This Sunday we celebrate the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time. This is a time for new beginnings with the youngsters going back to school or college and their parents breathing a big sigh of relief that the long holidays are now at an end .Many of us have the feeling that time is passing by so very quickly and it seems like a blink of an eye since the end of June when the schools and colleges closed.
The readings for this Sunday are all about humility, a virtue that doesn’t seem to be valued that much in our world. These days, it’s all about how many “friends” we have on Facebook, how many followers we have on Twitter. But for all of today’s technology we can still pick up on someone whose humility is done for show, whose humbleness is not the real thing and there are people like that around and about. Humility is about: being real, being grounded. Accepting and sharing our gifts without fanfare; acknowledging and accepting our own faults without undue self-recrimination.
If we live a virtually unrecognized life of goodness and quiet service, sooner or later someone will praise us in some way. We thank God for all the things that come to us and humbly acknowledge that we were using the gifts of God for the good of all. It is his grace that has produced the right attitude within us to live in a humble way. To me, generosity involves the giving of one’s time, talent, or money for the common good without thought of personal recompense and without thought of scrutinizing the recipients. For people who want to seek a more human and fraternal world, Jesus says that welcoming the poor and needy must rank before all other relationships or social conventions.
Many people do this quite effectively and seem to match Jesus’s expectation perfectly. Some people, however, widen their giving to include the less fortunate but maintain a certain level of superiority to the recipients which is wrong. Jesus’s message in this Gospel Reading is unconditional giving of oneself and one’s resources and it needs to be done willingly according to Jesus’s direction rather than to further one’s own motives as those who were seeking the best seats in the Gospel were trying to do. Being humble is something we learn through living fully with our successes and our failures, and never forgetting our dependence on God our merciful Father. St. Augustine once said, “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues; hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” Without humility, our compassion is meager; our mercy, condescending. Real humility takes awareness and acceptance of our real selves which is why it is so hard for us to achieve. May we be the Humble people that we are called to be in the Gospel of this Sunday accepting our real selves so that that we may use our God given gifts wisely in the service of others.
As we gather this weekend we remember all those who have got A level exam results. We offer a prayer for all those who have done well and we also pray for those who have not done as well as they continue their education. We also thank god for our teachers, families and friends, all those who have helped our young people and journeyed with them along the way. We also pray for the world as the heads of government from the G7 nations meet in France to discuss the current world situation which includes the fires in the Amazon Forests among many other things.
In this Sundays Gospel Luke tells us about the door policy of the kingdom of God and how there is no such thing as automatic membership. While Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem, someone asks him about the number of those who will be saved. Rather than speculate about the arithmetic of salvation, Jesus gives practical advice about the present time:“Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.” The image changes from tight space to time up. Those who wait until the door is shut try knocking, but the householder regards them as strangers. The latecomers try to remind the householder of common ties: they ate and drank with him, they listened to him teaching in their streets. In Jesus’ world there were “insiders” and “outsiders.” A person would be an insider by their birth into a family or group. Or, one might become part of the family/group by being invited to eat with the members. Thus, they are distressed because they are being excluded, the people in the story “prove” they are part of the group. “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” Jesus like the house owner is not impressed with this type of superficial acquaintance: people who eat and drink in the same restaurants and bars, read the same papers, watch the same TV programmes, don’t always share the same commitment to God.
In the gospel stories Jesus has a habit of telling religious people not to get smug; in fact, the so-called “devout and religious” were the ones who rejected Jesus the most. He was most critical of the judgmental religious leaders who were the very ones to condemn him in Jerusalem. Jesus is our example of the good and faithful person who goes through a period of trials and even death trusting God no matter what happens. Through Jesus we come to know the faithfulness of God. For Isaiah, a faithful band of witnesses will announce the news of God’s restoring love and invite all people to Jerusalem to see the manifestation of God’s power and fidelity. For us, Jesus is the “sign” of God’s fidelity. The God who raised him from the dead offers us that same new life through him. Pope Paul VI said in his famous encyclical, “Evangelii Nuntiandi” that people listen more to witnesses than to teachers. Pope Paul was also right when he said that the most convincing messengers of our faith are those who speak from their personal experience of God – they are viable witnesses.
Perhaps, they were sick and God healed them, or gave them strength and endurance for the trials of life. We are reminded today that everyone loves a humble person, because the humble person keeps a balanced outlook on people and events. And what is it that we are called to be as gods people ? We are called to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel message Passed down to us through the generations through the Scriptures and so many individual people. Our lives must be changed by our faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are given the gift of faith; but a subsequent change of life is expected as our response to that gift so let us not be afraid to change for the better the things in our lives that we need to change remembering to give thanks for the great gift of faith that is ours so we will be able to enter through the Narrow Door.
This Sunday we remember and pray in a particular way for the family of Nora Quoirin in this time of such indescribable anguish. The news of Nora’s death puts all that is going on in the world in its proper perspective.
In the gospel for this Sunday Jesus says, “I have come to set the world on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.” Jesus is ready and willing to face the hardships that lie ahead. Jesus’ words must have unsettled the people who heard them the first time. It doesn’t sound like Jesus meant that the practice of our faith should make us comfortable, guarantee harmony or tranquility. Indeed, as he predicted, belief in him would cause the most severe conflict, even in the close-knit-family world of his Mediterranean followers and this interreligious conflict continues today in many places throughout the world especially in the Holy Land. Jesus is zealous about his mission; He has a task to complete and will follow it through, despite the threats to his personal safety. Jesus refers to his fate as “a baptism with which I must be baptized.”
