I think that most of us take for granted the water we use and drink on a daily basis. For us it is so easy and accessible, we only need to go to the next room to get it. How many of us remember that the human body is 55 to 60 percent water? Without water, a person is going to die. Lack of water is a real crisis in parts of the world today. The first reading relates a crisis among the Jews today. All of a sudden they regretted their freedom because they didn’t have any water. With Moses intervention, they received their water. A lesson here would be that sometimes a solution to one problem will create another. Faith requires a certain steadfastness and remaining true to a commitment.
The Gospel speaks of water today, most especially, “living water”. Living water is life-giving, thirst filling water refreshing body and soul. This life giving water Jesus speaks of is for the soul and for the giving of eternal life to all. All humanity seeks and looks for a fulfillment of their life and reason and understanding for living. Christ living water is God’s love coming and embracing women and men to come to an eternal life with God. The living waters of Baptism fills up the Spirit and forever slakes the thirst of the believer. Regardless of whether there was ever a Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus still gave us the living waters of Baptism and opened us up to a pathway to his Father. Taking stock of our faith and Baptism is a good way to prepare for our upcoming Easter celebration.
The first reading from Habakkuk sounds like something we might see on TV or see in the newspaper today. Violence, discord, war, evil. Why must we look at misery. Yet throughout history, these things seem like a constant following humanity throughout the ages. Contrary to this, God gives a vision, a look at a time of fulfillment and peace. He calls for faith, but what is that? Faith is not stability or security, it is not a thing, but a call to act. It is more of a verb to do what we are supposed to do. To act and carry out and move on with our lives. It is doing what is expected of us in our commitment to Christ and living out the trust placed in us and our lives. It is doing the expected tasks without any presumption of reward. Certainly, times of darkness and feelings of being lost are possible, but the reign of God is the end and goal of our faith.
What must the Apostles today have experienced to ask for an increase of faith? Yet, Jesus told them the smallest amount of faith, compared to one of the smallest seeds of earth was sufficient to do miraculous things. Faith is doing what we are called to do in our daily lives. Yes,we are capable of great deeds, but as the parable indicates we like the servants or slaves are called to do what was our place in life. Such activity shows our trust and faith and leads us to our final vision. But let us not forget that faith or that trust God gives us is a gift, one he gives and waits for our response. His gift is a call to action on our part, and a call we should respond to each day regardless of our mood or feelings. Living each day as we are called to do is how we complete the call Christ has made to us. In return his love for us is complete.
Once again today we are reminded of wealth and poverty and our responsibilities in using worldly goods. Why, we might say, are we always talking about the poor? Poverty is a relative term and means different things in different parts of the world. Wherever we go in the world, we are going to find poverty and poor people. It is just a proven fact that no society or country can simply eliminate poverty from their midst. Even in our own country, if we recall the “War on Poverty,” we know that while it helped poor people, it did not eliminate poverty. Yet, Jesus keeps reminding us that we have a responsibility to those around us, a responsibility born out of a love of God and a love of neighbor that should fill us as we make our commitment at baptism. Not all of us are called to live a life of poverty or a religious life in some religious order. But all of us are called to be responsible to ourself and others in our daily life. How we live and how we act toward others, is certainly reflective of our beliefs and values. What are we to do, if a hungry man is before us? There is no easy answer, but have we done what we can or do we simply leave it to others? Can we really live in comfort if we can see and experience the discomfort of others? The important thing is that we try, and that we do
not forget. If we truly love our neighbor, we can’t forget that we all have needs and wants. Christ often reminds us we should not get too comfortable but to reach out to others in need, whether it be physical, psychological, or spiritual. We are called to share what many call our time or treasure or talent. It doesn’t mean we are called to invest our whole lives, but certainly at times we can give of one or more of these. In reality, it means we are giving of ourself, of what I am and what I have and can share out of love of Jesus and his love for all of us. Never forget that often it is not the grand gestures that captures the hearts and heals others, but the simple day-to-day things to bring a sense of comfort to another. Openness, loving and sharing, sometimes just presence or listening is the best formula for a loving peaceful life.
