Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 17: 5 – 10

Your Word is near, O Lord our God. Your grace is near. Come to us then, with mildness and power.  Let us be open to hearing your word. Make us receptive and open to Jesus Christ your Son. He will come looking for us. He will save us today and every day, forever and ever.

Today we will go straight into reading our text.  As you do so you will realise that there are two parts;
Verses 5 and 6 which contain a teaching about faith, and
Verses 7 – 10 which is a parable.  We find this parable only in Luke’s Gospel.

Verses 5 – 6
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
You may ask, “What does this word ‘faith’ mean within the context of today’s reading?”

Most of us would answer this questions by reciting, “I believe in God the Father ….”, and in one sense you would be correct. Luke however is using it quite differently. Go back to our opening prayer. The words in italics will help you. Faith is an attitude of openness to hearing God’s Word. Those of us who are open to receiving the Word of God and being open to making changes in our lives, have faith. It takes much trust to believe that God is caring for us and will help us through the trials to life. No wonder the apostles call out, “Lord, increase our faith.” None of us wants to change.  Perhaps we should be praying this prayer more often. “Lord, help me to recognise my short-comings, give me the courage to change.1

The passage immediately before our reading contains Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness.  “If your brother harms you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry’, you should forgive him.” (17: 1 – 4)  “Limitless forgiveness”! Does Jesus really mean us to follow this teaching? By ourselves, I doubt this is possible. We will have to put our trust in God.  Scripture assures us that “nothing will be impossible for God”. (1: 37)  Let’s take Jesus at his word.

Once more we need to pray, “Lord, increase our faith. Help us to be just a little more forgiving each day.”

* * * * * *

Verses 7 – 10
Only Luke gives us this short parable. It speaks specifically about Our relationship with God.

The scholar of the law asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (10: 25)   Jesus adds at the end of his reply, “Do this and you will live.” Take note, there is nothing in Jesus’ answer about ‘eternal life’. It is all about the here and now. Today’s parable makes the lesson much clearer. Our God does not sit recording our good and not so good deeds on his computer. ‘Eternal life’ is a free gift given to us by an incredibly generous God.

Let’s use a parable of our own. Again and again we see athletes point to the heavens when they have triumphed.  In doing this they acknowledge how generous God has been in gifting them.

Our good deeds are the fruit of the graces we have received. When we have done all things well it is gratitude that fills our hearts. God wants what is best for us. This is why He calls us to serve and he will not be outdone in generosity to us.

Nobody has a claim on God. It is God who favours us. No matter how good any individual is, he is always the one being favoured by God.2

Read the parable in the light of what has just been said. The ploughman does not expect his employer to make his supper. Nor should we think that we can buy a good seat in the kingdom of heaven. We can contribute to the Kingdom of God here on earth. This is a privilege and a gift in itself. We will also find that our God is generous beyond our wildest imagination, rewarding us, “Good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing.”(6: 38)

Let us put aside the idea of merits!  Let us begin to be full of joy thanking God for the good we do! 3

Prayer for Generosity

To give and not to count the cost;

To fight and not to heed the wounds;

To toil and not to seek for rest;

To labour and not to ask for any reward

Save that of knowing that we do your will.

                                                                   St Ignatius of Loyola

  1. Edmonds P, A Companion to the Sunday Missal, p197
  2. McBride D, The Gospel of Luke, p 221-222
  3. Armellini F, Celebrating the Word. Year C, p289

Twenty Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 16: 1-13

Father you wait for us until we are open to you. We wait for your Word to make us receptive. Attune us to your voice, to your silence, speak and bring your Son to us – Jesus – the Word of your peace.

Before going to today’s gospel we need to see it in its context within the gospel.  At the beginning of chapter 15 we read, “1The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2but the Pharisees and Scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Immediately after our reading we hear, “14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him.” Our parable is addressed to these groups of people. Perhaps you can imagine yourself belonging to one of these groups. What impact does Jesus’ story have on you?

This parable is acknowledged as one of the most difficult to understand. I suggest that for the moment you read only the Parable of “The Dishonest Steward” (16: 1- 8a)

I am sure you are a little confused. It certainly looks like this parable is encouraging dishonesty!

Try reading it a second time. Use your imagination. Concentrate on the qualities of the “Rich Man”.

What did you discover? Here’s a check list. Compare this with what you found.

