Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 5:21-33; Luke 13:18-21)

The Letter to the Ephesians seems to bless slavery.  “Slaves,” it says, “obey your earthly masters….”  Yet most biblical commentators today would not conclude that God thereby ordains the institution.  On the contrary they see the verse as conditioned by the cultural condition of the first century.  People then somewhat blindly accepted slavery; people today must not.  There is less of a consensus about the phrase in today’s passage from Ephesians, “…wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.”  Pope Francis, however, in his recent apostolic exhortation The Joy of Love places the admonition in the realm of culturally-conditioned advice.

Francis cites St. John Paul II in saying that the overarching principle regarding marital subordination in Ephesians is that it be mutual.  This arrangement is found in the first verse of today’s text.  It means that rather than a system where one spouse has the final say, the two arrive at a decision based on their love for one another.  It is an ideal way, to be sure, but it can be approached if not attained completely.

Marriage is the most intimate of human relationships.  We should look forward to it as a way of overcoming the same selfishness that keeps us from knowing God.  Because spouses are always there, we cannot ignore them.  Because we come to know well their goodness, we want to make every effort for their benefit.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 5:4:32-5:8; Luke 13:10-17)

A leading theologian takes to task the traditional condemnation of “works-righteousness.”  He writes that St. Paul only rejected the notion that that one might be seen as “righteous” by only adhering to the Law.  Paul means that people not should think of themselves as saved because they keep a kosher diet and refrain from activity on the Sabbath as the synagogue official insists in today’s gospel.  Rather the theologian cites texts where Paul teaches that people will be judged by their deeds. 

Few people in the gospels draw more pity than the poor woman bent over for eighteen years.  Obviously she is in continual pain and will have difficulty talking to others.  Jesus cures her on sight.  Then he answers the criticism of the leader of the synagogue who judges him a sinner for healing on the Sabbath.  Jesus says in effect that it is always time for acts of mercy. 

We must not let a false interpretation of justification by faith or any lame excuse keep us from performing works of mercy.  When we act mercifully, we imitate God Himself.  We show ourselves to be His children with a destiny that is beyond our imagination to appreciate.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 12:54-59)

Old enmities die hard.  Two people who have long had differences that led to bitter words have difficulty burying their resentment.  In today’s gospel Jesus warns the crowds that they must overcome difficulty of this kind in order to be reconciled.

Jesus notes how practical people are.  They can tell that it is going to rain in plenty of time to take the wash from the line.  Unfortunately they limit their good sense to physical matters.  They do not recognize that the moment of salvation has come with Jesus.  Now is the time to show mercy so that they might receive the boundless graces of his death and resurrection.

We have the same crisis today.  Jesus is exhorting us to act because there is no time to wait.  We must seek reconciliation with those from whom we have been alienated.  Doing so, we will experience the peace of God’s kingdom.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3:14-21; Luke 12:49-53)

The juxtaposition of the first reading and the gospel today disturbs the spirit.  The gentle words from Ephesians about the Christian as rooted in love sound diametrically opposite the jarring gospel where Jesus promises to judge the world with fire.  An outsider might wonder if Jesus is a lion or a lamb.

If we have difficulty with the two clusters of images, perhaps we should examine what love is about.  It desires not so much the comfort of others as their wholeness.  At times it will call for suffering.  President Obama describes his mother’s love for him with the story of her getting him out of bed at four in the morning to review his lessons.  When he complained, she told him, “This is not a picnic for me either, Buster.”

Jesus’ love for us moves him to die in Jerusalem so that we might experience divine life.  Reaching it demands our acceptance which may in turn involve sacrifice of pleasure and even of relationships.  But we should never underestimate the value of belonging to God.  As the Letter to the Ephesians says, it is “the breadth and length and depth” of happiness.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Memorial of Saints Jean Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, priest and martyrs, and companions, martyrs

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

Catholicism experienced a new flowering in France during the seventeenth century.  The reforms of the Council of Trent had taken hold.  French kings favored the old faith as a way to consolidate his power.  Saints like Vincent de Paul breathed into the Church a spirituality centered on service.  One of the results of this renewal was a vigorous missionary spirit.  Jesuits missionaries Jean Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, and companions went staunchly forth to proclaim Jesus Christ to native peoples of America.  They braved severe discomfort and eventually cruel martyrdom to teach the unsophisticated about Christ.

Today’s first reading provides a theological framework for their missionary activity.  Through Christ God’s calling was extended beyond the nation of Israel to all peoples of the world.  Paul was one of the first missionaries to the Gentiles, but the preaching could hardly stop hi efforts in eastern Europe.  With the discovery of new lands with different peoples the Christian message of salvation was brought to what Europeans thought was the end of the earth.

Perhaps there is always a new frontier.  Today we are to reintroduce the salvation that Christ offers to people who have heard of it but in a defective way.  Christ calls us to share his humility and love with those for whom even Christianity appears narrowly self-opportunistic.  It means sacrifice on our part in the short view of things. But as the fullness of the heavens is revealed, our efforts to share the good news will bring salvation to all.