and proclaim his undiluted message which cast fire on earth and caused healthy division in the society as today’s Gospel points out. In 1980, in the midst of a U.S.-funded genocidal war against the so-called leftist rebels in El Salvador, Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero who sided with the poor, exploited farm workers, declared: “If they kill all your priests and the bishop too, each one of you must become God's microphone, each one of you must become a prophet. I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people." Amid overarching violence, Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter pleading with him to cease sending military aid to the brutal military regime because, he wrote, "it is being used to repress my people." The U.S. sent $1.5 million in aid every day for 12 years. Archbishop Romero’s letter went unheeded. Two months later, he was assassinated. Ending a long homily addressed to the pro-government land owners and peasants and the military and broadcast throughout the country, his voice rose to breaking, "Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasants . . . . No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God.” There was thunderous applause; he was inviting the army to mutiny. Then his voice burst out, "In the name of God then, in the name of this suffering people I ask you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God: stop the repression." Oscar Romero gave his last homily on March 24, 1980, moments before a sharpshooter felled him at the altar of a hospital chapel. Reflecting on the day’s Scripture, he had said, "One must not love oneself so much, as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those that fend off danger will lose their lives." In an interview as he was flying to Brazil in May, 2007 Pope Benedict told the reporters, “Romero as a person merits beatification.” In July 2007, the new Salvadoran conservative government said it would formally request the Vatican to beatify Romero although it will not accept responsibility for his slaying. Pope Francis beatified the martyred Archbishop Romero on May 23, 2015. Today’s readings remind us that the Church needs prophets like Romero and cautions contemporary prophets that their course will not be easy. (http://salt.claretianpubs.org/romero/romero.html).
# 2: Apathetic Attitude: In 1993, the total attendance at worship services in the United States came to 5.6 billion. The total attendance for all pro-basketball, baseball and football games combined was only 103 million, less than 2 percent of the number who attended worship ["To Verify: Statistics for Christian Communicators," Leadership 15 (Fall 1994), 50).] We complain about a shrinking Church membership when the numbers actually point to a shrinking sense of excitement and exuberance for Christ's sake. In the name of sports, those 103 million get stadiums built, get team franchises moved, give local economies a boost and get whole regions of the country stand-up-and-shout excited. In the name of Christ, how much more could 5.6 billion accomplish in this country in the world if they were as "on fire" as the sports fans?
# 3: Courage to confront: In the 1920s, an English adventurer named Mallory led an expedition to conquer Mount Everest. His first, second and even his third attempt with an experienced team met with failure. Upon his return to England, the few who had survived held a banquet to salute Mallory and those who had perished. As he stood up to speak he looked around he saw picture frames of himself and those who had died. Then he turned his back on the crowd and faced a large picture of Mount Everest looming large like an unbeatable giant. With tears streaming down his face, he spoke to the mountain on behalf of his dead friends. “I speak to you Mt. Everest, in the name of all brave men living, and those yet unborn. Mt. Everest, you defeated us once, you defeated us twice; you defeated us three times. But Mt. Everest, we shall someday defeat you, because you can’t get any bigger, but we can.” Today’s Scripture challenges us to confront the world with prophetic courage of our Christian convictions (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies).