The rich man was generous to a fault. He warned the servant, but took no action against him, in fact it is quite possible he was re-instated.  Perhaps we should revise our title for this parable.  Let’s call it, “The Generous Employer”. 1

Can you think of a parable with a similar theme to this one? Go to your Bible and look at Chapter 15.  Surprised!  The second half of Chapter 15 contains the parable of the Prodigal Son, however, we now call it “The Merciful Father”.

* * * * * *

Time to read the parable, of “The Generous Employer” once more. Again I invite you to use your imagination while reading, looking at what it tells us about the Steward.

He seems to be a likeable person. Most certainly not very efficient and wasteful. He knew how to enjoy life and was not keen on hard work; “to dig I am not able”. He had his own pride and was certainly not going to turn to begging. We are also told that he liked people and enjoyed the company of good friends. 2

“But he was dishonest!” you might shout out. Perhaps a better understanding of how stewards functioned will give us a clearer understanding of his actions. Stewards worked on a commission basis, so when he reduced the debts he was also lowering his income.  Rents were not fixed. They went up when the harvest was good and down in years of poor harvest. Obviously the rich man was known for his generosity so the debtors would not have questioned the lowering of their rent. The steward also seems to have banked on his employer’s generosity. Wasteful, he certainly was, but he took nothing for himself.

Perhaps he was not so wasteful. Jews were forbidden to take interest on loans to fellow Jews. (Lev 25: 36) Our Steward may well have reduced the debts by the amount of interest due.  In this light he is acting both morally and legally. Everyone wins. The master is presented as gracious, generous and obedient to the law. The debtors have their bill reduced.  The Steward has secured the lasting gratitude and friendship of the tenants. 3

There are two lessons we can draw from the parable. The steward realized that there are more important things than money. For him, friendship was high on his list of values.  Think of all that you value more than money. The Rich Man has much to tell us about sharing.

The second part of our reading lists the lessons that we can draw from the parable. The final lesson is: “You cannot be the slave of both of God and money.” Another translation is; “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

“Mammon,” literally means “that in which you put our trust.” This includes wealth and riches, but also titles, position, privileges and honours; anything that takes our attention away from God, our true source of life. Money should be used to benefit people not to manipulate them, and since it is given as a trust, it should be used in the service of discipleship.

The key lesson we learn today is that people enter heaven because of the graciousness of God, not because of the credits they have secured. God welcomes tax collectors and sinners into His Kingdom and Pharisees as well.

  1. De Verteuil, M  Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, p 208
  2. De Verteuil, M  Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, p 208
  3. Derrett J D M  Law in the New Testament, p48-77

Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 14: 25 – 33

Prayer, Torah Blessing
We commence our prayer today with a Jewish prayer giving thanks to our God for the gift of His Word.

Praise the Lord, to whom our praise is due;
Praise be the Lord, to whom our praise is due, now and forever.
Blessed is the Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has chosen us form all the peoples by giving us his Torah.
Blessed is the Lord, giver of the Torah.

Today you will need to spend quite some time reading the gospel. You may even be dismayed at what Jesus is saying. Do not be discouraged. When scripture seems not to make sense, there is nothing wrong with the Word.  We are reading with the wrong eyes.  We need to come to a correct understanding of the text.

Our first task today will be to give this passage a title. This is not so easy. Our title will reflect our understanding of this gospel. I called it:  “Our Commitment”.

All of us make large and small commitments. When we join a sports club we make a commitment to get fit and to faithfully attend the practices and matches. We marry. We enter a profession. Each one of these choices involves making an undertaking and also being prepared to pay the cost.  In the case of joining a sports club we realise that on match days our time is not our own. Obviously there will be important advantages as well.

* * * * * *

25Great crowds accompanied him on his way and he turned and spoke to them.

Jesus speaks from personal experience. He asks only what he himself has already done and experienced. He speaks with the authority of experience. Pope Paul Vl wrote, “The modern world listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.  If it does listen to teachers it is because they are witnesses.” No wonder then that, “Great crowds accompanied Jesus.”

26If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple27Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

We are being invited to enter into a deep relationship with Jesus, “come to me”. He is calling us to be his disciples but just look at the condition. Surely hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life contradicts “Love your neighbour as yourself.” We are not being commanded to hate father, mother, self etc.

