7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel of Luke today follows on from his account of the Beatitudes in last week’s Gospel. It tells us all about compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. It also tells us not to condemn others and not to be judgemental. To turn the other cheek and to give freely to others and not to ask for your property back from the man who robs you. To bless those who curse you and pray for those who treat you badly. It is in effect, encouraging us to ‘take the moral high ground’ in dealing with others. Indeed, this is exactly what David did with Saul in today’s first reading. He took to high ground as well as taking the ‘high moral ground’ to prove to Saul and his men that he would not treat them as they had wanted to treat him.
The message in today’s Gospel is exactly that; ‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you.’ This is the essence of a true Christian. At times this may seem a tall order, and it can be easier to think we can do this, than to actually do it.
A few years ago, one of my nephews was ‘mugged’ by a gang of four youths on his way home from work. He was quite badly beaten up and robbed of his wallet and mobile phone. My nephew is what I would call a good Christian. He is very involved in his church, helps the homeless and the needy and is not what I would call a judgemental person. However, I am not sure that when he was being attacked, that his first thought was to turn the other cheek. It was probably more a case of being realistic about the situation and not offering too much resistance for fear of the consequences in such a one sided situation. The ironic thing about it was that his wallet only contained less than four pounds and the mobile phone was a very old and basic phone, one which most youths of today would call a ‘brick’ and would throw away. Knowing him the way I do, I am sure he would readily have given them the money and the phone if he thought they really needed them, after all, he has given much more than that to the needy in the past. The true Christian in him would ensure that he looked upon his attackers in a different way than a lot of us might do. That is to his credit and our shame. Perhaps those responsible will one day learn to live their lives in a different way. The experience my nephew had, and his attitude towards it has certainly made me consider my attitude towards others.
It’s easier said than done to love our enemies, to not be judgmental, to turn the other cheek, and pray for those who mistreat us. The example we have of David in today’s first reading, coupled with today’s Gospel, echoes Jesus’ teaching when He says, ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.’
God will always forgive us it’s only right that we should be willing to forgive others. In today’s first reading David showed that he wouldn’t sink the the level of his enemies, neither should we.
In the words of Hillary Clinton, during the election campaign against Donald Trump, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ Let’s be willing to turn the other cheek and be the better person.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel is Luke’s account of the Beatitudes, which only occur in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. There are a few differences between the two accounts. Matthews’ version takes place on a mountain (similar to Moses’ delivery of the Ten Commandments), and Luke’s account take place on the plain. There are other differences too, Luke’s version doesn’t have the ‘poor in spirit’ simply ‘the poor’ and doesn’t have the beatitude about the meek inheriting the earth. Matthew’s Gospel has nine beatitudes but Luke’s has only four. It’s not uncommon for the evangelists to differ slightly in their accounts of the same experiences with Jesus, but it doesn’t take anything away from their message.
Sometimes the beatitudes are looked upon as Jesus’ alternative to Moses’ Ten Commandments. They weren’t. His intention was not to replace the commandments, but to compliment them. Jesus was teaching his disciples that by living their lives in a certain way, they will reap the rewards in heaven. He was setting out for them the importance of living by a set of values, morals and ethics. They are the promises of Christ, His manifesto in effect, and He led by example and lived the beatitudes. Perhaps He is the only one who ever has, for to live them is to be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. None of us are perfect, but if we try living the beatitudes, we will reap the rewards of heaven. The beatitudes weren’t just for the saints, they are for all of us, and they are rooted in our everyday experience of the real world.
The beatitudes are set out as a set of opposites: Poor / Rich – Hungry / Full – Weeping / Laughing – Hated / Well spoken of. Taken literally, they appear to be incompatible with each other, but that isn’t necessarily the case. We need to understand the context in which Jesus was trying to teach them. He was trying to show them a better way of living their lives.
I can be Poor and Rich at the same: I can be poor in terms of material wealth yet rich in faith. I can be Hungry and Full at the same time: I can hunger for justice and fairness in the world, especially today which is Racial Justice Day, whilst being full of love for others who go out of their way to help the most needy in society. I can be Weeping and Laughing at the same time: I can weep for the poor, the hungry, the unloved in this world whilst laughing with joy for the love I share with my family. I can be Hated and Spoken well of at the same time: Those with bigoted and sectarian views can hate me for my religion and faith and even for the football team I support, whilst being well spoken of because of my public witness of my faith.
