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Lectionary 430: Talents

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Lectionary : 430.  Scripture:  August 27, I Corinthians 1:26-31.  Psalm 33: 12-13, 18-19, 20-21.  Matthew 25:

“God has given us life in Christ Jesus.”  I was moved by this thought which I took from today’s reading from I Corinthians.  I sensed how intense Paul’s concern for the people of Corinth is expressed in this epistle and realized how great a pastor and apostle he was through this very important writing that tells us so much about the Church and the people of Corinth.  He is concerned about deepening their faith and their union with Christ.  His motto always comes back to me, “For me to live is Christ.”

We know that Paul in his introduction and thanksgiving in this letter praises the many spiritual gifts they have and encourages them to have the wisdom to use those gifts for helping one another to grow more deeply in their union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gospel will again give us a parable from Jesus that is about use of the talents and gifts that God gives each of us. Some have five, others two talents, and maybe we have only one.  What is important is that we use the talent or talents wisely and for the good of building up the community in which we live to realize the kingdom of God is among us. We are not to hide our talent out of fear or of what is demanded of us as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Fear is what robs us of our total dedication as disciples of Jesus

The Psalm for today, Psalm 33, tells us that the Lord has chosen us. It is through this graciousness of God that we rejoice and praise the Lord thus overcoming any fears we have.  We then become hard working servants of the Lord’s vineyard.

Paul reminds of that Jesus is our wisdom, our justice, and our sanctification.  Discipleship is not about me.  It is about Jesus living within me and helping me to reach out to others.  Paul tells us to “boast in the Lord” which is another way of telling us to pray and to pray often, which will energize us to use our talent(s) well. Amen.

Lectionary 429: The Wisdom of the Cross

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Lectionary 429.  Scripture:  August 26.  I Corinthians 1:17-25.  Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 10.11. Matthew 25:1-13:

The Cross unifies most Christians who believe that Jesus is similar to the Suffering Servant in Isaiah II and III.  As an Anointed one, the Messiah Jesus, suffered on a Cross and died for all of humankind.  St. Paul is convinced of the power of the Cross as he now continues the reasons and themes for which he is addressing the Corinthian community.  The enthusiasm of the Corinthians responds positively to this theology of the Cross which Paul will preach in this epistle.  He does not stop there but goes on preaching and writing that Christ is risen from the dead.  The Cross was the medium by which his resurrection from the dead was achieved.  All that he did in his life and in his death and resurrection is salvific.  We need both Incarnational and Redemptive theology to understand Paul’s message to them and to us.

Paul lives out his vocation through preaching primarily and inviting all peoples to form Christian community (Koinonia).  For Paul the Cross of Christ gives him the courage to preach Christ crucified as he invites all to listen to the Gospel given to him through his conversion experience on the way to Damascus.

He describes some who are wisdom seekers only in the culture and wisdom of their nation or in themselves; others think the Cross is shameful and an absurd teaching, but Paul wins the Corinthians to follow his preaching and his communications with them through letters, teachings, and preaching.  He is their pastor and their leader in the wisdom of God that is deemed foolishness by those who do not believe in Jesus. Still others want proofs like signs and wonders to accept what he is teaching and preaching.  He never cowers from the task that is his God-given passion ever since his conversion.  Paul himself has experienced the sufferings of the Cross in his own person therefore he can speak of it even to the point of hinting that he has the wounds of Christ in his own hands and feet (the stigmata).

Paul turns away from his past of persecuting followers of the one who was crucified, Jesus of Nazareth.  For Paul, “God’s folly is wiser than men, and his weakness more powerful than men. Christ crucified  is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  For Paul to live is Christ who is the wisdom and power of God through his Cross and Resurrection.

Jesus also speaks of wisdom and,as  is his custom he uses a parable to teach us about the wisdom of being ready for the coming of the Lord.  We are to be awake and ready each day and at the end of our days for the presence and arrival of the Lord.

