Welcome to the Word & Life Series. In this series, Fr. John Ludden will take the Sacred Scriptures offered at Mass each Sunday and apply them to our everyday lives. As you read Fr. John’s reflection, open your hearts and minds in new ways to God’s Holy Word. St. Paul says “The Word of God is living effective“. So as we journey together in the Word & Life, let us allow the wisdom of God to transform our relationship and our outlook on life, inspiring us to love one another as He has loved us. You are now invited to reflect on the Word of God which is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Welcome again to the Word & Life!
November 20, 2011
The Solemnity of Christ the King: Year A
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
The Guise of Christ
It is hard to believe that we have come to the end of another Liturgical year. During the past year, we journeyed through the gospel of Matthew, the teacher. As we end the year with the great Solemnity of Christ the King we hear the poignant passage of the Last Judgment in Matthew’s gospel. Today, Jesus extends his reign to include those who were normally excluded from society. He tells us that whatsoever we do to our brothers and sisters, we actually do to Him. Jesus is clearly calling us to recognize him in the midst of those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, or a stranger. Through the world’s eyes this seems to be an unlikely place to find a king, but through God’s eyes this is where the king of glory is to be found and attended to. God’s presence is always to be discovered where vulnerability exists. God’s will is that we become collaborators with him in helping to reach out and attend to the needs around us.
Jesus directly associates himself with a fragile and broken world. He reminds his listeners, as He does with us today, that the Son of Man will judge us according to how we have responded to the vulnerable lives around us. To fail to reach out to the needy is to fail Christ. To treat the broken and their plight with discontent is to treat Christ with discontent and apathy. The wisdom of today’s parable challenged the conventional wisdom of the religious establishment of the day. The poor, sick, and imprisoned were regarded as those with sin and outside the faith. But Jesus gave them the dignity of being sons and daughters of God, making them kingdom people. The gospel today challenges us to dedicate our lives to faith and good works. There are many Christians who argue that faith alone and belief alone is what secures eternal life and a dwelling place with God in heaven. However, as Catholics, we believe that faith must always be accompanied by good works in order to enter the Father’s house. There is no mistaking Jesus intended us to grasp this teaching as we listen to the Last Judgment in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus tells those who do nothing about the needs around them, “…these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Are we ready for the challenge? If we are honest, we would probably admit that not a lot has changed. The poor tend to be forgotten by the majority of the world. Even though many are involved in charitable efforts, world hunger and malnutrition still exists in staggering proportions. There are those who struggle financially and face eviction because of unemployment or bad domestic choices. People’s responses to such as these are varied. Some say that this really is not their problem; others frown up such situations and look down at those who find themselves on the poverty line. How many times have we heard or even made judgments about those who cannot hold down a job and depend on the State to feed them? When did we last welcome a stranger into our community? Gospel wisdom challenges us to embrace this issue in the midst of the debate on immigration reform. While there is most certainly a need to secure our sovereign borders, we must never lose sight of those who are trying to flee from poverty and recognize in God’s eyes that they are brothers and sisters, made in the image and likeness of God. Similarly, those who are imprisoned are treated with contempt because of their crimes. Society’s thirst for retribution often neglects to awaken God’s mercy at work in us. In essence, this is where the message of Christ challenges us to the very core of our existence. Christ is calling us to be faithful stewards of creation and the people of the world. Wherever need is perceived, God is to be found, calling us to recognize that the needy are truly our brothers and sisters. As Catholic Christians, we are challenged to be the light and leaven for all those who struggle and are vulnerable. To be faithful witnesses to the message of Jesus, we have to become the voice for the voiceless and strength for the weak.
We pray: Heavenly Father, help us to recognize you in all people and all things. Give us courage to embrace the poor and vulnerable as our brothers and sisters. May we welcome the stranger as your Son welcomed the outcast, the broken, and the sinner. Let Christ the King be the shining light for each one of our lives so that we can truly glorify your name. Amen.
- What is most challenging for you in today’s gospel?
- Are you willing to be transformed by the wisdom of the Last Judgment?
- Define hunger in the world today. How is Christ asking you to satisfy such hunger?
- How can you get involved in quenching the thirst of today’s world, in particular with the thirst for economic justice and the importance of supporting clean and adequate water supplies?
- What does welcoming the stranger mean for you?
- Are you willing to clothe the needy with your treasure and compassion?
- Are you ready to accept the challenge to offer support to those who are sick or imprisoned?
