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.


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. 

Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

September 5, 2019

September 8, 2019

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33 (Sayings on Discipleship)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary
Homily from Bishop Robert Barron

Question of the Week (Adults): How do you try to discover what God is asking of you?

Question of the Week (Children): When is it hard for you to know the right thing to do? Who helps you know?

RCL/Benziger Lectionary Resources

Catechism Connection

1618 – The bond with Christ takes precedence over all other relationships
2544 – Jesus calls his disciples to renounce all they have

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

Saints This Week

September 8 Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
September 9 Saint Peter Claver patron of African Americans, Colombia
September 10 Pedro de Corpa and Companions martyrs
September 11 Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre martyr
September 12 Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
September 13 Saint John Chrysostom patron of Orators, Preachers
September 14 Exaltation of the Holy Cross

YEAR C – Twenty Third Sunday of the Year

There is a tendency for we Christians to pick and choose which parts of the Gospel we want to follow, and which parts we would rather ignore. If there is some part we would prefer to ignore, such as most of today’s gospel, we often try to argue it away, perhaps saying, “Oh well, Jesus didn’t mean this saying literally.”

It is much too easy to do this, and to either water down the Gospel, or to interpret it away to nothing. Let us be careful not to do this today, but rather to try to listen to what the Gospel is really saying.

What is the main point of this passage? Is Jesus talking mainly about money, or possessions, or family, or suffering? Rather, his main idea is discipleship: what does it means to be a follower of Jesus? What are the consequences of being his disciple?

To be a disciple means to put following Jesus first, putting the kingdom of God first, even before family or possessions or money or even your own life.

So then, supposing you say “OK, I have put God first, God is more important to me than money, so I needn’t worry about all this money I have, since it isn’t really important to me.”

But remember the saying in today’s Gospel “none of you can be my disciples unless you give up all your possessions” and another such saying of Jesus, “You cannot be the servant of both God and money” or “It is harder for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”

So beware of the pursuit of money or the accumulation of money, beyond the basic needs of you and your family, or else it may become an obstacle between you and God, for you may trust in money more than trust in God.

There is another reason for getting rid of money – somebody else needs it. This is a matter of justice, not charity. There are rich and poor people in the world, or rich and poor countries, to a large extent because the rich people and countries arrange things so that they can hang on to their money, and their power. It is up to us, as followers of Jesus, to do what we can to change this.

Consider also the harsh language of Jesus about “hating father, mother, wife, children” etc. We need to remember that Jesus was speaking Aramaic, a language which has very dramatic contrasts, rather than the subtle shadings we are used to in English. So we can rightly understand this saying as “to love less” or “to leave aside, abandon, renounce.” It is about putting discipleship of Jesus first, and all other things behind it.

What does the saying mean, “anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple”? South African Dominican theologian Albert Nolan (in Jesus Before Christianity) points out that in the early Christian community people did not sell absolutely everything they had (Acts 2:44-46): they still kept at least their own clothes, bedding, cooking utensils, houses, furniture. What they strived towards was not poverty but common ownership. What did they sell? Surplus land or houses. They did not sell the houses they lived in, nor did they live all under one roof, so they sold their capital or investments, what was surplus. Therefore what ‘selling your possessions’ means is giving up what is surplus and treating nothing as your own.

Jesus did not idealize poverty, but because of his compassion for the poor, he wanted to ensure that nobody would be in want.

This teaching is also reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its discussion of money and property under “The Seventh Commandment (You shall not steal)”:

2401 The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s goods to God and to fraternal charity.

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 29, 2019

September 1, 2019

Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14 (A lesson in Humility)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Question of the Week (Adults): Has the hunger for status and influence in the world around you endangered your life as a Christian? 

Question of the Week (Children): Does it make you a better person to be chosen first for a team or for some other honor? Why or why not?

Catechism Connection

575 – Jesus’ relations with the Pharisees
588 – Jesus eats with sinners

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

Saints This Week

September 1 Saint Giles, patron of Beggars, the Disabled
September 2 Blessed John Francis Burte and Companions, martyrs
September 3 Saint Gregory the Great, Pope, Doctor of the Church, patron of England, Teachers
September 4 Saint Rose of Viterbo
September 5 Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
September 7 Blessed Frederick Ozanam

Scriptures – Year C – 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Several years ago, I was sitting around one evening, chatting with some friends. We got around to talking about what makes a good friend.

“Someone who is down to earth” said someone.

“Someone who doesn’t have airs and graces, or think they are better than everyone else” said another.