Once again we find Jesus challenging the values of society.  amily relationships were based on the principle of superior and inferior. A son owed absolute obedience to his father until Dad passed away and he took over. Women and children were just possessions of the man, they had no status of their own. This system runs counter to Jesus’ values, to the Kingdom of God value which sees all as equal and deserving of the same consideration and respect. Jesus challenges all societies.

We are being called to change. Jesus is asking us to re-examine our values. Is our thinking in line with the way Jesus calls us to live? Once having committed ourselves to living by the values that Jesus taught we will never be the same. There will be much that we have to let go of and this is not going to be easy. Living out “Love your neighbour as yourself” is going to be tough. Sometimes it will seem that we have to devote our whole life to others.

“Carry your cross” For a long time I thought this meant to handle the trials and tribulations of life. I really do not think that we have any choice is this instance. However we can chose how we are going to live our lives. All of us have an abundance of talent.  Taking up our cross refers to how we develop the gifts we have. God wants us to be the best people we possibly can. This is going to cost us, but the benefits will for outweigh the sacrifices.

In his inaugural speech said, “We are not afraid of our weakness, we are afraid of our giftedness and greatness.”

The two parables that follow are all about being prepared to pay the price of responding to Jesus call to be his disciples.

Our reading closes with, 33So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.”

This has nothing to do with giving up all we own.  This is a “Wisdom Saying”.  We are being offered a moment of grace. Jesus is pacing before us, “Life or Death”.  What choice are we going to make?  Are we prepared to pay the price for choosing life?

Twenty First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 13: 22 – 30

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Holy Word.  May it be a lamp to our feet, a light to our paths, joy to our hearts and strength to our lives.
Spend a few minutes reading and re-reading to-day’s Gospel. You may find it useful to mark anything that you find strange or needs explanation.

“making his way to Jerusalem.”

This Journey starts in 9: 15 and ends with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem 19: 36.

As Jesus continues to move from Galilee to Jerusalem this is more like a ‘journey of teachings’ rather than a physical journey. Our text today is just one small part of this body of teaching. It is really a collection of Jesus’ sayings. There is a common theme of “waiting” running through them all. We need to take each saying separately as we reflect on its meaning and importance for us.

23Someone said to him, “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” He said to them, 24”Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.”

What is this narrow gate? Luke has answered this question twice. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (6: 31), and “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself. (10: 27)  John puts it more strongly, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15: 12)

“Will there be only a few saved?” 
This too has already been answered. At the beginning of Chapter 10, Jesus sends out his seventy disciples. The number seventy is certainly symbolic. According to Gen 10 seventy is the number of nations on earth. Also on the Feast of Tabernacles seventy bulls were sacrificed in the Temple for the conversion of each pagan nation. The message is clear, ‘God wants the salvation of all his people – nobody can be lost.’ We find the same message in Psalm 116: 15, “To costly in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful.”

Parable of the master
25Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” 26Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in our company; you taught in our streets,” 27but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from.  Away from me, all you wicked men!”

Surely the message is clear. We are being strongly advised,  “Get to know Jesus.” Once again we go back to an earlier text in the Gospel to clarify our understanding. “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (8: 21)

Who will be saved? Jesus leaves us in no doubt. “Men from the east and the west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” There is place for the whole world, for everybody in the “Kingdom of God”.

Our reading closes with a very strange and confusing saying, “30Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.” We need to look elsewhere in the gospels to come to an understanding of his saying, this riddle.  In Mt 20: 1 – 16, Matthew tells the parable of the workers who were hired to work in a vineyard. Some worked all day, others half the day and others for only an hour. All received the same reward. I wonder why. The parable closes with, “Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last”, with nobody left out. In the African Bible this parable is titled “The Kingdom is a gift.”

The Kingdom of God is pure gift to us. Makes you think!!!

Thirty First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 19: 1 – 10


Be with us, Lord Jesus. Be our companion on our way. In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope, so that, in union with one another, we may recognise you in the Scriptures and in the breaking of Bread.

Find the Sinner

We have all done those puzzles where we are asked to find the differences between two almost identical pictures. Well today the search is on:

  •     To find the sinner;
  •     To find to whom salvation comes.

As you read today’s text from your Bibles also pay special attention to the characters and their frame of mind. Read Lk 19: 1 – 10.

Did you find the sinner? I am sure many of you found Zacchaeus, the sinner????