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is that we should courageously live out our religious convictions and principles in our lives, as Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus did theirs, even if doing so should result in our martyrdom and turn society upside down. If no one is ever offended by the quality of our commitment to Christ, that commitment may not be authentic, and if our individual and communal living of the Good News casts no fire and causes no division, then perhaps we are practicing “inoffensive Christianity."Jeremiah, in our First Reading, is presented as experiencing the consequences of the burning word of God within him. Jeremiah's preaching divided the city and incited such opposition that people sought his death. He showed the courage of his prophetic conviction by telling King Zedekiah that the Lord God said he had to surrender to the mighty army of Babylonian empire to save Israel. The result was that Jeremiah was thrown into a deep, muddy cistern to die for his "treason." Standing in this prophetic tradition, Paul, in the second reading, challenges the Judeo-Christians to stand firm in their Faith in Jesus, ignoring the ostracism imposed on them by their own former Jewish community. Jesus, too, in today’s Gospel, preaches the word of God which continues to divide families, a word which, he knew, would ultimately lead to his death. The fire Jesus came to bring is the fire of love and the fire of hope. The disruption, division and revolution Jesus and his true followers cause in society by the fire of sacrificial love and the fire of justice is necessary to re-set what's fractured, put right what's dislocated, and cleanse what's infected. In other words, the curative pain caused by Jesus’ ideas and ideals is necessary for the establishment of real shalom of God. Even though Jesus brings a sword and causes division, he is the bringer of true and lasting peace. In pursuing his mission, Jesus brings division because some follow him and others oppose him. We must make a decision to follow him or not, to share his "baptism" or not. This choice can result in division, even within families.
First reading, Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10: The first reading warms us up to hear today's Gospel, where Jesus speaks with prophetic bluntness about how his mission will divide those who accept him from those who don't. The prophet Jeremiah lived from about 650 B.C. to perhaps 580 B.C. It was during this period that Babylon, becoming the supreme power in Mesopotamia, demanded tribute from all the smaller kingdoms, including Judah. While the princes urged King Zedekiah, to seek military help from Egypt against Babylon, the Lord God, through His prophet Jeremiah, told them to pay the tribute to avoid a greater evil. Jeremiah had been predicting the impending destruction of Jerusalem as a judgment from YHWH because most of the kings of Judah had fallen further and further away from God and from their religion and because they had entered into unholy political alignment with neighboring countries, instead of trusting in their God. The prophet’s death sentence described in the first reading occurred during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians about 587 B.C. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonian army, the Lord God, through Jeremiah, had told the king and the military leaders to surrender and pay tribute to the Babylonians. That way the king might save his life and the lives of his people. But Jeremiah sounded unpatriotic and even seditious, defeatist and treasonable to the military leaders who complained to King Zedekiah. The king turned Jeremiah over to them, and they put him into a dry cistern with fairly deep mud at the bottom to die. Jeremiah was saved by the sympathy of an Ethiopian courtier named Ebed-melech who evidently held a position of considerable authority at the royal court. Since the king did not listen to God’s counsel given by His prophet, Babylon captured and destroyed Jerusalem in 587 and took all the able-bodied citizens to Babylon as prisoners. The cost of following God’s word, experienced by Jeremiah as a life so marked by suffering and opposition that he cursed the day he was born (20:14), points to the division Jesus brings (today’s Gospel).
Second Reading, Hebrews 12:1-4: Paul wrote this letter to the Judeo-Christians who had been rejected by their fellow Jews, kicked out of synagogues and cut off from family and old friends. Separated from the comforting rituals and institutions they had known, these folks needed their faith bolstered. Hence, Paul praised a long list of faithful Jews from the past, particularly Abraham, detailing some of the difficulties they had faced. Those heroic figures are the great "cloud of witnesses" mentioned in today's passage. The author wanted his Judeo-Christians (the Hebrews), to think of themselves as athletes in a race in a stadium, where their ancestors in the Faith would be spectators, surrounding them and cheering them on because their descendants were now running the same race they had run in their day. These ancestors were “witnesses” to the power of Faith to endure against every temptation to apostasy. Paul asked the Hebrew Christians to run the race, keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus the “leader and perfecter of our faith.” In his earthly life, Jesus was the pioneer because he initiated the way of Faith—the way through suffering to glory (v. 2)—and its perfecter because he completed his ”course,” thus enabling believers to run the same race, through suffering to glory. We, too, are called to do our best until our great run for the Faith is crowned with victory.
Exegesis: Today’s Gospel passage consists of two sections: in the first section (vv 49-50), Jesus speaks of his Divine destiny to endure suffering, and in the second section (vv 51-53), he prophesies the breakup of families resulting from his message. Jesus explains his Divine destiny by highlighting his role of “setting the earth on fire” and being “baptized” in the waters of suffering. The images of fire and baptism refer to his mission, both in terms of the cost that it will exact from him and the decision it will require of people.