We can all aspire to live the beatitudes by using them as our moral compass and let the Lord instil them in our hearts, and we in the hearts of our children. Let me leave you with this little prayer I came across the other day:
I thank you, Father, for everything that gives me happiness. I ask you to purify my heart so that I may know the blessings and grace of putting the Beatitudes into practice. Amen.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
All good relationships are based on trust and faith, and this Gospel today illustrates that fact better than almost any other. The story we hear in today’s Gospel is based purely on trust and faith. Picture the scene. A group of tired and frustrated fishermen had spent an unproductive night in their boats. Jesus tells Simon “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.” Simon replies, “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.” The result was a bumper catch, so much so that Simon had to get help from other boats to haul it all in. I think this shows a level of unquestioning trust that must have amazed all those who witnessed it.
The other aspect of this event is faith. Simon is told by Jesus that “from now on it is men you will catch.” Simon and the others brought their boats back to shore, left everything and followed Jesus. A truly remarkable example of faith.
Jesus was in effect telling them that He was about to change them from fishermen, to fishers of men. That their lives would now be spent following Him in His mission, ‘casting their nets’ to capture the hearts and minds of people.
Nowadays of course, fishermen use all sorts of state of the art radar and sonar equipment to search for their catch. I suppose you could say that they put their trust and faith in modern technology as well as their own skill to achieve their goal and earn a living. Changed times indeed.
Trust is a very special thing sometimes it can be hard to gain someone’s trust. Once gained however, Jesus proved that he was a man of His word and didn’t let anyone down. We only have to read other Gospel accounts of how many times a great variety of people put their trust in Him and were rewarded in many different ways. We can only imagine the amazement on the faces of the fishermen and the crowd of people who Jesus had been teaching, when the boats full of fish were brought ashore. I suspect that there were many more followers and believers after witnessing this event. This would have meant a supply of food for a good long time for all those around. You could say that many reaped the rewards as a result of the trust and faith of a few.
I must admit, my family would find it ironic for me to be talking about trust, because I’m well known for using the phrase “Trust Me”, usually when I am trying to persuade someone to do something they rather wouldn’t do. That’s usually coupled with me expecting them to have faith in me by saying, ‘It’s Do-able’. When I put those four words together in the same sentence, ‘Trust Me, It’s Do-able!’ it’s usually met with them putting their heads in their hands and saying. ‘Oh no! What’s he come up with now?’ They certainly don’t drop everything and follow me. Maybe I’ve still got some work to do on my credibility with my family.
Interestingly, even at this early stage in His ministry, Jesus’ credibility was not in doubt by those around Him. They readily, and without question, put their trust and faith in Him and followed Him.
Perhaps if we can learn to put our unquestioning trust and faith in the Lord we will clearly see that we will never be disappointed in Him. It’s not hard to do.
Trust Me, It’s Do-able!
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
As the saying goes: ‘Home is where the heart is’ and Jesus’ home should have been in Nazareth. When Jesus leaves Nazareth today, after being effectively ‘run out of town’ he becomes homeless. Unlike the foxes and the birds, He has nowhere to lay His head, but Jesus home was where His heart was, which is in the Father and in us. To understand this, we need to understand today’s Gospel.
So, have a good look at today’s Gospel, no, I mean have a really good look at it. Read the first and last paragraphs and miss out the two paragraphs in the middle. Does it make sense? It didn’t to me at first. The questions it raised for me were: How can Jesus be so popular at first and then suddenly become so unpopular, even to the point where they want to kill him by throwing him off a cliff? What happened in between that brought about such a dramatic change in their opinion of him? To coin a modern phrase, why did Jesus go from ‘Hero to Zero’ in such a short time? What did he do or say that enraged them and turned them against him? Did those in the synagogue not accept what Jesus was saying? or did they simply not understand what he was trying to tell them? There are a lot of questions there and the answers to them can be found in the middle two paragraphs of this Gospel, but to understand the answers to the questions, we first need to try and understand what Jesus was telling them.
He was, I think, trying to explain to them that his mission here on earth was for the benefit of all people, not just the Jews. He tried to get them to understand this by reminding them of two prophets of old, Elijah and Elisha. He illustrated this by telling them what happened to those prophets and that “no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.” Perhaps they found it difficult to understand or accept that Jesus was not theirs exclusively, not there just for the Jews, but that he was there for the benefit of all peoples. Well, whatever it was that Jesus said or did that turned them against him, it certainly had the consequence of him having to escape their wrath by slipping away through the crowd.
It’s often thought that we have a habit in this country of building people up into heroes, whether they be T.V. or film stars or sportsmen or women, putting them on a pedestal, making them ‘celebrities’ only to knock them down again just as quickly. It seems to me that this is not a new ‘media crazy/celebrity crazed’ phenomenon, it was happening to Jesus two thousand years ago. The difference being of course, that Jesus was a man of real substance and not merely a product of hype and publicity and self importance. A man who’s only concern was to do good things for others with no reward for himself. A man, who shunned publicity and recognition, not courted it. His life was to be a mixture of adulation and aggravation as this Gospel story today clearly illustrates for us. Perhaps the Jews in the synagogue didn’t have the capacity to see beyond their initial impression of Jesus, maybe if they had they would not only have seen, but truly understood the real substance of this man.
