Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 24, Luke 18: 9-14
Last Sunday we spoke of prayer and of the necessity to be persistent, persevering in our prayer, never to give up praying for what we believe we need. Today’s Gospel parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector continues the theme of prayer by making us aware of the proper frame of mind, the proper manner, in which we should pray. What is the proper demeanor for prayer? This is an interesting point and one we should really think about.
The Pharisee went to the temple to pray with the frame of mind of entitlement. He was a good man, not like the rest of humanity. He was not greedy, dishonest or adulterous. He was not like the tax collector he noticed who was also in the temple praying. The Pharisee fasted twice a week and paid tithes on his whole income. And because of all this goodness and virtue, he deserved to have God hear him and listen to his prayer. God owed him this for what he did.
The tax collector, on the other hand, didn’t even look up to heaven when he prayed. He knew he was undeserving of God’s attention, that he was was a sinner, that he was a greedy man and had ripped tons of people off. He knew people disliked him for his dishonest ways. In short, he knew he was an unworthy sinner and had no right at all for God to listen to his prayer. So, literally, he begged God for mercy.
The Pharisee had it all backwards. He didn’t realize that we are entitled to nothing from God. He did not realize that he did not deserve and could not earn God’s favor. God’s answer to our prayers is a freebie, part of God’s saving grace for us. No one can merit it. No one can deserve it. There is no entitlement. The tax collector simply humbled himself before God, realized he deserved nothing from him, showed his complete dependence on God, and ended up justified, whereas the Pharisee was disappointed.
In our praying, therefore, we want to approach God as beggars, totally dependent upon him and his mercy, seeking only a conscious contact with him and his will for us and the strength to carry that out. You may recognize the last few words as coming from the 11th Step of the 12 Steps that reads: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.
Lord, teach us again, again and again to pray.
Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 25, Luke 13: 10-17
We spoke a week or so ago about getting our priorities in the right order, of trying to do things God’s way and not our own way. Again in today’s Gospel selection, we see the leader of the synagogue, probably a Pharisee, getting all bent out of shape because he has his priorities all goofed up. He has no mercy, no compassion whatsoever, for the poor lady who was all bent over and unable to stand up straight. Jesus’ heart went out to her and, Sabbath or no Sabbath, he cured her.
Jesus, as always, preferred people over things. That was his way and we should set out priorities accordingly. When we prefer things over people, we are out in left field, spiritually lost.
Lord, once again, help us to do it your way.
Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 26, Luke 13: 18-21
Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of AA, wrote in chapter 5 of the Big Book that we are not about seeking spiritual perfection, but rather spiritual progress. Seeking perfection equals frustration, because as human beings we will never achieve it. Progress equals growth, and this is possible for us to achieve.
In the parable of today’s Gospel, the mustard seed has to grow before it becomes formidable and large enough for the birds of the sky to dwell in its branches. For us, we must grow, progress, to maturity and then we will be able to possess the values of Jesus so as to reveal them to others and be able to spread his Kingdom in our corner of the world.
Let us ask ourselves today where we need to progress to become better Christians and better followers of Christ and then ask Jesus for the strength to do it.
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 27, Luke 13: 22-30
Any restrictions that block us from entering into the Kingdom of God through the narrow gate are NOT placed in the way by God, but by ourselves. We block our own entrance through the narrow door by carrying too much excess baggage that we spoke of not too long ago. We must keep our spiritual lives slim and streamlined to be able to enter through the narrow gate.
What are these self-made blocks? We have seen them all many times before. Certainly, doing things our own way to the exclusion of God’s way is a huge block. Selfishness is also a formidable block. Life cannot just be all about us. Not knowing or being concerned about our gifts and talents is another block. Without this knowledge we cannot be effective servants of others. Idol worship is another huge block, putting other things in between ourselves and God or neighbor such as all the addictions where alcohol, drugs, work, gambling, food, etc., become gods to us along with gossip and resentments as regards our neighbor. All of these things block us from entering through the narrow door and demand the progress we spoke of the other day.
Lord, help us to free ourselves from these blockades.
Thursday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 28, Sts. Simon and Jude
Today our Liturgy celebrates the Feast of two Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude.
St. Simon is called the Zealot in the Gospel because of his strict observance of the Jewish Law. Tradition tells us he preached in Egypt and Persia after the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. He was in Persia with St. Jude and both of them were martyred there. This is probably why they share this feast day together.
St. Jude is also known as Thaddaeus in the Gospel and was the brother of St. James the Less. Both were Apostles. Tradition has him preaching in Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia and in Persia with Simon. We really know very little about either of these two men.
Sts. Simon and Jude, pray for us.
Friday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 29, Luke 14: 1-6
Today’s Gospel speaks of the healing of the man with dropsy (edema) and Jesus’ curing him on the Sabbath. This healing appears only in Luke’s Gospel. And, once again, Jesus stymies the Pharisees by asking them whether or not they would rescue their son or ox if one or the other fell into a cistern on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were unable to answer Jesus’ question and the party goes on.
Once again, as happens so often in the Gospels, we see the Pharisees being unmerciful, lacking in compassion, and once again place things before people in their priorities. How many times have we caught ourselves doing the same thing?
Saturday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 30, Luke 14: 7-11
The week ends with the Gospel admonition, “When you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” This Gospel is urging us to stop getting involved with false pretenses in order to make ourselves look greater in the eyes of those around us. We don’t always have to be the center of attention and numero uno. Sometimes at a gathering it is just nice to sit back and relax and listen to what is going on and being said around you. You learn a lot doing this.
It was a wise person who once said: Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are a nitwit that it is to open it and prove it. Ah, yes!