“Someone who is natural and uncomplicated.”

“Someone who accepts you as you are and has no pretensions about themselves.”

“Someone who doesn’t try to dominate others or make themselves Number One.”

After some talking like this I thought, “Everyone is talking about humility; they are talking about someone who is humble.” What is more, not one of the people talking was a Christian, yet they were describing perfectly the Christian virtue of humility.

You can see from what they were saying how attractive a person is who is truly humble. Likewise, someone who is proud and self-centered is very unattractive.

This might sound a bit different from the picture of humility that we sometimes get: someone who says, “I’m no good, I’m ugly, useless, stupid, etc” and makes themselves miserable and everybody else, too. This isn’t real humility, because it is too self-centered, and denies what is good in the person.

One of the most important aspects of humility is not dominating other people. This is why humility is one of the most important virtues, because the desire to dominate others – which is connected with pride and egoism – is the root of much sin and selfishness, saying, “I want things done my way.” This desire to dominate is the cause of all greed, violence, war, rape, all of which are ways in which people try to force their will upon others.

Here is an exercise you can try. Try to become aware of the times when you might try to impose your wishes on someone else, especially in simple everyday things like which channel to watch on the television, or what you want to eat for dinner. Perhaps you will learn a few lessons about what pride and humility really are.

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2019

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30 (The Narrow Door)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Question of the Week (Adults): What daily choices are you making that will allow you to be recognized at the doorway of the reign of God? 

Question of the Week (Children): What good habits are you practicing in order to be a good Christian?

Catechism Connection

There are no refwerences to this Gospel passage in the Catechism

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

Saints This Week

August 25 Saint Louis of France patron of Barbers, Grooms
August 27 Saint Monica patron of Alcoholics, Married Women, Mothers
August 28 Saint Augustine of Hippo, Bishop, Doctor of the Church, patron of Printers;
           See Restless Heart, biographical movie of St. Augustine’s life
August 29 Saint Louis of Toulouse 
August 30 Saint Jeanne Jugan
August 31 Saints Joseph of Arimathea (patron of Undertakers) and Nicodemus

Year C – Twenty First Sunday of the Year

The question which was asked to Jesus in the Gospel today, “will there be only a few saved?” has been asked often in Christian history: who will be saved? many or few? and how?

Different people have given different answers, and upon each hangs a different image of God.

Some people say that very few will be saved, and quote this passage and others as evidence. God is seen in such a view as very holy, perfect and pure, not able to abide the company of sinners, but only the “top people”. So how do we think human beings can become the “top people”?

  • for Catholics, we become saints by the practice of virtue and the Sacrament of Penance
  • for Evangelical Christians (such as Baptists, Lutherans) by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior
  • for Calvinists, by predestination, God’s choice

Some may say that very many or all are saved, and will quote from elsewhere, for example, from the First Reading today, from the prophet Isaiah, in which God promises to bring people from every nation into the new community of God’s people. Also we can quote Jesus saying that he came to save what is lost, the lost sheep, to show love and mercy, etc. God is seen as love, mercy, accepting all.

So what percentage will be saved?

Perhaps less than 1% if you thing God wants only the “top people”

Or more than 99% if God accepts all, no matter what.

However, if we knew for certain that either of these options was so, then perhaps our response would be “Why bother? Why make an effort?” because in one case you are almost certainly lost, however hard you might try to be saved, and in the other, you are almost certainly saved no matter what you do.

A problem with both of these views is that they are too automatic and static. It appears as if the decision about a person’s salvation is already made, but in fact this is not how it works. There is a dialogue between God and people, a call and a response.

God calls each person and has gifts prepared for each, of life, love, peace and happiness, both now and for all eternity. So God’s call and God’s gift come first – what we call Grace. None are excluded from this: all are called.

But a response from people is called for, both as individuals and as communities, both now and for all eternity. All are called to respond, some do and some don’t. Most people do respond to God’s invitation a bit, but hang on to our own possessions, ways, wishes, power, etc.

So for all who respond with some measure of faith, goodness, love, God accepts this, and offers more and calls to fuller trust. Only a few make a full-hearted response, and only a few really reject God completely. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.

Hence for us, God’s treatment of us can feel like punishment, (see the Second Reading from Hebrews). The call, indeed the demand of God can be very exacting but in the end it “bears fruit in peace and goodness.”

So “hold up your limp arms”, etc. and keep going!

