Chapter 57: Would You Invite Jesus to Dinner

(Two banquets in Luke)

Luke frequently uses the setting of “a dinner party” for Jesus teaching. Please read the stories in your Bible before continuing with this article.

Lk 5: 27 – 32

The host was a tax collector and his guests were sinners and others. “The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered, ‘I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’

Tax collectors and sinners; how uncomfortable would you have felt in such company? Would you have accepted this invitation?   Was it really necessary for Jesus to bring up the topic of repentance? Repentance is for sinners not the ‘pillars of the church.’ None of us like to be reminded that repentance means that we must change our way of thinking and acting.

Lk 7: 36 – 50

36One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.

“Scandalous!” thought Simon. After the parable about a great debtor, who is forgiven, he concedes that such a person will love much.

“Simon, do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Simon the Pharisee could never have predicted the outcome of his invitation to Jesus. How embarrassing the behaviour of Jesus and the woman sinner! We are not told why she was labelled a sinner. Perhaps as a woman she was far too outspoken for the Pharisees and local authorities. Simon cannot see Jesus as a prophet. “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him.” He is probably still recovering from the way Jesus compared him to the woman. “You gave me no water for my feet; you gave me no kiss; you did not anoint my head with oil; but she…”

Who had the greater debt forgiven, Simon or the woman?

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Perhaps this could be better expressed as, “Your humanity, your kindness to me and others, your courage in speaking the truth has brought you and others healing.”

Food for thought, Simon!

Chapter 61: Banquet of Life – Part 1

(Fifth Banquet Lk 14: 1 – 24)

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go. (Is 48: 17) “I call heaven and earth today to witness .. I have set before you life and death .. Choose life.” (Deut 30: 19)

Luke takes up this theme in the verses leading up to his “Banquet of Life.” “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” (12: 49) “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” (12: 57) Look at who is teaching you. “Bear fruit – Set others free” (13: 9, 16) The kingdom of heaven is like “A mustard seed, the word, planted in the garden of our hearts.” (13: 19) We become the large bush where all are welcome. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast mixed with three measures of wheat, us. The whole batch, us, is leavened.”   Each time we choose life we come to resemble our God just a little more.

1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. 2 Just then, in front of him, there was a man (humanity) who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. 5 Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?” 6 And they could not reply to this.

The host at this banquet is a Leader of the Pharisees. Perhaps he is a member of the Sanhedran. Tensions are running at an all-time high. It is the Sabbath and there is a man with Oedema (excess water gathers in body tissues causing swelling and pain). In those days it was associated with venereal disease. Will Jesus heal this outcast sinner? Eight chapters earlier the Pharisees pulled the same stunt, planting the man with the withered hand. Once again Jesus takes up the challenge by healing on the Sabbath. “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?”

In this passage we find God, who gave us the gift of the Sabbath, present. This is a caring God, concerned for wounded humanity, the children and even the animals.

For us: Are we going to choose life or death, silently rejecting our God’s invitation to change. How skewed are our values?

46 And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. (11: 46)

Chapter 56: The Divine Story

Mark introduces us to the adult Jesus on the banks of the River Jordan. Later we will meet Jesus, the Suffering Son of Man. Matthew portrays Jesus as the New Moses and Luke as Son of David and Son of God. John opens his gospel, telling us about Jesus existing outside of time and place, always existing in the cosmos. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”   He takes this extraordinary understanding even further: “The Word was God.” (Jn 1; 1 – 2) Pause for a moment and try to take this in. How does this transform your understanding of Jesus?

The Word is God’s gift to us. “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” This gives a totally new meaning to Genesis 1: 1 – 4

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the waters. God said: ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that the light was good.”

