In Christ all are one

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Sept. 5 (Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalm 90; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33)

Who indeed can learn the counsel of God? There are many, far too many, who claim to be able to do just that. The result is spiritual bedlam as so many diverse voices claim to possess the absolute truth.

There are no 'losers' dining at God's table

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Aug. 29 (Sirach 3:17-20, 28-29; Psalm 68; Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24; Luke 14:7-14)

The virtue of humility has suffered much from human misuse. Often it is understood as passivity in the face of injustice or allowing oneself to be used as a doormat. Sometimes it is used as a tool to dominate and control others.

Only through trust can we encounter others

One of the three things that give meaning in life, according to Viktor Frankl, is an encounter with someone or something. An unanticipated encounter I once had raised many questions about meaning and trust.  

I hadn’t seen my friend Eric in a couple of years; he’d gone one direction to attend school, and I’d gone another for a new job. Now he was in hospital, critically ill.

Entrace to God's Kingdom is through love

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Aug. 22, 2010 (Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30)

Thoughtful reflection on our experience is our greatest teacher. During their exile in Babylon the people of Israel had much to reflect on — not only the destruction of their nation and temple but the new sights and peoples that greeted them in Babylon.

Mary's heart, mind in harmony with God

Assumption of Mary (Year C) Aug. 15 (Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; Psalm 45; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56)

The Book of Revelation should not be read before bedtime. We are subjected to a steady flow of terrifying beasts, plagues, rivers of blood and warfare on a cosmic scale plus enigmatic celestial liturgies. It seems far removed from the moving and uplifting teachings of the peaceful and gentle rabbi of the Sermon on the Mount. And in the wrong hands this book can be dangerous indeed, for over the centuries it has been the fuel for many apocalyptic movements and an incredible amount of violence.

God will lead us out of the darkness

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Aug. 8 (Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33; Hebrews 11:1-2; 8-19; Luke 12:32-48)

What did they know and when did they know it? This old legal question from the Watergate era can also be applied to Wisdom’s retelling of the Exodus story. We are given to believe that the Israelites knew beforehand exactly what was going to transpire. They knew God’s plan, the impending destruction of the Egyptians, as well as their imminent deliverance. But this does not square with the Exodus account itself, and indeed Wisdom is a theological reinterpretation of Exodus written over a thousand years after the event. It also does not explain Israel’s infidelity and lack of faith in the wilderness immediately after their escape.

Character will make you wealthy

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Aug. 1 (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalm 90; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21)

Who is Ecclesiastes? In some translations Qoheleth is rendered the “Teacher” or “Preacher” while others translate Qoheleth as the name of a person. But one thing is clear: he is probably not the sort of person you would invite to a party or an outing.

He often strikes the reader as dour, cynical and world-weary. In fact, a fair number of rabbis were somewhat reluctant to admit this book into the canon of Scripture — it seems to lack joy, hope or a sense of life’s purpose.

God gives us second chances to get it right

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) July 25 (Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13)

We are all familiar with the fire and brimstone story of Sodom — perhaps a bit too familiar. There are many strange overtones to the story. First of all, despite the alleged enormity of their sin God is somewhat in the dark and has to go down to check things out Himself — never mind His omniscient nature.

Abraham stands before God as if before a human being. Then there is the haggling and bargaining that Abraham engages in. He almost sounds like an auctioneer! And in the course of his haggling he upbraids God and “shames” Him into behaving as God should! We might also ask if it is proper for God to nuke an entire city for the failings of its inhabitants.

Christ is the reconciling force of nature

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) July 11 (Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Psalm 69; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37)

What does God want from us? How should we live? What is right and wrong? These are questions that people have wrestled with for centuries.

People being what they are tend to create answers to those questions that are unbelievably complicated and abstract. Sometimes they are even spiritually, psychologically or physically damaging. Human sacrifice, religious violence or religious justifications for grave injustices are just a few of the darker possibilities.

Do not fear human touch

One of the few times I’ve been seriously ill occurred in Europe. Being away from home, it took a while to find appropriate medical help and by the time I did the pain was out of control. My mind was starting to wander down strange corridors. As I lay, finally, in hospital awaiting doctors, my brother sat beside me, touched my hand and talked to me of this and that. The sound of his voice, the touch of his hand, the physical presence of another, held and anchored me and kept me from slipping away into that alternate universe.

Human touch can actually change pain and suffering, being a powerful agent of healing. Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche community, once responded to a question about how to help those whose suffering is unspoken, or unspeakable. He replied: Touch . . . human touch can unlock chambers of the heart which might otherwise become a lifelong prison.

But can we touch one another?

May zeal for God's justice be in our hearts

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) July 4 (Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20)

How can we rejoice when there isn’t much to rejoice about? Calls to be joyful when we are in the midst of tragedy, depression or other difficulties can be hurtful and infuriating. And yet that is exactly what the prophet is telling the people of Israel to do. Jerusalem was in shambles — the exiles returned from Babylon to find ruin and decay. After decades there seemed to be no significant change and the beautiful images from the earlier prophecies began to ring rather hollow. Rejoice — right!