29th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

Paul in today’s First Reading kneels before God the Father in order to thank him not only for the communion of saints, a communion shared by believers on Heaven and on Earth, but a communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that makes every participant a member of the family of God. Our fellow believers are our brothers and sisters, and we have them here and in eternity, cheering us on, encouraging us and interceding for us, filled with the hope that some day, by the grace of God, we’ll all be together in Heaven.

The Holy Trinity wishes to pour life and love into our hearts, and this is the fire that Our Lord wants to kindle in today’s Gospel. If divisions occur, even among those we love, it is because on one side or the other the love is not strong enough for both sides to “catch fire.” We have to be on fire for love of Our Lord and hope that our blood relations also “catch fire” and become part of the family of faith as well. Our Lord died on the cross to make that flame of love burn bright, so we should not be afraid of laying down our lives, spiritually or otherwise, in order to help others catch fire.

As believers the way we should treat our family and others is simple: with the love of a family. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to keep the fire of that love kindled in us and to prepare the hearts of others to catch fire as well.

Readings: Ephesians 3:14–21; Psalm 33:1–2, 4–5, 11–12, 18–19; Luke 12:49–53. See also 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II29th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, and 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

At the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome there is a statue of St. Paul in the courtyard with the inscription in Latin that, translated, means “teacher to the nations.” Paul in today’s First Reading is marveling at how much bigger his mission is than he would have imagined when he was a zealous Jew persecuting “heretical” Christians who’d corrupted the Jewish faith. It’s ironic that after being so dedicated to the Jewish faith and consumed with zeal to punish and imprison Jewish “heretics” the Lord would reveal to him that his mission was among the non-Jewish nations and he would spend much of his mission refuting those who tried to Judaize Christianity.

Throughout salvation history the Lord revealed his saving plan gradually. In one moment it seemed the people of Israel were to be the only ones blessed and chosen by God, but even in their time the Lord hinted at their conversion being part of something much bigger. In the end the people of Israel were just one stage of the preparation to save all the nations, and the apostles, especially Paul, saw that the truth of the Gospel went beyond the Jews to the whole world.

Paul was one of the faithful servants to which Our Lord alludes in today’s Gospel. He had received the grace of a special and important mission in the early Church and beyond. Yet he didn’t see it as a burden; he saw it as a gift. Ask Our Lord today to help you see what gift he wants you to receive for the benefit of others. There are still many people who’d be shocked to hear that the Lord wants to bless and choose them too. Be the bearer of that good news in their lives.

Readings: Ephesians 3:2–12; Isaiah 12:2–3; Luke 12:39–48. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C29th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, and 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

St. Luke, Evangelist

In Luke’s Gospel, alongside the account of the Twelve being sent out, he speaks of Seventy-Two being sent out by Our Lord with a very similar mandate. Luke probably identified with the Seventy-Two; the needs of the Gospel were expanding and more help was needed. As today’s First Reading reminds us, Luke accompanied the apostle Paul in some of his missionary work. In the Acts of the Apostles, written by St. Luke, the narrative switches from speaking about Paul to speaking about where “we” were and what “we” did. Luke never imagined the special collaboration he would have with the Apostles: he was not just a co-worker, he was an evangelist.

He was probably a second or third generation Christian, so while he lived at the same time as the Apostles, he also knew the Church would continue after their passing. In addition to recalling the life of Our Lord in his Gospel he left us the Acts of the Apostles to see how the Apostles carried on Our Lord’s mission after his Ascension, spurred on by the Holy Spirit. He was well aware that soon his generation would carry on the mission, just as the Apostles had done.

Luke reminds us on his feast day that just because we’ve come after the first generations of Christians doesn’t mean we should be less engaged in continuing Our Lord’s mission. Luke was not an optional evangelist, and he even went beyond the evangelist mandate by giving us the Acts of the Apostles. Let’s ask him to help us see how we can bring the Church’s work of evangelization forward.

Readings: 2 Timothy 4:10–17b; Psalm 145:10–13, 17–18; Luke 10:1–9.

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul describes the spiritually dead as following the “ruler of the power of the air.” How many ways can we interpret that expression today? Power over the air can be understood as having power over nothing, or something ethereal. The airwaves today are full of unsubstantial noise as the media seeks to entertain and allure for ratings and profit, and the virtual “airwaves” are often not better. In one corner of the world, sometimes one corner of society, people follow superficial pursuits, while in the other people are living tragedy, just trying to make ends meet and eke out their existence. If St. John Paul II spoke of solidarity, the power of the air could be branded unsolidarity as each pursues their desires indifferently to or at the expense of their neighbor. The Gospel reminds us today that all the things we strive for in this world, if we just seek a cozy and comfortable retirement, will vanish into thin air when we die.

