Welcome to "For Catholic Grownups"

December 9, 2009

Welcome to “For Catholic Grownups”!

This blog is an attempt to provide interesting and worthwhile Catholic Adult Education materials, either texts or podcasts I have produced myself, or links to other good resources.

I am doing this for several reasons. One is to act as a means of distributing to interested people recordings I have already made. Another is to advocate for Adult Catechesis within the Catholic Community, which I believe is sorely neglected in most parishes, despite the priority it is given in official Catholic documents on Catechesis.

Solemnity of Christ the King

November 25, 2019

November 24, 2019

Gospel: Luke 23:35-43 (Jesus, King of the Jews)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Gospel Reflection

“What Kind of King is Jesus?” – Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Question of the Week (Adults): Following the example of Jesus, what is the best way to exercise your authority over others?

Question of the Week (Children): What qualities would a good leader have? Which of these are you trying to develop?

Catechism Connection

440 – Jesus’ Messianic Kingship
2616 – Jesus hears our prayer

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

November 24 Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions martyrs of Vietnam
November 25 Saint Catherine of Alexandria patron of Philosophers, Students
November 26 Saint Leonard of Port Maurice patron of Parish Missioners
November 27 Saint Francesco Antonio Fasani 
November 28 Saint James of the Marche
November 30 Saint Andrew patron of Fishermen, Greece, Russia, Scotland

Year C – Solemnity of Christ the King

Today’s Feast day of Christ the King crowns and completes the Church’s year. We end the year on a high and hopeful note as we celebrate the reign of Christ, which has already begun on earth and in heaven, but is yet to be completed.

The Gospel is a surprising choice to celebrate this Feast, as it recounts the death of Jesus, but it is a reminder of how Jesus comes to be king, through his death and resurrection. The gospel is full of irony as the bystanders and soldiers mock Jesus, and the inscription was placed above him, “This is the King of the Jews”. The only person to recognise Jesus’ true identity is one of the criminals executed with him.

To use a very modern (or indeed ‘post-modern’) expression, the portrayal of Jesus as crucified king ‘deconstructs’ the idea of kingship prevalent in the ancient world. The king (or more precisely the Roman Emperor) was the person who brought ‘peace through victory’ through the domination and violent destruction of his enemies. Jesus in contrast brings ‘peace through justice’, through forgiveness, reconciliation, service and sacrificial love, rejecting the ways of domination and violence.  

On the solemn feasts of the Church’s year, the proper prayers of the day often express the meaning of the feast, especially the Preface (the prayer just before the “Holy, Holy”). Here is today’s Preface which describes both how Jesus became king, and the meaning of his kingdom:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For you anointed your Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
with the oil of gladness, as eternal Priest and King of all creation,
so that , by offering himself on the altar of the Cross
as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace,
he might accomplish the mysteries of human redemption
and, making all created things subject to his rule
he might present to the immensity of your majesty
An eternal and universal kingdom,
A kingdom of truth and life,
A kingdom of holiness and grace,
A kingdom of justice, love and peace.

This prayer illustrates the meaning of the Kingdom which Jesus came to bring, of justice, love and peace rather than violence and domination.

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 16, 2019

November 17, 2019

Gospel: Luke 21:5-19 (Prophecies of the End Times)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Gospel Reflections

FORMED Opening the Word Reflection

Question of the Week (Adults): When bad things happen, how do you deal with them?

Question of the Week (Children): Have you ever worried about something that might happen? What can help you worry less?

Catechism Connection

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

November 17 Saint Elizabeth of Hungary patron of bakers
November 18 Saint Rose Philipine Duchense
November 19 Saint Agnes of Assisi
November 21 Presentation of Mary
November 22 Saint Cecilia patron of Musicians
November 23 Saint Columban Irish Missionary

Year C – Thirty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

At this time of the year in the Sunday liturgy, there is an “eschatological dimension” – looking forward to the end of things. During most of the Advent season, we think about the Second Coming of Christ, and then the First Coming only on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Today, Jesus speaks in a way we do not often think about, though in the Gospels he frequently speaks in this way. When we listen to the Gospel, we hope we will hear some good news. Instead Jesus speaks of terror and destruction.

Note that there is a subtle but important difference in the Scripture readings we hear at this time of the year, between an Apocalyptic outlook, and an Eschatological outlook. I apologize for the long theological words, but the distinction is important!

