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?
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.
Deut 6:2-6; Hebr 7:23-28; Mk 12:28b-34
Jean-Francois Millet - The Good Samaritan
One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mk 12:28b-34
"You must love your neighbour as yourself". If our love for God is real, Christ is saying, it will express itself in love for our fellow human beings. Obviously this love is different from the particular and exclusive love that we reserve for family relationships and the people we're emotionally close to.
Philippians 1:18b-26; Luke 14:1.7-11
As many of us know, Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written while imprisoned. Rather than feeling helpless as most of us in this situation would, I sense that Paul is empowered by his relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, in his letters Paul speaks, “with all boldness.” And although he mentions his longing to depart this life and be with Christ, he sees remaining on earth as not only a necessity for the benefit of the Philippians, but as a means by which he may continue to serve others.
Ap 7:2-4.9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12a
In a homily for this feast in 2006 Pope Benedict referred to a homily of the great St Bernard who said: The Saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs.... But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Yes, that is certainly so. We might adapt the words of Preface IV for weekdays and say: Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to their greatness but makes us desire to grow in your grace.
At heart this desire is for growth in communion and the road to this communion is traced out in the Gospel today. The beatitudes are really a description of Jesus. He is truly the gentle, the merciful, the pure One who was abused and persecuted because he hungered and thirsted for what is right. It goes without saying that those of us who seek him must walk the way of the beatitudes.
«Why are you weeping? » (Jn 20,13)
Let them weep who lack all hope of resurrection; it is not the will of God that takes it away from them but the inflexibility of what they believe. There has to be a difference between the servants of Christ and the pagans. This is what it is: they mourn for those close to them whom they think to be dead for ever; they see no end to their weeping, reach no rest for their grief..., whereas for us death is not the end of our existence but the end of our life. Since our existence is restored by a condition that is better, therefore the coming of death sweeps away all our tears...
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.
Ephesians 6:1-9; Luke 13:22-30
Today's first reading to the Ephesians contains good advice to this early Christian community about establishing a social order that will lead to a peaceful existence. There is wise guidance for families regarding respectful behavior towards one another, both parents and children. The directives given to slaves and their masters contain the same expectations we have today of the workplace. It might read something like this: "Employees, give your employer your best efforts always, not just when they are watching; don't hang out in the break room for long periods of time. Employers, treat your employees honestly and fairly; give them a just wage and do not take advantage of them." Why? Because in God's eyes we are equal. It all seems straightforward and reasonable.
Yes, people should keep the Sabbath holy. Yes, people should get a day off. But people should also do what’s right, and that doesn’t always involve just following the rules. In the first reading, we are told that we are not to live by the flesh, but by God. We are about following God’s rules, not necessarily man’s laws. And yes, keeping the Sabbath holy is one of God’s laws, but there’s a bigger picture to it. And it’s more about doing the right thing than about following the letter of the law.
Jer 31:7-9; Hebr 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, he is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. Mk 10:46-52
** Do we recognize and identify the blindness within us that needs to be healed? Do we turn to Jesus and say, “Master, I want to see” (Mk 10:51)?
** In our experience of blindness and hopelessness, do we have the courage and the faith to cry out with Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me” (Mk 10:47)?
** When Jesus sees us by the wayside and calls us to himself, what is our response? Do we throw aside the cloak of our old habits, get up, and run to meet him? Do we follow him on the way?