32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

Imagine if an employee of yours stole your property and skipped town, and the police brought him back with a letter from the Pope, personally addressed to you, saying that your employee had converted to Christianity in prison and encouraging you to welcome him into the family as a brother or son? That brings us a little closer to understanding the First Reading today. Paul met Onesimus, an escaped slave, in prison and helped him become Christian, then sent him back to his Christian owner with a letter of recommendation and an appeal for his freedom.

Paul already knew Onesimus’s owner, Philemon, and wanted Philemon to welcome Onesimus back not just as a free brother in Christ, but a freed brother. At the same time, Paul didn’t want to order him to do it; he wanted him to freely welcome back his slave as a member of the family. In Paul’s time slaves were the property of their owners, who had the power of life or death over them. The Romans were very harsh on escaped slaves. We’re not sure how this letter was received, but in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (4:9) he mentions Onesimus once again as a “faithful and beloved brother” to them, an encouraging sign that Philemon did the right thing in the end.

When someone wrongs us we can be very exacting in terms of expecting them to make amends for what they’ve done. We can “chain” them in our expectations of how they should treat us after mistreating us. Yet, for a Christian, the first question should not be, “how will you repay me,” but, rather, “are you sorry for what you have done?” If someone is truly sorry they’ll make restitution as best as they can, and, like Philemon, let’s not be a taskmaster about it, but a brother in Christ.

Readings: Philemon 7–20; Psalm 146:7–10; Luke 17:20–25. See also 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul gives Titus advice for whom we’d call today the laity, with the exception of children, and from the virtues they should practice it should remind us that everyone in the Church is called to contribute, not only to the Church, but to society. Titus is encouraged to edify the faithful them by his example, but when our pastors are struggling they should be edified and encouraged by the example of the laity as well, especially those entrusted to them.

Paul reminds us that every member of the Church should focus on three things: temperance, justice, and devotion. Temperance is self-control in various areas of our life: in food and drink, in chastity, in patience. Justice is treating everyone fairly, not just in matters of money, but in family obligations and in respecting their dignity as human persons. Devotion is honoring not only God, but everyone we love, and making time for prayer and a sacramental life in order to help us live temperately and justly, bolstered by grace.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us take stock today of our relationships and our virtue in order to not only be good Christians, but a source of edification for everyone we meet.

Readings: Titus 2:1–8, 11–14; Psalm 37:3–4, 18, 23, 27, 29; Luke 17:7–10. See also 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul gives his protege Titus a laundry list of qualities that a good bishop should have in order to be a good steward of his people. A steward knows that he has been entrusted with something that does not belong to him; he’ll be held accountable for how he cares for his charge. When that charge is a portion of the People of God, he needs to be “blameless”: without fault.

This entails a great responsibility not only for the people the bishop serves, but for bishop himself: Our Lord in today’s Gospel warns of the dire consequences of leading another to sin. He also encourages a constant willingness to forgive, provided the sinner asks for forgiveness. Many bishops today face difficult circumstances in their flocks, but, as Our Lord reminds us today, with just a little faith they’ll be able to accomplish great things in the Lord’s service.

Let’s pray for our bishops today to be blameless, forgiving, and steadfast in their ministry.

Readings: Titus 1:1–9; Psalm 24:1b–4b, 5–6; Luke 17:1–6.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

In today’s Gospel the Sadducees, sympathetic to the Hellenization of Jewish culture and, as a result, skeptical about the resurrection, are presenting Our Lord with what they see as proof that the resurrection, a teaching held by the Pharisees of the time, is absurd. In today’s First Reading we see an attempt to violently Hellenize the Jews by forcing them to abandon Jewish practices. The Jews who aided in Hellenization and the Jews who fought back are the predecessors of the Sadducees and the Pharisees respectively. In Our Lord’s time the battle had shifted from outright persecution to ideology.

Believers today are in both situations: outright persecution or intellectual ridicule. So we have to turn to Our Lord to see how the face the injustice of attacks on our belief. Today’s readings don’t paint a portrait of combat or dialectic debate; Paul in the Second Reading teaches us that no matter what we suffer for our belief: “the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” Our faith will help us endure. The enemies of our faith have none, which is why they’ll never see beyond their ideologies or selfish scheming. Our Lord reminds us today that even if we don’t have justice in this earthly moment of our life, we will have it in eternity. Faith in eternal life is what led the young men in the First Reading to embrace martyrdom, and eternal life was the outlook that confounded the Sadducees arguments in today’s Gospel as well.

As Our Lord shows us today, you have to know your faith in order to effectively defend it; it has to shape your outlook on life. Reason without faith is seriously stunted; reason with faith can take us to new heights of insight. Ask Our Lord today for a strong faith that resists its detractors and shapes our outlook on life.

Readings: 2 Maccabees 7:1–2, 9–14; Psalm 17:1, 5–6, 8, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5; Luke 20:27–38. See also 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

 

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord presents the polar opposite of Our Heavenly Father, the most just judge, to remind us that we should continue to pray and to not be discouraged in the face of persisting injustice. He alludes to his return at the end of time, so he prepares us to continue our struggles and supplications for justice, knowing that some injustices will not be addressed until he returns in glory, but they will be addressed. We have to persevere in faith and hope.

The widow in today’s parable wants justice in her case. Widows and orphans are repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament as those deserving special care, since they represent those who have no one to care for them, and the Lord gives dire warning to those who’d abuse them. The widow today can only get justice through a judge who cares nothing for those things; he only cares about himself. Yet the widow’s persistence starts to wear on his obstinacy; he doesn’t do justice for the right reasons, but he does do justice in the end, albeit for a little peace and quiet as well as a concern for his own hide. In the face of maximum injustice and little hope of attaining it the widow continues to ask for it and in the end is heard.

Our Lord reminds us today that we are in a much better situation, but we only realize that if we have faith and trust in him. Let’s continue to battle injustice in this world and not be discouraged when the cause seems hopeless. Sooner or later justice will come.

Readings: Wisdom 18:14–16; Psalm 105:2–3, 36–37, 42–43; Luke 18:1–8.