There is a lot of Apocalyptic language in the latter part of the Old Testament, which is also found in some parts of the New Testament. The word “apocalypse” means “unveiling.” What then is veiled, the unveiling of which can have apocalyptic consequences? The answer is: violence. In The Old Testament there is sometimes an understanding that the violence which people experience originates in God, as some kind of revenge or punishment for injustice or sin. Jesus makes use of this language but changes its meaning. He says that there will be violent events, but they are not caused by God, rather, they are acts of persecution, directed against God’s faithful people.   

Even some Christians today invoke violence against their enemies and opponents, but this is to act in a way contrary to God’s ways, and to the teaching of Jesus.

What then is the Eschatological outlook? It is looking forward to the day when Jesus’ return in glory will provide a brilliant revelation of what has been going on throughout human history. Jesus had earlier been called a “sign of contradiction” so that the thoughts of the hearts of many will be laid bare. (Luke 2:35) All the turbulence which is taking place is itself a sign that Jesus is “unveiling” the violence of the current order of the world, of which he has been the innocent victim. Jesus therefore calls his disciples to perseverance and faithfulness in the midst of the conflicts, warning them that they too are likely to be victimized. They may well be the victims of violence, but they are not to be the cause of violence.

The disciples ask Jesus what will happen as the end of the world draws near, and what signs will there be that it is about to happen. Jesus says to them two things which seem to contradict each other: (1) there will be signs to show that the End is near, but also (2) the End will come unexpectedly.

In the Gospel today and in other passages Jesus calls upon the disciples people to be prepared, but he won’t tell them times and dates. He warns people very clearly not to be deceived, and not to join in with people who say, “the time is near at hand”. Throughout Christian history people have wondered when the end will come. There have been many groups who thought that the end will come within their own lifetimes. There were many such just before the year 1,000 A.D., and we witnessed it ourselves recently at “Y2K”. Jesus warns us not to try to guess when the End might be. He says elsewhere that, “Only the Father knows.” 

So if anybody tells you of visions, or revelations, or apparitions of whoever it might be, or of special ways of reading the Bible, or messages from the Holy Spirit, or from Our Lady saying that the end is near, then do not believe them! Believe only the words of Jesus in the Gospels: only the Father knows when it will be, even Jesus himself does not know, so it is pointless for us speculate about it.   

So then, what is the message for us in this? Jesus indicates that it is an opportunity for us to bear witness to him. And in other passages about the Day of Judgment he tells us not to wait to respond to God, but to do it now. The response to God is an urgent matter, and if we put it off, it may be too late for us.

Lesson Theme Suggestion – We don’t know when the end of the world will come. Even Jesus doesn’t know. However, we must respond to his message urgently.

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 10, 2019

November 10, 2019

Gospel: Luke 20:27-38 (The Resurrection of the Dead)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary
Catholic Moral Theology – Believing in Resurrection

Question of the Week (Adults): How does your belief in the resurrection of the dead affect the way you live?

Question of the Week (Children): has someone in your family or among your friends died? Do you think about that person in heaven? What do you hope to talk about with this person?

Catechism Connection

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

November 10 Pope Saint Leo the Great

November 11 Saint Martin of Tours

November 11 Saint Martin of Tours
November 12 Saint Josaphat
November 13 Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini patron of Hospital administrators, Immigrants, Impossible causes
November 15 Saint Albert the Great patron of scientists, philosophers
November 16 Saint Gertrude patron of the Caribbean 

Year C – Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings placed before us by the Church this Sunday reflect on the mystery of life, death and resurrection.

The First reading from 2 Maccabees is very dramatic and also very disturbing, especially for younger children. Despite brutal torture, the seven Jewish brothers and their mother affirm their faith in God, in God’s Law, and also God’s power to raise them from death. It was during this time in Jewish history that the belief in the resurrection of the dead became firm in Jewish religious belief. It was founded mostly on an understanding of God’s justice – God would not allow those who suffer unjustly in this life to be without ultimate justice: God will raise them and vindicate them when God’s kingdom is fully established.  

In the Gospel, the Sadducees – the leaders of the group within Judaism who did not believe in the resurrection – ask Jesus a trick question, to try to make him (and the idea of resurrection) look foolish. The story they tell Jesus parallels that in 2 Maccabees, of seven brothers, who die one after another. They choose this story because it is an important witness – which they reject – to the belief among some Jews to the resurrection of the body.