Now, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1: 5) Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever, follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (8: 12)

John, the Witness, enters, bringing us down to earth. He testifies to the light .. so that all might believe through him.” We learn that, the true light, is Jesus come into the world to enlighten everyone.   (1: 6 – 9) We also hear the voice of Simeon in the distance, “Now, Master, my eyes have seen your salvation, a light to the Gentiles and the glory for your people Israel.” Jesus is our light and our life. (Lk 2: 29 – 32)

Jesus experienced rejection during his life. He taught, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (6: 54) We are called to accept Jesus, his teachings, every aspect of him, totally. The response was, “This is a hard saying; who can accept it?” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life.” (6: 54; 60; 66) The evangelist warns us of what is to come. “He came to his own, and his own people did not accept him. (1: 11)

The prologue reaches its climax.

“All who receive him, who believe in his name will become the children of God.” (1: 12)

We opened with the Godhead, outside of time and place. Now:

“ The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.” (1: 14) Why? “So that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through this belief you may have life in his name.” (20: 31)

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Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Matt 11: 25 – 30

We are about half-way through Matthew’s gospel. In this section of the gospel Jesus faces opposition. In this passage he seems to be looking back over his activities. He considers what he has achieved, successes and failures. He realises that his message has had practically no effect on the rich and the learned of Jewish society, while it has been accepted joyfully by a small group of his disciples who cone from the poor and lowly classes.

Faced with such a disappointing result, we probably would feel discouraged. Instead Jesus expresses joy and blesses his Father for all that has taken place. This is one of the few prayers of Jesus reported in the gospels. 1 (arm 208

READ

Take time now to read Matt 11: 25 – 30. Although it is just six verses long you would be well advised to read it out loud, and several times.

25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things form the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. 27Everything has been entrusted to me by the Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

WORDS

“.. revealing these things..”

What is the significance of this phrase? Let us look at what has just preceded our reading.

 Verse 5 “Go tell John what you hear and see.” This is followed by a description of the kingdom.
Verse 11 This speaks of entering the kingdom.
Verse 17 Again we are invited to reflect on entering the kingdom.
Both these incidents remind us to “choose life”.
Verse 21 Again we are encouraged to “choose life”. This is our adult responsibility

This contrasts with the call to child-like trust in God;   “revealing them to mere children .. for that is what it pleased you to do.”

“..no one knows
The verb “to know” in the Bible is not used to indicate that one has met with a person a few times or that we recognise somebody. It means to have a deep experience of that person, to have entered into a deep and intimate relationship with somebody.

“.. hiding these things form the learned and the clever..”
These words of Jesus do not mean that God purposely annoys the learned or important people, or that he does not like them. He is simply acknowledging the fact that the poor, the humble, the lowly, have been the first to accept and welcome his teaching of liberation.2 (arm 209

To help us understand this text better we will now divide it up.
Give each part a title.
This is how I understand it. Have you divided it differently?

 “Glory to God”
25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things form the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.

Jesus and the Father
27Everything has been entrusted to me by the Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son.

Our relationship with Jesus
and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
To gain a clearer understanding of the first part we will rewrite it. Note how the writer emphasizes what is important for us.

“Glory to God”
25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.
We again find repetition in the third part of the reading.

Our relationship with Jesus
and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 29Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

One of the most important aspects of today’s reading is that it gives us a golden opportunity to:

Pray using the words of Scripture.

 Eight parts have been selected which you may use for praying in words of scripture. It is wise to only use one or two of these for each period of prayer.

“Glory to God”
25At that time, Jesus exclaimed, 1.I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things form the learned and the clever and 2. revealing them to mere children. 26Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.

Jesus and the Father
3.
27Everything has been entrusted to me by the Father
; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son.

Our relationship with Jesus
and 4. those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (know) 5. 28Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened, and I will give you rest. 6. 29Shoulder my yoke and 7. learn from me, for 8. I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30Yes,  6. my yoke is easy and my burden light.

Enter into your using your imagination. Imagine you are seated at a round table with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. You enter into a deep conversation with them.
Each time respond using the selected words in the text.

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1. This is a prayer of praise. Think of the many times that you have seen the Good News in action. Enter whole heartedly into this prayer of praise.

