Thanks to "Daily Homilies for Sunday and Weekday Masses" by FAITH Catholic Publishing.
@2017 FAITH Catholic Publishing and Communications
Catholic Diocese of Lansing, Vol. 49, No. 3
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
TUESDAY OF 29th WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Romans 5:12, 15b,17-19, 20b-21
2) Luke 12:35-38
(Opt. Mem. Saint Anthony Mary Claret,Bishop)
Gospel related: CCC 2849
FOCUS: For all those who believe in, and place their faith and trust in Jesus, there is a promise of eternal life
Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every “push” of something, there is “pushback” by something else. It may sound complicated, but we all experience this law of motion daily: for example every time we take a step, drive a car, or sit in a pew.
Saint Paul was not a physicist, but the passage from his Letter to the Romans today may be something that Newton would appreciate. For Saint Paul tells us of the “initial force” driving us toward death: Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.
He also tells us of the “reactive force” overcoming death and giving us an eternal life: found in the abundance of grace and the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
Now, of course, this is an analogy, and certainly not a perfect one. Nothing can ever be a perfect analogy for God. But it does allow us another way of looking at something that we know to be true, yet perhaps do not always appreciate for its graciousness and wonder.
That gracious and wonderful truth is this: though sin and earthly death still exist, for all those who believe in, and place their faith and trust in Jesus, there is a future far beyond the here and now of this world. There is a promise and assurance of an eternal life.
Granted, this promise is not unknown to us, and the Christian life is one we hope to already be living with attentiveness and joy, and a heart set on eternity. But pondering that first moment of sin entering the world reminds us that there was a time on earth when Christ had not yet come – and that today, there are places and people’s hearts where he is not welcome. And yet, God never abandons us. Never gives up on us. Never stops drawing us to himself.
It is here that the physics analogy ultimately breaks down. First, there is nothing “equal” about God’s “reaction” to that initial force of sin. Sin and death pushed into the world, and God pushed back with a mind-boggling response: his only begotten Son, through whom sin and death were acquitted and eternal life gained. No matter the strength of sin – God’s grace is always stronger.
Second: in Newton’s law, there is no choice involved in the action/reaction. But we do have a choice. We have the free will to respond to the force of sin in whatever manner we choose. We can choose to react in a way that allows sin to direct our path. Or, with prayer and a firm reliance on God’s grace, we can push back with greater force, found in our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
* * *Wednesday, October 25, 2017
WEDNESDAY OF 29TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Romans 6:12-18
2) Luke 12:39-48
FOCUS: How to live the life of a disciple.
In both of our Scripture passages today, we hear a message about how to live the life of a disciple. For Saint Paul, in the passage from his letter to the Romans, it means being aware of the right thing to do, and when to do it. He exhorts us to remember that we are freed from the eternal bonds of sin and death, through God’s grace and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.
For Saint Paul, the right thing to do is to be obedient to God’s will, and the time to do it is now – and always. We are commanded to make our bodies and ourselves an instrument of righteousness, and to follow the pattern of teaching to which [we] were entrusted. This way of living is both an expression of gratitude for God’s grace in redeeming us, and a necessary result of truly having the mindset of Christ.
Jesus’ message in the Gospel today complements that of Paul’s, as we hear more about being entrusted with teaching. Jesus says, Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more, and he uses parables to highlight his meaning. His counsel here is that living the life of a disciple relies not just on knowledge, but also on love.
In both Gospel parables, knowledge of what has been revealed and proper preparation for the future are what protect the master of the house in the first, and the servant who acts appropriately in the second. We also see what happens when either of those are lacking. But the point is not to scare us, rather to embolden and encourage us: God has given each one of us every conceivable blessing, and the only thing that prevents those gifts from expanding, and from being used in the building up of the Kingdom, is our failure to love. That is, our sin.