Jesus rebuts their contrived question and shows them that they do not really understand God’s ways: God is God of the living, not of the dead. To God, all people are alive, whether in this world or the next. The ‘Power of God’ which Jesus is talking about is not some special power to do something miraculous, but the quality which God always is, that of being fully alive and having nothing to do with death. Jesus illustrates this further with his reference to the story of Moses meeting God in the Burning Bush: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive to God, because God who is utterly alive holds them in life beyond this life and beyond time.   

In the month of November the Church draws our attention to questions of life and death, beginning with two Feasts which remind us of the Church’s understanding of the meaning of death and eternal life. On All Saints Day (November 1st) we remember and celebrate all who have been redeemed by God and given the gift of eternal life; on All Souls Day (November 2nd) we remember and pray for all who have died but are still on their journey of purification from sin and preparation for living in God’s presence.

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 2, 2019

November 3, 2019

Gospel: Luke 19:1-10 (Zacchaeus the Tax Collector)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Gospel Reflections

FORMED – Opening the Word

Question of the Week (Adults): During the next week, what could you do to welcome someone who usually feels excluded?

Question of the Week (Children): Is there a child in your class or neighborhood who is left out of games and activities? What can you do?

Catechism Connection

1443 – Jesus received sinners at his table 
2412 – restitution of stolen goods

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

November 3 Saint Martin de Porres patron of African-Americans, Barbers, Hairdressers, Race Relations, Social Justice

November 4 Saint Charles Borromeo patron of Catechists, Catechumens, Seminarians
November 7 Saint Didacus
November 8 Blessed John Duns Scotus
November 9 Dedication of Saint John Lateran

Sunday Scriptures

All the Readings this Sunday have something of significance to teach us.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom stresses the harmonious relationship between God and God’s creation. Israel’s creation stories, which we know well from Genesis 1 and 2, were very different from those of their pagan neighbors. The pagan stories most often described creation as brought about by a battle or a conflict between the gods, which resulted in the created world being chaotic and harsh, and full of malice and deception. In contrast the picture of creation in the Bible is of something willed and loved by God. God’s mercy is shown both in the goodness of what God had made, and in the mercy and patience shown to human beings, even when they sin and lose faith.

Towards the end of the liturgical year we begin to hear Scriptures dealing with “Eschatology” in other words, with “The Last Things”. Many religious groups have tried to predict the end of the world and the final judgment. Do you remember all the fuss about the year 2,000? However, we are warned often in the New Testament (as in the Second reading today from 2 Thessalonians) not to listen to someone who claims that “the Day of the Lord is at hand”. God the Father alone knows, and we cannot read His mind nor force that day to come by our own actions. 

The Gospel is the centerpiece of today’s readings. It is a well known story about forgiveness, and is in fact one Elementary Faith Development uses in the First Reconciliation Retreats with the Second Graders and their parents. This one passage contains the whole message of St. Luke’s gospel in miniature.

Last week we heard a story of a Tax Collector asking God for mercy. Here is a story of a Tax Collector receiving God’s mercy then acting with mercy himself. Tax Collectors are never popular people, especially if they are working for a foreign occupying army. So Zacchaeus was seen as a traitor to the Jewish people as well as a thief. He was hated by everyone. However, his reaction to Jesus is remarkable. He “received him with joy”. What is it that might attract a thief and a traitor to Jesus? Perhaps acceptance and forgiveness. However, it is not cheap acceptance and cheap forgiveness. Zacchaeus responds by bringing “good news to the poor” (another dominant theme in Luke) by giving to the poor half his possessions, and by repaying four times over what he has stolen.

Jesus rejoices that salvation has come to Zacchaeus, and declares the meaning of his own mission, “to seek and save what is lost”. Part of Zacchaeus’ liberation is that he is no longer run by the resentment of the crowd towards him. He acts now as an agent of divine grace and generosity.

Lesson Theme Suggestion – Jesus is always ready to forgive. When we know that God loves us, we learn how to become generous and honest. Even the worst people can repent, so we should always be ready to forgive.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 24, 2019

October 27, 2019

Gospel: Luke 18:9-14 (The Pharisee and the Tax Collector)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Gospel Reflections

FORMED – Opening the Word

Question of the Week (Adults): When have you felt self-satisfied in observing the mistakes of others? What should we remember at such times?