“I have cometo 'set the earth on fire.'" In the Bible, fire is sometimes symbolic of purification (for example, Nm 31:23; Ez 22:19-22), and, more often, is associated with God’s judgment (for example, Jdt 16:17; Is 66:16; Am 7:4; 2 Pt 3:7).The image of fire is also used to symbolize God's glory (Ez 1:4, 13), His protective presence (2 Kgs 6:17), His holiness (Dt 4:24), His righteous judgment (Zec 13:9), and His wrath against sin (Is 66:15-16). The image of fire is also used of the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11 and Acts 2:3). Fire has many characteristics: it warms, purifies, refines, transforms, and burns. As a purifying force, fire burns up what is useless and refines what is impure besides giving warmth and energy. Elijah brought the fire of judgment on the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs 18:36-40) and the soldiers of King Ahaziah (2 Kgs 1:10-14). John the Baptist promises that Jesus "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire"(Matt 3: 11), and that promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans who rejected Jesus, but Jesus would not permit it (Lk 9:54). We are also reminded of the prophet's words, "For he is like a refiner's fire…" (Mal 3:2). The fire burns hot, removing impurities and leaving only that which is desirable. These meanings suggest that the fire which Jesus brings will consume or purify the world. However, it is also possible that he means that his baptism will be a baptism of fire. In the Aramaic language the word translated as “earth” can also mean “earth-oven,” the common stove in Mediterranean villages, heated by burning dried and salted camel-dung patties. The salt in the dried camel dung acted as a catalyst keeping fire burning for a long time. In that sense, Jesus acts as a catalyst in his believers’ life
“I must be baptized with a baptism:” The cup and baptism are metaphors for Jesus’ suffering and death when Jesus asks James and John, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’ What Jesus means by his statement is “I have a terrible experience through which I must pass, and life is full of tension until I pass through it and emerge triumphantly from it.” Our Baptism is an immersion in Christ’s death in which we die to sin and are reborn to the new life of grace: “We were indeed buried with him through Baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life”(Romans 6:4). In the same way,our Eucharistic celebration is a recollection of Jesus’ baptism (immersion) in suffering, death and the anguish these caused him, not simply a celebration of the community with the risen Christ and with other believers.
“I have come to establish division on earth, not peace.”As Jesus walked the road to Jerusalem, the disciples had to decide whether to go with him or not. To be with or against Jesus is a decision which has the effect of judgment and division. Since Luke emphasizes peace as the gift that Jesus brings (1:79; 2:14; 19:38), we are shocked when Jesus declares that he has come not to bring peace on earth but division, splitting even families apart. Jesus’ teaching caused division in families, in communities and in the Church. For the Palestinian Jews of the first century, a person's place in the family conferred personal identity, protection, a support system, and a place in the community. To separate oneself from one's family or clan was, literally, a matter of life and death. But Christianity tore families in two, because a follower of Christ had to decide whether he loved better his kith and kin or Christ. In Christianity, the loyalty to Christ has to take precedence over the dearest loyalties of this earth. Belief in Jesus and commitment to him cause fires of arguments to erupt between believers and non-believers in the same family or community, resulting in the division of families and conflict in society. Standing up for what is right, working for justice and truth are higher aims than unity, and working for those aims will sometimes cause division. Hence, Christians today may cause division and rouse opposition because they share through their Baptism the prophetic charism of speaking God’s word, no matter how unpopular, and of giving a voice to those who have no one to speak for them. Let us remember that Jesus’ sense of justice brought him into conflict with those who exploited the weak and the poor. His integrity invited confrontation with the dishonest and hypocritical leaders, and his love for the poor, for sinners and for the outcast alienated him from the narrow-minded and self-righteous. C. S. Lewis once said that the Gospel was concerned to create "new people" not just "nice people."
