31st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul laments those who have not only turned their backs on the Cross of Christ, but have become its enemies. The Cross implies sacrifice, but a sacrifice made with a higher and nobler purpose in mind. When Paul refers to those who consider their stomach their god he may be referring to the same Judaizers who obsess with dietary strictures and laws, or simple gluttony, but when we turn our backs on the Cross, or become its active opponents, we are putting ourselves first and ridiculing anyone who doesn’t do so.

“Stomach worship” today doesn’t just refer to those who overindulge in double cheeseburgers; it refers to any number of body worshipers, from those seeking six-pack abs to those so worried about perfect health that they are a source of suffering for themselves as well as others when they’re wishes aren’t fulfilled. Goals become more and more petty the less noble they are. When we strive for a comfortable life the little discomforts just become more pronounced. If we accept our crosses, even the little ones, even the small discomforts have meaning and are easier to bear.

Let’s ask Our Lord to bear our crosses, big and small, and let that “stomach” grumble once in a while.

Readings: Philippians 3:17–4:1; Psalm 122:1–5; Luke 16:1–8. See also 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul speaks of belonging to the People of God, old and new, through the concept of circumcision. By describing Christians as “the circumcision” he reminds us that we all inherit the promises that the Lord first made to Abraham and continued to keep throughout salvation history, culminating in the Incarnation of God the Son for our redemption, through faith in Christ.

When Paul speaks of “confidence in the flesh” he is referring to counting on Jewish ancestry and observance alone for salvation. Christians who have neither, along with those who have had it, worship in the Spirit of God and put their confidence in Our Lord for salvation. Paul reminds us that he had both, but the latter, knowing Jesus Christ, made the former pale in comparison.

Many of us don’t have any Jewish ancestry to be concerned about, but we can see a concerning trend in society to de-Christianize things, leaving us with social or cultural support in staying connected to the promises the Lord has kept throughout salvation history or to Christ himself. Just as Paul described Christians as “the circumcision,” alluding to this practice of admission into the People of Israel, we have to remember that we are the baptized, and that means not only gifts from above, but responsibilities. Let’s ask Our Lord to help us live up to what he has given us as baptized Christians, counting everything else as loss.

Readings: Philippians 3:3–8a; Psalm 105:2–7; Luke 15:1–10. See also 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle C, 4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, 2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, and 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

31st Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul encourages the Philippians to be of one mind in their charity and concern for others, because that would crown his joy. The key is putting others first: it shows that the gifts of grace we have received as believers were not given in vain. We struggle at times to put others first, but how much joy it brings us when we overcome our selfish tendencies and truly help someone in need.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord invites us to go beyond our circle of comfort when it comes to putting others first. When we put our family and friends first, often we’re just fulfilling an obligation or responding in turn to what they have done for us. That is noble, but when we show concern for those who have nothing or no one, we are 100% putting others first, expecting nothing in return. There’s no greater imitation of Christ’s love than that.

Let’s examine our level of concern for “everyone” as Paul encourages us today, so that the joy of Our Lord and his saints will be complete.

Readings: Philippians 2:1–4; Psalm 131:1b–e, 2–3; Luke 14:12–14.

31st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In yesterday‘s Gospel Our Lord gave the example of the dishonest and shrewd steward as an example not to follow. Today he explains why. As a strategy for gaining the things that really matter it is laughable, and it rarely stops at small infractions. When he challenges them to see if dishonest wealth will get them into Heaven (“eternal dwellings”), he in part is ridiculing the thought that that strategy would even work–God can’t be swindled. If you can’t be trusted in small matters, you can’t be trusted in larger ones either: it’s no coincidence that people who swindle others out of something are called confidence men (or con men): they prey on trust to get something to which they’re not entitled.

The bad example from yesterday was helping your boss defraud people (and then defrauding your boss), but there are many things we’d be dishonest in taking, because they don’t belong to us. Using the company car or phone for personal matters. Surfing the Internet or calling friends when we should be working. Goofing off when we should be studying. Giving the love we’ve promised unconditionally to our spouse to another, either in person or through the Internet. Turning the time you should be dedicating to your spouse and children into “me” time. Trust is a fragile thing, and, once lost, it is not easily restored: suspicion will cast a pall over everything we do after our dishonesty comes to light.

Our Lord warns today of the worst price of dishonesty: not just all the people we alienate, but preventing us from reaching those “eternal dwellings” where our true treasure lies. Let’s ask him today to always deal in the currency that will get us there: honesty, fidelity, and loyalty.

Readings: Romans 16:3–9, 16, 22–27; Psalm 145:2–5, 10–11; Luke 16:9–15.

31st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel we see the first part of Our Lord’s teaching on the need to be faithful and honest even in small things. He begins with the negative example of a steward squandering his employer’s property and being put on notice that he’s to be dismissed. The steward doesn’t want to abandon the good life he’s had, and he doesn’t want to become a beggar, so he starts making deals with the very people he and his former employer had been cheating in order to win their favor. When he adjusts the billing for each person it’s because he’s been helping his employer to deceive them all along. Now that the employer is firing him, he’s using that fact to his advantage: his former employer can’t do anything about it without revealing that he too was part of the deception, and by giving his employer’s clients these “discounts” he is winning favor for himself. The soon-to-be former employer can’t help but admire his cunning (probably because the steward learned it from him).

Perhaps a better translation for Jesus’ evaluation of this could be that the children of this world are cleverer in dealing with those of their own kind that those who are not of this kind. He’s not giving us an example to follow, but an example to be on guard against and avoid. The children of the light don’t act this way and shouldn’t.

We’ll consider how they should act in tomorrow’s reflection. For now, let’s examine our dealings with others and see whether we’re more a child of this age (bad) or a child of the light (good).

Readings: Romans 15:14–21; Psalm 98:1–4; Luke 16:1–8.