The parable of the bridesmaids or ten virgins is practical and down to earth wisdom teaching.  Five are said to be wise and have carefully prepared their lamps with oil so that they may see the Lord coming.  The foolish ones do not prepare and as a result the Lord does come and tells them , “I do not know you.”  The moral is even given by Jesus at the end of his parable: “Keep your eyes open, for you do not know the day or the hour.”

We have four consecutive parables that beckon us to be vigilant and waiting for the bridegroom—Jesus.  I liked the comment of Fr. Donald Senior, C.PP.S,: “The Christian keeps alert and ready by being faithful to Jesus’ teaching.  On this basis an unexpected future holds no terror.”  Amen.

Lectionary 427, 428 : Aug 24, 25, 2016

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Lectionary 427. Scripture: Aug.24. II Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18.  Matthew 23:27-32:

The ending of II Thessalonians is very down to earth and easy to comprehend.  Paul and his assistants, Timothy and Silvanus each have had a hand in writing this letter.  A writer or scribe is called a mansuensis (one who copies by hand) what the author or speaker wishes to be sent in writing to a specific community or to a person.  Paul has both types of letters or epistles, those directed to an assembly or church and even a private type of letter, for example, the letter to Philemon.

In the Thessalonian community there were those who were waiting for Christ to come very soon. They started to take it easy and just wait, loiter, and slouch in  contributing to the works of the church or community.  Paul strongly asserts that those who stop working should not eat at the expense of others.  This is a sure cure for imminent eschatologists! In my community when this passage is read we smile or share winks at the expense of someone who may be loitering and not doing housework!  Let them not eat!

Paul makes known how hard he has worked for them and for the development of the faith of the Thessalonians.  Silvanus, Timothy, and Paul are good servant leaders who are models for how to work in the vineyard of the Lord.

I liked the neat Pauline touch at the end of this epistle where he says this greeting is “in my own hand.”  It leads me to think that one of the three may have been his manuensis for this epistle. The epistle ends with a prayer: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.”  This is often heard at the beginning of a Mass.

Our Responsorial Psalm also is complementary to the first reading in the Liturgy of the Word.  It has this reference to work: “For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; happy shall you be and favored.”

Jesus continues to rail against the lawyers, scribes, and teachers of the Law in another “Woe”.  This is often used in strong invectives against those who are corrupted by power and superiority complex.  Jesus calls them whited sepulchers who are bright and clean on the outside but filled with dead bones on the inside!  Not very nice language, is it?  These seven woes are among the most negative sayings of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel; they make us wince.  We cannot tolerate being called a fraud, a hypocrite, or a monument of death.  Fortunately, we are coming to the end of the “woes” of Jesus—all seven of them—in this chapter twenty-three of St. Matthew.  Matthew combines two woes in this particular pericope or passage.  Today we need the help of exegetes and pastoral theologians when we read these passages so as not to point our fingers against others whom we may think of when these passages are read.  Amen. Alleluia.

 

Lectionary 427—16

Scripture: August 25, 2016.  I Corinthians 1:1-9.  Psalm 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7. Matthew 24: 42-51.

We are thankful for each day of our lives which is a pure gift from our Creator.  In the morning we have the opportunity of thanking God for another day.  This is a good way of starting the day and helping us go through it while keeping in mind that we should be better than the yesterday of each new beginning morning.  This day is an opportunity to grow into the statue of Christ who himself while on earth grew in wisdom, stature, and grace before the Lord.

In this opening of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians we are encouraged by Paul  who praises them for the wonderful gifts they have received through the Spirit.  In fact, this is the first and original community of charismatics.  Msgr. Knox dedicated his book called “Enthusiasm” by beginning with a historical narrative that starts with Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.  Paul will remind them again and again of their Baptism which began their growth into the person and giftedness of the sons and daughters of God.  I personally like the words of Vatican II that says there is a universal call to holiness for the People of God.