Life messages: # 1: Let us learn to appreciate the contemporary prophets in the Church: The Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles, writing about the role of prophecy in the modern Church communities in his book Models of the Church, remarks: “Christianity is not healthy unless there is room in it for prophetic protest against abuses of authority.” God continues to send such prophets to every parish community and it is the duty of the bishop, pastor and parish council to listen to the well-intended and constructive criticisms of such Jeremiahs. The words of the late Archbishop HelderCamara, the champion of Brazil’s poor, serves as a prophetic warning, to all members of the Church: “When I give bread to the poor they call me a Saint. But when I ask why the poor have no bread, they call me Communist.”
# 2: We should have fire in our hearts: On the day of our Baptism, we received the light of Christ and were instructed to keep that torch burning brightly until the return of Christ Jesus. Further, the Holy Spirit was sent into our hearts at Confirmation to help set us on fire. The old proverb should be applicable to all baptized and confirmed Christians: “He /She who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Our Lord Jesus continues to cast fire on the earth, the fire of the Spirit, through the ministry of Word and Sacraments. As Christians, we should have fire to inflame people to care, to serve, and to bless each other with all the gifts of Faith. We should work with the Holy Spirit to allow that fire to burn off the impurities in us and to bring out the purity of the gold and silver within us. We need Divine fire to inflame our hearts with the love of God and love for His children. We Christians should blaze with the same fire with which Jesus wished his disciples to burn: “I came to cast fire upon earth, and would that it were already kindled” (Luke 12: 49). Hence, let us remember the old saying, “He/She who is on fire cannot sit on a chair,” and let us carry the fire of the Holy Spirit wherever we go. The scientist-cum-theologian Teilhard de Chardin said: “Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity we shall harness the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world man will have discovered fire.” “An 'adult' faith is not a Faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty (“dictatorship of relativism”); a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth” (Benedict XVI, April 18, 2005). Such a Faith will enable the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn in us and give us the courage of our Christian convictions. L/16
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is the necessity for trusting faith in God’s promises and vigilant preparedness among Christ's followers.
Scripture lessons:The first reading cites the faith-filled preparedness of the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt before their mass exodus to the Promised Land. Their trusting faith in their God’s promises gave them hope. We are told how their faith and hope resulted in their liberation. With expectant hope, the Hebrews sacrificed the first Passover lamb and ate the first ritual meal, as prescribed by their God through Moses. They awaited their imminent release and were prepared for it. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 33), invites us to express our own confidence in God and to declare our trust in His Providence. In the Second Reading, taken from the last chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, the author defines Faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” He tries to bolster the Faith of the Jewish Christians (the Hebrews), by appealing to the example of their ancestors, starting with Abraham, and reviewing the things they had accomplished by Faith.
In the Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to trust the Father’s promise to give them eternal happiness in His kingdom. But they are to be prepared at all times, because the Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour either at the moment of their death or at the end of the world whichever is earlier. Using the master-thief parable Jesus warns us to be on our guard so that the thief (the devil), may not steal our treasure of Divine grace or relationship with God by his temptations. Using the master-servant parable, Jesus reminds us always to do the will of God by obeying Jesus’ commandment of love, offering humble and sacrificial service to others.
Life message: We always need to be prepared to meet Our Lord as our judge:Let us always remember the words of the Book of Revelation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me" (3:20). Since nobody is sure about the time and circumstances of his or her death we must be ever prepared to face Jesus our Lord and Savior as our Judge at the moment of our death to give an account of our lives. He wants to see that we have kept our personal relationship with him by growing in holiness. Such a growth is possible by daily talking to him and listening to him in Bible reading, by asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit every day, by recharging our spiritual batteries through offering our lives on the altar and getting spiritual nourishment in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass, by getting reconciled with God every day, asking for His pardon and forgiveness with a repentant heart and seeking His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation for serious sins, and by obeying Jesus commandment of love by serving all people around us, sacrificially sharing our blessings with them, by seeing the face of Jesus in everyone.