Before we talk about him we will take a look the part Jesus’ playes in the story. He is in a hurry. He did not have any intention of hanging around Jericho, “Jesus entered Jerichco and was going through the town.” On meeting Zacchaeus he tells him, “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today” – not tomorrow or the next day, today. Jesus seems to have sensed an opportunity to do something very important and he will not be put off. Zacchaeus also feels the urgency and comes tumbling out of the tree, “he hurried down”.

Right through Luke’s gospel we are aware that Jesus brings a message of JOY.  Zacchaeus “welcomed Jesus joyfully.”

Not everybody was happy. ‘They all complained when they saw what was happening. “He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house.”’ Who could these people be? In 18: 31 we find Jesus talking to the Twelve, so they were present. In 18: 39 the crowd outside Jericho tells the blind beggar to keep quiet. And here they are at it again complaining and criticizing. All they know about Zacchaeus is that he is a tax collector, a chief tax collector and a wealthy one at that – he must be a sinner.

We have the Twelve and the local crowd, full of self-righteous indignation, bigoted, full of their own importance, pushing people around. I just wonder was Jesus in a hurry to teach them a very important lesson.

Our focus turns back to Zacchaeaus. Early in the story we are told that he was ‘too short and could not see Jesus for the crowd.’ This being ‘too short’ may not just say that he had a small build. Perhaps it is telling us that Zacchaeus had no standing in the community. He was not the kind of person that good people would associate with. A remarkable change comes over him, no longer does he have to accept the taunts and insults of others, ‘he stood his ground.’ v8

He said to Jesus, “Look, sir, I will give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.” This is probably what you read and concluded that Zacchaeus had taken Jesus’ teaching to heart.  If you go to the original text you will find that the author used the present tense. “Look, sir, I give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I pay him back four times the amount.” Zacchaeus is a really an incredibly generous and honest person.  Who in the crowd, or among us, could make such a claim? He is a saint and not a sinner.

Jesus says, “this man too is a son of Abraham.” v9

It is not Zacchaeus who is in need of being saved. It is the crowd and the Twelve that need to be saved but they are too blind to see their own need. It is of them that Jesus speaks when he says, for the Son of Man has come to seek out and to save what was lost.”

In this story Zacchaeus accepts the graces offered. He goes from being an outcast to being a son of Abraham. He wants to see what kind of man Jesus is and discovers the Son of Man who “has come to seek out and to save what was lost.” v10

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 12: 32 – 48 (35 – 40)

Sow freely, Lord God, the seed of your word over the world.  May it fall on good soil in us and may it be heard by all.

The reading for this Sunday is long. I have chosen to take just a part of it. When praying Scripture it is always good to use less text than more. This reading is a collection of a number of Jesus’ sayings. Each one has its own importance. However there is a theme that is common to all; as you read try to identify this theme.

I have arranged the text so that each saying stands out on its own.

35Jesus said to his disciple: “See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit.

36Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks.

37Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. 38It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.

39You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house.

40You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at the hour you do not expect.”

You have probably noticed that waiting is the common theme.

When praying a passage like this it is important to take each saying on its own. Read it slowly and let it speak to you. Frequently these sayings of Jesus of are metaphors or comparisons. They are not meant to be read literally. Allow them to enter into your imagination. Let them bring up your feelings and bring back memories. In this way we will discover the truth of the saying, and in the process we experience God calling us to spiritual growth. Finally the sayings are not just referring to spiritual matters, they are universally true. They apply to our daily lives and the life of the community we live in.

* * * * * *

35Jesus said to his disciple: “See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit.

Here we are called to be open to a new / a different approach to doing things. Jesus certainly called the people of his time to be open to approaching life differently and now he is calling us. For example Jesus’ opposition to the legalistic approach to Sabbath, freed and unburdened people. We are being challenged to look again at the way we live our lives.  For example; do we live according to, “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself?”

Each one of us has been blessed with an abundance of gifts. Have I developed my many talents? Am I ready, is the lamp of my talents burning so that I may be a bearer of Good News when the Lord asks this of me. The opportunity to respond to God’s call will come.  We will be given a moment of grace. Be open to change, do not miss it!

* * * * * *

36Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks.