Question of the Week (Children): Have you ever throught you were better than someone else? What is the problem with such thoughts?

Catechism Connection

588 – Jesus criticizes people who believe they are righteous and despise others 
2631 – the prayer “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

October 28 Saints Simon and Jude Apostles
October 29 St. Narcissus of Jerusalem
October 30 Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez patron of Majorca
October 31 Blessed Thomas of Florence
November 1 Feast of All Saints
November 2 Commemoration of All Souls

Scripture Commentary

“Whose prayer does God hear?” seems to be the dominant question in the Readings this Sunday.

Our most probable answers are either “everyone’s” if we are feeling generous, or “those who pray as they should” if we are not. These two answers are debated in the Readings today.

Beginning with Sirach, God “knows no favorites”, but has ears for the oppressed, the orphan and the widow, that is, people who are poor or vulnerable. “The one who serves God willingly is heard.” What kind of response can the “lowly” expect who appeal to God? God will “respond, judge justly and affirm the right” and also God “will not delay.”

The psalm affirms the same sentiments:

“When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.” Also, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he will save.”

In 2 Timothy, too, the author stresses how God “Stood by me and gave me strength” when he was deserted and put on trial.

All these thoughts are in the background when we hear the debate in the Gospel. The introduction to the story give us a clue to where it is going, “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” So prayer is not an occasion to boast before God, but to recognize our weakness, brokenness and need. Note that the Pharisee founds his claim to righteousness on contrasting himself with others: “O God, I thank you that I am not like other people …” His claim to righteousness in his own eyes is based upon casting out and scapegoating others. Note also that he “spoke this prayer to himself” – it was his own ego he was really addressing, not God! 

The Catholic discipline of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is most helpful to this: in Reconciliation we come before God to confess our sins, indeed to come with the attitude of the Tax Collector in the story, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner”. The Examination of Conscience should help this. If we do this sincerely and honestly, there is no room to say, “O God, I thank you that I am not a sinner.” The Examination of Conscience would just have shown us otherwise!

Also, both the First Reading and the Gospel next week show a theme which frequently appears in Scripture, that of ‘reversal’ – God reverses the expectations and priorities of human beings. In a world where the strong and the righteous seem to enjoy God’s favor, God in fact favors the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the penitent sinner.

It is a fundamental principle of Catholic Social Teaching that society should make its greatest efforts to defend and protect the poor and the weak, often symbolized in Scripture as “the orphan and the widow”, people who have nobody to defend them. It is also a frequent part of Jesus’ teaching that those who proclaim themselves righteous are not those favored by God, but those who recognize their true situation before God as sinners. This is always a risk and a temptation for people who take their religious lives seriously.

Note that even tithing his income does not win God’s favor for the Pharisee! rather it is a sign of him trying to justify himself before God.

Lesson Theme Suggestion – God calls us to notice and care for the poor and the weak, and always to respect their dignity. Jesus reminds us too that we cannot boast before God of being good or being better than anyone else. Rather we need to remember that we all are sinners and fall short of God’s call to us.

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 12, 2019

October 13, 2019

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19 (Jesus Heals Ten Lepers)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Gospel Reflection

Question of the Week (Adults): Whose generosity do you tend to take for granted? How will you change this?

Question of the Week (Children): When have you failed to say thank you? Why does this matter?

Catechism Connection

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

October 14 Saint Callistus I Pope and Martyr
October 15 Saint Teresa of Avila Doctor of the Church, Patron of Headaches
October 16 Saint Margaret of Cortona
October 17 Blessed Contardo Ferrini patron of Universities
October 18 Saint Luke Apostle, Evangelist, patron of Artists, Brewers, Butchers, Doctors, Notaries, Painters, Physicians, Surgeons
October 19 St. Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and Companions patrons of North America

Scripture Notes

The First Reading recounts the healing of Naaman, an Aramean army commander, from leprosy. The story is told in full in 2 Kings 5.  The connection between this story and the Gospel is that the person healed of leprosy is a foreigner, not an Israelite, and is thankful to God for his healing. Through his healing, Naaman comes to believe that “there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” That is why he asks to take two mule loads of earth home with him, so he may have with him a little part of Israel, there to worship Israel’s God.   