But we know we have been freed from sin, and through that grace we have the ability to conform ourselves completely to Christ. In doing so, we embrace the knowledge with which we have been entrusted, and have full freedom and the will to carry out what it is expected of us as recipients of such a lavish gift. Yes, there will be times when we mess up – Jesus acknowledges that. But he reminds us, as does Paul, that we are not alone in our journey. It is God who has begun the good works in us – may we have the grace and strength to bring them all to completion.
* * *
Thursday, October 26, 2017
THURSDAY OF 29TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Romans 6:19-23
2) Luke 12:49-53
Gospel related: CCC 536, 607, 696, 1225, 2804
FOCUS: We have the choice to accept the gift of the kingdom of God.
We normally think of giving a gift on the occasion of a birthday, anniversary, wedding or other special occasion. A gift can mean many things, depending on the occasion. A graduation gift may recognize the hard-earned accomplishment of years of study by a student. Exercising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy may provide us the opportunity to give a gift of time, talent or treasure to help those in need. Our desire to exchange gifts has its roots in our basic need to communicate our love for each other in an effort to strengthen the bonds of family and community. As an expression of love, giving can be a good thing to do. The gift does not need to be extravagant.
Our experience tells us that not everyone is comfortable giving or receiving gifts. It may be that exchanging gifts was not part of a person’s upbringing. Or that it triggers difficult memories. It may be that we find it easier to be the giver of the gift rather than the recipient. Whether easy for us or difficult, we can be assured that each of us has been given multiple gifts by our loving God – the gift of life, the gift of God’s son, Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. These gifts and countless others permeate our very being. We have only to pause and reflect on all the good God has done for us and for others.
Saint Paul reflects further on God’s gift to us in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans. He reminds the Christians in Rome who are caught up in the ways of the world that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Admonishing them because of their human weaknesses, he places before them two choices. If they choose to remain a slave to their sinful ways, then death will be their reward. If, however, they choose God over sin, then their gift will be eternal life.
Jesus proclaims the gift of the kingdom to his disciples in our Gospel passage from Saint Luke. As in our first reading, people will have a choice to either accept or reject the kingdom. Jesus bluntly tells his disciples what will be demanded of those who choose to follow him. What must the disciples have thought about division within families? Did they know he was talking about his death when he referred to his baptism? Following Jesus can be difficult. That’s his point. God’s gift, however, makes it worthwhile: eternal life in Christ. Will we accept God’s gift today?
* * *
Friday, October 27, 2017
FRIDAY OF 29TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1 Romans 7:18-25a
2) Luke 12:54-59
FOCUS: Jesus claims the role of the Messiah, and warns against the consequences of rejecting him.
Let us focus on the Gospel reading for today. Jesus is giving an urgent warning to the crowd, and to us. First, he chastises them for their attention to the physical world, but their lack of interest in the spiritual world. He draws on their ability to read the signs of the climate to tell if dangerous weather is coming. This shows the time they put into the practical aspects of life. Jesus isn’t condemning this practice. He wouldn’t begrudge a farmer for caring for his crops, or a shepherd for caring for his flock, if bad weather could harm them. This, in itself, is a good thing.
But Jesus compares this to their inability to interpret the present time. He is referring to the Father’s promise to send a Messiah, a promise that was foretold at length in the Old Testament. Although people regularly check weather patterns, they are unable to recognize the fulfillment of God’s promise – even when it is being done right before their eyes.
Jesus follows this with an urgent warning. The analogy he uses is terribly appropriate. The Magistrate is God the Father, who is a just judge. This means that he will be required to send to prison anyone who has not looked for the true meaning of the Old Testament prophecies. God is merciful, of course, but the people must be honest with themselves and with God. God cannot do it for them. If they are willfully choosing to ignore the spiritual realities of this life that have been revealed to them, then what more can God do? Jesus’ warning is stern because so much is at stake.
Jesus is speaking to us, too, and his message is still very appropriate. Are we any different than the crowds surrounding Jesus? Which do we spend more time thinking of and caring for: our physical bodies or our spiritual souls? When we think of our neighbors, do we think of their spiritual wellness or how good they look? When we talk of being “green” and taking care of the planet, is our motivation to save ourselves or is it to honor the one who created it all?