The theme of waiting and being ready continues. We think of waiting as something negative. Waiting is wasting time. In Scripture however, waiting is a creative moment.  When I wait for others, I give them space to be themselves, respecting them and letting them exercise their creativity. We do this with love, so that we can walk together in mutual enrichment. 1

We are being called to make the world like a wedding celebration. Let us make our part of the world a little more like the way God wants it to be. Our God is a gentle God. He gently knocks at the door of our hearts. Are we ready to respond this moment of grace?  Perhaps we are being called to give up a bad habit; to forgive a long-standing hurt; make greater use of Scripture in my prayer life.

* * * * * *

37Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. 38It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.

Let these words speak to your imagination. Enter into the scene. Can you imagine God serving you a meal?  Our God is indeed a generous God.

* * * * * *

39You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house.

At first glance this is quite a frightening picture. Try turning it around. God is determined that we should be the best persons we can possibly be. He is not going to be put off by the barriers we put up to stop him.

* * * * * *

40You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at the hour you do not expect.”

Our passage closes on the wonderful note of hope. Do not lose hope. Be assured by Jesus that God is active in our lives and the whole world. Keep watching and you will begin to see what God is doing.

  1. De Verteuil M; Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels  p 174

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 11: 1 – 13

Come Holy Spirit make us holy. Fill our hearts with a burning desire for the Truth, the Way and the fullness of Life. Enkindle in us your fire that it may make us into light that shines and warms and consoles. Let our heavy tongues find words to speak of your love and beauty. Make us a new creation so that we become people of love, your holy ones, visible words of God. Then we will renew the face of the earth and everything will be created anew. Amen.

The Gospel for today is quite long. It is made up of the following sections:

1                  Jesus at prayer

1b – 4        The Our Father

5 – 8          Parable of the persistent friend

9 – 10        An interpretation of the Parable

11 – 13      How do I see God?

Not surprisingly we will only be able to reflect on part of it.

The opening words of Lk 11: 1 – 13 are, “Once when Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished one of his disciple said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The best way to teach others to pray is to lead by example. It is not surprising that the disciples caught the spirit of prayer from Jesus. They must have frequently witnessed him at prayer. We too will learn the same lesson as we become aware of Jesus, the ‘Man of Prayer’ as he is presented by Luke.

Luke’s Our Father is somewhat shorter than what we find in the other gospels. Jesus presents us with a pattern of prayer rather than a formula.

Having read Luke’s version of the Our Father it is easy to see this pattern of prayer reflected in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. “Pray that you may not undergo the test. Father, not my will but yours be done.” (22: 40, 42)

“Father may your name be held holy.” We are taught to approach God as father.  Our relationship is with a God who is the best ‘Father.’ Jesus is confident that our God is a loving, merciful and understanding God. We are taught to approach God with thanks and praise for all that has been given to us. Mary recognized this when in the Magnificat she sings, “My soul (life) proclaims the greatness of the Lord .. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  (1: 46,49)

“Your kingdom come.” As we look around this world, at all the evil, we should balance this against the far greater good in the world. God’s plan for a world; justice, love and peace will flourish, in the world at large, and in our lives also.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” We petition our God for all that is good and all that we need.  It is more important that we give thanks for the talents we have been given that enable us to provide for ourselves and those that we love. In the parable that follows the Our Father we are encouraged to “get up and give all that he wants.” (11: 8)

“Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.”  Jesus takes it as a given that we frequently forgive others. The practice of forgiving, is a sure formula for living a full, wholesome and happy life.

“And do not put us to the test.” Finally we cry out to God, not to leave us alone to confront evil. This is the prayer which Jesus prays for Peter. “Peter, I have prayed that your faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” (22: 32)

* * * * * * *

We will now take time to read the parable carefully.

As you read look for what you find to be the most significant moment in the story.

5He also said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, ‘My friend, lend me three loaves, 6because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him’, 7and the man answers from inside the house, ‘Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it to you.’ 8 I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it to him for friendship’s sake, persistence, will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.”

I have indicated two possible significant moments in the parable. What did you find?

Is there the possibility that there is a link between this parable and the closing phrase of our reading. “The heavenly Father will give the Holy spirit to those who ask him.” (11: 13)

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 10: 25 – 37

Lord, often in our prayer we ask you questions, but deep down we want to justify ourselves – our inertia, our self-righteousness, our secret racism or snobbishness. We thank you that you continue to be Jesus for us, entering into dialogue with us, letting us come to our own conclusions, occasionally giving us a push by saying, “Go, and do the same thing yourself.”1

Take a few moments to read the gospel for today.

