Tag Archives: 22 Sunday in Ordinary time

28 August 2016: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11 Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a Lk 14:1, 7-14


Discipleship: lessons in humility

Green_banner_smDuring Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings describe how a disciple’s relationship requires humility both before God and with others.

The first reading from the book of Sirach teaches a lesson in humility. Humility may help in human relationships (“you will be loved more than a giver of gifts”), but its real purpose is to create a right relationship with God. Humility gives us a true estimate of ourselves, so that we will do what should be done, and avoid what is beyond our understanding (“too sublime”) and “strength.” The Lectionary editors chose this passage to match Jesus’ teaching about humility in today’s gospel.

In the second reading, from the closing section of the letter to the Hebrews, the author contrasts the historical events of Mt Sinai with the promises of Mt Zion. Sinai represents God’s covenant with Moses, a physical covenant written on stone. God’s pronouncements were so awesome that the Hebrews begged God never to address them directly again. Zion represents God’s new covenant, mediated through Jesus. Unlike the Mosaic covenant, given amid fire, storm, and thunder, the new covenant is given in the heavenly Jerusalem at an angelic feast. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice (‘the sprinkled blood'”) is perfect and more powerful (“speaks more eloquently”) than Abel’s offering.

Luke’s gospel is set at a meal in a Pharisee’s house. Jesus uses an earthly dinner to give two parables about conduct at the coming messianic feast:

  • Choosing a seat at a feast (Lk 14:8-11). Jesus addresses his first parable to those who were invited. Jesus’ instruction is not about strategic seating, but about a person’s relationship with God. God invites everyone to the messianic feast. Those who consider themselves righteous because they keep Torah and attend Temple might expect the best seats. However, God’s seating arrangement doesn’t follow our assumptions, as we heard in last week’s parable about the house-master. Jesus concludes with a wisdom saying about “being humbled” and “being exalted.” Echoing today’s first reading, Jesus tells us that our humility before God lets us recognize our place at the feast.
  • Whom to invite to a meal (Lk 14:12-14). Jesus addresses his second parable to the Pharisee who hosted the dinner. In Mediterranean societies, hosts invited only people of equal social status. Jesus instruction is not about strategic invitations, but about a person’s relationship with others. Those who give exclusive dinners expect to be invited to the best parties with the best people. However, God’s invitation to the future messianic feast depends on how inclusive, not exclusive, our guest lists are now. We’ll hear more about God’s invitations in the upcoming parable about Lazarus (25 Sunday in Ordinary time).

Today’s readings remind RCIA participants and the whole believing community that humility is central to our relationship to God and to the neighbor. True humility gives a disciple self-perspective: it’s not all about me. Being invited to the feast doesn’t mean we automatically sit at the head table. Where we’re seated (or if we’re seated) will depend on the invitations we’ve extended or withheld. How will we be “repaid at the resurrection”?

—Terence Sherlock

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30 August 2015: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Dt 4:1-2, 6-8 Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5 Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23


Acting on our beliefs, or simply acting?

In Ordinary time, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all the believing community with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week the gospel returns to Mark and we will continue reading about discipleship in Mark for the rest of this liturgical year.

The first reading is from Deuteronomy, which means “second law.”Deuteronomy contains Moses’ instructions to the Hebrew people before they enter the Promised Land. Today he warns the people “not add to what God commands you, or subtract from it.” This warning connects to today’s gospel. Moses presents the Hebrew people with a stark choice: “love the Lord and keep his commandments” or “serve other gods.”

The second reading is from the letter of James. Scholars determined that James, a relative of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem ekklasia, isn’t the author; the letter describes conditions in the late first century, long after James’ martyrdom by stoning in 62 AD. In today’s reading the author tells us that God brings forth Christians by “the word of truth,” implanted at baptism. In Jewish liturgy, firstfruits are harvest offerings set aside and offered to God in thanksgiving for a good harvest; Christians are firstfruits of God’s kingdom. Christians are not “made” simply by hearing “the word,” but by acting on it–“be doers, not just hearers.” Finally, he says that religion comes down to this: take care of those who are powerless and afflicted (“widows and orphans”) and remain “unspotted by the world.”

The gospel reading follows Mark’s version of Jesus feeding the five thousand and walking on water. In today’s gospel the Pharisees and scribes ignore Jesus’ acts of power and instead complain to Jesus that his disciples don’t wash before eating. Jesus answers his critics with a scripture quote and concludes by contrasting “God’s commandment” with “human traditions”–the very thing Moses warns the Hebrews about in the first reading. Jesus calls the Pharisees and scribes ὑποκριτής (hoo-poh-kree-TAYS)–“actors.” Today Jesus might call them”poseurs”–wannabes who give lip service to God but “whose hearts are far away.” Jesus turns from the poseurs and addresses the crowd, teaching them that things that go into a person don’t defile that person–it’s the things that begin inside a person and come out as actions that defile. Jesus teaches that purity doesn’t come from clean hands, but from a clean heart.

RCIA participants sometimes worry about getting all the Mass responses and postures–standing, kneeling, and sitting–right. Believing community membership doesn’t depend on knowing the right moment to stand or kneel, but, as the author of James says, active and engaged care of the powerless and afflicted. Moses reminds us that worship is important because it expresses our “love of the Lord.” What does our religion comedown to? Are our actions “pure,” acting on the gospel message and the word planted at our baptisms? Or are we poseurs, our hearts far away from God, acting out a show for others while serving other gods?

—Terence Sherlock

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