32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (2)

All three of today’s readings present us a simple question: if everything was on the line, what would you give? Our Lord blesses those who trust in him and exceed expectations.

In today’s First Reading Elijah asks for a handout while Israel is suffering an extended drought. The widow doesn’t disagree, she simply thinks she’d has to choose between her, her son, or Elijah: one would starve to death for the sake of another, and ultimately as well. Elijah gives her an opportunity in faith to trust in the Lord’s Providence: she’ll be provided for until the drought ends for her generosity. She provides for her son and helps the Lord through helping Elijah and everything works out. For the widow helping Elijah put everything on the line—her life, her son’s life, and the last of her livelihood—and the Lord blessed her for it.

In today’s Second Reading the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that unlike other high priests, who sacrificed over and over without personal risk, the Lord sacrificed himself completely, once and for all, when everything was on the line for us. Our salvation was on the line. There was no expectation that the Lord would do anything about it whatsoever. We’d made the mess. As divine he had all the prestige and recognition in the world and no need to prove it. We spurned him through sin and brought all its consequences on our heads.

He assumed human nature and became one of us in a fallen world, with the hope that we would let him lead us back into the good graces of Our Heavenly Father, but his hope and our expectations were not on the same page: he hoped we’d welcome him as the Messiah saving us from sin, we’d hoped he would clean house socially and politically without any effort on our part other than cheering him on. He put his whole humanity on the line for us and showed us that when it comes to salvation we have to put our whole selves on the line too.

In the Gospel Our Lord is moved by the generosity of a poor widow who gives all she has to the Temple treasury. She sacrifices her livelihood for the sake of giving alms, and no one notices her because the amount seems so insignificant in the eyes of the world. It’s not insignificant to her, which is why it is so generous. She’s not doing it for good public relations, as the rich men are doing out of their surplus. She’s not even negotiating like Elijah and the widow in the First Reading. Little does she know that God himself is looking upon her sacrifice with contentment through the eyes of the Son and making it an example for the disciples to follow. She put her whole livelihood on the line for the sake of others.

We all know the expression “give ’til it hurts,” and we all know the thought of it makes us wince to one degree or another. If we put a little of our comfort and livelihood on the line in giving, whether time, talent, or treasure, Our Lord sees it and will bless us, even if the world doesn’t. Let’s be generous today in sharing what we have with others, knowing that if we take care of others Our Lord will take care of us abundantly.

Readings: 1 Kings 17:10–16; Psalm 146:7–10; Hebrews 9:24–28; Mark 12:38–44. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Lord reminds us of the responsibility we have to others in evaluating situations and giving advice. Justice is not just meted out in courtrooms anymore; the Internet is a court of public opinion, but sometimes we forget that opinions need to be weighed to see what is truly just to all involved and truly wise as a way to achieve not only personal growth, but holiness. It’s no coincidence that the Lord not only condemns injustice, deceit, and foolishness, but wants nothing to do with them: they are not only the wrong thing to do, but the sinful thing do do, and sin is not compatible with God. If you love, can you ever condone something you know is bad for those you love?

In today’s Gospel Our Lord laments those who are the occasion for sin in the life of another. We’re called to help each other on the path to a holy and fulfilling life, and in a world where a cloud of contrary opinions seek our attention each of us must examine our conscience and see whether we’re helping others along the path of truth or just contributing to the moral noise. That requires us to remember our own obligation to seek the truth, spread the truth, and put it into action. Some may question the wisdom of that because they see convenience as the path to success, but Our Lord has taught us that the truth will set us free.

When a friend tries to make us stumble, wittingly or unwittingly, let’s not shy away from pointing out the truth and being forgiving when forgiveness is warranted. Foolish friends need our help even more than wise ones do.

Readings: Wisdom 1:1–7; Psalm 139:1b–10; Luke 17:1–6.

 

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Christ is sometimes referred to as the Wisdom of God, and that comparison goes both ways. Just as Our Lord always lights the way, wisdom is necessary for us to see our path in life and to show the path to Christ for others as well. The greatest wisdom is him.

In today’s First Reading we’re reminded that we seek out the things we love, and we need to seek out and love wisdom. If you don’t look for something it is unlikely that you are going to find it. Wisdom is the light by which we see the bigger picture in life. The more we consider the bigger picture in life, the more wisdom we can find.

The world sometimes can be very dark, and we need to keep watch for those moments of light when they present themselves. It’s no coincidence that the First Reading today has us keeping vigil to find wisdom or seeking her out at the crack of dawn. In today’s First Reading wisdom is personified as a woman, but we know that Christ is wisdom Personified. He doesn’t just wait for us to find him. He seeks us out, comes into our lives, our situations, and tries to help us sort things out. Thinking of wisdom perfects the virtue of prudence, and prudence the virtue of knowing the right thing to do in every situation and circumstance. What better teacher than Christ?

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul encourages the Thessalonians who are in the dark as to the fate of their fellow believers who have died. In the early Church the Second Coming of Christ was thought to be just around the corner. The Thessalonians were concerned because some of them had already died and the Second Coming had not yet happened. Would the dead be left out?