OT XIX (Aug 7) Wis 18:6-9; Heb 11:1-2, 8-19; Lk 12: 32-48 (L/16)
Anecdote: # 1: Be watchful servants:Steven Anthony "Steve" Ballmer (born March 24, 1956) has been the chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation since January 2000. He was one of the richest people in the world with a personal wealth estimated at US$14.5 billion in 2010. He is Bill Gates' hand-picked successor. In 2004, he was seen crawling on the floor of the General Motors' executive conference room, trying to fix a connection that would enable him to make a pitch to GM engineers. The image of the Microsoft CEO on his hands and knees to please some customers made such an impression on the author Steve Hamm that he wrote a whole article based on this one incident. [Steve Hamm, "Why High Tech Has to Stay Humble," Business Week (19 January 2004), pp 76-77.] Corporate executives will get on their hands and knees to show customers how much they care. In today’s Gospel Jesus warns his followers to be ever prepared by doing the will of God always in their lives, as the time of their death is uncertain.
# 2: “Come what may,” St. Francis answered, “I would finish hoeing my garden.” A woman once approached John Wesley (1703-1791), with an interesting question: “Suppose you knew for certain that you were going to die and meet your Maker at the stroke of midnight tomorrow,” she said. “How would you spend your time between now and then?” Wesley replied, “Well, madam, just as I intend to spend it now. I will preach this evening at Gloucester and again at five tomorrow morning. After that I will ride to Tewkesbury to preach in the afternoon and meet with the societies in the evening. Then I’ll go home to dinner, talk and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at 10 p.m., commend myself to God, lie down to rest and wake up to GLORY!” When he had been similarly questioned, Martin Luther (1483-1546), replied, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my little apple tree and pay my debts.” Centuries before Luther and Wesley, Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), was hoeing his garden when one of his brothers in Christ put the same question to him. “Come what may,” he answered, “I would finish hoeing my garden.” In a sense, the Scripture readings for today invite each member of the gathered assembly to become engaged in a similar reflection. What would you do if you knew that this day would be your last? What would you not do? How would you prepare to meet God? Where would you go? With whom would you spend your remaining hours? (Patricia D Sanchez).
# 3: The end of the world predictions: Hal Lindsey, in his book The Late Great Planet Earth, which has sold over 30 million copies, predicted in his book that 40 years after the establishment of the country of Israel Jesus would return to earth and 7 years after that return the Church would be raptured to heaven. The problem is this: Israel was established in 1948. Christ should have returned in 1988 and the church should have been raptured in 1995. In 1997 Hal Lindsey was forced to change his predictions. In the late 80’s, the Russian president, Mikhail Gorbachev, was considered by some Bible prophecy pundits as the Antichrist. But Gorbachev, far from becoming a world dictator, turned out to be the single person most responsible for the demise of Soviet Russia. Televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson predicted that Russia was the great Gog and Magog mentioned in Ezekiel 18. When Russia collapsed in the early 90’s, losing its status as a world power, they were forced to change their positions. Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, predicted the world would end in September of 1994. Grant R. Jeffrey wrote a popular book called Armageddon stating that the year 2000 was the most likely date of the world’s end. We know that all these predictions were false ones. These false predictions suggest that we are to get ready for Christ’s second coming by trying to do the will of God every day through love and service and being reconciled with God and God’s children on a daily basis, as suggested by today’s Gospel.
Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is the necessity for trusting faith in God’s promises and vigilant preparedness in the followers of Christ. The first reading cites the Faith-filled preparedness of the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt before their mass exodus to the Promised Land. Their trusting Faith in their God’s promises gave them hope. We are told how their Faith and Hope resulted in their liberation. With expectant Hope, the Hebrews obediently sacrificed the first Passover lamb and ate the first ritual meal, as prescribed by their God through Moses. They awaited their imminent release and were prepared for it. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 33), invites us to express our own confidence in God and declare our trust in His providence. In the Second Reading, taken from the last chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, Paul defines Faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” He tries to bolster the Faith of the Jewish Christians (the Hebrews), by appealing to the example of their ancestors, starting with Abraham, and reviewing the things they had accomplished by Faith. In the Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to trust the Father’s promise to give them eternal happiness in His kingdom. But they are to be prepared at all times, because the Son of Man will come at an unexpected hour, either at the moment of their death or at the end of the world. Using the master-thief parable Jesus warns us to be on our guard so that the thief (the devil), may not steal our treasure of Divine grace by his temptations. Using the master-servant parable, Jesus reminds us always to do the will of God by obeying Jesus’ commandment of love, offering humble and sacrificial service to others.