The Feminine Genius
“The poor are wonderful people. One evening we went and picked up four people from the street. One of them was in a most terrible condition. I told the Sisters: “You take care of the other three. I will take care of this one that looks worse.” So I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, as she said one word only, “Thank you,”, and she died.
I could not help but examine my conscience before her, and I asked, “What would I say if I was in her place?” And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, “I’m hungry; I’m dying, I’m cold, I’m in pain,” or something. She gave me much more – she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face.
Like the man whom we picked up from the drain, half eaten with worms; we brought him to the home. “I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, loved and cared for.” And it was so wonderful to see the greatness of a man who could speak like that, who could die like that, without blaming anybody, without cursing anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel – that is the greatness of our people.
And that is why we believe what Jesus has said, “I was hungry, I was naked, I was homeless, I was unwanted, unloved, uncared for, and you did it to me.”
— “They are Jesus. Everyone is Jesus in a distressing disguise.” — Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
November 13, 2011
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
Discerning the Gift
As we approach the end of the Church’s year, the gospel readings ask us to consider the end times and our readiness to meet God when He comes. The teaching of preparedness, resourcefulness, and the ability to put our talents to good use are all ways in which we ready ourselves to meet the Lord when he comes. There is an element of being prepared to leave this world and embrace the holy presence of God on the other side of life. The way in which we exercise our Christian obligation of living out the gospel certainly solidifies our destiny. We prepare ourselves for the sacred journey into eternal life by allowing the fabric of the gospel to be woven in our lives. The teachings are especially appropriate during the month of the Holy Souls as we remember those who have gone from this life to meet the Lord. We pray for the Holy Souls in purgatory who are still waiting to behold God face to face.
In today’s gospel we are asked to look at how we use the gifts that God has given us in this life. Our sense of stewardship is questioned as we ponder the parable of the talents. Each one of us has been graced by the gift of our individual lives. Every person regardless of color or creed is a gift of God, our Creator. Each has a purpose and role to play not only in the world but in the economy of salvation. The way in which we use our own abilities and gifts can most certainly build the kingdom of God where justice and mercy can be embraced. Our generous response to God who calls us to participate in His great commandment of unconditional love can help in building God’s kingdom here on earth. We have to discern how we can make a difference by examining our strengths and our talents. Socrates once wrote: “An unexamined life is not a life worth living.” His comment bears witness to what the gospel speaks about today. We have to take time in reflection and contemplation to look at our unique abilities and prayerfully consider how we can put those to use. There are many who go through life without ever thinking about their purpose. The greatest poverty is when gifts are laid waste and unused. Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel that God has given us these ‘talents’ or ‘gifts’ to build a better world. Every time we use our God-given talents we glorify God.
Today, we are asked to discern what gifts God has given to us individually and how we are to use them in building up the community of the Church and the world. The gift of medicine promotes health and well-being. Music fills our souls with beauty and joy. The gifts of education and science give us opportunities to explore the mystery of God’s creation. Invention and discovery let us investigate possibilities waiting to unfold. The gift of family and children enables humanity to join in the co-creation of God. The Church is the gift of the gospel constantly being proclaimed to a world in continuous need of redemption and conversion. In the midst of the many gifts that God has bestowed on the world, we are asked to discern our own special purpose and to use our gifts by offering them back to God.
In the second century, St. Ireneaus said, “The glory of God is truly to be found in the person fully alive”. In other words, the human person is to be fully aware of how to use what God has given them and live to the fullest potential. This is the dignity that God has called us to. We become fully alive when we move away from being passive spectators in this great drama of life and move toward being active and contributing participants, building up the Body of Christ.
We pray: O God, giver of all gifts, help us to use wisely the gifts you have given us. Help us to leave a lasting legacy in this world — where our small gifts have played a significant part in salvation history. Help us to define our purpose as we seek to use the gifts that you have given. Let the gift of our life give glory to Your Name. Amen.
- What are the gifts that God has granted you?
- What is unique to you? How can you use your individual gifts in building up your family?
- How do you use your time?
- How much time to dedicate to God each week?
- Do you use your talents to help build the ministry of the Church?
- What is your purpose in life?
- How can God use your gifts to make this world a better place?
- Since everything you have has been made possible by God, what will your greatest gift offered back to God?
