Twenty Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
Background: Jesus is still on his journey to Jerusalem and continues to teach us what we need to do to make the journey with him. In this Sunday’s gospel selection, he is warning us to take the long and not the short view. There is nothing wrong with being respected for our achievements or having money; it is the inner attitude towards the things of this world which makes all the difference. We must look at our lives through God’s eyes if we wish to “be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
- What are you doing in your life just to impress other people? Clothes? Car? House? Vacations?
- What image are you trying to create so that people will think that you are a “success”?
- Which humble people have helped shape your life?
- Where does the true wealth of your personality lie? What gift do you have that you are called to share freely with others?
Practice: Examine your behavior towards others in service positions: waiters, ticker-sellers, receptionists, etc. Do you treat them with politeness and respect—especially if you are in a hurry? What concrete steps do you need to take to improve?
Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Background: There are two kinds of people that Jesus has problems with: first, the religiously self-righteous as we saw last Sunday when he criticizes the Pharisees for their status-seeking; and, second, those who are not wholehearted in their commitment to the Good News of God’s kingdom/reign that he has come to proclaim. Even our crucial family relationships must be secondary to Christ’s call. Only under the guidance of the Spirit can we find true wealth; human shrewdness is not enough.
This is the only time that we read a selection from the Letter to Philemon on a Sunday. Paul had converted and baptized Philemon’s runaway slave Onesiphorus and is not sending him back to his master. The revolutionary request that Paul is making of Philemon is to welcome him now not with punishment and chains but with joy as a brother in Christ!
- Our closest relationships are where we have the chance to live Christ’s love on a daily basis. Yet even those commitments must be subordinate to the values of the gospel and God’s call. When have you let family or friendship get in the way of living the Gospel?
- How forgiving are you? Do you hold grudges and refuse to let the Spirit within you bring healing and reconciliation?
- How does our church or society sometimes encourage us to embrace a different and short-sighted set of values?
- Whom do you need to speak words of love, encouragement, and correction to?
Practice: If Jesus is going to wholeheartedly transform us, the process begins with mutual honesty. Which family member or friend do you still carry a grudge against? This week figure out how to repair that relationship, and then do so. Ask the Spirit to inspire your words before you begin the conversation.
Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Background: God does to seem to mind screw-ups as long as they are open to improvement. Wandering sheep, careless housewives, prodigal sons and self-righteous older brothers–all get offered a second chance. And as we begin our reading of the first of the Pastoral Epistles (letters sent to individuals to guide them and their communities in living out their commitment to the gospel), we even hear St. Paul describe how God gave him a second chance. Moses in the selection from Exodus is bold enough to demand that Yahweh give Israel another chance because that was what had been promised!
- When did you first experience the loving call of Jesus to follow him on the Way?
- When you screw up, what makes you afraid that God will not forgive and support you?
- Which people have helped you believe in yourself as God’s beloved child? And which have not?
- How might you bring God’s loving forgiveness to others?
Practice: Find online the Prayer for Humility by William Barclay, and each day this week pray it slowly and reflectively.
Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Background: In John’s gospel Jesus in his farewell discourse prays not that his disciples be taken out of the world but rather that they be protected from evil. We are called to be in the world but not of it. Luke expresses this same attitude with an odd parable that seems to praise financial scheming. Rather than encouraging dishonesty, the point of the story is that wholehearted loyalty to the values of the gospel will pay off in the long run.
- When has short-term thinking led you to make a real mistake?
- What goal in life would you really be willing to sacrifice everything for?
- How does our society confuse us about what our life’s goals should be?
- How might Christ be calling you to change your goals?
Practice: Pray Psalm 23 this week. Begin by praying the whole psalm; then day-by-day select a verse or two to ponder and pray over.