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 20, 2019

Question of the Week (Adults): When has your taking a strong stand on a moral issue created division rather than healing in the short term?

Question of the Week (Children): Is it important to do the right things even if others are angry as a result? Why or why not?

Catechism Connection

536 – Jesus’ baptism, connected with his mission and death
696 – Fire, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit

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

Saints This Week

August 18 Saint Jane Frances de Chantal
August 19 Saint John Etudes
August 20 Saint Bernard of Clairvaux 
August 21 Saint Pius X, Pope
August 22 Queenship of Mary
August 23 Saint Rose of Lima patron of the Americas, Latin America, Peru, the Philippines, Florists
August 24 Saint Bartholomew, apostle

Year C – Twentieth Sunday of the Year

The Readings today are difficult and obscure. However, with some study and discernment they can reveal to us some valuable teaching. There is a thread of common concern through the reading from Jeremiah, the Psalm and the Gospel.

The passage from Jeremiah is part of a longer story in which Jeremiah is cast into a cistern, a nearly dried-up well, as a punishment for daring to challenge King Zedekiah, the king of Israel. By being cast into the cistern, Jeremiah is being cast out, rejected, scapegoated, and is likely to die in the cistern. However, as the story unfolds, Jeremiah is saved, and is later able to convince the king of the truth of the prophecy which he is bringing from God. There is a parallel in this story to that of Joseph in Genesis 37, when his brothers cast him into a well, and eventually he is saved from the well, but then sold as a slave into Egypt.

The second reading of note is the Psalm no. 40. Like many Psalms it is a cry of someone in distress who is saved by God. But note the details – it is the cry of someone who is in “the pit of destruction, the mud of the swamp”, which was Jeremiah’s experience. In many of the Psalms God come to the aid of an individual who is unjustly accused, and cast out, that is once again, someone who is a scapegoat.

This now leads us to the Gospel, and the thread of connection here is harder to discern. Why is Jesus saying that he is not establishing peace on the earth, but rather division? Why cause division in families? Surely Jesus is “pro-family”? A clue to the meaning of his teaching comes from the expression Jesus uses to his disciples at the Last Super in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” In Jesus’ teaching and example, and even more in his death and resurrection, he is both revealing the falsehood of and undermining the way “peace” is often created in this world, that is, creating a false peace in a community or a family by uniting “all against one” in the Scapegoating Mechanism. So if this process of scapegoating is taken away, very often the false “peace” is removed, causing people to squabble with each other because they common scapegoat has been taken away. This is an intermediate stage to learning the peace which only Jesus can give, that is, practicing forgiveness and love, rather than resentment, accusation and scapegoating.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 10, 2019

Gospel: Luke 12:32-48 (Trust in God, and preparedness for the Lord’s return)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Question of the Week (Adults): Other than Jesus, which of the ancestors of Christian faith has served as the greatest example to you? Why?

Question of the Week (Children): Which person of the Bible has been a good example to you of how to live?

Catechism Connection

2849 – Jesus urges vigilance in prayer

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

Saints This Week

August 11 Saint Clare patron of Eye disorders, Television
August 13 Saints Pontian and Hippolytus, martyrs
August 14 Saint Maximilian Kolbe, martyr, patron of drug addicts
August 15 Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary 
August 16 Saint Stephen of Hungary
August 17 Saint Joan of the Cross

Year C – Nineteenth Sunday of the Year

There are consistent messages running through all the Readings today: “be faithful, trust in God’s promises, be ready for the Lord to arrive.”

The First Reading from the Book of Wisdom is a reflection upon the Exodus experience for the Jewish people. The author of Wisdom is praising and recognizing the faith and courage shown by the Israelites in Egypt, who in the midst of their captivity put their trust in “the oaths” that is, God’s promises to them, as they awaited their salvation, their liberation from slavery. Even when under persecution, they were in secret offering sacrifice to God and following God’s commandments.

The same things can be said of Abraham, remembered as one of the great heroes of faith in the Letter to the Hebrews. In this Letter, faith is defined as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” This fits the experience and conduct of Abraham and Sarah: they were promised to become parents of many nations and peoples, despite being very elderly and past childbearing. But their faith in God’s capacity to fulfill his promises was very strong.

These two Readings provide a foundation upon which to build the Gospel: Jesus calls upon his disciples to trust in God rather than wealth, and to be ready and prepared for the return of the Lord. Jesus illuminates his teaching with two parables about faithful servants, whose faith and perseverance wins them a reward, and further responsibility, from their Master.