In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus reassures the disciples in the face of opposition. “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Luke 21: 17-19). Following Jesus is difficult. Discipleship is life threatening Throughout the world Christians suffer persecution and death. Everywhere Christians strive to forsake selfish lives. Everyday life circumstances challenge us in following Jesus. Parents struggle with loving patience for children at the end of a long day. Spouses grow weary caring for a chronically ill partner. A chemotherapy patient struggles with the courage to face another treatment. Sometimes the harder we try to be good, the harder things get. I have a friend who stopped praying for patience. Every time she prayed for it, she encountered another obstacle that tried her patience. Yet Jesus promises God’s loving care for those who persevere in following his example. God wishes us no harm. God loves us. God is with us in good times and bad. How has God helped you in a difficult time?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time, the disciples ask Jesus about the time of his return. “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” (Luke 21: 7) Jesus cautions them to avoid confusion about the time of his return in glory. “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Luke 21:8). We too are curious about when Christ will return. While we wait, we can recognize him in every act of selfless love. Christ is present in a friend faithful in good times and bad, in a parent who donates a kidney to a child, in a host who welcomes a lonely guest to Thanksgiving dinner, in a church community that operates a thrift store, in a family member who forgives a relative who made a hurtful remark, and in many other loving acts. What signs of the presence of Christ do you recognize the presence of Christ?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions, Jesus tells the story of the poor widow. After watching some wealthy people put their money in the collection, he sees her add her two small coins. “This poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood” (Luke 21: 3-4). Jesus praises the widow for her simple generosity. She is a model for Christian disciples. They offer whatever they have in ordinary, loving service to others. Jesus wants us to give of ourselves whatever our talents or treasures. We emulate the widow when we donate money to the Salvation Army, contact an ailing relative, visit a lonely nursing home resident, cook for the homeless, cheer up a troubled friend, lobby for just laws, and more. In what ways are your generous to those in need? How can God help you be more generous?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the ten gold coins. Before leaving on a trip, a king entrusts 10 gold coins each to three of his servants. Upon return he discovers the first two servants have invested the money wisely. Too afraid of the king, the third disobeyed and did not invest the money. The king rewards the first two servants with official appointments. He gives the third servant’s ten coins to the one who doubled the investment. When criticized for being unfair to the third servant, the king replies. “I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Luke 19: 27). This is a parable about discipleship. Jesus abundantly rewards faithful disciples and gives them more responsibility. Jesus blesses those who follow him no matter what. He blesses them with God’s love which they must share with others. Jesus blesses the grieving widow with comfort from family and friends. The widow in turn shares with others the compassion she has received. Jesus blesses parents with a deep love for their children. They in turn share this love with all God’s children. In what way has God’s love for you deepened your love for others?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus saves Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus climbs a tree to get a better view of Jesus passing by. “When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy” (Luke 19: 5-6). Zacchaeus is a tax collector notorious to Jews. Because Jesus offers to stay with Zacchaeus who welcomes him and resolves to change his life, Zacchaeus is saved The presence of God accomplishes the impossible. How has the presence of God in your life made the impossible possible?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Jesus cures a blind beggar. The beggar calls out to Jesus. Jesus responds. ” ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He replied, ‘Lord, please let me see.’ Jesus told him, ‘Have sight; your faith has saved you.’ He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God” (Luke 18:41-43). Jesus shows merciful compassion for the beggar. Throughout his ministry, he has compassion on the outcasts and unfortunates. I imagine myself a blind beggar asking Jesus for healing. In my story, Jesus asks me “What do you want me to do for you?” I ask him for clearer vision to see God in the faces of the poor and unfortunate. I desire more compassion for the impoverished, homeless, sick, physically and mentally challenged, depressed, and others in need whom I encounter. How can Jesus help you see others with more compassion?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus urges the disciples to be ready for his return. “So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, someone who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise one in the field must not return to what was left behind” (Luke 17: 30-31). Jesus wants the disciples and us to get our priorities straight. He wants us to avoid preoccupation with everyday concerns. Jesus wants us to know that whatever we do, we do for God. God’s love for us and our love for others animates our everyday chores. Going to work provides shelter for our families, cooking provides nourishment for our children, cleaning the house keeps our loved ones healthy, and doing anything that benefits others promotes the reign of God. Whatever we do out of love, we do for God. We live for the reign of God while we wait for Jesus’ return. How do you demonstrate the love of God in your daily activities?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Jesus tells the Pharisees about the coming of the reign of God. “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:2ob-21).” The narrow minded Pharisees do not see the presence of God in the miracles of Jesus, especially the healing of Gentiles. Even disciples of Jesus struggle to recognize God’s presence. We readily acknowledge God in our lives when times are good. We have difficulty believing when times are hard. We see the hand of God in the blessings of a new job, the birth of a child, a delicious meal, recovery from cancer, and more. We doubt in God at times of sickness, grief, unemployment, debt, and other struggles. Where do you see the presence of God in your life?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Jesus teaches about God’s incredible graciousness. Jesus compares the disciples to servants. “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat’ ” (Luke 17: 7-8a). The master expects the servant to wait on him. He does not invite the servant to sit down at the table and serve him dinner. God is like a master who waits on the servant. God generously lavishes his love and grace on the disciples. They do not earn it. We do not earn God’s love by the good works we do. God loves us first. This love inspires us to love others. Like the generous master, God waits on us. In turn we wait on others. How does God wait on you? You on others?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, the disciples asks Jesus to strengthen their faith. Jesus replies, “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 17:6). A mustard seed is very small. A mulberry tree is large with an extensive root system. So how can even a little faith uproot such an immovable tree? Jesus urges his disciples to have faith in God who does unexpected things. I was in seminary. I did not plan to marry. Then I met my future wife. After thirty three years of marriage, we are proud parents of three young adult sons. God did and continues to do unexpected things in my life. What unexpected things has God done for you? What unexpected things have you done for others?