Again we are opening a new writing from Paul and it is important for us to understand that it tells us a lot about the writer, his intention, and also his audience or congregation.  Frequently, the theme for the whole epistle or letter is indicated in the thanksgiving that Paul always has (except in Galatians) for the listening assembly or church.  Paul praises their faith and the many gifts of the Spirit that they possess.  He will be their pastor in answering questions they have posed to him and direct them in making good choices about the way to live in Christ.  Paul urges them on to becoming more and more like Christ.  They are called to be blameless to the end of their lives and to live each day as if it were their last.

Psalm 145 takes up the need for those praying this psalm it to grow more and more into the image and likeness of God.  I am reminded of a friend of mine who responds to my saying to him, “Have a good day.” He smiles and says, “Have a better one.” That is what I mean by saying each morning we should be better spiritually than we were yesterday.  The verse in the Psalm that is motivating is the following one: “Every day I will bless you and I will praise your name forever, Lord.”

In the Gospel Jesus tells us to stay awake and be ready for the coming of the Lord.  As servant-leaders we are to be prepared each day for the Lord’s return.  We never know when the day of the Lord will come. And just as the saints lived each day as if it were their last, we should take a positive look at each day and live it to our best not our last.  The joy of the Gospel makes the difference.  A good servant leader is always ready for the day of the Lord which is each day. “Happy the one whom his master discovers at work on his return.”

All three readings prompt us to make this day better than yesterday in our journey with Jesus.  Amen. Alleluia.

Lectionary 426: Last Things and Leadership

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Lectionary 426.  Scripture:  Aug/23. II Thessalonians 2:1-3,14-16.  Psalm 98:10. 11-12. 13.  Matthew 23:26:

Many have predicted the end of the world some two thousand years ago and still continue to do so.  The comic strips capitalize on these predictions and make us laugh and that is a good thing.  Every prediction did not end in being a success.  Even Jesus said that it was only his Father in heaven who knew when that world happen.  The Thessalonians wrestled with this prediction and fear.  So did the Apostles as we learn from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. And now with the global situation being what it is, many are thinking that the end is near.

Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus are calming the Thessalonians about this type of thinking about the end of the world.  They tell the citizens of Thessalonica to be consoled and comforted by the Good News of the Gospel they preached to them.  They are urged not to become agitated about this.  Even though Paul in First Thessalonians thought it was imminent for the world to end, the tone and message of II Thessalonians offers a different perspective and one that we should follow.  Our daily faithfulness in work and ministry is the best way to offset the fear of the end of the world.  Taking one day at a time and thanking God for it is better than futile predictions from visionaries and self-made prophets.

The Psalm Response completes the commentary by stating, “The Lord comes to judge the earth!” and God governs it with justice and equity while we are to be praising God and working as best we can toward peace.

We continue with the woes of Jesus to the leaders and lawyers of the law.  They really are not living up to their calling and are quite selfish in how they deal with their own people.  Servant leadership is far from their minds and hearts. Jesus is chastising them while telling them to pay attention to the weightier things like justice and equity among all who are followers of the Mosaic law.  The interior of leaders must change if honesty is to be achieved through leadership.  To love the law with one’s whole being is possible through the power of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit cleanses the hearts of those who are in charge and clears from them thoughts of lording it over others, being greedy, and selfish and unjust.  Justice, mercy, good faith and fidelity, and mercy are the work of the Spirit in true leaders who serve rather than rule with power.

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade stressed leadership and said that “the essential is the interior.”  This phrase is a good insight into the readings for today and Good News for all who are willing to listen and to put it into practice.  Amen. Alleluia.

Lectionary 425: Openings in Scripture

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Lectionary: 425. Scripture:  August 22.  II Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12.  Psalm 96:1-2,3-4, 4-5.  Matthew 23:13-22:

I value the opening lines and first chapters of every book of the Bible.  They gave us an insight into the person who is writing an inspired work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and working with the Spirit through their own literary talents and limitations!  Their message is that of the Spirit written in human words coming from distinct authors who have unique personalities and a definite purpose in writing their guided messages or proclamations.  These early chapters open up a preview of the rest of the work and often give us the key to a good interpretation of the rest of their thoughts and purpose.  It is good to collect all the information we can from these opening words of a specific writer or a group of writers.