Today, the readings talk about wealth and power. I think many believers feel that Jesus was opposed to wealth and the wealthy and to those who rule and have power. I think the first thing we must realize is Jesus did not condemn the wealthy or the rulers who had power, but was most concerned about how the wealth and power was used. The prophet Amos today tells us how much the Lord abhors those who take advantage of the poor, or even cheats them. The Lord will never forget them or their lack of love and abuse of fellow creatures. Every person is valuable to him.
In the gospel, many become confused that the owner praises the servant who takes measures to insure his future by granting discounts in his master’s name. Like a two edge sword, the servant curries favor and some security while at the same time presenting his master as generous and giving and caring. What seeming praise he gets, is that yes he somehow solves the immediate problem, but, and there always is a but, what of the future and his relationship to God. Can a truly dishonest person have a loving relationship with God. It is interesting that Luke uses the word Mammon. Mammon is an Aramaic word which means trust or believe. A word we use frequently comes from the same root and also means trust or believe. That word is “Amen” which we use to affirm “I believe” or trust. So ultimately, we see that Jesus is asking us where we place our trust, our belief. Are we children of the present time or place, looking out for ourselves or are we Children of God looking to the future? That choice certainly defines us in how we look at ourselves, at authority, at wealth and how we use them and act.
Yes, Amen is a powerful word, and an ever-present way to affirm our love and relationship with God and all of his creation. It at the same time is a powerful prayer as God all ready know all our thoughts and desires and asks only that we be honest with ourself and with Him.
All the readings today talk of sin, forgiveness and God’s love. In the first, we see the people setting up an idol as Moses and Yahweh were together on the mountain. Only Moses’ interceding and pleading spared some of God’s anger. Paul acknowledges in the second reading that he had a checkered past and actually was a terror to the Christians, but Jesus interceded and forgave and presented him with a new mission. In the gospel, we see Jesus enraged the scribes and pharisees by his eating around with all different segments of the society and the people he encountered. One of the problems of the scribes and pharisees of Jesus time was that they were only able to see things strictly in terms of black and white. Love, mercy and forgiveness were not part of their vocabulary unless of course it pertained to themselves. So many then saw the law in terms of absolutes directing humanity, rather than seeing it in term as a way to serve and help humanity to relate and serve God. The parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep were meant to point out the importance of what we have, that a possession, or thing or person, were meant to be kept, to be sought out to be kept near and dear.
The story of the Father and the 2 sons points out not only forgiveness, but the encompassing love that God has and is always extending. This story shows that both sons were at fault and misread the Father’s love. The one who left tested it most by moving on and losing sight of it until he returned. The other son in his feeling of superiority and desire of exclusivity of the Father’s love and care, missed out on what that love and care was and how he was too much wrapped up in his own care and concern. After all a father’s love is not meant to be exclusive but is inclusive of all his children. So it is with God that his love is for all his creation, and it extends to those who also need his forgiveness. All God asks is that we seek him out, ask for his forgiveness and love. Every human ever born must seek out this forgiveness and love except for Jesus Himself, who took on all of humankind faults and sins as mediator before His Father. Thus, today our message is threefold: mercy, forgiveness, love.