In the light of the Risen Christ Paul helps them see the bigger picture. It is the wisdom of the Resurrection: if Jesus died and rose, so would their departed loved ones. Death does not have the last word, because Christ has conquered death. Christ sheds light on death and his victory over it, and we have hope as a result.

In today’s Gospel the lighted lamps represent charity. The less charity you have, the less likely you’ll be ready for Our Lord or able to help yourself or anyone else to find him. An Entrance Antiphon in the liturgy for the feast days of virgins summarizes perfectly what is praiseworthy of the Wise Virgins today, “Here is a wise virgin, from among the number of the prudent, who went forth with lighted lamp to meet Christ.” The wise ones know the wait for the Lord can be long, so they take extra oil. They see farther and plan. The foolish ones probably didn’t see much beyond the party they wanted to enjoy, but the party was just one part of what was expected of them.

The marriage feast in today’s parable is an image of Heaven. The wise virgins continued to stoke the light with the fuel of their charity (love for Christ, and love for others in him), and that light not only showed them path to take, but others as well. Jesus today teaches us that we must have an intense and lasting love to light the way. Love is the only mark of an authentic disciple. If a disciple is following Christ, someone can follow that disciple to be led to Christ. Like the bridegroom in today’s parable, Jesus will appear at a midnight of human history, and we must be ready with lamps bright and alight.

The foolish maidens proved how foolish they were by thinking they could risk not loving enough when the moment of decision came. They wanted to draw the wise virgins into their foolishness by asking for their oil. We see this played out in so many areas of our lives: that negative comment, that judgment, that suspicion. We lack charity and we want to suck others in thinking it will resolve our problems, but it doesn’t. Love for Christ is not a tradeable commodity. It is intimately personal. If the wise virgins had taken their advice, then there would have been ten foolish virgins left out in the dark that night instead of five. Since we’re speaking of the love of Christ it begs the question: how much is too much? Jesus teaches us today that the real question should not be how much should we do, but how much can we do.

In Baptism we received the light of Christ, and Christ has asked us to make that light shine in others’ lives in a special way. Are we leaving anyone in the dark? Are we leaving those with whom we work in the dark? In today’s parable the failure rate was fifty percent. Am I sharing the love of Christ with them? Am I helping them? Am I accepting them? Am I sharing the things with them that are truly helpful for them? Paul phrases it beautifully in his letter to the Ephesians: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (4:29).

Are we leaving those we “love” in the dark? Those with whom we work are not the only co-workers in our lives. What about our family? Is it a fight every day just to get the kids out of bed, bathed, clothed, and groomed? Are you on the same wavelength as your spouse?

Love is like light. It’s meant to shine on the things that are darkest in order to bring them to light, address them, and resolve them. Love is a light that has to shine in the dark in order for you to see and to show the way to others as well.

Readings: Wisdom of Solomon 6:12–16; Psalm 63:2–8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Matthew 25:1–13.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading John commends Christians for offering hospitality and support to itinerant missionaries. In John’s time Christian communities were still small and spread out over wide distances; missionaries needed a place to stay while they preached the Gospel, and where better than their spiritual family?

Even today missionaries leave home and comfort to share the Gospel, often enduring want, hardship, and even indifference. Young missionaries put their studies or career on hold for something nobler than just making a buck. We should support our missionaries not only materially, but spiritually. Not all missionaries do their work in far off countries; every missionary is sent by Our Lord to share the Gospel, and even in our own societies the work of sharing the Gospel depends on people willing to dedicate time and talent.

Let’s support our missionaries spiritually, materially, and by considering how we too can be missionaries in the Lord’s service.

Readings: 3 John 5–8; Psalm 112:1–6; Luke 18:1–8. See also 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

If you’ve ever heard the expression “cafeteria Catholics” (Catholics who pick and choose what teachings they like), there’s always the danger of heading right out of the back door of the cafeteria and no longer being Catholics at all. In today’s First Reading John doesn’t bring any new teaching, just a reminder of an old teaching and a warning. We know from all of John’s writings that charity has a central place in the teaching he received from the Lord, and just as he heard from the lips of Our Lord in the Last Supper discourse (see John 13:34–35; 14:15,23–24), he reminds us of the connection between love and obedience. Our Lord doesn’t just command us; he teaches us how we truly love. We show our love by having faith in his teaching.

Part of that love is being faithful to John’s teaching about Our Lord; someone is contradicting the teaching of Our Lord to such a degree that he or she is denying the Incarnation (“those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh”). When John describes this as deceitful and the antichrist he is teaching that those who teach contrary to the true teaching regarding Christ become anti-witnesses, so to speak. With this loss of faith and contradictory testimony they lose God too.

Ask Our Lord today to help you not stray into the cafeteria and stay “all in” regarding his teaching.

Readings: 2 John 4–9; Psalm 119:1–2, 10–11, 17–18; Luke 17:26–37. See also 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.