This Gospel tells the well known story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. The story continues Jesus’ teaching on true faith, and the power it has to bring good out of evil. In Jesus’ day, sickness and especially leprosy was seen as the result of sin, and it was for this reason, as well as fear of catching the illness, which made the lepers outcasts who were hated and feared. Note that one of the lepers is a Samaritan, so he is an outcast twice over: once for being a leper and again for being a Samaritan. 

Jesus accepts the outcasts. He did not heal the lepers on the spot, but he ordered them to go to the priests, as the Law said they should if they were cleansed. As they went in obedience to his word, they found that they had been cured. The story could have ended here, as a “healing at a distance” story, but it continues.

The story is not simply about Jesus’ ability to cure lepers, but is also concerned with the attitude of the person cured. Only one of the ten returns to thank Jesus, and he was a Samaritan: a foreigner and a pagan. The story teaches that gratitude is necessary to go with faith, and it is not always found where it is expected. Jesus’ mercy is offered to all, and especially to the outsiders, and people who are rejected or victimized. Jesus asks them to respond generously, to acknowledge what God has done through him; to faith must be added thanksgiving. The lepers who were Jews would have been expected to have remembered to thank God better than the Samaritan. The person who makes such an acknowledgement experiences a salvation which goes beyond the physical cure. An experience of healing from God is not properly experienced unless it leads to a change of inner orientation.

There is a parallel in this story – featuring a Samaritan – with the famous story of “The Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25-37, which appeared on the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time of Year C. In that episode Jesus had been discussing “what is the greatest commandment of the Law” with a scholar of the Law, who had said to Jesus, 

“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”

Then Jesus went on to tell the story of the Samaritan “being a neighbor” to the man who was a victim of robbers, thus demonstrating the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In our Gospel this Sunday it is the Samaritan who fulfills the commandment to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind,”  by returning to Jesus and giving thanks to God when the others did not. Thus Jesus points out that it was the man who was doubly excluded, as a leper and as a Samaritan, who understood God’s ways rather than the religiously righteous.  

The Second Reading from 2 Timothy also deserves attention. It includes part of an early Christian hymn, which extols the strong bond we have with Christ, and how our lives depend on him, and he is always faithful to us. This scripture is quoted in Bernadette Farrell’s song Unless a Grain of Wheat, Gather #783.

Lesson Theme Suggestion – Jesus has the power to heal. Healing is a sign of the coming of God’s kingdom. The lepers were outcasts, and Jesus helps them be reconciled with the community again (note similarity to the Sacrament of Reconciliation). Jesus gives life to us and is always faithful to us.

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 3, 2019

October 6th, 2019

Gospel: Luke 17:5-10 (Sayings about Faith)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Gospel Reflection

Catechism Connection

162 – Perseverance in Faith

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

October 7 Our Lady of the Rosary
October 9 Saint John Leonardi 
October 10 Saint Francis Borgia patron saint of Earthquakes
October 12 Saint Seraphin of Montegranaro Pope, Martyr

Scripture Commentary

Today, we hear from Jesus a teaching on faith. Often he was impatient if not angry with his disciples for their lack of faith. He is fairly insulting to them today, saying that their faith is so small it is even smaller than a mustard seed.

He tells them that great things can happen if they have faith.

But what does Jesus mean by faith? We all talk about faith and all Christians agree that we should have faith, but really, what is it? What is Jesus talking about?

“Faith is like a mustard seed”, etc, a metaphor – faith is apparently small and insignificant, but can achieve impossibly great things. What faith can achieve is like moving mountains or trees. Faith is the only power that can save and heal the world.

This faith is not belief in a set of doctrines, etc., yet it is a very strong conviction. Someone who is sick has faith when they are convinced that they can and will be cured. When this is strong enough a cure is affected. When you pray with real conviction, it will happen; but if you doubt or hesitate, it will not happen. For example, Peter walking on the water. He began to sink once his faith failed.

The power of faith is not just a strong conviction, but a particular kind of conviction: it is a good and true conviction, that something can and will happen because it is good and because it is true that goodness can and will triumph over evil. In other words it is a conviction that God is good to humanity and that God can and will triumph over evil. The power of faith is the power of goodness and truth, which is the power of God.

