In the Gospel for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector praying in the Temple. The Pharisee thanks God he is not like the despicable tax collector. “But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former …” (Luke 18: 13-14a). Jesus exemplifies the tax collector as an authentic Christian disciple. The tax collector recognizes his need for God’s mercy. He is sorry for his sins. God’s mercy has no bounds. God forgives even the worst of sinners who repent. How much more God will forgive us for our jealously of our neighbors, intolerance of people not like us, fear of self-sacrifice, refusal of treatment for an addiction to drugs or alcohol, cheating at home or at work, and others actions or inactions that hurt ourselves and others. For what do you ask God’s mercy?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge. With relentless persistence, a helpless widow pleads for a judgement from an unjust judge. “For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me’” (Luke 18: 4-5). Jesus wants his disciples and us, like the widow, to persist in prayer. If the helpless widow could prevail over the unjust judge, just think of the good works Christians can accomplish through prayer. How can God help you accomplish for what you are praying today?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures the ten lepers. “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan” (Luke 17: 15-16). One leper acknowledges the power of God who heals him. He returns to thank Jesus . The story contrasts the gratitude of one with the ingratitude of the rest. On the occasion of the birthday of my wife, I thank God for her. I am glad she was born. Through her God has blessed me in wonderful ways, especially with three sons. I imagine myself the tailor in Fiddler on the Roof who sings about his fiancée, “Wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles, God has given you to me”. For what wonders in your life do you have to thank God?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed. “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you’ ” (Luke 17: 5-6). Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. There they will face opposition that puts Jesus to death. Full of apprehension, the disciples ask Jesus to strengthen their faith. He urges them to trust in God for protection. Like a small mustard seed uprooting a tree, faith in God can accomplish the unexpected. How has God accomplished the unexpected in your life? How has that increased your faith?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. When the beggar, Lazarus, died, he enjoyed the company of Abraham in heaven. When the rich man died, he experienced torment in the netherworld. He failed to care for Lazarus. From the netherworld he pleaded with Abraham. ” ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them’ ” (Luke 16: 27-29). Lazarus had Moses and the Prophets. We have Jesus. Jesus wants his disciples and us to do loving acts of kindness to the Lazaruses in our lives. He wants us to give or ourselves to those starving for food, craving for mercy, thirsting for justice. What deed of loving kindness is Jesus asking from you today?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest steward. About to be fired, a steward collects a reduced interest from the debtors of his master. He gets even with the master who makes less profit. He also insures good business relationships with the debtors from whom he may need help in his unemployment. “And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. ‘For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light’ ” (Luke 16: 10). Jesus seems to be holding up a dishonest manager as an example to follow. Jesus is commending him for his decisive action in a crisis rather than for his dishonesty. Jesus is challenging his listeners who are indecisive about following him. Jesus urges his disciples and us to give ourselves wholeheartedly to God every day. Doing God’s will obligate us to share everyday what we have in whatever way we can with those in want: food to the hungry, comfort to the sick, shelter for the homeless, companionship for the lonely, and more. What action did you take today on behalf of those who want?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Sheep. He relates finding the lost sheep to the reign of God. “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15: 7). Jesus’ God is unbelievably merciful. God is as foolish in mercy as the shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep to find one lost. Our wonderfully merciful God still loves us even when we sin. When we realize the wrong we have done, we can return to our God who abounds in mercy. With such a merciful God, we can find the courage to admit our wrongdoing, to help heal those whom we have hurt, and to try again to love better. How do you experience the mercy of God?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches about the demands of discipleship. “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14: 33). Jesus reminds his disciples and us to weigh the costs of following him. Loving friendship with Jesus demands a total commitment. As true friends of God, Christian discipleships are ready to offer whatever they have for God’s sake. Following the example of Jesus, his disciples willingly do whatever it takes to love others. When have you served someone in need without counting the cost?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-second in Ordinary Time, Jesus told a parable about the guests at a wedding banquet choosing places of honor at the table. The host asked those who chose a place of honor to move when the real honored guests arrived. The host later invited those who chose a lower place to take an unoccupied place of honor. “Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14: 11). Jesus uses table manners to teach about the reign of God. God invites everyone into the kingdom. Those who recognize their need for God respond to the invitation. I realize how much I depend on God. I have done nothing to earn God’s blessing of life, family, job, and more. God is also responsible for the good I do. Despite my struggles as a husband and parent, God helps me love my spouse and my sons. How do you depend on God?
In the Gospel for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus answers a question about who will be saved. “ ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved?’ He answered them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will ot be strong enough’ ” (Luke 13: 24). Jesus warns his disciples and us about waiting until too late to seek the reign of God. He urges us to seek it now. Seeking the reign of God demands a change of heart. Jesus wants us to live each day for God. Living for God is living for others as Jesus taught us. How are you living today for God?