As Jesus dines at the home of a Pharisee, he advises us not to invite our friends or wealthy neighbors over for dinner because good manners means they will be required to invite us back in return. Instead Jesus encourages us to welcome into our hearts those who might be unthinkable as guests - "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" - the ultimate outcasts of society. They have no means to thank us.
Who in our own lives are the outcast or the overlooked? Whom do I ignore or dismiss in my own life?
Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10
The stage is set for Zacchaeus the wealthy tax collector. Tax collectors were among the most despised people in the society. The tax system itself ensured that. Their wages were the shekels they could extort from their own people over and above what they collected for the occupying Roman powers. Zacchaeus was “a chief tax collector,” one of the best at his job. Everything that Luke has written about wealth prepares us for a fierce confrontation between Jesus and Zacchaeus. What we hear instead is an invitation to dinner.
One of our great human fears is the fear of losing something/someone, or of being lost ourselves. Children fear when their parents seem far away; parents hold on tight to little hands lest they lose their children in a crowd. We check and double check to make sure we know where the house keys or the car keys are. Don’t lose that credit card or you’ll be in trouble! Keep the GPS handy in case you get lost!
How significant that we describe the death of a family member or close friend as “losing” someone. The ever present absence, the sound of the voice remembered but not really heard, the quirks and habits that were so much a part of everyday life, now gone. There is much that is lost.
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
In many ways, today’s feast is bouncy and upbeat. In the first paragraph of our first reading, there is the call to salvation for the Chosen People. The second paragraph extends this call to persons from “every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Happily, each and every person is called to sanctity.
As the song’s lyrics state, “I want to be of that number.” John points out in the second reading that the call to be children of God may be unrecognized and misunderstood but that our faith and hope will include us among the saints.
Romans 8:26-30; Luke 13:22-30
There are invisible things-things that are beyond what we and the world can point to. The wind that moves the leaves, the breaking heart that evokes the tears, and hope that spurs us on. Also invisible is the big picture-our life that is being shaped by today and by the God who desires our happiness and our communion with him.
We aren't often allowed to see the big picture. We usually experience the visible things. But, in God, all things are held together, visible and invisible. In Him, we are able to hope because of the One who sees the invisible things and is able to hold them together and work them together for our good.
Romans 8:31-39; Luke 13:31-35
Late fall was in the air as I started to read today’s scripture passages. I read Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:31-39). His words washed over me like a life-restoring shower. I knew at that moment I could not improve upon the author’s genius. So we pray together those words, which speak of the utter confidence we should have in our ever-faithful God.
Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Ephesians 2:19-22; Luke 6:12-19
None of us is comfortable with feeling alienated from or left out of any group to which we belong. We are social beings and we crave human companionship. We need to feel that we belong, that we are part of the group. And so we need to be accepted, to hear others tell us and show us that we belong. In other words, we need reassurance. This is especially true of our relationship to almighty God. We need to know that we belong to God's family, that we are his friends, and that he loves us. We need the kind of reassurance that Paul gives to the people of Ephesus in today's scripture reading. We sometimes feel like strangers when we approach God. The Ephesians did too. We sometimes feel guilty and alienated from God. The Ephesians did too.
Chapters 11-13 of Luke’s Gospel highlight the growing opposition to the person of Jesus. The charge of healing by the power of Beelzebul, non-observance of prescribed washings, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, are just some of the examples of the opposition encountered. Nonetheless, the reign of God, namely, God’s presence and working, continued to grow in the lives of the disciples.
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
By Bryn Gillette
The books within the Hebrew Scriptures known as “Wisdom Literature” often personify aspects of the mysterious God. In the First Reading from Sirach, God is pictured as having ears and does not play favorites. God does, however, tend to listen attentively to the poor, the orphaned, the widow and all who are lowly and oppressed. These prayers have quite a direct line up to heaven and into God’s ears.
Psalm 24:1b-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
The parable that Jesus tells today has long been one of my favorites. In Jesus' time it was widely believed that if bad things happened to a person that it was direct punishment from God. A child born blind, for instance, was suffering for some horrific sin committed by his parents.
Even today, I carry vestiges of that sort of thinking. When something goes wrong I find myself saying: "What did I do to deserve this?" Now the truth is that sometimes I did do something to deserve it, but usually in an earthly manner. I was unclear in a conversation with someone, and now the results of my unclarity are coming to pass. But in the Biblical sense, I probably didn't do anything to deserve it. It's not likely God's retribution for an uncharitable act five years ago.