Jesus desires that all of us recognize God when we see him. He wants us to be attuned to the spiritual reality as well as the physical. Will we accept his challenge?
* * *
Saturday, October 28, 2017
SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES - FEAST
1) Ephesians 2:19-22
2) Luke 6:12-16
Gospel related: CCC 1577, 2600
FOCUS: Christ calls us to his mission.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes a critical decision that impacts salvation for all eternity: he names the Twelve Apostles. Apostles, translated from Greek, means “to send out.” The number twelve is associated with the twelve tribes of Israel mentioned in the Old Testament. These ordinary men become extraordinary successors of Christ’s mission by spreading his message throughout the world, and establishing an early community of believers that has lasted more than two thousand years.
Before naming the Twelve, Jesus spends a night in prayer. This reveals the humble and trusting commitment of Jesus’ human will to the loving will of the Father (CCC 2600), and teaches us the importance of prayer. It also shows us what is possible when we trust Jesus. We must pray at critical moments in our lives instead of relying on ourselves or the opinions of others. In this way, we can imitate Jesus and deepen our relationship with the Father.
While the Apostles are probably surprised at being chosen by Jesus, they trust him. He makes them holy ─ with profound knowledge of the Father and authority to perform miracles in his name. Whenever we are tempted to shy away from our call ─ out of fear or feelings of inadequacy ─ we must trust Jesus. He prepares us for the work that lies ahead.
In Ephesians we learn how the Twelve, along with the prophets, form the foundation of the household of God. Jesus is the capstone, uniting the people of the Jewish faith with the Gentiles. No longer strangers, they become fellow citizens with the holy ones, and members of a structure built as a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.
The household Paul describes is the Church. Its construction continues, ascending from the foundation laid by the prophets and Apostles. Today is the feast of the Apostles Saints Simon and Jude. Simon was called a zealot, for his zeal for God and purity of religion, and possibly for his association with the Zealots ─ Jewish nationalists who opposed paying taxes to the Romans. Jude, mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark as Thaddeus (so as not to be confused with Judas the traitor), was a cousin of Jesus. People often turn to Saint Jude when they face impossible situations. Both men are believed to have been martyred in Persia.
By committing ourselves to prayer and the Eucharist, we enter into deeper communion with the Trinity and each other. Christ strengthens us, as he did the Apostles, to persist in our own mission with faithfulness and zeal. He prepares us to answer his call.
* * *
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2017
THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Exodus 22:20-26
2) 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
3) Matthew 22:34-40
Gospel related: CCC 581, 1824, 2055, 2083 CSDC 112, 580
FOCUS: By witnessing to the Good News, we share God’s love.
The opponents of Jesus just won’t give up! Last week, they tried to trip him up on the sticky question of taxes to Caesar. Today is a cunning attempt to lead him into a hair-splitting debate and lose him in the wilderness of the subtleties of the Mosaic Law! It is noteworthy that Matthew uses the same Greek word here – to test – as when describing Jesus’ earlier confrontation with Satan in the desert. Clearly, he wants us to understand that those who test Jesus are in league with, or at least unwittingly doing, the work of Satan.
Matthew sets the scene well! A Pharisee ─ a lawyer – asks Jesus which of the commandments is the greatest. His response does not seek to set aside the Law, but instead to interpret it more fully. For Jesus, the greatest commandment is found in Deuteronomy: You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength (6:5).
Jesus’ answer emphasizes the centrality of love ─ a cord that binds together the human heart and soul and directs us toward God.
While asked for only one commandment, Jesus adds a second, quoting from Leviticus, which he says is equal to and inseparable from the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (19:18). Everything, he says, hangs on these two interrelated commandments. Like a door on two hinges that will not open or close properly if out of alignment, so, too, our lives if we do not love God and our neighbor. Jesus is not discounting any other commandments, but simply emphasizing that these two are foundational.