The Feminine Genius
“The greatest talent all of us have is our capacity to give and receive love. This gift is in all of us, and, like the parable’s coin, it has immense value. Love has the potential of growing in worth when invested in the lives of others. It has the ability of increasing in strength, depth and quality.
Like the fearful servant, we can let the treasure of our love lay idle in our hearts. When we are in situations that challenge us to invest our love, we can easily lean toward holding back. Who wants to forgive someone who has deliberately harmed them, do a kind deed when there will be no gratitude for it, or take time to visit a lonely person when the day’s schedule is already too full? At these times we would much rather hoard our love and keep it to ourselves.
….Whether large or small, our deeds of love can make an immense difference.”
— “God in our midst” Joyce Rupp, A Servite Sister
November 6, 2011
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
A Teaching in Preparedness
During the summer months the people of Florida have hear much about Hurricane Preparedness. They pay special attention to the news as storms circulate in the tropics from June through November. Much attention and energy is placed on being ready for a possible storm. Many people are seen preparing the structures of their homes so that they will be kept safe in case a storm comes as they depart for the northern states. Florida stores witness countless numbers of people buying flashlights and other supplies in case a hurricane hits. Such supplies are vital in the event of such a hurricane. Here we are nearly at the end of the hurricane season and we are already witnessing our welcomed seasonal residents returning, removing the shutters from their homes and settling into normality in Florida living. However, as soon as we depart from thoughts of hurricanes, we are already beginning to prepare for the holiday season. It seems as if we are always preparing for something!
If Jesus were to come today, he would probably use such an image as demonstrated above to illustrate the importance of being prepared to enter the reign of God. In today’s gospel we hear about the ten virgins preparing to meet the bridegroom. A wedding would be a week long affair in Jesus’ time – there was no mention of a honeymoon in those days. To celebrate a whole week long meant that people would have to possess enough supplies to welcome the bridegroom and celebrate the wedding feast. We are told five virgins were prepared and, therefore, wise; the other five were not.
The parable today is a simple reminder to us that we have to be prepared to meet the Lord when he comes to take us from this life into the next. When someone is told that they have a terminal illness, most of the time, they will start to take care of unfinished business. Tenuous relationships are often confronted and reconciled and people have the opportunity to say goodbye. The terminally ill person often seeks to be reconciled to go and meet God when they die. In such cases the people have an idea that preparations need to be attended to. However, it is not like this for most. The reality is that most of us do not know the day or the hour when God will come to take us. This is why we always need to be prepared for such a journey.
The supply of oil in today’s parable represents the resources that Jesus has given us in his proclamation of the kingdom of heaven. We are given a clear indication of how we can be prepared to meet God in the message that Jesus proclaims. At the beginning of Jesus’ mission, he calls humanity to repent and believe in the good news for the kingdom of God is near at hand! He shows us how this is to be lived out by refusing to be mastered by sin and opening ourselves to the healing presence that He had intended to impart on a waiting world. Jesus opens us to right relationship with ourselves, God, and neighbor. We are challenged to live a life of justice in which every day matters in which we can make a difference. It is how we make choices individually and how we try and live the truth of the gospel that will ultimately prepare us to meet God face to face one day. We simply have to live each day as if it were our last day and take care of any unfinished business.
We pray: O God of second chances, we praise You and thank you for the promise of Your kingdom. Help us to understand and live Your truth so that we will be prepared to meet You face to face. May we learn to let go of what is not essential and to embrace what is essential in order to be ready to meet You when You come. Amen.
- What effort do you put into your faith?
- How is God asking you to prepare for his presence in your family?
- Are you prepared to meet God face to face? Why/why not?
- If you were told that you had a short time to live, how would that change your life?
- Would you consider changing those things now?
- How do you use your resources to welcome God in the world today?
- What is the gospel challenging you to do?
Wisdom of the Fathers
“Men and women today are clearly aware that, more than ever before, they are called to fashion their own destiny in this world. The means to do so are increasingly available: a better understanding of the earth and its secrets; a better understanding of the movement of history and social organization; and the world of communications, which gives more and more people an opportunity to share in modern progress. A more humane world is struggling to be born.
And yet, at every turn the highest hopes are accompanied by disturbing contradictions. As regards respect for fundamental human rights, the last decades have witnessed much progress and a growing awareness of the rightness of this cause. We cannot, however, overlook the fact that our world still offers too many examples of radical injustice and oppression.”
VIEW October 2011 Word & Life
VIEW September 2011 Word & Life
VIEW August 2011 Word & Life