Tag Archives: 30 Sunday in Ordinary time

23 October 2015: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Sir 35:12-14, 16-18 Ps 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18 Lk 18:9-14

Prayer: considering the mystery of God’s grace

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 invite us to think about our prayers and God’s grace.

In the first reading from his wisdom book, Sirach tells us that God is “a God of justice who knows no favorites.” All prayer reaches God, and God does not delay in responding. God’s justice (and God’s corresponding mercy) is at the heart of today’s gospel.

In the second reading from the second letter to Timothy, the author uses a liturgical prayer image familiar to both Jews and Greeks: the pouring of a libation (offering) to God or the gods. The author, speaking as Paul, imagines his blood poured out in sacrifice as an act of worship. God awards all who “keep faith” the crown of righteousness.

Today’s gospel reading is the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, which is challenging for two reasons: (1) two interpretations surround the parable, and (2) Jesus’ interpretation can be translated three ways. The gospel consists of the following parts:

  • The parable (v 10-13). Jesus tells his disciples another parable about prayer, continuing last week’s theme. The Pharisee is a meticulous keeper of Mosaic law; the tax collector is an untrustworthy collaborator. Jesus’ first-century hearers would recognize these characters as stereotypes: the super-pious good person, and the cheating, Roman-collaborating bad person. Both go to the Temple to pray at the daily atonement service. Their prayers and attitudes are very different.
  • The first interpretation (v 9). Luke interprets the parable before he tells it. He says Jesus addresses the parable to those who believe they can do without God.
  • The second interpretation (v 14a) and saying (v 14b). Jesus interprets the parable after he tells it. Jesus’ interpretation turns on which person went home justified. The Greek word παρά (pah-RAH) can mean a position (“along with”), a causality (“because of”), or a non-correspondence (“rather than”). The possible translations are:
    1. The tax collector went home justified rather than the Pharisee [the Lectionary version]. Jesus’ audience would be surprised to hear that God rejects the Pharisee’s prayer but accepts the tax collector’s prayer. While they could understand God rejecting the tax collector because of his work, they would not understand God rejecting the Pharisee-his life is exemplary, even if his prayer is less so.
    2. The tax collector went home justified along with the Pharisee. Jesus’ audience would be more shocked to hear that God accepts the prayers of both men. This translation challenges Jesus’ hearers to realize that God gives grace to all. God decides whom to grace, even if we don’t think God is being “fair.”
    3. The tax collector went home justified because of the Pharisee. Jesus’ audience would be most shocked to hear that God accepts the prayer of the tax collector because of the prayer (and actions) of the Pharisee. This translation challenges Jesus’ hearers to understand that we are all involved in each other’s salvation. We do not “stand alone” or “stand apart;” our actions–good and bad–affect everyone else. God’s gives grace to all, and God’s grace acts on us all, through our interactions with each other.

Scripture scholars call the “whoever exalts himself…” saying a “floating statement” because it appears in several places (Lk 14:11, Lk 18:14, Mt 23:12); it is not uniquely associated with this interpretation.

A possible meaning: The parable presents two flawed humans: the Pharisee more than fulfills the Law but does not need or ask for God’s mercy. The tax collector asks for God’s mercy but does not show a need to live differently. The parable’s meaning is purposely ambiguous, forcing us to decide its meaning. If we hear “only the tax collector went home justified,” the parable is about intent of humans’ flawed prayers (something only God can judge). If we hear “they both went home justified,” the parable is about God’s graciousness rather than humans’ flawed prayers. If we hear “the tax collector went home justified because of the Pharisee,” the parable is about God’s graciousness to the community rather than individual humans’ flawed prayers.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to examine our prayers. Do our prayers express our need for God? Do we pray with or apart from the rest of the believing community? Do we recognize God’s grace and mercy that comes to us through others? Do we pray for ourselves, or for God’s grace?

—Terence Sherlock

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25 October 2015: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Jer 31:7-9 Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6 Heb 5:1-6 Mk 10:46-52

Discipleship: Jesus’ lessons on the way

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 Jesus gives his final teaching on discipleship.

The first reading is from the prophet Jeremiah (627-585BC). This is a song about the hope-filled return of the Babylonian exiles to Judah (Jerusalem). The Lectionary editors chose this passage because it refers to the blind returning from captivity.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews. Today’s reading discusses the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood. The author outlines the requirements for a high priest: he is selected by God; he represents all humanity before God and offers sacrifice for sins; and he is patient with ignorant and straying humans because he is human himself. Christ did not glorify himself in acting as high-priest-the Father called him to priesthood at his resurrection. The author quotes from two psalms in support: Ps 2 (2:7) and Ps 110 (110:4).

Today’s gospel concludes Mark’s central section–“‘on the way’ to Jerusalem”–and Jesus’ final teachings about discipleship. Just as this section began with Jesus healing a blind man (Mk 8:22-26), it ends with Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus. Scripture scholars think that because Mark names him, Bartimaeus was a well-known disciple in the early believing community. Mark frames Jesus’ journey with two blind healings to show Jesus also healing his disciples’ spiritual blindness. Three sayings highlight this healing:

  • Son of David, have mercy on me: Bartimaeus addresses Jesus as “son of David.” First-century Jews understood “son of David” to mean the promised messiah-king who would rule Israel forever. One of the messiah’s signs would be healing the blind. “Have mercy on me” is a petition made to God in the psalms. Blind Bartimaeus already sees more than the disciples and the crowd.
  • What do you want me to do for you: Jesus asks Bartimaeus the same question he asked James and John: “What do you want me to do for you?” Unlike James and John, Bartimaeus asks to be restored to wholeness–the fulfillment of the messianic promise.
  • Your faith has saved you: The Greek word σώζω (SOH-dzo) means “to save,” “to heal,” and also “to be made whole.” Jesus tells Bartimaeus his active faith has healed him physically and has brought him into God’s kingdom. Throughout this central section, Jesus has been teaching about eternal life and salvation. Bartimaeus’ healing becomes a parable-in-action of God’s kingdom. After he is healed, Bartimaeus immediately becomes Jesus’ disciple (“followed him on the way”).

Over the last six Sundays, Mark’s gospel has challenged RCIA participants’ and the believing community’s ideas about discipleship: seeing from God’s perspective, not a self-centered one (Mk 8:35); service, not entitlement (Mk 9:37); inclusiveness, not creating obstacles (Mk 9:41); perfect love for imperfect people (Mk 10:10); completeness, not security (Mk 10:22); insight, not spiritual blindness (Mk 10:51). Discipleship begins with faith (Mk 8:29)–faith is an action, something we practice as we’re “on the way.” Discipleship is a daily, personal choice. With whom are we walking today?

—Terence Sherlock

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