Engaging the Gospel – Luke 13:22-30

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 13:22-30

Recent Gospels have emphasized that we should keep our eyes trained on the ultimate prize of eternal life.

After warning us about the perils of greed, and lack of vigilance, Jesus identifies another error to be avoided: presumption — when we take eternal life for granted, imagining that we can get by without making any effort to cooperate with God’s grace.

We are in danger of falling into presumption in two ways:

Either man presumes upon his own capacities (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or His mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit.

— Catechism paragraph 2092.

On the other hand, the flip side of presumption is the sin of despair, when a person

ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to His justice – for the Lord is faithful to His promises – and to His mercy (2091).

Instead of the pitfalls of presumption or despair, we are called to an authentic hope and trust in God’s merciful love, while striving to live in accordance with the Gospel, and repenting when we fall short. The virtue of hope is entirely different from the sin of presumption.

“Hope is the confident expectation of divine blessing” — that we enjoy “the beatific vision of God” in eternity – but hope also involves the healthy “fear of offending God’s love” and of harming our relationship with Him through sin (2090).

Question for reflection: How do I guard against complacency in my spiritual life?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 12:49-53

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 12:49-53

Households will be divided

It’s tough to be a committed disciple when the entertainment culture and prevailing opinion are often antithetical to the truth of Christ. We may feel enormous pressure to go with the flow, or else risk losing friends and popularity.

This can lead to what spiritual writers have described as the sin of “human respect” – being so concerned with what other people think of us, that we lack courage to stand with the Lord. Fearing a loss of others’ esteem, we may end up compromising our beliefs and morals.

If we give in, we’re effectively becoming disciples of the world, not of Christ. If we commit to the Lord, we may experience difficulties in some personal relationships.

Jesus Himself prophesies such division in today’s Gospel. Some will not accept Him, and that will cause opposition to His disciples in every age.

“As soon as worldly people see that you wish to follow a devout life, they aim a thousand darts of mockery and even detraction at you” and accuse you of “hypocrisy, bigotry.”

Sound like something you’ve read or heard recently? Those words were written in the early 1600s by St Francis de Sales in his spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life.

We can take heart from the fact that we are not alone in our trials. Disciples down through the course of history have been faced with the same kind of choice: do I follow God’s way, or the world’s way?

The saints chose wisely, and our brothers and sisters in heaven are ready, willing, and able to help us as we make our choices. Let us ask for their timely intercession, draw lessons from their lives, and consult their writings for guidance.

St Francis de Sales gives us sage advice:

These people [seeking to draw you away from the Lord] aren’t interested in your health or welfare.

Does anyone fail to see that the world is an unjust judge, gracious and well disposed to its own children but harsh and rigorous towards the children of God?

We can never please the world unless we lose ourselves together with it.

–Quotations from the Fourth Part of the Introduction, Chapter 1

Question for reflection: When have I stood with the Lord, even when it was unpopular?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 12:32-48

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 12:32-48

The central message of today’s Gospel is that we must be prepared, and ever vigilant, as we await the Second Coming of Christ in glory.

Jesus uses the imagery of a banquet in His example: if the servants are found to be vigilant when their master returns from a wedding, the master himself will serve them at his table. This alludes to an idea that was especially prevalent in Jesus’ day: namely, the Messianic banquet that would take place at the end of time, a feast celebrating the Lord’s final victory over evil.

By virtue of His passion, death, and resurrection, Christ has already triumphed, and His victory is celebrated eternally in heaven.

We are able to participate in that celebration at each and every Mass, a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice that culminates in the Eucharistic banquet. This celebration is called “liturgy,” meaning “public work.”

“The liturgy is the work of the whole Christ” — Christ Himself and all the faithful who comprise His Body. “Our high priest [Christ] celebrates it unceasingly in the heavenly liturgy” (Catechism paragraph 1187).

At Mass, the ordained priest in fact “represents Christ as Head of the Body” (1188). “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy…toward which we journey as pilgrims” (1090).

Let us enter more deeply into the mystery of the Mass, which helps us to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

Question for reflection: What would I do if I knew that Christ would return tonight?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 11:1-13

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 11:1-13

“The meaning of prayer in Christ’s ministry” is emphasized throughout Luke’s Gospel (Catechism paragraph 2600), but especially in today’s passage.

Jesus encourages us to pray persistently and confidently to the Father, trusting that He will give us whatever is best for us.

“Prayer and Christian life are inseparable” (2745). We must not only believe in our faith, and celebrate it at Mass, but we must also “live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer” (2558).

“Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget Him Who is our life and our all” (2697).

Hence the Church’s sacred Tradition helps us by setting out “certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer” – i.e., “morning and evening prayer, grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours,” and of course Sunday Mass, along with the great feasts of the year (2698).

Even so, we often find it difficult to pray faithfully. “Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love” (2742).

Let us have recourse to the Holy Spirit, “the interior Master of Christian prayer…To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all” (2672).

Question for reflection: How might I seek to deepen my prayer life?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 10:38-42

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 10:38-42

Today’s readings revolve around the theme of hospitality, or how we treat God Himself as our guest.

In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham waits attentively on his three mysterious guests, a divine visitation prefiguring the revelation of the Holy Trinity.

In the Gospel, Martha also hosts a divine visitor in Jesus, but she is too absorbed in, and overburdened by, her activity, to be attentive to Him. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, offers hospitality, not by serving, but by listening intently to Jesus. When Martha complains that Mary isn’t helping, Jesus gently tells her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.”

As St John Paul II observed,

How can we not perceive in this episode the reminder of the primacy of the spiritual life, of the need to be nourished with the Word of God which gives light and savor to our daily routine.

It is an invitation which is particularly opportune for the summer period. Holidays and vacation time, in fact, can help to balance activism with contemplation, haste with natural rhythms, great noise with the healing peace of silence.

Angelus of July 22, 2001.

We too have a divine guest, the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within us — let us always be mindful of His presence.

Question for reflection: When have I been so busy that I lost sight of what was truly important?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

The usual reaction to the parable of the Good Samaritan is an examination of conscience: how well do we step forward to help our neighbor?

But instead of always comparing ourselves to the Good Samaritan, it can be beneficial to identify with the robbers’ victim. From a spiritual perspective, we are the wounded; unable to save ourselves, we need someone to rescue us from sin and eternal death.

The Church Fathers interpreted the parable through this lens, seeing the wounded man as symbolic of fallen humanity and the Good Samaritan as a symbol of Jesus.

Benedict XVI summarizes this theologically rich explanation in his first volume of Jesus of Nazareth (pp. 200-201):

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho thus turns out to be an image of human history; the half-dead man lying by the side of it is an image of humanity. Priest and Levite pass by; from earthly history alone, from its cultures and [human] religions alone, no healing comes.

If the assault victim is the image of Everyman, the Samaritan can only be the image of Jesus Christ. God Himself, Who for us is foreign and distant, has set out to take care of His wounded creature. God, though so remote from us, has made Himself our neighbor in Jesus Christ.

He pours oil and wine into our wounds, a gesture seen as an image of the healing gift of the sacraments, and He brings us to the inn, the Church, in which He arranges our care and also pays a deposit for the cost of that care…

Now we realize that we always need God, Who makes Himself our neighbor so that we can become neighbors.

The Good Samaritan parable thus has special resonance during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Having received God’s mercy, we then act mercifully toward our neighbors:

Everyone must first be healed and filled with God’s gifts. But then everyone is also called to become a Samaritan – to follow Christ and become like Him.

Question for reflection: How am I allowing the Lord to heal my woundedness?