Today we open a new epistle as our first reading in the Liturgy of the Word.  The work definitely comes from the Pauline school of pastoral theological import.  Today we learn that Paul himself, Silvanus, and Timothy are involved in the message of II Thessalonians.  We are now in the realm of Paul’s great concern for the people who are in the early communities of churches dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ, the favored title for Jesus in this epistle attributed to Paul.  These letters have a basic formula for writing in their first chapter.  There is definite  intended church or audience, a thanksgiving, and also a hint at what the theme of the writing will be.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy are thanking the Thessalonians for their firmness in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Once they establish the confidence of their readers they will address the concerns and problems of this specific Church of the Thessalonians in Greece. Thessalonica is located on the banks of the Aegean Sea and the Egnatia Way or highway built by the Romans that crosses over into Asia all the way from Rome to Byzantium, today’s Istanbul.  There is a close relationship in the vocabulary and style in both letters, I Thessalonians and II Thessalonians.  Scholars state that I Thessalonians was the first writing of the New Testament done in 51 A.D. and it probably indicates that II Thessalonians is written in the early fifties of the Christian era.

I Thessalonians informs us that Paul writes of the Second Coming of Christ as quite close or imminent; II Thessalonians says there are to be trials and persecution before the coming of the Lord.  Both epistles however are strongly eschatological or looking toward the end time.  Chapter 2 of II Thessalonians will show that many events have to happen before the coming of the Lord (the Parousia or Second Coming).

Psalm 96 is our Responsorial Psalm and the following verse three is used as the repetitive prayer: “Proclaim his marvelous works to all the nations.”  This Psalm is a jubilant enthronement Psalm for God as King of Israel.  It has a certain newness and creativeness to it as a universal invitation to all peoples to come to worship and believe in God.  It calls us as Christians to praise God for all peoples who are responding to the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is a universal call to holiness seen in works of justice, mercy, and love.

Even though Jesus is speaking harshly about those who are learned and are leaders, they must not be power mongers who inflict others with their might and knowledge.  Those who are true leaders are to practice what they preach and who speak the truth with love and mercy.  Jesus is pointing out those who misuse their power and who flaunt their titles at the expense of the poor and the marginal.  His call to us is to be creative stewards of justice, peace, equality, and generosity.  Let those who have ears hear his message with a listening heart.  Amen. Alleluia.

Lectionary 124 : Doors

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Lectionary 124. Scripture: Isaiah 66:18-21. Psalm 117:1-2.  Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13.  Luke 13: 22-30:

Often in reading the first three readings before reading the Gospel on a Sunday, I find that they help me to understand the Gospel better by giving me insights into the prophets, psalms, and epistles.  This is especially true for the reflection I pass on to you for this Sunday on August 21.

Isaiah teaches us an inspired and encouraging lesson for all the known nations who were familiar to the Israelites.  The message is a universal call to worship and praise God in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Universality is one of the characteristics of this third part of Isaiah.  A key theme to carry throughout our readings from Isaiah is the call to be creative agents of change and conversion so that the redemptive actions of God in history continue.  Isaiah urges Israel to be that redemptive agent of change.

Our Psalm 117 is the shortest in the Hebrew Book of Psalms of which there are 150 psalms.  It is a call similar to Isaiah in that it includes the nations or the Gentiles and invites them to join Israel in praising and thanking God.  There are only two verses within it and verse one is a call to praise and worship God. Verse two is the reason why all nations and peoples should worship God.

The selection from Hebrews speaks of the discipline that God confers upon us through our conscience and our faith.  We grow in our faith through both the encouragement given as well as the discipline we learn from God who loves us as a parent loves their children.