2. When were you aware of receiving a new insight, a new understanding of God?
How open am I to growing in my understanding of God?
What new insight have you received into your relationship with Jesus?
Respond to God using these words, “for revealing to mere children.”

3. Bring to mind something that God has entrusted to you.

4. Do you really know Jesus?

 5. What an extraordinary invitation this is!

Take it seriously.
Repeat. “Come to me.”
Pray using the words of scripture, “Come to me.”

6. “Shoulder my yoke .. it is easy and light”
Everything costs. Jesus invites us to follow his teaching (yoke). He assures us tah there is a cost to living our lives by his standards, however this is a small price to pay. Paul tells us, “I want you to be happy.” Phil 4: 4 Everything Jesus asks of us in for our own good, to enable us to live life to the full – “have eternal life”.
Repeat, “your yoke is easy and your burden light.”

7. “Learn from me”
This is a third invitation. Savor these words as you repeat them. Listen to Jesus saying, “Learn from me,” and replying “Learn from him.”

8. Of all the qualities Jesus could have chosen it is remarkable that he choose “gentleness” as the first and then “humbleness”. Humility is acknowledging in all honesty our giftedness and our short-comings and placing these before the Lord in a spirit of gratitude and seeking forgiveness. Come before the Lord praying, “I am gentle, I will be gentle, I accept my giftedness and weakness in joy and regret. “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing these things to me.”

CHAPTER 55 : Son of David – Son of God

As you commence reading Luke’s Infancy Narratives be aware of the technique he uses. Luke sees the story of salvation, as it is told in the Hebrew Scriptures, integrally linked to, and continued, in Jesus’ life. He also sees similarities between the life of Jesus and the story of Israel.

God reveals himself to Abraham and Sarah. A very old, childless couple, are promised a son. Abraham and Sarah are in the Old Testament.

Zechariah and Elizabeth are also an elderly, childless couple. Elizabeth is barren with no hope of having a child. An angel announces to Zechariah the good news. He will be seen as the last of the prophets of the First Testament. “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Lk 1: 16) Not long afterwards Mary will visit Elizabeth. As they stand facing each other the child in Elizabeth’s womb recognises the unborn Jesus, and the bridge between the past and the new is complete.

Matthew’s primary concern is to link Jesus’ story to the salvation history of the Israelites. His genealogy commences with, “Abraham became the father of Isaac.” He also sees Jesus as the New Moses. Luke places Jesus in the royal line of David and his ancestors were Abraham and Adam, who was from God.

Gabriel was sent to a virgin betrothed to a man called Joseph of the house of David. By making Jesus son of Abraham, Jesus is linked to the Jewish people. Son of Adam identifies Jesus with the human race. Luke goes even further when he states, Jesus is Son of God.

God made two covenants with the Israelites. “I will be your God and you will be my people. .. But if you do not keep all these commandments … I will punish you.” (Lev 26: 12 – 16) The second was made to David referring to one of his descendants.

9“I will make for you a great name .. 13I shall establish the throne of his kingdom forever .. 14I shall be his father, and he will be my son .. 16And your house and your kingdom will be forever.” (2 Sam 7) This is unconditional and forever.

Gabriel announces to Mary, “He (Jesus) will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever. .. and there will be no end to his kingdom.” (1: 32 – 34) This ‘house’ has nothing to do with a building. This is the family of God.

Jesus is certainly, son of David, Son of the Most High, Son of God.

CHAPTER 54: Jesus the New Moses

“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13: 52) Matthew is this scribe and he tells us about his aim in writing his Gospel.

He sees the Jesus’ Story as the climax of the story of the people of Israel. The God who told the ancient Hebrews, “I will be your God and you will be my people,” (Jer 7: 23) is the God who sent Jesus, Emmanuel, “God is with us.” (1: 23) Matthew will often draw from the Hebrew Scriptures to explain “the newness” of Jesus. In his infancy narrative alone we find, five times, “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled”. (2: 23)

In his opening sentence Matthew gives us his understanding of who Jesus is, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” We are left in no doubt that this is a Jewish story about a man steeped in his Jewish faith. Jesus ranks along with the most significant people in the history of God’s Chosen People.