The opposite of faith is therefore fatalism. Fatalism is the prevailing attitude of most people most of the time. It finds expression in such statements as, “Nothing can be done about it”, “You must be practical and realistic”, “There is no hope”, “You must accept reality”. These are statements of people who do not really believe in the power of God and do not really hope for what God has promised.

This kind of faith is closely related to hope. They are two aspects of the same attitude, as unbelief and despair are two different aspects of fatalism.

Faith was an attitude people caught from Jesus through their contact with him. So they asked him to increase their faith. One person’s faith could awake faith in another. The disciples were sent out to awaken faith in others. When fatalism had been replaced by faith the impossible began to happen.

This explains why Jesus often says, “Your faith has healed you” when he heals a person. Jesus was reluctant to perform miracles, esp. the “signs” which people were asking him to perform, as demonstrations of power. Therefore experiences of healing – as Jesus practices and explains it – are instances of the triumph of faith over fatalism.

Jesus’ motive for healing is compassion and a desire to liberate people from their suffering and their fatalistic resignation to suffering. Jesus did not think that he had a monopoly of faith, compassion or the power to heal. What he wanted to do most of all was to awaken the same compassion and faith in people around him. That alone would allow the power of God to become operative in their midst.

The power to forgive sins (for example, in the Healing of the Paralytic), is also the power of faith. What people wondered at was not that Jesus had such power, but that such powers to forgive sins had been given to people in general.

Faith releases in us a power that is beyond us: faith in the kingdom of God. Only when faith is strong enough in the world will the miracle of the kingdom of God happen. Faith is not a magical power; it is a straightforward decision in favour of the kingdom of God. Thus ‘repentance’ in the sense is a change of allegiance from this world to the Kingdom of God.

If the kingdom of God were an illusion, faith would be powerless. What makes the kingdom come is heartfelt compassion and hopeful faith.

For an excellent exposition on Faith, see Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Lumen Fidei, “The Light of Faith”.

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 26, 2019

September 29, 2019

Gospel: Luke 16:19-31 (The Rich Man and Lazarus)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Question of the Week (Adults): What are the “rewards” of caring for the needs of the poor?

Question of the Week (Children): What is one thing you or your family could do this week to help those who are poor or sick?

Catechism Connection

633 – Jesus descended to hell to free the just
1021 – The particular judgment of each person a death
2831 – “Give us this day our daily bread” and care for the poor

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

September 29 Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael Archangels, patrons of Death, Germany, Grocers, Police officers, Radiologists
September 30 Saint Jerome patron of Librarians
October 1 Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, Doctor of the Church
October 2 The Guardian Angels
October 3 Saint Mother Theodora Guerin
October 4 Saint Francis of Assisi patron of Ecology, Animals, Italy, Merchants

Scripture Notes

In the First Reading this Sunday the Prophet Amos describes the conflict between rich and poor in his day as sinful (wrong from God’s perspective) because it destroys the harmony which should exist because of the Covenant between God and Israel. It is contrary to the egalitarian aim of the Covenant; there should be relationships of justice, and laws governing possession of land such that no one can own great estates, and no one will be destitute.

In the story Jesus tells in the Gospel (note first that the name Lazarus ‘el azar’ means “he whom God helps”. The rich man is entirely oblivious of Lazarus – he is hardly aware of his existence. We are not told that the rich man is deliberately cruel to Lazarus, or dishonest, just that he is unaware of Lazarus and his needs. The rich man did nothing for the beggar, except perhaps giving him some scraps. Even in Hades he thinks that Lazarus is there to look after his wants – to bring him water or be a messenger for him – while in his lifetime he never spared a thought for Lazarus’ wants or needs.

The second part of the story is not meant as a description of the afterlife, rather it continues the moral question. Lazarus receives God’s mercy; the rich man receives what he gave in this life: nothing at all. The rich man finds himself in hell not through his action, but through his inaction. Not only was he blind – unable to see Lazarus – but also deaf – unable to hear the Word of God in the Scriptures. The dialogue shows that the rich man and his brothers took no notice of the Law and the Prophets, and not even a miracle will change their hearts – they just don’t want to know.

The Bible and the Social Teaching of the Church say a lot about questions of wealth and poverty.

