Monthly Archives: October 2013

31st Sunday of the Year – How do we respond?


Study:  Look back on some recent responses to others.  Have these responses been guided by Jesus Christ?

Pray:  Are there any major decisions or challenges in my life?  Take these to prayer and ask the Lord for direction.

Serve:  How can I help someone to make the right decision?  How can I help them make a holy response to their circumstances?

31st Sunday Readings

A man had two twin sons.  One son was an optimist, the other was a pessimist.  On their birthday their father brought them to the barn.  Two stalls were marked, one with each boy’s name, and in the middle of each stall was a small pile of manure.

The pessimist immediately began to complain of the smell, wondering why he had to clean up the mess of an animal.  The optimist immediately began to search through the barn.  When his grinning father asked him what he was looking for, the boy replied, “I want to see my new horse!”

Life often offers us situations that contain both good and bad elements.  At such times we have the opportunity to make choices that illustrate our priorities and values.  In others words, our responses reveal what is going on in our hearts.

The Gospel today offers two powerful responses.  Jesus and Zacchaeus both respond to the situations in which they are placed, and their actions reveal their sincerity and conviction.

Jesus encounters Zacchaeus on his journey through Jericho.  We are informed that Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector – despised by the local population as a greedy man who supports the Roman Empire.  He is a “sinner” to the people, and their grumbling shows that they believed he had no business with Jesus.

Yet the Lord makes no distinction in his greeting to Zacchaeus.  He calmly speaks to the man, informing him that he will dine at his house that day.  The response of Jesus is simple:  he reaches out to a person in need of conversion and healing, regardless of past history.

Zacchaeus also displays an amazing response.  The fact that he climbed a tree to see the Lord indicates that he wanted to make a change in his own life.  When Jesus offers him an invitation, Zacchaeus immediately accepts; furthermore, he boldly states a change of heart in his financial practice!

These two responses serve as an invitation for us as well.  Like Jesus, we may examine those situations where we are called to reach out to others.  Like Zacchaeus, we may study those moments when we wish to accept the mercy and help of another.  In both cases, our responses will reveal what is going on in our hearts.  May the Lord help us to choose wisely, as we respond to the world around us.

30th Sunday of the Year – Prayer: Seeing Clearly


Study:  What parts of my life are not consistent with the Gospel?  Do I say one thing and do another?  Is there a part of my life that needs to be changed?

Prayer:  Do I take the time to bring my fragile weaknesses to God?  Do I honestly admit to the Lord that I need help and strength?

Serve:  How can I be a living “mirror” to help others see more clearly?  How can I do this with love and gentleness?

30th Sunday Readings

I once spent a day with a friend of mine who works on old homes.  He upgrades the efficiency and safety of the building, while preserving the original materials and style.  He showed me a home he was just starting so I could see how the process evolved.

He brought me to a beautiful home.  It had an elegant garden, a well cared-for appearance, and a fresh coat of paint.  I looked at him and said, “What’s wrong?  The house looks great!”

He replied by taking out of his van an infrared camera, pointed it toward the house, and said, “Now look at the house through this.  What do you see?”  As I gazed through the camera I noticed that the house was one large orangish-red haze, with bright red spots everywhere.

He looked at me and said, “The red you see is from the escaping heat.  The house is beautiful, but it is bleeding energy.  Sometimes you have to look with a different lens if you want to see clearly.”

Looking at houses taught me that there is often more to something then first meets the eye.  In the Gospel today, Luke shows two men who go to the temple area to pray.  The first man, a Pharisee relates to God the many good things he is doing, speaking as an upright citizen who fasts and tithes.

The second man is a tax collector, a person often despised by the community for greedy and dishonest practices.  The tax collector makes no boast of his good deeds – he has none.  All he asks is for God’s mercy upon his sinful life.

Normally, people would point to the Pharisee and say he is a good person while the tax collector is wicked.  Yet Jesus points out that only one man’s prayers were heard.  The tax collector went home justified, not because of his actions, but because he recognized that without God’s help he was beyond mercy and hope.

The Pharisee’s actions were acceptable and correct, but because he trusted that the efforts were enough, he failed to realize that he too was a sinner in need of God’s grace.  While his actions were right his trust was misplaced; he believed that by himself he could gain God’s favor.