There are parallels between the history of the Israelites and Jesus’ infancy.

Matthew’s genealogy roots Jesus in the Jewish tradition. He begins with, “Abraham became the father of Isaac and closes with; Jacob became the father of Joseph, husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.” (1: 16)

Jacob’s eleven sons followed Joseph into Egypt where, with his help, they escaped starvation. This Joseph was a dreamer. “The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.”

Moses’ life was threatened by Pharaoh.   Joseph was told, “Rise, take the child (Jesus) and his mother, flee to Egypt,” because his life, too, was threatened by the wicked King Herod.

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and so Matthew has Jesus living in Egypt until the death of Herod so that, “What was said by the prophet might be fulfilled,Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (2: 15; Hos11: 1)

The first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, are known as the Law of Moses. Matthew also divides his gospel into five books. You can easily find where each book ends, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (7: 28 – 29 and 11: 1;13: 53; 19: 1; 26: 1)

Matthew’s concern is for his fellow Jews. “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Jesus advises the Apostles. (10: 6) He also tells the Canaanite woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (15: 24)

Even so, the gentiles get two very significant mentions:

⇒ The only people to visit the baby Jesus in Matthew’s gospel are the three wise men, all gentiles. (2: 11)

⇒ “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations.   … I am with you always, until the end of time.” (28: 19 – 20) This is what Jesus asks of us.

Trinity Sunday, Year A

Jn 3: 16 – 18

Introduction:

The gospel of today is made up of only three verses, but if they are well understood, they may help us revise the ideas we have about God. Many Christians still link God with fear: he is the one that knows all, sees all, spies on us to discover our wrong doings and waits for us at the end to punish us (if he does not start punishing us even in this world!). Could anyone one love such a God?

Today’s teaching shows us the true God, the truths that Jesus has revealed to us. In these three verses we will discover the true face of God.

By going to the fist reading Ex 34: 6, 7a, we get an insight into the nature of God.

Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, “The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin; ..”

It is important to note that the words “merciful and gracious” in the original Hebrew are linked with the qualities of a mother’s womb.

In the light of this profound revelation about the nature of our God read today’s gospel text twice.

Words

“God so loved the world

The world for John is the symbol of total evil. It is with this total evil that God wants to compete. Do you imagine he can be the loser in this competition?

Divide the text and give a title to each part and a title for the text as a whole.

Here are my ideas.

True God,

Father,

The God of Jesus

 

God loves so much
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

God, giver of eternal life
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Choose life
18Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

God loves so much
We are confronted with “so” in “God so loved”. We become aware of the infinite capacity of God for loving us, his creation. It is the whole world, without exception, that he loves. In order to strengthen and ensure that that we understand this, Jesus adds “ .. he gave his only Son..”   Nothing is too much for our God to do for us.   The use of “only” conjures up the image of an only child and the love parents have for this only child. Our God loves us totally – no conditions set.
Recall to mind the love of a son or daughter tending the death of a beloved parent. They can only wish their loved one all peace, joy and happiness as they enter into eternity. Our God’s love infinitely surpasses this love.

God, giver of eternal life
Jesus came that all would enjoy eternal life, life to the full. We are offered the chance to live out our lives achieving our maximum potential. As we enter into an ever deepening relationship with the Lord so our capacity to experience the fullness of life increases. Our God wants us to be the very best we can. The passage is emphatic in stating that neither the Father nor Jesus condemn – Jesus came “that the world might be saved”. Again, no exceptions are suggested.