First: it is wrong for a few to be rich and the majority to be poor. This was what Amos was condemning. The Christian ideal is a society where everyone has enough, and no one has too much.

Second: people who are rich are guilty of robbery simply by withholding from the poor what is theirs by right. This was so of the rich man in the parable, and is so of the rich collectively in a country where many are poor, or of rich nations in the world. Many people in the Church throughout its history have said that if someone who is really poor (like Lazarus in the story) takes property from someone who is rich, they are not really stealing, but re-possessing what was rightfully theirs anyway.

Here are several quotations to illustrate this:

  • St. Ambrose – “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his.”
  • Pope Paul VI – Populorum Progressio n.23 – “No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life.”
  • Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes n.69 – “Men are obliged to come to the relief of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods. If one is in extreme necessity, he has the right to procure for himself what he needs out of the riches of others.”
  • Pope John XXIII – “The obligation of every man, the urgent obligation of the Christian man, is to reckon what is superfluous by the measure of the need of others, and to see to it that the administration and the distribution of created goods serve the common good.”

Third: how you use your wealth and power is a very important spiritual matter – your eternal salvation may rest on how you use them.

Fourth: because the use of one’s wealth is so important, we cannot ignore the question and hope it goes away, and say ‘that is politics; it is nothing to do with religion.” We cannot conduct politics and economics as if our religious and moral beliefs have nothing to say about them.

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2019

September 22, 2019

Gospel: Luke 16:1-13 (The Dishonest Steward)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Gospel Reflection

Question of the Week (Adults): Can cheating and deception ever be justified?

Question of the Week (Children): If someone treats you unfairly, do you have the right to do the same to them?

Catechism Connection

952 – All Christians should be ready to come to the aid of the needy
2424 – “You cannot serve both God and Mammon”

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

September 22 Saint Thomas of Villanova
September 23 Blessed Pica Bernadone
September 24 Saint Pacifico of San Severini
September 26 Saints Cosmas and Damian patrons saints of barbers, pharmacists, physicians, surgeons
September 27 Saint Vincent de Paul patron saint of charities
September 28 Saint Wenceslaus patron saint of Bohemia 

Scripture Commentary

Pope Francis has stated very clearly that he want “a poor Church which is for the poor”. He is stating very clearly the Biblical principle of God’s “preferential option for the poor”. This is found throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament, that God shows compassion to those who are poor and marginalized, such as landless laborers, widows, orphans and foreigners. For a contemporary expression of this option for the poor,  see the US Bishops Labor Day Statement in favor of the rights of Workers.

Concern for the poor is a priority of Luke’s Gospel, and the both the Psalm and the First Reading from the prophet Amos have been selected to draw attention to this.

Few passages in the Gospels have given rise to so many different interpretations as the story of the unjust steward. There are two main interpretations of what the steward did. One is that he was acting dishonestly, wasting his master’s goods then falsifying his accounts. Only his foresight in preparing for the future is praised. Another interpretation is that the steward had included in the accounts interest due on deferred payments, which was illegal in the Law of the Old Testament. Thus by removing the interest payments he is pleasing the debtors, obeying God’s law, and putting his master in a good light. Remember also that in one translation of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are in debt to us”. So ready forgiveness of debt is a sign of exercising forgiveness to others as God exercises forgiveness to us, and a sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

So what did Jesus mean by it? The story is probably a metaphor, urging the disciples to use prudence in recognizing the coming of catastrophe, and acting appropriately to avoid it. v.10 – 13 is a collection of sayings about faithfulness, dishonesty and wealth. True faithfulness must be learned, and that true faithfulness is to God alone. Wealth, described as ‘Mammon’, is considered to be a demonic force radically opposed to God. If the pursuit of wealth demands your first devotion and loyalty, you cannot also serve God with an undivided heart. This saying is very uncompromising.

Jesus’ sayings about God and money are regarded as the “hardest” in the Gospels. Many Christians tend to water them down. The most astounding statement about the Kingdom of God is not that it was near but that it would be the Kingdom of the poor, and that the rich, as long as they remain rich, would have no part in it. It would be a miracle for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of God. The miracle would not be getting him in with all his wealth, but getting him to give up his wealth so that he could enter a kingdom of the poor.

Lesson Theme Suggestion – True faithfulness to God is very important. As a child, you learn to be faithful in small things (telling the truth, not taking other people’s things), so that when you grow up you can be trusted with much more. Money should not be used only for yourself and your family, but also for the poor and needy.

