Reflections

THIRTY THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Nov. 17, 2019
[Malachi 3: 19-20; II Thessalonians 3: 7-12; Luke 21: 5-19]

“Stand erect and raise you heads, because your redemption is at hand.”

Today is the second to last Sunday in Ordinary time for this church year.   Each year at this time, as we already saw last week, the readings are talking to us about the ‘end times’, the end of our life on earth as we know it.  From time to time, we hear about different groups of people predicting the end of the world.  Their predictions are often full of fear, anxiety, and destruction. 

That is why we need the words of Jesus in the Gospel and the other readings of today.  It is a common reaction to be anxious about something we have never experienced. Certainly, death is in that category.  So, perhaps, that is why Jesus goes to great lengths to soothe us and try to remove our worry.  He tells us: “…for I Myself will give you a wisdom that no one can resist or refute…not a hair on your head will be destroyed…By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Next Sunday, the last Sunday of this church year, is the Feast of Jesus Christ the King. This Feast always concludes each church year.  Rightly so.  This Feast reminds us that truly Jesus is in charge of His World, and of our lives.  If our lives belong to Him, we are in good hands, now and forever.

 

THIRTY SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Nov. 10, 2019
[II Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-114; II Thessalonians 2: 16-3:5; Luke 20: 27-38]

“Jesus Christ is the first born of the dead,
 to Him be glory and power, forever and ever.”

We can tell by our readings that we are quickly coming to the end of this present Church Year.  Dec. 1 will be the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the new Church Year.  Our readings tend to remind us again of the purpose of all our life on earth, to eventually be with the Lord and those who have gone before us.

We are well prepared for this theme today since we recently celebrated the Feast of All Saints, the commemoration of All Souls, and the memorial mass for Fr. Gilbert.  These celebrations remind us that we are truly people of Hope.  We are, indeed, the “Communion of Saints” as Fr. Gilbert would often remind us.  Therefore, we have a destiny to be with God, and with those who have gone before us, forever.   Our Hope guides us to truly expect and know that the teachings of Jesus about our Resurrection are true.  They resonate with the hopes and wishes of our hearts.

Therefore, when we see in the Gospel today that people are trying to prove there is no resurrection, no after-life, their arguments become very ‘made-up’, far-fetched we might say.  Jesus gives the final response: “God is not God of the dead, but of the living.”   Our eternally living God has chosen the same life us.  We are children of the ‘Light’.  It is our task while on this earth, with God’s help, to remove whatever darkness is in our lives.

 

THIRTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Nov 3, 2019
[Wisdom 11: 22-12:2; II Thessalonians 1: 11-2:2; Luke 19: 1-10]

“God so loved the world that He gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.”

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  These words of Jesus are the response to Zacchaeus having this unusual impulse to climb the tree. We are told in this Gospel, that somehow Zacchaeus, at this point in his life, had this desire to ‘see the Lord Jesus.’  Fortunately, he acted on this impulse, maybe it was the movement of the Spirit.  He did what he had to do to make this desire of his to see the Lord come about.  Probably, as a tax collector he was not respected very much by the other Jewish people.  Maybe being short he was made fun of also.  So, it did not add to his reputation to see him perched up in a tree.

But, as we always say, the Lord can move in very mysterious ways.  It is when we respond to that call of the Lord that, as the song says: “Great things happen.”  Zacchaeus can be a good reminder for us to live in the moment, the movement of the Spirit.  Most days, for most of us, are very ordinary, and often quite routine.  But, even in the routine there are those ‘peak moments,’ when we know that the Spirit is active.  We know that it is time to maybe pause, look around, pray, and ready ourselves to be led by the Spirit.  May we follow-through when we also have the desire, and the opportunity, to see the Lord Jesus.

Fr. Gilbert would remind us that All Saints’ Day begins our season of preparing for Christmas even though Advent is a month away.  We unite with the all of the Saints/saints in our lives as we ready ourselves to celebrate Christ’s birth into our lives.