First reading, Wisdom 18, 6-9: The book of Wisdom was written about a century before the coming of Jesus, by a faithful, learned Jew living in cosmopolitan Alexandria in Egypt. One of his purposes was to bolster the Faith of fellow Jews living in a world indifferent, and sometimes hostile, to their beliefs. A favorite theme of the writer is how the providence of God has protected the Chosen People throughout their history, especially during the time of their enslavement in Egypt and during their Exodus to freedom and the Promised Land under Moses. The author goes over these events in great detail. Our verses today interpret Exodus chapters 11 and 12 where, while the angel of the Lord was striking down the first-born of Pharaoh and other Egyptians, the vigilant Hebrew slaves were both obediently offering grateful sacrifice to the Lord and eating the meat of the lamb to fortify themselves for their coming escape. That night was the first Passover. Like those Jewish slaves in Egypt, we, too, have been called to cling to the Hope of a future that may seem too good to be true, and we, too, are expected to be steadfast in our Faith, even when we see no signs of the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Second Reading, Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19:This passage is taken from the end of the Letter to the Hebrews. It contains the only explicit definition of religious Faith in the Bible: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Like our first reading, the Letter to the Hebrews was trying to bolster the Faith of the Jewish Christians (Hebrews), by appealing to the example of their ancestors who had believed in promises yet to be fulfilled. The chief example of strong Faith is found in their patriarch Abraham, a wealthy but childless pagan in Ur of the Chaldees (modern Iraq). Abraham heard the voice of God summoning him to a different land, where God promised to grant him many descendants. By Faith Abraham left his homeland, accepted God’s promise that his descendants would form a great nation and was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command. Despite obstacles and setbacks, Abraham stayed obedient, "for he thought that the One Who had made the promise was trustworthy." The first century Jewish Christians were ostracized from the religious institutions (sacrifices, priesthood, rituals), of mainline Judaism. To bolster their Faith, the author provided a complex treatise showing that, in their new life in Christ, they were more than compensated for what they had lost. They were given the assurance that Christ’s promises for his believers exceeded the promises given to their Jewish ancestors.
Exegesis: Be ready foryour death and Jesus’ Second Coming: Today’s reading from Luke 12 is one of three eschatological discourses in the Gospel. All three of the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ concern for warning his disciples to keep alert, to keep watch over themselves with careful attention.The passage is a collection of short parables, in which the chief characters are a master (representing the risen Jesus), and his servants (Jesus’ followers). According to the Fathers of the Church, Jesus' words in this passage have two senses. In the narrower sense, the words refer to the Second Coming of Jesus, but in the broader sense they refer to the time of our own death, when God will call us to meet Him and to give Him an account of our life on earth. Since the precise time of each is unknown to us, the proper attitude for Jesus’ followers is constant watchfulness.