Today’s gospel talks of places of honor and of humility. In Jesus’ time people and especially the priests, pharisees and higher-ups of the society were very concerned with their places of honor and position. In that time, being invited and sharing meals was a big thing. Everyone was very much concerned with their place, and of course sought out the prominent position. Jesus, as we know was being watched carefully to see how he would react and what He would do. His reaction was to tell a parable and stress that those who were prominent should in effect practice humility and not just take the prominent seat lest they be embarrassed and forced to move to a different spot. In effect, he was telling them that self enhancement and importance were really irrelevant in the way that God looked at things. God wasn’t looking at how you took care of yourself and retained self-importance, but in how you learned to look out for everybody, especially those who were less capable of taking care of themselves. God notices all people from the poorest to the richest, from the most prominent to the most outcast of society. God created everyone, the whole universe in fact, and he is aware of each of us and of all that we do. He is aware of motivation and of concerns. He knows intentions, aspirations, and isn’t concerned with positions of honor(a human concern), but more in how we relate with one another. In Jesus time, an invitation meant an invitation to return the favor. Jesus said what was the good of that when the poor and hungry were not served. It is interesting also that Jesus did not put down position or power, but pointed out how it could and was abused. At times, there is reason to honor position and power, but at the same time those in such positions must learn to look out and honor all that their positions call them to serve. Each of us is responsible to look out and care for those that we meet and can do something for. Few of us will ever be in a position to reach out to large or vast numbers, but look around, no matter where you go, there is a call for action that sometimes we can respond and others not, but are we aware that these moments exist, or do we simply keep going and pass them by? True humility is knowing who we are, what we are, and what we can and can not do.
Today’s gospel tells us Jesus is continuing on to Jerusalem. He is asked will only a few be saved. In reply, he said we should work to enter through the narrow gate, which allowed only one person at a time to enter through a very small entrance to the city. But then he talks about the master of a house, who rises up and locks the door and stops the entrance of any more people. Unlike the master in the 17th Sunday’s gospel, the late comers are not friends to the master but acquaintances, people the master encountered in the streets. Surely, they heard him, ate and drank with him and his disciples, but they did not commit themselves to him. In our own time it would be like a person who is baptised and is raised as Christian, but who views his church and Christianity as a place. Christ is a person, as is his church. To be a Christian is a choice to live a life in Christ, a life of love, of giving, of reaching out. God is a God of life and love, offering us the same now and forever. Heaven and hell are not places although we speak of them as such. God does not punish and impart people to hell, actually they do it to themselves. If we do not choose a life of love and giving, but rather choose a different way of life, choosing self or some other thing setting us apart, we have made our own state or choice or place without God and the love he has and imparts. Hell is choosing that separateness and living that way. This is possible because we have been given the freedom to choose and unfortunately we can make bad choices. God doesn’t choose evil or impart separateness, but allows the freedom to choose even at the cost of some being lost. Throughout time He sought to bring all to him, through the prophets of old and through his Son Jesus. He has been a sign for us since his life and death, a sign accepted an a sign at times rejected. For all of us who accept this sign and more importantly live out its life and meaning will find the proverbial door open to them.
Today’s readings seem to be rather harsh and divisive. Jeremiah the prophet is thrown into a cistern and left to die. Jesus talks today of fire and division as opposed to peace on earth. Both Jeremiah and Jesus knew that in carrying out their mission, there would be opposition, oppression, exile for Jeremiah and Jesus knew he was to die. More than anything Jesus knew that his preaching and teaching would meet opposition and be attacked by the authorities because he challenged them and their interpretation of what the law meant and how it was oppressing the people. Certainly, the authorities had made peace with the Romans and had made themselves comfortable in a bad situation for the people. Jesus concern wasn’t the authorities and their laws, but the people and their lives and relationships and most especially their relationship with God. The fire he speaks of is the fire within the heart, like the fire that cooks and purifies our food. It is meant to come from the baptism of his death to purify and bring God’s embracing love to all. That love doesn’t always mean peace, it rather is to bring a union of our heart to God. That certainly means at times there will be discussion, and even conflict. The poor, the marginalized, the ones Jesus always reached out to seem to be always present in every age and time. What peace and contentment is there on earth if any are hungry, displaced or uncared for. To follow Christ doesn’t mean we should feel at peace or comfortable. Christ called us to love, an unconditional love. But if we truly love, we should constantly inquire is it enough. None of us is perfect, all of us fall short at times in one way or another. Institutions and laws and rules don’t protect us from failing in seeking out our brother or sister in need. I think at times, we think the institution or the state or the laws of church or state protect or shield us, when Jesus’ call to love, to forgive, to have mercy can be put aside. Sure this can bring division about, but such love brings peace, a peace beyond what many can understand.