So whenever you think of this Gospel, remember that the saying ‘Home is where the heart is’ is not just the title of a popular TV series of the 80’s and 90’s, it’s where Jesus love is. It’s in our hearts and we need to be in His too.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Well, what did you think of Jesus’ first homily? He didn’t start with a good story, and He didn’t tell a joke, He just said all He thought needed saying after reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. The cynics among us may say that at least it was short – very short- one sentence, just ten words...“This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” We are told that all eyes were fixed on him as he began to speak to them. The homily Jesus gave was perfect, and how true it still is two thousand years or so after it was said by our Lord in the synagogue.
No matter what the text is, the word of God is being fulfilled even as we listen. Someone, somewhere, is taking the good news to the poor, setting captives and the downtrodden free, blind people are having their sight restored. All of this is going on all over the world in many different ways. It may be that clergy and other missionary workers are spreading the word of the Lord to people in the third world. Perhaps those who have been victims of miscarriages of justice are finally being released. Surgeons perform sight saving and sight giving operations daily. No matter what form it takes, the works of God, through the words of the prophet Isaiah, which Jesus read out in the synagogue, are being fulfilled even as we ourselves, are listening to the word of God being proclaimed here today.
I don’t know about you, but when I read this Gospel, especially the quote from Isaiah, I found myself singing that great hymn we have: ‘God’s spirit is in my heart.’ Think about it, ‘He sent me to give the Good News to the poor, tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more, tell blind people that they can see, and set the downtrodden free…’ It’s in your head now, isn’t it? Well, maybe that’s no bad thing as it will remind you of this Gospel.
Luke, at the beginning of today’s Gospel is telling us basically about an account of events being documented for posterity. He tells of an ‘ordered account’ being written, of how others had written accounts based on the words of eyewitnesses to the events as they happened. Today, eyewitness accounts of major events are captured on camera as well as in written form for posterity. This probably gives us a more comprehensive account of those events. Just think how wonderful it would have been if today’s technology had been available to the the evangelists. I’m sure it would have made their mission a lot easier. Ah well, life is full of ‘what ifs’ isn’t it.
What we need to concentrate on is the fact that the proof of these words are to be seen all around us, everywhere, everyday. As I mentioned earlier, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”. We just have to listen, the truth is out there.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Changing water into wine is recognised as the first of the miracles that Jesus performed, and perhaps one of the best known, certainly in the top three, up there with the feeding of the five thousand and the raising of Lazarus.
I think it’s interesting that the word ‘sign’ is used, not ‘miracle’. John’s Gospel says, ‘This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee.’ No-one apart from Mary and Jesus recognised the ‘Sign’ that it was time for Jesus to perform an act we now class as His first miracle.
This is the only time we hear of His mother, Mary, asking Him to do something for others. She says, “They have no wine.” Jesus replies, “Woman why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.” She then tells the servants to “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus then proceeds to turn the six stone jars of water into wine.
So why was Jesus so reluctant to act on this request by His mother? Maybe He didn’t feel the time was right for Him. So why then did He do it? Maybe He didn’t want to let His mother down, or maybe He felt for the predicament that the bridegroom would be in if He did nothing. Maybe He just recognised the ‘sign’ for what it was, a calling to start this aspect of His ministry. We don’t know the reason why this became His first miracle. What we do know, is that it was to become the first of many, and all of them for the benefit of others, never for Himself.
In all the accounts we have in scripture regarding the miracles that Jesus performed, we never hear of Him doing these things for any other reason than to help others. We too are called to do good for others, for no other reason than the fact that what is done will benefit them and not ourselves. A kind and selfless act, one which is done without any ulterior motive or reward for ourselves. This is what Jesus’ teaching is asking of us, and He led by example. This is what we see in His ministry.
Jesus will have known what the consequences of His actions would be by performing this miracle. He would have known that once the word of His actions spread, there would be no ‘turning back’ for Him. This was a very powerful thing He was doing.
Many years ago, I was very lucky to visit the Louvre in Paris. The largest painting, which takes up a whole wall is ‘The Wedding at Cana’ by Veronesse.
It’s so stunning, powerful and detailed, that you almost feel that you are actually there, taking part in the event. The power of the painting really does help to convey the power and enormity of that first miracle. It certainly has the ‘Wow’ factor.
I wonder if the power, and enormity of what Jesus did at that wedding, had the ‘Wow’ factor on His disciples? I think the answer to that is summed up in the last line of Today’s Gospel: ‘He let His glory be seen, and His disciples believed in Him.’