So what does this declaration mean for us today? As we struggle to live the Christian life, we can so easily compartmentalize love of God and love of neighbor. Sometimes, it may seem easier to love God than to love our neighbor. But, as Jesus proclaims, these two loves cannot be separated.
By linking this Gospel with a practical reading from Exodus, we are reminded that this love is more than a warm and fuzzy feeling. Out of Israel’s experience of slavery in Egypt, there emerged the reality of a God who is compassionate and protective of the weak. No one is to take advantage of them or to imprison them in a relentless cycle of dependence. How challenging these ancient words and this ethical wisdom can sound today.
Paul confirms this teaching by reminding the Thessalonians of their fidelity to Christ. He rejoices with them because they have remained steadfast and active in faith. For them, faith is more than a passing fad. Clearly, they have recognized the word of God in Paul’s preaching, and through the lived example of their lives, have now become ministers of the Gospel to others within their community and beyond. Awaiting the return of Christ, they have become people of hope, bringing the combined love of God and neighbor to others.
May we, too, be a people of hope ─ witnessing the Gospel to others and sharing God’s love.
* * *Monday, October 30, 2017
MONDAY OF 30TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Romans 8:12-17
2) Luke 13:10-17
Gospel related: CCC 582 CSDC 261
FOCUS: We are children of God, and his Spirit is within us.
While Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath, he noticed a crippled woman. She was bent over and couldn’t straighten up. Imagine living life hunched over ─ constantly looking down, never able to look anyone in the eye.
Jesus took the initiative to free the woman from the bondage of her crippled body. After he touched her, she stood up straight. For the first time in eighteen years, she looked at someone face to face ─ and the first face she saw was that of Jesus, her healer. No wonder the Gospel tells us she began glorifying God.
Praising God. What an appropriate thing to do in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day ─ keep it holy. That’s what God commanded his people to do at Mount Sinai (Ex 20: 8). What could be holier than freeing a woman from the bondage of her deformity, freeing her to stand up and praise God from the bottom of her heart?
Nevertheless, the synagogue official was angry that Jesus broke the Sabbath law by doing work ─ that is, by healing. In a way, that official was crippled, too, by his narrow, scrupulous understanding of the law. The Sabbath was meant to provide God’s people a day of rest. Loss of perspective had turned the Sabbath into a burden.
Jesus offered freedom to those in bondage to the letter of the law. He reminded them that if it was acceptable to care for an ox or other animal on the Sabbath, it was much more acceptable to care for a child of God. When we focus on keeping the letter of the law, we lose sight of its spirit, which is love.
As we hear in today’s first reading, we are children of God and his Spirit is within us. Living according to the promptings of the Spirit brings us beyond fear-based rule-keeping. However, this freedom doesn’t mean we can do whatever we feel like whenever we want. Living according to the demands of our egos, or our flesh, is self-destructive. Our egos are never satisfied.
We need to surrender to God’s Spirit to be free. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans, if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Scrupulosity keeps us focused on ourselves. So does ego-driven self-will. The Spirit of Christ frees us from bondage to both. As children of God, we’re free to live in God’s love and share that love with one another.
* * *
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
TUESDAY OF 30TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Romans 8:18-25
2) Luke 13:18-21
Gospel related: CCC 2660
FOCUS: We are called by the Spirit to be filled with enduring hope and perseverance, proclaiming the kingdom in our example and witness.
In our first reading today, on this eve of All Saints’ Day, we hear from Saint Paul’s encouraging words to the Romans. In the early days of our Church, there were very difficult times for the followers of Jesus. Paul proclaimed that the many trials, hardships, persecutions and sufferings were nothing compared to the wonders and richness of Christ’s glory as would be revealed in the Spirit.
The early Church, part of the world and yet so different from that world around them, experienced growing pains of every kind. Paul preached and proclaimed the need for hope and endurance. Hope from corruption, hope from slavery and persecution, to live in the glorious freedom as true children of light set forth by Jesus through the Spirit.
Then, in today’s Gospel reading, we hear two parables. In the parable of the mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds grows into an extremely large bush. In the parable of the yeast, a tiny portion of yeast leavens a huge batch of wheat flour into magnificent dough.
