FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN
Our world has suffered so many natural disasters this autumn: earthquakes, forest fires, hurricanes. The pictures of lands and buildings devastated and people losing loved ones are horrifying. The ones that hurt me the most are the pictures of missing children publicized by parents and family. They hope their loved ones will be found and families will be united. Many say, “the material things we can replace. It's life that is most important”…and relationships.
In the Gospel we’ve just listened to, Jesus gives us very practical advice about what it takes to be his disciples. He says that to be his followers, we have to do two things: (1) take up our cross and (2) follow him. We have to do both. Taking up our cross isn’t enough. All the sacrifices we make aren’t enough. They have to make us follow the Lord. In the same way, we can’t honestly say that we’re following the Lord if we can’t say no to the things that will keep us from him. Part of following him necessarily means taking up our cross and carrying it in his footsteps, even if it means that our own feet will get bloody and nailed to wood just like our Lord’s were.
Romans 12:5-16; Psalm 131:1, 2, 3; Luke 14:15-24
By Nelly Bube
Today's first reading, from Romans, falls under the category of "The Duties of Christians" and is a marvelous reading. This reading reminds me of our connection to one another, of our interdependent need, of our contribution to the wholeness or the oneness as members of humanity and as members of the Christian community. The reading in Romans encourages me to become aware of my gifts and then to be generous in sharing my gifts. The reading also is encouraging in supporting my desire to identify the gifts of others and then to encourage others to use and share their gifts with humanity.
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.