Choose life
God is not blind to our tendency to sin. He, however, leaves us free to choose. When sin enters our lives it is we who condemn ourselves to a life of sadness, pain, absence of true love and fulfilment in service of others. We choose not to enter into the fullness of life. This however does not change God’s attitude to us. God never gives up when confronted by the sin of people. He hates sin because it destroys the lives of his children. What he wants is that they stop sinning so that they can enjoy true happiness.

Goodness, God, will triumph

Do you really think that evil is more powerful than his love? Has not his Son come to “save the world”? And isn’t “the world”, for John, the symbol of total evil? It is with this evil that God competes (.. and not just with minor sins). Do you imagine he can be the loser in this competition?   NEVER!


As one reads this text one becomes conscious that this is a positive teaching. To bring this out I have replaced the many double negatives, where they occur, with a positive.

A positive teaching
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might be saved but might have eternal life.
17For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
18Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
His only Son- Every person is an only son / daughter of God
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

 

CHAPTER 53 – Jesus. Do you know him?

Pause for a few moments to think about your relationship with Jesus. You may answer; “He is my friend; or, I admire him and follow his example; or His teachings inspire me.” Each one of us has an unique understanding of and relationship with, the Lord.   It was just the same for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They present us with their understanding of Jesus.

No wonder that each Gospel is so different.

At the end of John’s gospel we read. “Now Jesus did many signs .. these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20: 30 – 31) In 1 John 1: 3 he continues, “So that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

John’s purpose for writing his Gospel was fourfold. That:

  • We should come to knowledge and understanding of Jesus;
  • We accept him in every way and follow his teaching;
  • We enter into a deep relationship with our Christian Community; and
  • We grow in our relationship with Jesus and the Father.

Mark opens his gospel with three prophetic calls.

The first voice we hear is that of the Prophet Isaiah. He lived in the 8th century BC. His message here is:

A voice crying in the desert;
Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make straight his paths. (Is 40: 3)

The second voice is that of John the Baptist. “He appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mk 1: 4) Here, the second prophet is calling people to transformation. It is remarkable that this prophet is a layman, John the Baptist, and he delivers his message far away from the temple.

Jesus also leaves the desert and goes to Galilee. “”There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come, the kingdom of God in close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’” (1: 14 – 15)

Mark, presents Jesus to us as a PROPHET, our teacher, God’s messenger.

This is a good time for you to take out your Bible and read Mk 1: 1 – 15.

Mark also presents Jesus as the SUFFERING SON OF MAN. The significance of this title is underlined by being repeated fourteen times.

How do you see Jesus?

Thirty Third Sunday Ordinary time, Year C

Lk 21: 5 – 19

Prayer before praying Scripture

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.

Take time to read this final Gospel text for Year C. Try to discover what the theme is.

You have probably decided that this is all about the end of the world. I wonder where Luke got his information. If you try reading Mark 13 you will soon realise that Luke probably used Mark’s Gospel as his primary resource for this part of his story.

If you really want to cause confusion, start talking about the “End of the World”. At the present time our understanding is that Creation began some 14,3 billion years ago. As we look out into space on a starry night it is hard to believe that there are billions of galaxies and more billions of stars. Our beautiful Earth is unique in that, as far as we know, it is the only planet where life developed. If all this has been around for so long I do not think that each of us has to be concerned about creation ending. We should be concerned about the mass extinction that we are living through at this very moment. Twenty five thousand species vanish from our Earth every year. This is certainly not what Jesus was talking about.

This is odd here, a fragment? 5When some were talking about the temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings,

We have all heard of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The eighth wonder is that the temple was not included among the seven. Travelers to Palestine in the first century told about three unique experiences; the sea in which it was impossible to sink (The Dead Sea), the Sabbath Day of rest (this was observed nowhere else) and The Temple. Herod the Great started the building of the Temple in 19BC and it was eventually completed in 64 AD.  Sadly it was destroyed in 70 AD during the First Jewish Revolt. Surely, for the Jewish people, the destruction of the house of God must have been the end of the world.

6All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.

