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Readings

First Kings 19:16-21

Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Luke 9:51-62

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jun 26, 2022

A superficial reading of today’s First Reading and Gospel may give us the impression that Elijah is easier on his disciple than Jesus is with his, but the Second Reading can shed a little light on the apparent difference.
In today’s First Reading, we see Elisha called by Elijah to follow him and become a prophet. God sent Elijah to invite Elisha to follow him. Every call comes from Abba God. Elisha asks Elijah if we can put his affairs in order before leaving. Scholars differ about what Elijah meant when he responds, “Have I done anything to you?” It seems he is simply saying that Elisha has not started following yet and is free to do what he wants. Elisha does a last gesture of kindness and concern for his family before dedicating his life to the God’s service.

Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that life is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The Christian life presents a new way of living, living in a way that you are not enslaved to things and situations, but alive in the Spirit and focused on the spiritual goal. Even good things, if sought for the wrong reasons, can oppose a life of the Spirit. The ultimate measure of Christian living is whether you truly love your neighbor or not. Every direction we take in life is measured by our intentions in taking the next step.

A common denominator in today’s First Reading and Gospel is that the disciple asks to do something before following his master. The subtle difference is that, unlike Elijah, Jesus can always read hearts and see whether that heart is speaking from the flesh or the Spirit. Elisha is “liquidating his assets” and making one last gesture of love for his family before departing

The hearts of disciples in today’s Gospel are only known to Jesus, and it is in his response to them that we see a potential conflict between Spirit and flesh that he is trying to help them address. The first disciple in today’s Gospel perhaps doesn’t understand that following Jesus is a lifelong commitment: he’s not just headed to the Rabbi’s house instead of his own, he is committed to permanently follow Jesus, just as every Christian is called to do, and go wherever he leads them. The second disciple wants to attend to important family business, but sometimes following Jesus requires sacrifice and self-denial: in telling the dead to bury their dead Jesus perhaps is telling him too that the family business he is concerned about can already be handled by another member of his family. Remember here that, unlike Elijah, Jesus can read hearts. The last potential disciple wants to go home and say goodbye first: Jesus sees something in that request that would put flesh over Spirit. Perhaps the disciple would go home and stay there. Perhaps his father or mother would convince him not to leave. Following Christ is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our family, and we must never lose sight of that.

When the angels told Lot that his home along with all of Sodom and Gomorrah were going to be destroyed, due to the wickedness of the city’s inhabitants, he still “lingered”. They practically had to drag him away. Lot feared the destruction but didn’t think he could flee as far away as the angels had commanded. So they allowed him to get as far as the nearby town of Zoar before destruction was unleashed on the surrounding area. The angels had commanded Lot and his family, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley; flee to the hills, lest you be consumed”. It was not simply to get out of range of the destruction, as Lot’s wife found out. It appears she made it to Zoar, but she looked back. She missed Sodom and Gomorrah in her heart, and therefore suffered the same punishment: being rendered sterile and lifeless, a pillar of salt. Some believe the cities destroyed here were in and around what today is known as the Dead Sea. Eternal life is not a question of being in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time. It is won or lost by your heart’s desires.

Whatever path Jesus calls us to walk, not just priesthood or consecrated life is a path where we follow him. The Holy Spirit helps us walk that path and see when we are not. Let’s ask the Spirit today to show us the path we should take and how we should take it.


