Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Background: Although much of the Old Testament tradition proclaims God’s love and care for the poor and the vulnerable, another strand in the tradition presupposes that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. On the road up to Jerusalem, Jesus continues to instruct his followers that in the kingdom/reign of God the rich must show active concern for the “humble of the land”—or else face judgment.
- What presupposition of preoccupation of yours might be making you blind to the needs of those “at (your) gates”? How have stereotypes kept you from encountering them with respect?
- Who in your life has seen your poverty and need and then loved and cared for you?
- To “fight the good fight of faith” requires courage. Who or what in your life gives you the courage to keep living as an active, faithful disciple?
- How has our church or our society fallen into the trap of honoring the wealthy? What can you do about that situation?
Practice: St. John Chrysostom once said that “if you do not see Christ in the beggar at the door, you will not find him in the chalice.” Next Sunday at Mass, as you watch your fellow-communicants returning to their pews, ask yourself which one of them is most in need and how you might find Christ in them. Then pray for them.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Background: In contrast to last Sunday’s parable which focused upon the faults of the rich man, this Sunday’s selection focuses on those of the servant. It is not a commentary on labor relations but a call to open ourselves up to the depth of love and care that lies within us. Those who wish to increase their faith should not begin by looking for some inner experience or the right discussion group but should ponder the generosity of their actions. In our multiple relationships are we just doing our job, or are we on fire with the Spirit’s grace?
- Do you feel stuck in a rut? Or are you inwardly eager for more in your life?
- What do you feel drawn to in your life? What is holding you back?
- Whose help might you need to make this discernment? Whose help might you need to carry it out?
- How can you help set the world on fire? (Don’t think small!)
Practice: Find a copy of Pope Francis’s letter Laudato Si’, and read and pray over it section by section this week. What does it call you to change in your life?
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Background: On his journey Jesus has almost reached Judaea. Today he meets ten lepers who were literally cast out of their communities and had to live in isolation. “Good” Jews also regarded Samaritans as religious scum. The central character in this Sunday’s gospel is thus doubly handicapped. And just as in last Sunday’s gospel about the “profitless servants,” so again it is the person who goes beyond the requirements of the Law, beyond the basics of our life together, whom Jesus proclaims as the one who has found not just physical healing but salvation.
- When have you experienced physical, mental, or emotional healing? Who was God’s instrument in setting you free?
- How did you show your gratitude? Looking back, would you do anything differently?
- Avoiding the risk of being self-righteous, for whom in your life might you be God’s instrument of healing?
- How can you bring healing to your world by standing up for people who are being stereotyped—and thereby set everybody free?
Practice: Each day this week pray St. Francis’s prayer, “Lord, make me a channel of your peace.”
Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Background: The road to the kingdom/reign of God can be long, but that is not an excuse for giving up. If even unjust human beings can be worn down by persistent complaints, why should we be surprised if God will be worn down as well? Ultimately, we will say “Thy will be done,” but we have every right firmly to state how we see things in our prayer. As Paul says to Timothy, “never lose patience.”
- When have you given up on God?
- When do you feel that God has abandoned you?
- What experience or person helped you keep going?
- For whom might you be the source of strength that God is sending for them to persevere?
Practice: Day by day and verse by verse this week pray Psalm 27.
Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Background: “I am a sinner on whom God has looked.” In one of the signature statements of Pope Francis’s service to the church, he has gotten to the heart of this Sunday’s gospel selection. The officially religious person who can list his good deeds does not go home “at rights with God” (Lk 18:14, Jerusalem Bible). It is the sinner, whose heart has a deep faith in the mercy of the Almighty and who is bold enough to enter the Temple to claim it, who does.
- In what situations are you tempted to start listing your virtues? When do feel called to prove that you are “holier-than-thou”?
- When has being humble brought you happiness, especially in your relationships?
- Which people have helped you on your path of honesty with God and yourself?
- Which people in the church and in society claim our support in a self-righteous way?
Practice: Under Pope Francis we have seen a revival of the “seamless garment” approach to pro-life issues. Spend this week pondering how with your time, talent, and treasure you might help those working for neonatal health care for mother and child, for adequate child care, for an end to the death penalty and for respect for immigrants. How can your awareness of God’s mercy help bring mercy to others?
Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time
Background: Jesus is in Jericho; his—and our—journey to Jerusalem is almost over. This Sunday’s gospel selection in a way builds on last Sunday’s. The repentant tax collector went back home at rights with God, but what happens then? Here we see a sinner whose desire for mercy is graphically portrayed by his willingness to lose his dignity by climbing a tree just so he can see Jesus. When Jesus reaches out to him in love, his immediate response is not just restitution for his past fraud but openhanded generosity to the poor. As the Letter of James says, “faith without works is dead,” but works without faith or love lead nowhere.
- When have you not stood up for your beliefs and values because you were afraid of embarrassment?
- When have you been bold enough to “climb a tree” in order to get closer to Jesus?
- Which people in your life do you need to open up to about your spiritual journey?
- Which people in our church or society are trying to dehumanize people by labelling them as some kind of “sinner”?
Practice: This week each day pray St. Ignatius’s Prayer for Generosity, “Lord, teach me to be generous;…” Each day take a single line of the prayer to ponder more deeply.
See also these related articles:
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 26th-31st Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 22nd-25th Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 18th-21st Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 13th-17th Sundays in Ordinary Time
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