Relationship by grace: In the first part of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us what our real treasure should be and how we may keep it safe. The treasure God offers is of far greater value and is more secure than any earthly treasure. Nevertheless, it is possible for us to lose this treasure if we do not guard it carefully. The treasure is the relationship with God, which the Lord offers us in His promise of eternal life. But this treasure can be stolen by the devil or lost by a lack of vigilance in the midst of our temptations. Jesus uses two comparisons to explain the nature of the vigilance required of us. We must be ready for action like an oriental servant and trimmed for service like an oil lamp. The long flowing robes worn by people of the day were a hindrance to work. When a man prepared himself to work, he gathered up his robes under his girdle (belt) in order to leave himself free for activity. The reference to fastened belts and lamps burning ready (v. 35) also recalled the preparedness for action, which was legislated for Israel in the Passover ritual (Exodus 12:1). Just as the Israelites were to be ready to pass from slavery to freedom, so were the disciples to live in a state of alertness in order to recognize and accept the Passover which Jesus offered – from sin and death to forgiveness and life. The eastern lamp was like a cotton wick floating in a vessel of oil. The wick had to be kept trimmed at all times and the lamp replenished with oil. Otherwise the light would go out. What Jesus teaches us through these comparisons is that our relationship with God the Father must be constantly replenished by our prayers, our Sacramental life, our reading of Holy Scripture and our acts of charity. Since the Lord is committed to us in an unbreakable covenant of love and fidelity, we must respond with equal commitment, no matter how difficult it may be. In His love for us, God always gives us the grace and strength to remain faithful, and He will reward our faithfulness.
Steadfast Faith and eternal vigilance: In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts his followers to be steadfast in their Faith and ever vigilant. He explains his point using three mini-parables. The servants of a master were entrusted with the management of the household. In Jesus' day, although stewards were slaves, they had almost unlimited power. A trusted steward ran his master's house and administered his estate. When his master was not at home, the steward was ever vigilant. He prepared himself for his master’s return at any time of the day or night by always doing his duties faithfully. Jesus illustrates the same point using another mini-parable of the wise servants waiting for the return of their master after a wedding feast.
Jesus teaches us the need for constant vigilance using yet another mini-parable of the thief and the treasure. We should not lose our treasure of Divine grace like the man who awoke one day to discover that a thief had stolen his wealth during the night. These parables are addressed to all believers to encourage "wakefulness" and preparedness. We must be vigilant like the servant in the parable waiting for his master's unexpected return or like the wise homeowner who was well prepared for the unexpected break-in of a thief. Since the time of our death is quite uncertain, we, too, must be ever ready to meet our Lord at any moment. He should find us carrying out our task of love, mercy and service, rather than leaving things undone or half-done. He should also find us at peace with God, ourselves and with our fellowmen (Eph 4:26)
Irreparable mistakes: Jesus then presents the parable of the unwise steward as a warning to us. The unwise steward made two mistakes. (i) He said, “I will do what I like while my master is away." Like him, we often forget that our Lord is always with us, and that we will be accountable to him on the day of reckoning. Misuse of an office for one’s own advantage or the abuse of others will bring about severe punishment, for the returning Lord will place that servant “with the unfaithful.” (ii) He said, “I have plenty of time to put things right before the master comes." Nothing is as fatal to the accomplishment of a task as procrastination. Jesus also warns us that knowledge and privilege bring responsibility with them. Today, looking back on two thousand years of Christian history, we find it difficult to expect Christ’s second coming during our lifetime. But we are sure to meet him at our death. Since the date and time of our death are unknown to us, we should always be ready to give him an account of our lives.
Life messages: 1) We need to be vigilant and ready to face the Lord. One of the traditional means for remaining alert is prayer. The most important element in prayer is listening to God – an attitude of attention to the "tiny whispering sound" of the Lord (1 Kings 19:11-12). Such attentiveness demands that we set aside a quiet time every day during which we can tune our ears to the Divine sounds of love, harmony and peace. Let us recall the words of the Book of Revelation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me" (3:20).
2) We need to wait for the Lord. "Waiting for Christ to return" means working for the coming of the Kingdom of God. This means doing God’s will by rendering humble service to others, by combating poverty, by ending the hatred that divides us, by establishing peace among individuals and nations, by curbing the pride that causes us to become confrontational, and by building social structures that respect the dignity of individual humans. We must wait for the Lord in our daily lives by learning to see Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters. In other words, we must be prepared to serve Jesus in whatever form he takes. What we frequently discover in "serving" other people is that God comes to us through them.
(Prepared by Fr. Tony (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
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."