Before we commence our reflection we will clarify our understanding of the term “Samaritans”.

The story begins in 721 BC when the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel. Many of the local inhabitants were deported and replaced with Assyrian settlers. Not surprisingly, there was inter-marriage and so the Samaritans came into existence. Ever since they have been regarded as lesser humans. They were not of ‘pure’ Jewish blood. Jewish people despised them and certainly did not associate with them.

This was the situation when Jesus lived in Palestine.

Imagine the scene as Luke tells this story. A teacher of the Law asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reply is, “Love God and your neighbour as yourself.”  The audience is entirely made up of Jews. The teacher pushes on asking, “Who is my neighbour?” All knew exactly the people who were their ‘neighbours’. This obligation only applied to fellow Jews, because God only loves the Jews and nobody else.

The story begins. A traveller is attacked, beaten and robbed; in fact he is half dead. We are never told whether he is Jewish or not. Jesus introduces the characters one at a time. The priest approaches and all wait to hear how he is going to respond to the situation. Nobody seems to be too surprised when he passes by and fails to give assistance. He is after all a priest and if the man is dead and he touches the body he will become ritually unclean and that must not happen. As the second, a Levite, approaches the audience expects him to assist.  This does not happen.  He is also one of the elite and we do not expect such people to get involved with helping the most unfortunate in society. A third person approaches.  This must surely be the person who is going to help. The hero of the story can only be a fellow Israelite! Jesus pauses. All wait for the climax. Who is the new-comer? A Samaritan!

One can hear the gasp of astonishment. “Jesus, you have really got it wrong this time!”  But Jesus continues drive home the point even more forcefully. Not only does the Samaritan render first aid, he then transports the man to a place of shelter.

Utter disbelief sweeps through the audience. “How, could Jesus shame our people with this scandalous story?” Worse is to come. The Samaritan then provides for the victim’s recuperation and sets no limit on the expense.

The crowd and the teacher of the Law are shocked into silence. All their assumptions are turned upside down. Jesus asks, “Which of these was neighbour to the wounded man?”  After a long pause the grudging reply comes, “The one who had mercy.” Even now nobody can bring themselves to say, “The Samaritan”. Our prejudices certainly run deep.

All leave in silence, with the closing words of Jesus ringing in their ears. “Go, and do the same!”

Lord, forgive us that as a Church, we remain wrapped up in our concerns,

  • changes in the liturgy
  • which are the most powerful prayers
  • who should be bishops
  • where parish boundaries should be set,

when, all the while, down the same road we are walking, people have fallen into the hands of brigands who have left them half-dead.

Lord, we remember societies torn apart on the grounds of race, religion, culture or class.  We thank you that in all these communities there are Samaritans, quite unconcerned whether someone is a Jew or not, just moved with compassion for the brother or sister beaten and lying half-dead at the side of the road. We pray that those who hear their stories will go and do the same themselves. 2

  1. de Verteuil, M; Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, Year C p 160
  2. de Verteuil, M; Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, Year C p 161

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 9: 51 – 62

To read the gospelwith an open mind is to see beyond all possibilities of doubt that You, Jesus, came to bring us, not only a new life, but also, a new physical power of acting upon our world.

If it is true, that the development of the world can be influenced by our faith in Christ, then Lord let this power flow through your Word to us and though us.

Speak Lord, your servant is listening.
You have the words of eternal life.

* * * * * *

Today’s reading marks a dramatic change in the life of Jesus. Up to now Luke has situated his gospel in Galilee. Now we see Jesus making the courageous decision to go to Jerusalem. Two themes run through this text, determination and compassion. Very often we have difficulty in striking a balance between our own enthusiasm for the Kingdom and what people are able to respond to. Jesus gives us a good example of how to accomplish this balance.

On his way from Galilee to Jerusalem Jesus had to pass through Samaria. Now there was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans and there was no way that at Samaritan village would give hospitality to Jews on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate a religious festival.

51Now as the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, he resolutely took the road to Jerusalem 52and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, 53but the people would not receive him because he was making his way to Jerusalem.  54Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55But he turned and rebuked them, 56and they went off to another village.