Readings

Isaiah 66:10-14

Psalms 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Galatians 6:14-18

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 3, 2022

Christ's appointing seventy-two disciples (some Greek manuscripts identify seventy) to collaborate in his mission is an action with deep Biblical significance.
When Moses was leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land, God had him appoint seventy elders to receive Moses' same spirit and become his assistants. 
Later, the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel after their return from the Babylonian exile, was made up of 71 elders. 
The number 72 may even have yet another level of meaning. 
The Book of Genesis described the division of the non-Jewish world into 70 nations. 
So Jesus' choice of 72 disciples may reflect the universality of his saving mission. It includes those 70 Gentile nations, plus the nation of Israel, and, perhaps, his Church, the new People of God. A total of 72.
By following this pattern, Christ, the new Moses, shows that he is bringing the Old Covenant to its fulfillment.
This Old and New Testament insistence on God's choosing coworkers to help build his Kingdom shows us something essential about our Lord: he is a team player.
The Lord came not only to announce the Good News, but to set up his Church, the association of his disciples, his coworkers, to keep spreading the announcement to the ends of the earth, until the end of time.
Jesus is saving the world, but not all by himself.
He wants to do it with our help.
From the pope down to the most recently baptized believer, we all share the same mission: to help Christ build up his Kingdom.
This should be our greatest joy.
As Pope Benedict once wrote:
"I am convinced that there is a great need for the whole Church to rediscover the joy of evangelization, to become a community inspired with missionary zeal to make Jesus better known and loved." [Pope's letter to Pan-Asian meeting on culture, organized by Cardinal Paul Poupard, 27 November 2006]
One of the ways Jesus shows that he is a team player is by sharing his own experience with us.
These 72 disciples whom we just heard about were invited to share in Christ's mission.
They generously accepted, and as a result, they were given a share in Christ's own victories.
They came back rejoicing, amazed that even the demons were subject to them.
We all can share the experience of Christ's victories, if we only have enough courage to take up his invitation, to go out as "laborers in the harvest", spreading the Good News of the gospel.
But Christ doesn't just share his victories with us. He also shares his sufferings, his cross.
We all have close friends and not-so-close friends. 
Often the difference is that our close friends are willing to share their sorrows with us, and we are willing to share ours with them. 
Friends who suffer together are stronger friends.
Jesus wants that kind of closeness with us. 
This is what St Paul is referring to in the Second Reading when he writes to the Galatians, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
What he values most is that he has shared in the rejection, the sufferings, that Christ experienced.
St Paul was one of the few saints in history who even shared Christ's very wounds.
Besides his own martyrdom in Rome around the year 68, Paul had received the gift of the stigmata, the appearance on his own hands and feet of the wounds Christ suffered on the cross.
This is how most biblical scholars interpret the phrase we just heard in the Second Reading: "I bear the marks of Jesus on my body."
Jesus is not like the pagan gods who supposedly resided on Mt Olympus and arrogantly manipulated the puny humans dwelling on earth.
Jesus is the Lord of the Universe who has made us partners in his mission, official ambassadors of his Kingdom.
Sometimes we forget that Jesus wants us to be active members of his Church.
Sometimes we think of the Church kind of like a gas station - somewhere we go to fill up our spiritual tanks.
That's part of the story, but not the whole story.
Today Jesus is reminding us that we are his coworkers, his fellow laborers.
We are players on his team. And on his team there are no bench-warmers.
The more actively we take up our mission to spread Christ's Kingdom with our words, our prayers, and our example of Christian living, the more we will share in Christ's joy.
If we courageously go out as Christ's ambassadors, we will come back "rejoicing", just like the 72 disciples.
It can be as easy as bringing a housewarming gift to a new neighbor, or as demanding as visiting prisoners, finding shelter for single mothers, or inviting an agnostic to come to Church.
As we continue celebrating this Mass, let's ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds, so that each one of us can make an honest evaluation of our own discipleship. 
All of us are here because we love Christ and want to follow him more closely.
He wants the same thing.
So when we receive him in Holy Communion, let's ask him to show us how to be better followers, let's ask him to send us out this week to bring his Good News to someone who needs to hear it.



Readings

Deuteronomy 30:10-14

Psalms 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34,

Colossians 1:15-20

Luke 10:25-37

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Jul 10, 2022

Today’s readings remind us that it is not hard to know the Jesus’ expectations for us. We’re the ones who complicate things. The difficulty comes in doing what God/Jesus expects of us. Why?
In today’s First Reading Moses, in his parting words to the Israelites, encourages them to see that what God expects of them is not hard to know or achieve: it is turning to God with all their heart and soul. Abba God had come to them when they were slaves in Egypt, led them to freedom, and constituted them as his people at Mt. Sinai, giving them the Ten Commandments that we try to live even today. When they rebelled, God had Moses lead them through the desert for forty years, but his expectations never changed. They resisted for a long time, but he’d already told them at Mt. Sinai what he expected of them. When Moses speaks to them in today’s First Reading, just before they would finally enter into the Promised Land, he is almost pleading them to turn to Abba God/Yaweh with all their heart.

The Creator has made this even easier by sending us his Son, the image of the invisible God, as Paul describes in today’s Second Reading. Moses, in the First Reading, describes the the Creator’s commandment as close, already in their hearts and lips, waiting to be carried out. With the coming of Christ, the God’s expectations become even closer: we see them in the flesh, in the Son.

Paul reminds us that all things were created in, though, and for the Son. By conforming ourselves to Christ, we are conforming ourselves to what humanity is truly meant to be, turning away from any confusion or disfiguration due to sin. This is not just a process of aligning our goals with Jesus’. We were created in the image and likeness of God, so by conforming ourselves to the “image of the invisible God,” we conform ourselves to the pattern of life God wants for us. It is the best lifestyle for which we can hope. Through the Son, we are aided in turning to God with all our heart and soul; he not only leads by example but also empowers our charity through his act of love on the Cross.

In today’s Gospel, the writer shows wisdom in seeing that love for God and neighbor are the path to fulfillment in life. He just wants to know one point of fine print: who should we consider our neighbor? The answer is not hard: everyone is our neighbor, as the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches.