Both of our readings point to the growth and enrichment of our lives as followers of Jesus, and of our life as his Church. Both vividly apply to current situations in our world. So many things around us can be contrary to the ways of God and disrespectful of the miraculous beauty of creation. We should focus on the hope and endurance Paul proclaimed and demonstrated, and uphold the responsibility and honor of being called to be yeast in the world, evangelizing and leading others by our example and witness.
With All Saints’ Day upon us, let us look to the inspiring words of Saint Paul, seeking the redemption of our bodies as temples of God, in the glorious fruits of the Spirit, waiting diligently and building up the kingdom. As followers of Jesus, we delight in the miracle of growing in his Spirit of love and justice, following him closely day by day, little by little, blossoming in his creation and salvation.
May God, who has called us in hope, continue to lead and guide us as we journey in the footsteps of Christ – as members of his holy body, the Church on earth. May all the saints before us provide examples as we prepare to celebrate their glorious witness.
* * *
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
ALL SAINTS - SOLEMNITY (Holyday of Obligation)
1) Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
2) 1 John 3:1-33
Gospel related: CCC 520, 544, 581, 764, 1716, 1720, 2305, 2330, 2518, 2546, 2763 CSDC 492
FOCUS: We are clothed in garments made white in the blood of the Lamb.
For many of us, it is hard to separate All Saints’ Day from All Souls’ Day. It is, after all, a two-day celebration of the Communion of Saints. Today, we celebrate our ancestors of faith who are one with God in the heavenly realm and tomorrow, we remember those well on their way to heaven.
We are all familiar with the giants of the Church, such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Augustine and Saint Anne. We study their lives and we celebrate their feast days throughout the year. Today, we celebrate all saints, whom we trust are now one with their Savior, having lived honorable and just lives among us. We celebrate saints who are clothed in garments made white in the blood of the Lamb.
We were privileged to have had three modern-day saints walk among us: Pope Saint John Paul, Saint Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Saint John XXIII. We also remember today our personal saints, Grandpa Frank or Great Aunt Philomena, and all the holy men and women of God who have touched our lives and are now part of that glorious kingdom of God.
Saint John paints a mystical vision of the kingdom of God in the Book of Revelation. It is a gathering of a great multitude, too many to count, all clothed in white. In our second reading, Saint John reminds us that, because of the love the Father bestowed on us, we may be called children of God.
As children of God, Saint Matthew gives us our marching orders in today’s Gospel. We are to be detached from material possessions and focused on others. We are to mourn with those who are mourning, be meek and thirst for righteousness. We are to be clean of heart and show mercy. We will be blessed when we are persecuted, and are promised a great reward in heaven.
When we do our best to live out the beatitudes, we contribute to building up the kingdom of God here on earth. Let us ask for the prayers and intercessions of the saints we honor today to help and guide us along our path.
* * *
Thursday, November 2, 2017
THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS’ DAY)
1) Wisdom 3:1-9
2) Romans 5:5-11
or Romans 6:3-9
3) John 6:37-40
Or any readings from no. 668 or from the Lectionary for Ritual Masses (vol. IV), the Masses for the Dead, nos. 1011-1016 Pss Prop Gospel related: CCC 161, 606, 989, 994, 1001, 2824
FOCUS: None of us is lost to God.
One of the places some people like to visit is their local (or parish) cemetery. They find walking through the cemetery to be a deeply spiritual experience, and a good time for prayer as they pass by the many markers and headstones. It is good to pause and pray for someone who has died, for it is a powerful way to remain connected with those who have gone before us.
As we gather and pray on this day, we have heard the Scriptures speak to us a very powerful message about how deeply God wishes to be a part of our lives, and how deeply God wishes for us to share in eternal life.
The Book of Wisdom helps us to recall that the souls of the just are in the hands of God, which speaks to us of an intimate and tender relationship with God. We pray that God’s tenderness and mercy is experienced by all those who have died. We also pray that the same sort of tenderness and mercy was experienced in life as well.