Do not be surprised at the behaviour of James and John. They already had a reputation for being firebrands. Their nickname was Sons of thunder. They were also taking a cue from Elijah who had called down fire from heaven to destroy his enemies in this very part of the country. “Let fire come down from heaven and consume both you and our men.”  (2Kg 1: 10)  This is certainly not Jesus way of doing things. He issues a sharp rebuke and then calmly turns and moves off to another village.  Nothing was to be gained by reacting to rejection with violence. The disciples and us will profit by following the example given us here.

* * * * * *

As Jesus continues on his way Luke narrates three incidents from the journey.

57As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to them, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  58Jesus answered, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

59Another to whom he said, “Follow me,” replied, “Let me go and bury my father first.”  60But he answered, “Leave he dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God.”

61Another said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.”  62Jesus said to him, “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

At first glance Jesus seems to take a harsh stance. These three incidents bring home the urgency that Jesus felt for accomplishing his mission to “Go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God.”

The first person is really enthusiastic. The foxes may refer to Herod and his supporters, the birds of the air are possibly the Romans. These are the people of power. If this man is seeking power he had better join them. To follow Jesus is to follow the Son of Man, who aligns himself with the oppressed and powerless.

The second seems rather reluctant. He is in no hurry to join Jesus. He suggests that once Dad has passed on he might think about linking up with Jesus. But, Jesus is in a hurry.  The work of the Kingdom is a matter of great urgency and Jesus does not have the time to hang around while he dithers. Oh, yes, we can so easily fall into the mentality of doing nothing!

To the third person Jesus makes it quite clear that he requires a single-minded commitment to carrying on the mission given us by God.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6: 46)

Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Lk 7: 36 – 50


Christ, you consume with a glance my entire being and with that same glance your presence enters those who are around me, and whom I love. Thanks to you I am united with them, as in a divine milieu, and I can act upon them with all the resources of your and my being. (Tielhard de Chardin)

Please go to today’s reading.  I advise you to read it several times. As you read, try to find the core teaching that this story holds for you. Perhaps each one of us will be touched in a different way. This is the wonder of the Word of God. “God speaks to us when we read the divine texts. We pray when we respond to the message that God has for us.” (Vatican II)

Read and re-read the text.  The first lesson, insight, that we receive from a text is almost certainly not the message that God wants to give us.” With these thoughts in mind you can now start your reading.

* * * * * *

Core teaching
41”Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. 42Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave the debt for both.

Forgiveness for all is a familiar theme in Luke’s Gospel. The woman who gate crashed the dinner party was a sinner. However, Simon also had his faults. His invitation to Jesus was most insincere. He repeatedly insulted Jesus by the way he neglected to offer Jesus the basic greetings – a kiss, feet washing and anointing.

Recall the parable of the Prodigal Son, sometimes called the parable of the Forgiving Father.We could also entitle it, “The Two Lost Sons” and certainly both of them were forgiven. Then there is the parable of the “Two men who went up to the temple to pray”, one a Pharisee the other a tax collector. Two very different characters, both needing repentance and forgiveness. (Lk 18: 14)

Something similar took place on Calvary. The story of the “Good Thief” is unique to Luke.  Let’s read this incident . (Lk 23: 32 – 34)

“32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed  33When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right , the other on his left.  34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

These words, I think, included:
the two thieves;
the soldiers, the mocking  crowd and the disciple who had abandoned him in Gethsemane;
and “.. all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (Lk 23: 49)

Let’s take a moment to reflect on each of the stories we have mentioned.
The Pharisee and the Sinful Woman.
The Two lost Sons.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
On Calvary; the two thieves.

Each pair is made up of two sinners, one with overwhelming guilt, the other, with much less to repent about. Both are in need of repentance and forgiveness. One, is well aware of their shortcomings the other feels secure in their self-righteousness.

Luke leaves us in no doubt that that forgiveness is open to all, even before they realise their need, even before they ask for it. Our God is an understanding and forgiving God.  Jesus deals with all, gently and firmly. Neither is leading fully life-giving lives. Our God wants what is best for us, and sin, big or small, is not good for any us.

Is it any wonder that Luke’s Gospel closes with, “ that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations.” (Lk 24: 47)

Here is further food for thought.

“Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own.” (Lk 6: 41)

Time now to reflect. Go back to all these stories. Where do you find yourself and how do you find God responding to you?