Life teaches us that not everything is as it seems.  May we open our eyes in our prayer to acknowledge those times when we have fallen short of God’s mercy, recognizing our need for the Lord in our lives.  And may we do the same for those who – in their weakness – cross our path each day.

29th Sunday of the Year – Sacred Scripture


Study:  Do I have an opportunity to read from the Bible every day?  Can I make a few minutes free to read a little Scripture and pause to reflect on what God’s Word says to me?

Pray:  In my daily prayer, do I take a moment to consider how Sacred Scripture can lead me closer to the Lord and others?

Serve:  How might I put what I discover into practice?  How can I live out my faith today?  Where is the Lord calling me to put my life into action for Christ?

29th Sunday Readings

The second reading today reminds us of the power of the Scriptures.  In particular, two verses stand out:

“All Scripture is inspired by God
and is useful for teaching,
for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God
may be competent,
equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In light of these words there are several points that surface.  First, do we realize the richness and depth of the Bible?  Do we recognize that this text has guided and directed the Church for two thousand years, offering wisdom and insight for daily life?  Let’s face it, sometimes we can take the Scriptures for granted, and thus miss out on the Lord’s revelation for our world.

But if we do acknowledge the importance of God’s Word, do we actually take time each day to listen?  This is the second point – knowing the Bible is important is not enough – we need to read it!  The Lord invites us and calls us to know Him; through a steady diet of Scripture we open our hearts to the grace of God.

Third, (and this is the hard part) do we let this Word move us?  As we listen to the teaching and wisdom of our faith, do we change our lives accordingly?  The Scriptures teach us about the Lord, our faith, and our life.  Do we put what we receive into practice?

Now let’s be clear.  Parts of the Bible require careful interpretation and study.  Parts of the Scriptures are written through a particular cultural perspective.  Sometimes the message demands skilled and trained responses through the insight and teaching of the Church.  Fortunately our Catholic tradition provides vast resources for learning and understanding God’s Word.

I would invite all of us to take a little time each day to reflect on the Scriptures.  Start with Luke’s gospel.  Read a little every day and think about the message.  Ask questions.  Pray about what is read.  After all, it is the Lord’s good news – given to us for strength and life!

28th Sunday of the Year – Healing, Mercy, & Gratitude

Touch of God

Study:  When in my life have I been wounded, separated, or isolated?  How did I experience healing and mercy?

Pray:  Gratitude is a spiritual cure for many things.  What blessings should I consider with gratitude in my prayer?

Serve:  Is there someone in my life that I can connect with right now?  Is there an opportunity for healing that I can foster through the gift of my life today?

28th Sunday Readings

The Gospel today offers a number of insights for us.  The healing of the ten lepers shows the power and love of Jesus in several ways:
1.  Jesus physically healed their leprosy
2.  Jesus restored them to their relationships
3.  Jesus’ message included foreigners
4.  Jesus received gratitude from only one!

Leprosy was considered a terrible affliction in the ancient world.  The name was used (sometimes inappropriately) for a variety of skin diseases, but it certainly did refer to the virulent condition where the skin was covered with festering sores that were beyond recovery.

Because of this condition, lepers would be banished from society.  Cast off from family and friendship, they would be forced into a lonely isolation or consigned to a leper colony where their only interaction would be with other lepers.  No family.  No friends.  No physical contact.  They were completely and entirely cut off.

Begging for mercy from a distance, ten lepers come upon Jesus and are healed.  This healing is not only physical; with renewed bodies they are now restored to their loved ones.  They can go home!  Their suffering and pain (both physical and emotional) is now transformed.

One of these lepers was a foreigner.  He was not an Israelite; he did not know the Law, the Prophets, (indeed, he might not even have believed in God).  Yet he was healed, too.  The mercy, healing, and love of Jesus extended beyond the bounds of his own people – it included all people!

And it turns out that this same outsider, who knew nothing of the heritage of Israel, is the only one to say thank you.  Now that he is healed he can approach Jesus directly, falling at his feet with gratitude.  He has his life back, and his first thought is to acknowledge the giver of so great a gift.

Do we see ourselves in this Gospel today?  Do we recognize our need for healing – to be restored in body or soul, to be renewed in our relationships with family or friends?  Have we reached out beyond our imposed boundaries to people of a different race, creed, or color?  Are we grateful for what we have been given, and do we thank the Lord for our blessings?  We can learn a lot from the leper.

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