In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul reminds us that the life of each baptized person is really about a constant sort of dying and rising. As God’s grace and mercy work on us and in us, old ways of living – sinful ways of living – die over time. Those old and sinful ways are meant to be replaced with new life – life oriented toward God and shaped by Christ’s love for each of us. In his beautiful words, Saint Paul is describing the life of faith and the life of discipleship. It is about constant growth toward deeper union with God.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel offer immense comfort. He reminds us that no one is truly lost to God. Even when we feel quite distant from God, he will sweep every corner and search every nook and cranny in order to find us. The Father’s will for each of us is that we should have eternal life.
That is why many find cemeteries to be such places of comfort. Seen from a distance, to some they may seem cold and bereft of hope. Seen up close, and through the eyes of faith, they are places that offer tremendous hope and comfort. These holy places, and this holy day, remind each of us of the gift and the possibility of eternal life. Let us pray to God that this gift may be shared with those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, and that, in God’s good time, it might be shared with each of us as well.
* * *
Friday, November 3, 2017
FRIDAY OF 30TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Romans 9:1-5
2) Luke 14:1-6
(Opt. Mem. Saint Martin de Porres, Religious)
Gospel related: CCC 575, 582, 588 CSDC 261
FOCUS: To respond as Christ did.
For those of us listening to the account of the healing of the man with dropsy on the Sabbath, as written in the Gospel of Luke, it seems like Jesus is giving those around him a rather obvious lesson: If someone is in need, help him or her! Most of us probably see ourselves assisting someone without any hesitation, but for the observant Pharisees and those dining with Jesus, it would be a shocking shift from following a familiar law. No work was to be done on the Sabbath, so the heart of the question was whether curing someone was work, and if it was to be allowed.
But the bigger question Jesus addressed was, “What is more important, helping and assisting someone in need or strictly adhering to the letter of the law in all situations?” In the seventeenth century, Saint Martin de Porres, whom we celebrate today, faced that same question.
It is said that one day, when the friars where Saint Martin de Porres lived were kept separated due to illness, Saint Martin passed through locked doors to take care of them. He seemed to continue, in the seventeenth century, the model Jesus set forth in the first. Disciplined for disobeying the rules about separation from the sick, he responded by saying, “Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity." Needless to say, he was given the freedom to move forward in mercy as his heart led him.
It is not difficult for us to realize, then, that what Jesus taught in the first century continues to be applicable to our lives even today, in the twenty-first century. That is because having love and mercy for others, and caring for them, is a profound witness to Christ. To respond as Jesus did, in putting people before the religious law, reflects the dignity of each individual. God loves us so much that his concern for us is of primary importance.
Of course, this does not eliminate the need to follow laws, such as the Ten Commandments and other commands given by Christ, as we must keep in mind that those are laid out for us to follow because they are good for us. This is another indication of the pure love God has for us. Whatever we may be expected to do as an act of discipline frees us from enslavement to that which is not good for us. Much like what Jesus was teaching the Pharisees and the others that day, to become attached to a practice at the expense of caring for others is not the way of God. May we have the wisdom and fortitude to respond as Christ did.
* * *
Saturday, November 4, 2017
SATURDAY OF 30TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Romans 11:1-2a,
2) Luke 14:1, 7-11
(OBL MEM Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop)
Gospel related: CCC 575, 588 CSDC 261
FOCUS: Let us act with humility in loving and serving our neighbor.
In a society where selfies, narcissistic advertising and consumerism reign, it’s easy to become self-centered and overrun by pride. Secular culture sees no danger in promoting such me-centered messages. As Christians, we must uphold the virtue that runs counter to this way of thinking – the virtue of humility.
Jesus teaches a lesson about humility in today’s Gospel. During a Sabbath meal with the Pharisees, he tells a parable about how guests should behave at a wedding banquet. He says it is not appropriate to sit at the highest place of honor. Instead, guests should sit at the lowest position to avoid the embarrassment of having to move should a more distinguished guest arrive. Observing this rule also allows the host to seat you at a higher position.
