Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 25, 1010 – St. John’s
For the second Sunday in a row, the Gospel reading offers us a lesson about prayer. Last week we received the assurance that if the unjust judge finally hears the plea of the widow simply to get her off his back, how much more may we expect our good God to respond in good time to our prayers. That lesson was drawn by way of contrast. Today another contrast is offered to us, this time not between a man and God but between two men who both go up to the Temple to pray. This time it’s not so much the need for persistence in praying that Jesus urges as the attitude that we ought to bring to our praying. (more…)
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 17, 2010 – St. John’s
The parables of Jesus were often meant to startle people, to get them to question their taken-for-granted assumptions about God or about human life, to require a decision as to which world they will live in, the old, familiar and comfortable life they’ve been living or the new world opened up by the coming of the Kingdom of God, the fundamental theme of Jesus’ preaching and teaching. I used to try to get my undergraduate students at Catholic University to recognize this character of the parables by asking them whether there were any that they didn’t like, even wished Jesus had never pronounced. They usually mentioned the parable of the workers who received the same pay for working all day long as the other workers who had worked only one hour, or the parable of the prodigal son–they thought that the older son had a point in his complaint to his father about the big party he was throwing for his younger son when he had never done anything of the sort for himself, the older son. At that point, I would remark that this unhappiness, dissatisfaction, disagreement with Jesus resembled the reaction Jesus often met in his own day and meant that those parables were aimed at them, too, today.
Some of the parables so depart from common assumptions that they work by contrast. A month ago we heard Jesus praise the dishonest steward who gained friends for himself by doctoring the book of debts owed to his master. Jesus was not, of course, praising the dishonesty of the man but his awareness of his situation and his cleverness in meeting the crisis. The message was that those who were listening to Jesus were placed by it in a similar critical situation, and they were not as aware or as decisive as that dishonest steward.
Today we have a similar parable, one that also works by contrast. (more…)
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 10, 2010 – St. John’s
Only St. Luke records the story we have just heard, and it is the second time that a Samaritan is pointed to by Jesus as deserving of special praise. A few weeks ago, we were reminded of the good Samaritan who stopped and aided the robbed and wounded man after a priest and a Levite had passed him by. Today it is a Samaritan again, a foreigner (literally, “man of a different race”), who alone of the ten lepers healed returns and gives glory to God while he falls at Jesus’ feet in gratitude. All were healed of their leprosy, but only the Samaritan heard also that his faith has saved him, the outer cleansing thus shown to be symbolic of an inner healing.
We may use the occasion to think about gratitude, and I’ll start with a personal note. (more…)
A week ago, the members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation completed two papers which they now submit for consideration by the leaders of the Catholic Church and of the Orthodox Churches. The first calls for a common date for celebrating Easter, the second addresses what is probably the greatest obstacle to reunion, the role of the Bishop of Rome. What distinguishes this text from many others is that if offers concrete steps for the meantime. Full disclosure: I’m one of the Catholic members of the consultation.