Yet Paul reminds us that thanks to faith and grace we have been promised a share in the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord. Believing in him, we become one with him and, just as he did, we will suffer, but we will also be restored to new life and one day take our place in the heavenly Father’s presence. Through Christ we have gone from being children of wrath to being children of God. Through our good works we work for something of substance, not just for ourselves, but for others. The power of the air is just that: hot air. The power of Christ is eternal.

What life do you want? A life of hot air, or a life in Christ?

Readings: Ephesians 2:1–10; Psalm 100:1b–5; Luke 12:13–21. See also 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C and 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.


29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” are Our Lord’s prophetic words at the end of today’s Gospel, and we have to ask ourselves: is that a rhetorical question? They are prophetic words because, by referring to himself as the Son of Man, he is referring to his return in glory. If it were rhetorical it would mean that he was just putting a little melodramatic foreshadowing into his discourse and doesn’t really mean what he’s saying. The only problem with that theory is that his question comes at the end of his discourse. Rhetorical questions usually come at the beginning of one. These words should cut right to our hearts. We know Our Lord means what he says: he is saying we must do our part.

This weekend we celebrate World Mission Sunday by remembering in our liturgy all those generous Christians who bring the faith to the corners of the world where the Gospel hasn’t yet arrived. When we survey the faith in our world, we see that the mission fields are not just in remote islands or distant continents full of strange tribes and peoples: they are in our own society, our own homes, even our own families. So we come together in the liturgy and raise up our prayers on behalf of the People of God, like Moses did in the today’s First Reading. Does Christ find faith on earth? We hope to answer yes with our worship and our lives. “Will he find faith on earth?” is his invitation for us to see the mission field to which he has called each of us. It’s not necessarily in far off continents or distant cultures; it is right at our doorstep. Some people say that the two things you should never talk about are politics and religion. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on missions, entitled Fidei Donum – the gift of faith. As Pius XII said,

“it is faith that allows us to draw near to the hidden mysteries of the divine life; it is faith that encourages us to hope for everlasting happiness; it is faith that strengthens and consolidates the unity of the Christian society in this transitory life, according to the Apostle: ‘One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.’ It is chiefly by reason of this divine gift that our grateful hearts of their own accord pour forth this testimony: ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all that he hath rendered unto me?’”

When someone gives you a gift, you talk about it, you even share it, don’t you? If you don’t, what does that say about the gift or what you think of the giver? Missionary work starts right in our own hearts by accepting the gift of faith that Christ has given us. It means letting that faith influence our outlook, our lives, our actions and decisions. Missionaries receive the gift of faith before they can go out and share it, or else they go out with empty hands and hearts, if they go out at all. I remember long ago, when my priestly vocation was just a thought in the back corner of my mind, I was having lunch with a Protestant co-worker, and how struck I was by his saying grace at meals. Something so simple. Sometimes I relish when I’m having a phone conversation with someone who doesn’t know I’m a priest: calling the post office or something, and when I end the conversation with a “God bless.” there’s an awkward pause, and then “um, same to you; or thank you; have a nice day.” Wishing God’s blessing on someone is never something that just stays at the level of polite conversation.

Does society find faith today as the judge in today’s Gospel parable found it in the widow? Her persistence made an impact. Even though that judge feared neither God nor man, by the persistence of that widow he knew he had to judge justly in her case. You notice he, as thick-skinned as he was, didn’t say simply that he would decide in her favor. He said he wouldn’t rig the trial: he said he would judge justly on her behalf. The Church in many ways and in many fields reminds the world today of its rights, but also of its obligations. We know that there are important truths related to the Gospel message that everyone can understand: the dignity of each human person in every phase of their life, the importance of the family, good friendships, and solidarity to help promote a family of nations. All that has come to light thanks to the gift of faith we’ve received. If we do not get the word out, they won’t hear it from anyone else. It takes convincing and persistence, just like the widow.

The battle for the world’s soul today is much like Moses, arms upraised, in today’s First Reading. With the staff of God, the authority of God, in his hands, Moses keeps his arms upraised in prayer, and Joshua and the Israelites triumph over the Amalekites. But when he tires, Amalek gains the upper hand. We are grateful to God for the Pope and all the bishops who ceaselessly raise their arms in prayer for the people of God in battle for the world’s soul. They count on us. Aaron, the high priest of Israel, like the priests and clergy, and Hur, a leader of the people, one of the elders who helped Moses govern the people, bring him a rock to sit on, and then support his arms because they know he can’t do it alone. Everyone united in prayer and work has to strive to win the Promised Land: eternal life.

Let’s ask Our Lord today for the grace to keep united in prayer and work to share this great gift of the faith he’s given us. Let’s ask for the grace to keep the little ways of showing that – saying grace before meals, praying the rosary together as a family, spending time with him – in our homes and families. Let’s ask to not be afraid of sharing our faith with others. Let’s ask for vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and the missions, and and for the light and strength to be his missionaries in whatever walk of life to which he’s called us.

Readings: Exodus 17:8–13; Psalm 121:1–8; 2 Timothy 3:14–4:2; Luke 18:1–8. See also 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.