The banquet represents the kingdom of heaven in which our Lord is host. The Pharisees assume they should sit at the most distinguished seats as his chosen people, but Jesus reveals that this invitation now extends to everyone. Others may arrive to claim their place. Our reading from Romans provides further context. Paul writes that salvation of the Gentiles comes from the transgressions and disbelief of the people of Israel. The Lord honors his covenant with the Jewish people, as his gifts and call are irrevocable, but opens his salvation and kingdom to additional guests.
On a personal level, Jesus teaches us to place others higher than ourselves. We are called to serve one another, and we can’t serve someone if we consider ourselves better than them. Claiming the highest seat reveals our pride and can lead to embarrassment if another arrives more worthy of our place. Taking our place at a low position also allows our heavenly host, the Lord, to “raise us” higher than we place ourselves.
Today, we celebrate the feast of someone who took this lesson to heart. Saint Charles Borromeo was a bishop of Milan who lived in the sixteenth century. Born into a noble family, he sacrificed wealth and power for religious life. Saint Charles was pivotal in his role in the Council of Trent, which formulated and codified Church doctrine to bring about reform. He realized that if he expected change in the Church, he must set an example. In 1576, he stayed in Milan (after the governor and others in power fled) to feed the hungry during famine and care for those sick with the plague.
Saint Charles demonstrated humility with his life. Perhaps we can learn from his example and embrace the virtue of humility, so as to love and serve our neighbor.
* * *
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2017
THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
1) Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
2) 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13
3) Matthew 23:1-12
Gospel related: CCC 526, 2367
FOCUS: Let God Be God!
They called him "The Lip of Louisville," a heavyweight boxer who followed his gold medal victory in the 1960 Rome Olympics with a professional career that quickly led to two things: amazing success and widespread animosity. There was no doubting his ability, but his brash personality and in-your-face arrogance led many to dislike him. His boasting eventually took the form of a simple anthem: "I am the greatest!"
Few genuine fans of the sport of boxing would challenge his claim of greatness, although many still remember and resent the boasting and bluster he continued to spew for a good part of his career. But time has a way of mellowing all of us, and Muhammad Ali was no exception. There's a story told of a traveler curious about the small crowd surrounding someone at Metro Airport in Detroit. The traveler had enough time to investigate and recognized "The Champ," as Ali became known later in his life, as the center of all the attention. Afflicted by Parkinson's disease that had robbed him of his gift of gab, he was wordlessly, even humbly, handing out leaflets. The traveler took one and read a message that began with: "God is the greatest."
That's the simple message of today's first reading from the prophet Malachi: A great king am I, says the Lord. There's a dire warning to the priests: Give glory to my name… [or] your blessing I will make a curse. It seems it is from this very perspective that Jesus speaks out so aggressively in our Gospel, as he confronts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. How interesting that he doesn't dismiss them or question their authority, but warns all of us to go beyond words of faith and to act on what we profess.
Whenever Jesus says I am in the Gospels – and he does it a number of times, especially in John – he is making a clear reference to the First Commandment of the Ten, and to his own divinity. Remember that First Commandment? I am the Lord your God. You shall have no strange gods before me. It's very easy to dismiss it as hopelessly out of step with the modern world.
We might say there's not a lot of idol worship going on in our culture, at least worship of carved images of strange deities. But we do have our idols ─ power, wealth, fame, pleasure, independence. The most insidious and widely embraced idol, though, is the image we see when we look in a mirror. There is something within us that in subtle ways struggles mightily with the notion of allowing God to be God: it’s that determined sense that "nobody is going to tell me what to do."
So how do we let God be God; let God be the greatest? One way is through prayer, when we pray the Lord's Prayer and say "thy will be done." Repeatedly returning to a posture of humbly seeking and following the will of God, no matter how challenging, no matter how contrary to our own will, is the heart and soul of humbling ourselves as Jesus calls us to. It allows God to be God. And God is the greatest!
* * *