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

September 15, 2019

September 15, 2019

Gospel: Luke 15:1-32 (Parables of Lost and Found)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL/Benziger Lectionary Resources

Question of the Week (Adults):When have you persistently sought after a member of your family who has lost his or her way?

Question of the Week (Children): Have you ever felt you were not getting credit for your good works? What did you do?

Catechism Connection

545 – Jesus invites sinners to the table of the Kingdom
589 – Jesus scandalized people by forgiving sinners
1439 – The process of conversion and repentance is revealed in this parable 
1443 – Jesus receives sinners at his table
1468 – The Sacrament of Reconciliation
1700 – The dignity of the human person is rooted in the image of God
1846 – The Gospel is the revelation of God’s mercy
2839 – In the “Our Father” we return to God like the Prodigal Son

See the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

September 15 Our Lady of Sorrows
September 16 Saints Cornelius and Cyprian martyrs 
September 17 Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, patron of Catechists and Catechumens
September 18 Saint Joseph of Cupertino patron of Air Travelers, Astronauts, Pilots  
September 19 Saint Januarius
September 20 Saint Andrew Kim and Companions, martyrs September 21 Saint Matthew Evangelist, patron of Accountants, Bankers, Bookkeepers, Tax Collectors

YEAR C – Twenty Fourth Sunday of the Year

The Gospel today features three of Jesus’ best known parables: The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the story of the Two Sons (we might even call them “The Lost Sons”). We usually give our greatest attention to the third story, but the first two are also worthy of note and comment. All three stories have it in common that the guardian (the Shepherd, the Woman or the Father) all abandon care for those who are safe, to seek out the lost. All three abandon prudence and status in pursuit of the lost.

Another notable point is that often in groups of parables or teachings Jesus pairs a story about a man with a story about a woman. Here we hear about a shepherd (male) looking for a lost sheep, and then a woman looking for a lost coin. Nowadays we often hear of “inclusive language” often dismissed as “political correctness”, but note that Jesus very frequently paired a story or teaching about a situation facing a man, with one facing a woman.

We usually call the third story “The Prodigal Son” – the younger son – but the elder son has an important part to play in the story. The story is about immaturity, stupidity, selfishness, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, celebration, resentment, jealousy, trust, joy. Somewhere in the tale we can see ourselves.

Notes drawn from talk by Fr. John Shea

Jesus taught about the “power that lies behind all life” God, whose care “goes too far”. In his parables and stories Jesus tried to get people to gather all their fears together, then to contradict the fear with the reality of love. Jesus spoke in parables about Fathers and Kings, familiar language to his hearers, but Jesus’ Fathers and Kings confounded people’s expectations.

Jesus’ Father was a strange Father; he didn’t make judgements about people but was full of inexhaustible and inclusive love. In the story of the Two Sons – the Father does three mind-boggling things:

  • He gives away his money before he is dead. This is not considered to be a good idea by Jesus’ hearers, because it puts you at the behest of the people to whom you have given the money. He makes himself penniless in his care for his two sons.
  • He waits for the son who took the money and ran (the other one still took the money but he stayed). He goes out to look for him and even runs to him when he appears, abandoning his precious oriental dignity. The son had written a script of self-hatred for himself. He cannot put on the clothes of sonship – the old man must clothe him. We can be in a situation where we cannot see our self-worth or dignity. We need someone who loves us more than we love ourselves to restore it. At the moment we judge ourselves to be unworthy, this reality which has been pursuing us it clothing us. There is an inclusive and pursuing love at the heart of human life which loves us more than we love ourselves, which spends itself for our welfare. All our fears can be faced by opening up to this love.
  • Thirdly, he comes out of the party to find the elder son. The story could have ended as the party began. There are many Jewish Two Brothers stories (and modern ones too) e.g. Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, where usually there is an elder dullard who is resentful, and a younger rascal who has the Father’s love. The Father comes out to the elder son because of inclusive love and invitation which will not allow the resentment of the elder brother nor the self-hatred of the younger to stop the party. For one cannot have a party without all.

The story leaves the listeners with some uncomfortable questions of who is “in” and who is “out”. For Jesus the symbol and image of Father for Jesus meant inclusiveness and invitation.