 

THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Oct 27, 2019
[Sirach 35: 1-14, 16-18; II Timothy 4: 6-8,16-18; Luke 18: 9-14]

“God was reconciling the world to himself, in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of salvation.”

We have the parable today in the Gospel of the two men going up to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee; the other was a tax collector.  At first glance, it seems that the Pharisee is the more confident of the two.  He is bragging about all that he did and accomplished.  In the process, he was trying to separate himself from all other people, including the tax collector in the back of the temple, who would not even raise his eyes.  Indeed, he sounds very ‘confident.’  But he is: Self-Confident!  He puts all his trust and security in himself.  This sounds like a great virtue.

However, it might be fair to say, that often, people like this are not confident, but desperate.   They do not have any trusting relationship with anyone else.  In desperation, they turn totally in on themselves.

The tax collector, as it turns out, is really the ‘confident’ person, because he knows that he can always turn to the merciful Lord and be assured of God’s love and care for him.  So, things are the opposite of what they first appear to be in this story, and in real life.  The Pharisee ends up separating himself from all other people; these are the very people that Jesus came to earth to join and to bring to himself.

We turn to St. Paul in the Second Reading, the Missionary to the known world of his day. He is a perfect example of the kind of true confidence we are talking about.  Everyone knows Paul’s history.  He was actually trying to destroy the people Jesus came to save.  Yet, because of the grace and mercy of the loving God Paul came to know, he could speak boldly in the name of God.  Paul can say in the reading today: “I have kept the faith…and I was rescued from the lion’s mouth...and the Lord will bring me safe to His heavenly kingdom.”

 

TWENTY NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Oct 20, 2019
[Exodus 17: 8-13; II Timothy 3: 14-4:2; Luke 18: 1-8]

“Proclaim the word of God;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient,
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”

We very readily see that the word for this week in our readings is: PERSISTENCE.  Jesus uses the example of the widow who will not quit bothering the judge until he finally listens to her and does his duty on her behalf.

In the First Reading, Moses is praying for the Israelites in battle, by extending his arms in prayer.  He cannot continue to hold up his arms; he is getting weak and tired.  So, Aaron and Hur come and hold up his arms.  This is a beautiful example and image of how we need to support each other in our daily efforts to carry out the will of God for us.

Even the widow could not achieve the decision against her adversary without the help of the judge.  In the Second Reading, St. Paul is there to encourage Timothy to continue in his ministry for the people he was sent to serve.

Our Gospel Acclamation tells us: “The word of God is living and effective, discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.”  These words are very consoling.  They remind us that God sees into our hearts, and He knows our good intentions.  Therefore, we are never alone. The Spirit of God watches over us and works in us.  May we also bring that same spirit of love and cooperation into our lives with each other.

 

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Oct. 13, 2019
[II Kings 5: 14-17; II Timothy 2: 8-13; Luke 17: 11-19]

“In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

The readings this Sunday combine a discussion on Gratitude and Suffering.  Jesus, of course, leads the way in this.  Even the night before His Passion and Death, he prays to be delivered from the pain, humiliation, and cruel death that awaits Him.  Knowing about the pain and suffering that awaits Him, He can still ‘look beyond’.  Jesus can ‘look beyond’ the imminent suffering and see that the Will of God for Him will bring forgiveness and deliverance for all of God’s People.  The Will of the Father for Him will eventually bring peace to Him and to many.

I believe we can all identify with this process of suffering and ‘looking beyond’ to the result of peace and gratitude.  Maybe the other 9 lepers felt like they had a right to being cured. After all, most other people did not have to live with this horrible disease, which certainly meant painful death. So, why should they be thankful to be restored to the same health that most other people already have? 

But the reality is: they were restored, and only the Lord could have done that for them.  So, with us: gratitude helps us to overcome the human tendency to believe that we have a right to everything.  As the Alleluia verse quoted above reminds us: all people face challenging circumstances in their lives.  Challenges are intended by the Lord to be opportunities for growth.  We can be most thankful when we use all circumstances of life as ways to grow in grace and love.