Wednesday, October 22, 2015

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3:2-12; Luke 12:39-48)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seems so vile that we want nothing to do with it.  It lops human heads as if they were water bottle caps.  It seems to abhor Christians as if somehow the humble minority of the Middle East threatens Islamic hegemony. What could the West have possibly in common with ISIS?

The answer is Jesus Christ.  He transcends nations, cultures, and religions.  In the second reading the Pauline writer lauds Christ for uniting Jew and Greek.  He serves as a bridge between these ancient peoples who have little to do with each other.  Just so, he in time will be the common ground for Christians and reformed Muslim extremists.  All will savor his wisdom, marvel at his forbearance, and wonder about his resurrection.

For now we have to pray for our enemies.  Certainly we cannot wish for ISIS’s success.  But we may hope that despite its beastliness, the regimen may notice the light of Christ’s love.  When they do, they see in us a common humanity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 2:12-22; Luke 12:35-38)

Dr. Kent Brantley went to Liberia last year to serve the people in the terribly poor African country.  In July he became sick with fever and weakness.  His worsening condition was diagnosed as Ebola and he came back to the U.S. for treatment.  Dr. Brantley may be considered a sign for Christ who tells his disciples to watch for him in the gospel today.

Listening to passages such as this one makes us ask ourselves, when will Jesus return?  We wonder if he will return at all and whether the gospel is a myth that has been sustained through human grit, not divine grace.  Twenty centuries of unfilled expectation and false predictions of imminent coming tempt us to think that the cynics may be right. 

But our losing hope is more indicative of our not attending to Jesus’ command than following it and being disappointed.  Those who watch for Jesus find him in varied ways.  They meet him often in the poor whose simple faith defies our search for answers.  They encounter Jesus in people like Dr. Brantley whose compassion and courage convict us of self-centeredness.  And they recognize him in the sacraments celebrated among others with restless faith but hearts bending to do his will. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 2:1-10; Luke 12:13-21)

Go into the houses of most people today, and you are likely to see a lot of stuff.  We live in an age of mass production when manufactured goods multiply like leaves on a maple tree in springtime.  The gospel today serves as a warning about over-concern with material possessions.  It proposes, instead, that treasure be stored in heaven.

The farmer in Jesus’ story is a bit insufferable.  As one commentator puts it, “He talks to himself; he plans for himself; he congratulates himself.”  But he is not really too different from many in society.  People talk of “looking after number one” as if it were a particularly admirable virtue.  Some plan and nurture children to fit narcissistic designs.  Others build up portfolios as the farmer in Jesus’ parable plans to build bigger barns. The portfolios do not necessarily make people bad; they make them rich.  When pursued single-mindedly, they also make people selfish.  Jesus would add another outcome of portfolio builders: they become foolish.

Of course, Jesus would not condemn planning for retirement and emergencies.  But he would criticize non-attention to those without resources to meet critical human needs.  Before we spend all that we have on more stuff or invest all non-spent income for tomorrow, we must assist those who are struggling to live with decency.  Ironically, this kind of concern proves to be the best plan for the future.  Jesus makes clear throughout the gospel that sharing with the poor deposits a treasure where it counts most.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 1:11-14; Luke 12:1-7)

It is said that a Christian during the early centuries of persecution would walk up to a stranger and make a line on the ground with his foot.  If the person would draw a line through the first to make a cross, the two would know that they could talk freely.  If the other did not respond, then the conversation would not mention faith in Christ.  The gospel today seems to reference such a custom.

Jesus says that what has been whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on housetops.  He apparently means his Lordship, which his disciples knew of but did not understand well.  After his resurrection with the coming of the Holy Spirit, they will see clearly and profess openly that in Jesus sins are forgiven and people experience eternal life.

Today religion has once again been privatized.  Social pressures intimidate people from talking openly how God has affected their lives.  Ironically, it is a message that others not only need but often want to hear.  When we give testimony to our faith, we strengthen others’ resolve to live righteous lives.  That benefits society and leads to personal salvation.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 1:1-10; Luke 11:47-54)

A philosopher was talking about evil.  He saw some benefit coming from it.  The Ebola virus, he might say, enables caregivers to demonstrate courage and compassion in treating the disease’s victims.  But the philosopher could not see a greater good in the demonstration of virtue than all the destruction that Ebola causes.  He will ask, “How could a good and omnipotent God allow the virus to wreck such havoc?”  Religion has traditionally considered this question as a mystery.  The Letter to the Ephesians today sees that mystery being brought to light in Jesus Christ.

Ancients understand that evil is the result of sin.  They do not believe that individuals necessarily suffer because of their own sins.  But they sense that disorder in the world, put in motion by the first humans, perpetuates itself through collective human sinning.  Now, the Letter to the Ephesians claims, God’s purpose in allowing evil to thrive has been revealed in Christ.  Through the shedding of Christ’s blood human sins have been forgiven.  There still is suffering, but at the end of time those people who recognize Christ will rise from the dead to reign with him forever.

We may still wonder why some humans suffer so terribly and why children suffer at all.  Perhaps we will never convince skeptics that in the end God will make all things well.  But we know in faith that adversity not only calls us to love one another but also reveals to us the dimensions of our sins and the immensity of the Christ’s victory.