 
The man waylaid on the way to Jericho was heading from a “good part of town” to a “bad one” (Jericho often symbolized turning your back on Jerusalem and heading into sin); anyone could have rationalized that when you head to a bad part of town, you deserve what you get. The Samaritan was overcome with compassion at the sight of his neighbor bleeding and half dead alongside the road.

In Luke’s Gospel, the writer asks in the context of asking what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. That Samaritan’s goodness and compassion, by extension, despite all the bad blood between Jews and Samaritans, won him eternal life. It’s not complicated. We make it complicated. Strive to love God and every neighbor, and you will accomplish something in life and achieve everything genuinely worthwhile.

Everyone in today’s readings is saying that it is easy to know and do what God commands of us, so why isn’t it? Why do we rebel? Why do we turn away from God/Jesus instead of toward him?

The answer is concupiscence, defined by the Catechism “Human appetites or desires which remain disordered due to the temporal consequences of original sin, which remain even after Baptism, and which produce an inclination to sin.”

Abba God created everything good, but since the Fall, even after Baptism, we struggle with temptations to use those good things in a bad way. St. Paul describes it as a war within himself: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. […] when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. […] I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members” (Romans 7:15,21, 23).

Through the grace of Christ and our efforts, we strive to not give in to concupiscence and truly use good things in a good way. Jesus reveals to us when we are looking for love in all the wrong places.

It’s not uncommon that when we hear Jesus’ expectation that we love our neighbor one or two people come to mind that make us shudder (“Love him? Love her? No way!”).

The Good Samaritan today was moved with compassion at the sight of the beaten man. Sacred Scripture doesn’t say what the Levite felt, only that he kept his distance. Whether someone invokes compassion or revulsion in us, Jesus expects us to love them. Love is a conviction, and, at times, there won’t be feelings to back it up. Anyone who has experienced love has experienced how strong it is when it is not backed up by pleasant feelings.

If there is anyone in your life that your feelings are keeping you from loving, resolve to love them, and wish for them whatever will make them healthy and holy. Your feelings may not change, but your love will.


Readings

Wisdom 18:6-9

Psalms 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22

Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2,

Luke 12:32-48 or 12:35-40

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time – August 7, 2022

The United States Coast Guard summarizes today’s gospel in one pithy Latin phrase: (John, who is a former Coast Guard Veteran, what is the motto?) Semper Paratus: Always Ready.

In today’s gospel Christ urges us to have the same attitude: always ready. Always ready for what? Always ready for the moment of death. While in the hospital I was ready if this was my time. He’s encouraging us to live each day ready to love. In that way, we’re storing up treasure for the day when we will meet God face to face.

It’s good to reflect on the question: how would I like to meet God? Each one of us is going to die – we all have a terminal illness. We don’t know when or how, but we will die. How ready am I to meet him? Jesus wants us to be ready for that moment. We will die as we have lived, and if we’ve lived by sacrificing ourselves for others, we’ll be ready.

The Catechism of the Church tells us that when we die, we will each be judged on our lives. “Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ….each will be rewarded immediately after life in accordance with his works and faith.” That means that when we die we meet Christ face to face, and we will see the effects of the good and the evil we have done. We’ll also see the effects of the good we’ve failed to do.

St John of the Cross put it well: “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”
Christ’s message today is to live each day as a preparation to meet him with joy. Semper paratus, always ready.

 
St Therese of Lisieux lived ready for the Lord. She had taken to heart John of the Cross’s maxim “At the evening of life we shall be judged on love,” and she strove to exemplify it in her own life.
Here’s just one example. She described how the other sisters used to leave their mantles strewn around the chapel after they prayed the Divine Office.

The winters in Normandy are bitter, and the convent in Lisieux only had heat in one room, so these mantles were a vital part of the nuns’ wardrobe. St Therese wanted to ensure that they were ready to use when the sisters returned, so, after everyone was gone, she used to fold up each mantle and leave it in its owner’s seat. No one ever knew who did this loving action, but there were doubtless some grateful nuns in that cold chapel! As St Therese put it, “I loved to fold up the mantles forgotten by the Sisters, and to do all sorts of little services for them.” St Therese of Lisieux lived always ready because she did ordinary things with extraordinary love.
 
How can we live always ready? If we wait for the great occasions to love, we’ll be waiting forever. However, we all have countless opportunities to prepare our hearts for our definitive meeting with the merciful heart of Christ. The key is to learn to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. With that in mind, what sacrifices can I make so that others don’t have to sacrifice? 

Maybe it’s as simple as doing the dishes or cleaning the carpet. Maybe it’s cooking a meal for someone else. Maybe it’s turning off the TV or phone, etc. so I can spend some time with my family. Pick something simple and stick to it. We die as we live, and if we live choosing to love others, death will simply be what the Bishop of Rome, Francis once described as the “Ultimate ‘Come’ spoken to us by the Creator.”