Tag Archives: 27 Sunday in Ordinary time

2 October 2016: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4 Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14 Lk 17:5-10


Discipleship: loyal living and faith-full acts

Green_banner_sm During 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 challenge our idea of faith.

In the first reading, the prophet Habakkuk complains to God that God ignores the unrighteous acts of Judah’s rulers against the people. God answers with a vision of Jerusalem–Judah’s capital city–destroyed, and its people taken as captives to Babylon. God tells Habakkuk that, in contrast to the unrighteous acts of Judah’s rulers, “the just (righteous) one will live because of his faith.” The just ones who remain loyal to God–who live their faith–God will save. The Lectionary editors chose this passage because its saying on faith echoes Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel.

In the second reading from the second letter to Timothy, the author looks back on Paul’s life and draws lessons from it; he also looks to the future and offers challenges and hopes to Timothy and his readers. “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice:” the Greek word δειλία (dih-LEE-ah) is better translated as “fear” to contrast with the gospel’s active faith that can uproot a tree and plant it in the sea.

Today’s gospel from Luke is part of four connected sayings about how a disciple acts (Lk 17: 1-10): Today’s reading includes only sayings 3 and 4:

  • Saying 3: Having faith (Lk 17: 5-6). The disciples ask Jesus to “Increase their faith.” In the ancient world, faith is an action, not simply “intellectual assent.” (The idea of faith as intellectual assent alone took root in western thought during the Enlightenment, in the 1700s AD.) The ancients understood faith as the actions of fidelity, or actions of loyalty, or of a lived commitment. The disciples ask Jesus to help them live their commitment or loyalty to him; Jesus responds with actions (“say,” “be uprooted,” “be planted”). If a disciple practices seemingly small faithful acts, God’s power can magnify their results.
  • Saying 4: Confusing discipleship with entitlement (Lk 17: 7-10). Jesus tells the disciples a short parable about a slave who serves his master (Lk 17: 7-9). The master expects the slave to serve him; the slave expects to serve the master. In this social structure, the master’s needs come first, and the slave’s needs come second. The parable’s meaning turns on the Greek word ἀχρεῖος (ahk-RIH-os), here translated as “unprofitable.” The root word χρεῖος connotes monetary utility or debt value. As a slave, the slave’s actions generate nothing of surplus or monetary value for the master; the slave’s only value is in serving the master. Taken together with the disciples request for increased faith, Jesus reminds his disciples that God works through their actions, and their results belong to God alone. When they fulfill discipleship’s demands, they are only doing their duty.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider our understanding of faith. God tells Habakkuk that practicing fidelity makes one just. The disciples ask Jesus to “increase their faith,” he tells them that their faith-filled acts can have outsized results. Jesus also reminds the disciples that the results of their faithful acts belong to God, not to the disciples. Do we think that faith is simply nodding our heads when asked about God? Or do we practice dynamic faith so that every our action affirms our loyalty to God and faithfulness to God’s Word?

—Terence Sherlock

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4 October 2015: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Gn 2:18-24 Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6 Heb 2:9-11 Mk 10:2-16

Daily discipleship: love in a fallen world

Between the Easter season and Advent, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all the believing community with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week we hear Jesus teach about the daily challenges of discipleship.

The first reading from Genesis is a story about origins. It explains where men and women come from, why they are attracted to each other, and how and why society is structured as it is. The Lectionary editors chose this story because Jesus quotes this passage in today’s gospel.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews, a complex work that assumes its hearers are well-versed in Hebrew scripture. Today’s reading introduces Jesus as redeemer. Jesus became human (“made lower than the angels”) to redeem humankind (“taste death for everyone”). Jesus is now exalted, having been “perfected through suffering.” Jesus (“he who consecrates”) and we the redeemed (“those who are being consecrated”) have “one origin.” Because Jesus shared our humanity, we are siblings to Jesus, who is “not afraid to call [us] ‘brothers.'”

Mark’s gospel begins a new chapter (Mk 10). In this chapter Jesus’ teachings shift to practical discipleship issues: marriage, raising children, running a business. Jesus now directs his teachings to the crowds, not just his disciples. Today we hear two stories: a teaching on marriage and teaching on the kingdom. Both teachings are about practical discipleship:

  • Marriage teaching: Jesus presents an image of marriage before Adam and Eve turn against God. We can understand this to mean that God’s original intent (“one flesh”) is the standard for all relationships. Because Jesus has destroyed sin, we no longer need the Mosaic divorce exception. Jesus establishes the kingdom of God, in which all humanity is restored to its God-created state. Jesus holds disciples–those “on the way” to the kingdom of God–to a higher standard: “What God has joined (literally “glued”) no human can unjoin.” God joins a husband and wife into one flesh; in this equality and oneness, both the husband and wife have a mutual responsibility to lifelong fidelity.
  • Kingdom teaching: Jesus shows that discipleship–and access to the kingdom–is not based on abilities, social achievement, public behavior, or status. Jesus tells the disciples that “the kingdom of God belongs to the least ones:” slaves, non-persons, children. Jesus’ embrace of children is a parable-in-action: this is God welcoming all simple, trusting, and humble sons and daughters into a relationship, which is the beginning of God’s kingdom.

RCIA participants–and the entire believing community–continuously seek to understand what Jesus asks of us as disciples. All Jesus’ discipleship teachings revolve around love: love of God and love for the Other. The daily challenge of human relationships–family, spouses, friends, coworkers, teachers, students, caregivers–presents opportunities to live out God’s design for human love. In a fallen world filled with imperfect people we learn the meaning of “taking up the cross.” How we live our day-to-day discipleship prepares us for God’s kingdom. How does our love for imperfect others reflect our love for God?

—Terence Sherlock

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