Finally, we come to the Gospel selection from Luke who gives us a universal call to holiness similar to the call of Isaiah and Psalm 117.  Luke narrates for us many lessons of discipleship as we follow his story of Jesus’ long journey to Jerusalem which extends almost ten chapters in Luke’s Gospel from chapter 9:51 to chapter 19:48.  We name it the Journey Narrative of Luke.  This theme carries us through to Advent in this season of ordinary time dedicated to using Luke’s Gospel for this second year of Gospel reading.  We are in cycle C of year 2 liturgically in this 2016 calendar of Sundays.

Jesus. journey from Galilee to Jerusalem is the last journey he is making which leads us through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. As Jesus moves from villages and towns toward his determined goal, someone asks him about how many will be saved and enter the kingdom of God.  Jesus gives no number but does use two metaphors to speak about entering the kingdom of God.  It takes great effort to follow the Lord on the way to Jerusalem for it includes learning how to be a disciple.  We may enter the larger gate with effort but it is much harder to knock on the narrow door and have it opened for us.  Jesus has to know who we are and whether we are becoming his disciples. If we are walking with him and learning our lesson as disciples he does not say, “Depart from me, I know you not.”

There is another powerful image of Jesus in another part of Scripture where Jesus says, “I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking, if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”  (Revelation 3:19-22).

Jesus will open the door for us if he recognizes we are his disciples.  No matter where we come from East, West, North, or South.  Our goal is achieved if it matches the goal of Jesus who leads us to the heavenly Temple of God.  Amen. Alleluia.

Lectionary 424. Kabod Adonai…. Glory to the Lord (God)

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Lectionary 424.  Scripture: Aug. 20:  Ezekiel 43:1-7, Psalm 85: 9-10,11-12,13-14.  Matthew 23:1-12:

Both the prophet Ezekiel and the Psalmist experience the “glory” of God and proclaim it, pray it, and hand it on to us to join them in praising God’s presence through the word glory.  Both are speaking about the glory of God dwelling among the people in the Temple in Jerusalem and its holy of holies.

I am sure that you and I want to know about the meaning of the Glory of God.  What exactly is it all about when we say “Glory to God in the highest”?  The word used in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) is “kavod” and it is mostly associated with God and the Presence of God both in the Temple and throughout the universe.   Kavod Adonai means “The Glory of the Lord!”  which is always used with reverence and awe.  I wrestled with the basic meaning of heaviness and density associated with kavod and came up with the word “awesome” as capturing it somewhat.

The word kavod itself is used almost two thirds of the time in the Psalms and the last third in the rest of the Bible in the Old Testament, that is, 151 times out of 200 times. Many of the Psalms use it; here are a few to meditate upon: Psalm 3:4; Psalm 19:1; Psalm 62:7; 84:11;  145:5.  Splendor, power, awe, and grandeur are often connected as attributes to the word “kavod”.

Our Psalm Response for today’s liturgical song or recitation is “The glory of God will dwell in our land.” Psalm 85:10.  God’s glory is manifested in the fire, the cloud, and the light of the day.  We give glory to God when we are attentive and aware of the divinity of God.  His divinity is to endure forever (Psalm 104:31).

The praising of God and God’s divinity is the primary meaning of the word “doxa” in the Greek of the New Testament.  In a doxology we pray and praise the glory of God.  A quick trip through the Book of Revelation while looking at the hymns that are Christological one finds the attributes of glory.  We pray these hymns at Even Song or Vespers quite often.

The Gospel helps us to live and appreciate the Presence of God’s glory by emphasizing the need for humility.  We do not heap titles of greatness upon ourselves nor cling to our claims to entitlement.  Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-56 is a perfect prayer glorifying God while realizing we are humble persons before the Lord and are asserting God’s greatness over ourselves.   We see ourselves as equals among the images and likenesses of God that we are.   Jesus calls us “learners” (Matthew 23: 11-12).

To God be the power, the glory, and the honor now and forever Amen. Alleluia.

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