Scripture Reflections and Thoughts

 

October 14, 2018

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Christian author C.S. Lewis once wrote that Christianity is not so much about being nice people but in being "new men." We see this contrast in today's Gospel. "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus first answers in the predictable way. Follow the  commandments! "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Perhaps for some of us it's easy to answer this way. "I'm a good person!" he seems to reply. Does he truly follow all the commandments he professes to follow? Does he -- in word and deed -- check off all the boxes of the moral law? Perhaps. Whether he's being honest or fudging the truth, Jesus accepts his answer at face value with compassion. "Jesus, looking at him, loved him."

 

But he's not done yet! Jesus wants to remind us that this attitude alone is not enough. "Go, sell what you have ? then come, follow me." Jesus' invitation to the young man is radical. Abandon everything that gives you any sense of security. Give it all up for an unknown future with a   wandering preacher.

 

The Christian life is not easy. "How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!" It's easier, Jesus says, for a gigantic camel to squeeze itself through a tiny needle's eye. But the God of the universe creates out of nothing, breaks the bars of hell, and raises the dead to life. Is a needle's eye really such an obstacle? Jesus' invitation is always bigger than our own limitations. This week, what do we need to offer up? How is Jesus inviting us to follow him?

 

Questions of the Week

First Reading

The Jewish sage from the book of Wisdom prays for the gift of wisdom and prudence. What virtues do you pray for?

Second Reading

The author of Hebrews tells us one day we all must "render an account" to God about how we have lived our lives. Does this scare you or encourage you?

Gospel Reading

Jesus challenges his disciples and all would-be followers to make the kingdom of God a top priority in life -- even above wealth. How are you able to keep this perspective on the kingdom of God central to your life?

 

Live the Liturgy—Inspiration for the Week

Are we content and satisfied with the bare minimum and essentials of our faith, or do we desire excellence and proficiency? The Ten              Commandments represent the minimum and, if we are honest with ourselves, are pretty easy to keep. The fullness of the Gospel, however, is another story. Truly living as Jesus taught often comes with great self-sacrifice, self-emptying, and possibly leaving the things of this world behind. Are we ready to pursue this kind of life? God wants us to live and love abundantly not superficially. Love asks that we extend ourselves beyond the status quo and the bare minimum and venture into that which is risky, countercultural, and even radical. What we possess can no longer be important. When Jesus laid this out before the rich young man, he went away sad because he had much. When Jesus lays it out before us, how do we react?

 

Gospel Meditation—October 14, 2018

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"What do you wish me to do for you?"

Jesus asks a similar question in different Gospel passages, but the request of James and John is not repeated on any other occasion. "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." They ask not for knowledge of God, not for crooked limbs to be straightened nor for the blind to see. They ask for power and authority. Jesus' response should trouble them. "You do not know what you are asking."

"Can you drink the cup that I drink?" Jesus asks. "They said to him, 'We can.'" But what is Christ's cup? Could James and John have possibly known it or understood it here at the height of Jesus' ministry? Jesus' cup is the cup of trial, of difficulty, of public ridicule. His final, thirsting sip occurs as he hangs on the cross. In Christ's kingdom, drinking his cup and participating in his life are not the sharing of power the way we are accustomed. Jesus flips their paradigm. "Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all."

The cup of Jesus is the cup of giving oneself. "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." As Christians, how easy it can be to want the acclaim of good deeds, the gratitude for volunteering, the attention for donating to the church. "It shall not be so among you." If you are overlooked, offer thanks to God for imitating Jesus, rather than bitter complaint at someone else's oversight. Look for opportunities to do good needs unnoticed. This week, consider one way you can drink the cup of Jesus!

 

Questions of the Week

First Reading

Today's reading is an excerpt from the final suffering  servant oracle of the book of Isaiah (52:13-53:12). The prophet Isaiah speaks of redemptive suffering. When have you found God's grace at moments of suffering in your life?

Second Reading

We hear in Hebrews how Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. What would you say are your spiritual   weaknesses?

Gospel Reading

Jesus speaks to his disciples today about the importance of service to others. In what ways do you offer service to others in need?

 

Live the Liturgy—Inspiration for the Week

Persistence is really a virtue and the face of a strong character. We all have heard stories of people who have done incredible things in the presence of  obstacles that appear insurmountable. These are real stories of real people who have lost limbs or faced other physical challenges. They have become amazing athletes and sometimes saints who overcame incredible difficulties in  order to proclaim God's love and presence. Where there is a strong will, there is a way. What do we want Jesus to do for us? Let your faith inspire you to find the courage to love in the face of bitterness, the faith to persevere when tempted to give up, and the hope to move forward when falling into   despair. Jesus saves us from ourselves and gives us the clear vision to see as God sees.

 

 

Gospel Meditation—October 21, 2018

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Son of David, have pity on me!"

 

Has the cry of Bartimaeus ever escaped your lips? Today's Gospel tells the story of a blind man with a difficult lot in life. He made a living by begging coins off passing travelers. When word reaches him that Jesus will be   passing by, this is when he begins is shouts for mercy. Jesus hears Bartimaeus' cry and beckons him forward.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Last week, Jesus asked a similar question to James and John. Their  response was a clutch for fame. Bartimaeus' response is much humbler. "Lord, I want to see." How strange this interaction must have seemed to the onlookers. The man is blind! Of course he wants to see! But Jesus is always teaching us. By asking us what we want, Jesus reveals the dispositions of our hearts. God already knows them, but do we? By asking James and John to name their ambition, their selfishness is exposed to them and to the other disciples. By asking Bartimaeus to name his longing, his faith is exposed to the entire crowd. Jesus invites participation in our own redemption. He doesn't save us without us!

Take some time in silent prayer today. Place yourself in this story of Bartimaeus. Imagine yourself there on the dusty, crowded roadside. Jesus is calling you! When you stand before him, his focus is on you and you alone. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asks. Search your heart. How would you respond? What part of your heart is Jesus asking you to expose? He has come to heal and to restore. May we, too, be sent! "Go ... your faith has saved you."

 

Questions of the Week

First Reading

Around 600 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah foreshowed the Lord's deliverance of Israel's exile in Babylon. What do you think Jeremiah is teaching us about God's mercy and providence?

Second Reading

Hebrews speaks of Jesus as the eternal high priest who intercedes to God on our behalf. What would be your   intercessory prayer to Jesus today?

Gospel Reading

Jesus attributes his healing of the blind man, Bartimaeus, to the depth of the man's faith. Who are the people in your life with strong faith?

 

Live the Liturgy—Inspiration for the Week

As Pope Francis has reminded us, it is in living the Beatitudes that we find the path to holiness. The Beatitudes are not a list of do's and don'ts. Rather, they are a road map to finding our way to others and to the kingdom of God. It is when we enter into the    human condition with all of its pain and sorrow that we    discover again the creative presence of God guiding us to greater wholeness. Being poor in spirit, being meek and  humble, mourning our sorrow and losses and walking with others through theirs, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, maintaining a clean heart,  pursuing peace, daily taking up the challenge of the Gospel. All bring us into the mystery of humanity and indeed into the mystery of God. The pathway to our relationships and the blueprint detailing our responsibilities are revealed. Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and get dirty?