He sees his passion as a baptism which he will accept and which will set a fire upon the earth. Remember when John the Baptist spoke of Jesus he linked baptism and fire, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”. When our lives get difficult, for any reason perhaps running low on the resources of spirit, mind and psyche at critical moments, we are tempted to think that the Holy One is asleep behind a closed door. We feel very much on the outside. At these times it’s important to remember that Jesus the Son of God is with us throughout the turmoil we may have as a result of the hurts and hardship that life throws out to all of us on many occasions. Making decisions on the journey of life is a natural process for us; we make many of them each day. Our senses take in all kinds of information some of which we accept, some we discard and much, we are not aware of. Our minds move us to a yes or no that is what the will does. So our imaginations can present data to our minds for a choice as well. So a faith based decision to walk the ways of Jesus needs some information which Jesus gives his disciples, that information is handed down to us in a special way through the scriptures the word of God.
But some information has to be provided by our memory and imaginations and in so many cases Memory and imagination are not always good at telling the truth of the matters under discussion at any particular moment. The faith that Jesus the face of the father’s mercy calls us his followers to is a faith that leads us to live lives which reflect the life of Jesus the mercy of God. It is much easier to follow from a safe distance and not let our lives be challenged and changed by faith in God. It is very easy to let the bitterness of others take us over but at the end of it all Jesus went to the Cross to overcome all the hatred and bitterness that we see around and about us. Today we are invited to lead lives less dominated by greed possessiveness and hatred or whatever is the opposite to the love and mercy of Jesus. Remember that the words of Jesus are there to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted those who are in any need. Faith was not easy at the beginning of the Church and isn’t easy now the martyrs of the faith throughout history right up until our present time bear witness to this. If we stop and look around us even now there are people who are prepared to give everything they have including their lives in defense of the faith.
Deciding to follow Jesus is not easy and we will have to work at it for anything that is worth doing or being part off will never be easy. At the end of it all in simple terms we are called to follow were God leads us and he will do the rest for nothing is impossible to God who journeys along with throughout our lives in the good and bad times of our lives.
There are so many things to think about this weekend including the recent shootings in the USA and of course here in Northern Ireland we are thinking of Brexit and all the issues around that. There are many people out there who are fearful and afraid for so many different reasons. This Gospel begins with some of the most beautiful of Jesus’ words: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. These particular words fear not little flock are so full of meaning especially these days when there is so much fear and distrust around in many different spheres of life. The words of our Lord should make us all sit up and take notice. He has taken us into his household. He has made us his “little flock.” We are invited guests in his house rather than just being mere servants. Jesus also warns us that we must always be busy about our vocation and there are many vocations in life religious, priesthood marriage or whatever. We also remember the reason why he invited us into his home. We are Christians, we are members of his Church, God, through Christ’s Incarnation, has put us on the road to heaven. He is always helping us on the way.
We don’t know in advance what God may do with us and our own oftentimes selfish plans a friend of mine always told me that Man proposes and God disposes in other words the will of God will happen no matter what you or I might want or do. To those who have faith, all things are possible the old saying that faith moves mountains but we should keep on climbing is certainly true. Faith helps us to rely on the limitless power of God, not on our own limited power. The gospel also points out; we should live in this world as strangers who are on the way home. People who move from one place to another get rid of all they can from their old house and focus on furnishing the new house. They joyfully give away what they once cherished we have to be the same getting rid of the baggage that stops us from being the people we are called to be by our heavenly Father. We don’t know when personal illness, bereavement or some other trying experience will put us to the test. But we do know that our life will be a success if we set our hearts and minds on values that go beyond all the transitory goods of this world. Our faith, is leading us onward, always pointing to something still to come, and at the end of our pilgrimage on this earth we will find where our true treasure is and we will simply discover that where our heart is our treasure is there as well.
In these days of uncertainty these words of the gospel fear not little flock are a call for us to place our trust in God and he will do the rest for us and help us along when we come to the trials and tribulations of our lives.
This Sundays gospel is the parable of the rich man who stored up his wealth in barns for A future that he thought would be in his own hands instead the future was in the hands of God. The parable calls the man foolish for his planning and for believing that he was immune to life’s tragedies none of us are. We remember the those who live around us as well as the world at large and who have any annoyance in their lives this weekend. The lesson of this Sundays parable is obvious to all, and it is perhaps as difficult to put into practice as it is obvious. To be in this world and not of it, to collect the necessary goods of this world by honest labor and yet remain detached from them, to possess but not be possessed by worldly riches, this is an ideal to which our weak human nature responds very reluctantly.
A large percentage of Christians, however, do respond to the challenge. They earn and use the goods of this world, while at the same time they keep God’s laws and earn wealth for heaven putting their riches into their spiritual bank. Some renounce even the right, which is theirs, to possess the necessary things of this world, by entering religious life taking on the vows of religion. Thus they set themselves free to devote their whole time and energy to the service of God and neighbor. Others, and they are of necessity the more numerous, have to own the world’s goods in order to provide for themselves and their dependents, but, while so doing they never let their temporal possessions come between them and their God. To do this is not easy, but God’s helping grace is always available to the willing heart. The message of the Jesus is one of hope, and compassion. No one can claim perfection. It is not obedience to laws and regulations, it is not the achievement of great influence or wealth, it is not the power over others that prove our greatness.
The last sentence of the parable is stark and clear: Do not store up treasure for yourself, but seek to be rich in the sight of God. What does this mean? Later it becomes clear: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God… Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” (Lk 12:31-34) As Christian people we know that the values of this world are transitory and that they cannot bring true fulfilment. We place our trust in the things of God and understand that true fulfilment in life consist in embracing the heavenly virtues such as truth, humility, honesty, patience, kindness and so on. The true Christian knows that it is only by cultivating these virtues that we will reach the kingdom of god.