Jesus seems to be predicting this destruction. Luke is able to put these words in Jesus because he knows that the temple had been destroyed. He is “fore-telling after the event”, and that is very easy to do. What does this contribute to anything?

This is also true of; many will come using my name, nation will fight against nation, earthquakes and plagues and famines. Simon and Bar-Jesus are mentioned as false prophets in Acts. (Acts8: 9; 13: 6) There was civil war in the Roman Empire; famine and earthquakes take place n every era.

The key to understanding this reading, I think, lies in verse 7:

7And they put to him this question: “Master” they said, “when will this happen, then, and what signs will there be that this is about to take place?”

This question is answered in verse twenty two.

“for these days are the time of punishment when all the scriptures will be fulfilled.”
This leads us to another similar text.

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.  And he said to them, “thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  (24: 44 – 48)

Surely Jesus is telling us that we should be striving to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. He emphasizes that the source that we should be working from is the Scriptures. The end of the world is not its destruction but that we all will live our lives in conformity with the teachings of Jesus.

When this moment comes then Jesus own mission statement will become a reality for all peoples.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.    (4: 18 – 19)

This is the end intended for of the world.
Isn’t this more likely to be the end, our God intends for this world?

Twenty Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

Lk 18: 1 – 8

Prayer
Our prayer today is taken from the Magificat, prayer that Luke puts on Mary’s lips. We should make these words our very own.

My soul (life proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
The Mighty One has done great thing for me.
His mercy is forever.  Lk 1: 46-50

* * * * * *

1Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

This is an opening designed to get our attention. It is not so easy to read right passed it.  Prayer is very important for Luke. He mentions prayer eighteen times in his Gospel and the topic comes up as many times in Acts. Our opening prayer is just one example.

Let’s look at a few other prayers that appear in this Gospel.

The angels sing out their song of praise. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” 2: 14

In Simeon’s prayer we move from Praise to Thanksgiving.

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have your salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.  2: 29 – 32

Let’s listen to Jesus as he prays.

“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. Yes Father, you have revealed these things to the childlike. No one knows who the Son is except he Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” 10: 21-22

What is your concept of prayer; Hail Mary’s or pouring out your troubles to the Lord?  This is very good.  However there is another way to approach prayer.  Vatican II tells us, “And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together for ‘we speak to him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings.”  (25)

Prayer is a conversation between God and us.  God speaks first through his Word in Scripture.  We listen intently and in so doing hear the message God has for us.  Then we respond to God in prayer.  Luke speaks of this process when he writes:

“A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of people came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; (They hear the Word of God from Jesus.) and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.  Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him (We respond, asking Jesus to touch our lives and heal us) because power came forth from him and healed them all. 6: 17-19

During our prayer we hear God speaking to us, just as those disciples did long ago.  We ask Jesus to touch our lives and bring change and healing to all that troubles us.  This will certainly happen if our prayer frequently commences with listening to the Word of God.

Time now to read the parable;

2”There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 3And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ 4For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God not respect any human being, 5because this widow keeps bothering me I  shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.

6The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 7Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? 8I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.

Luke has great concern for the less fortunate. This he probably learnt from the Jewish members of his community.

“You shall not violate the rights of the alien, the orphan or the widow.”  “When you reap the harvest in our field and overlook a sheaf there, you shall not go back to get it, let it be for the alien, the orphan and the widow.  Dt 24: 17, 19

There are two characters, the judge and the widow.  The parable has one meaning when we take the judge as the chief character.  It has quite different meaning when the widow is the main charater.

The unjust judge grants the widow’s request only because she is a nuisance.  How much more will a loving God be prepared to answer our prayers.

This determined widow never let up the pressure on the judge.  The judge seems to have been quite frightened of her.  He did not relish the thought of her striking him and inflicting a black eye. She was relentless in her efforts to break the oppression that she had to endure.  Surely our God will be more determined than the widow to fight for the cause of those who are unjustly treated.1

  1. Patella MF, New Collegeville Bible Commentary – Luke