Tag Archives: Gospel of Luke

READING CHAIR – Gospel Commentary: Good Shepherd/Good Gatekeeper

Good Shepherd Sunday

John 10:1-10

“I am the Good Shepherd.  My sheep recognize my voice!”

We recognize the Lord’s voice through hearing the Gospels proclaimed every Sunday, the Word of God.  And the Good Shepherd calls us by name.

I have heard from the Brothers who have gone to the Holy Land, that one day they took a trip to the Lake of Galilee but stopped in the hills sides on the way for a lunch break.  The shepherds had also taken their break and were beginning to break up and head back to their respective homes.  Their sheep were all mingled together but at the sound of the voices of their shepherds heading home.  They called to their sheep as they walked away and the sheep fell in behind them.  Slowly the mass of tangled sheep separated, with each strand of sheep following their shepherd, going on their way.

Over the years we hear the gospels read each Sunday and slowly we become familiar with them to the point that hopefully our daily decisions are made in the light of them.  The familiar wrist bands that have the letters “WWJD” written on them, or “What would Jesus do?” were popular several years ago, reminds us to call to mind the Good Shepherd in difficult situations, “What would Jesus do?”

Besides this being Good Shepherd Sunday, we could also call it The Good Gate-keeper Sunday.  Jesus is the Gate through which the sheep enter green pastures.  My fellow seminarian also mentioned that the sheep compound or sheep-fold is surrounded by a tall stone wall build out in the pastures where the sheep can enter at night with the shepherd, but there was no wooden gate.  There is nothing, just an opening.  Once the sheep entered, the shepherd lays down in the opening.  That way anyone entering will have to step over the shepherd to get to the sheep!  Jesus is our Sheep Gate leading us to greener pastures, protecting us, laying down his life for us.

To recognize the Shepherd’s voice, we have to spend a lot of time with the Lord…through Scriptures, and once a week is not enough.  If you want a closer relationship with the Lord, you have to spend more time with him, as in any relationship.  You may have friends that you try to get together once a week, but find it difficult because of family obligations.  I am sure in the beginning you had spent more time with them when the relationship was first growing.  These may have been relationships before marriage.  In order to keep the relationship alive, you still have to spend quality time with the person.

Spending time with the Lord requires they same quality time.  I know some people with children/ grandchildren use the evening time after the kids are in bed to spend with the Lord through Scriptures or Spiritual Reading.  Spending time with the Lord through your family, counts.  For example, you may talk about the Lord to your young children, or even discuss the Gospel Readings after the Sunday Liturgy with them.  Many family members pray regularly during the week, even though it may be the short time before they all go to bed.  My mom would read to us from the “Bible Story Book”.  Imagine all eleven of us crowded on the living room sofa.

There are many voices today that try to impersonate the voice of the Good Shepherd, and some for profit.  Even Jesus knew that such people existed; whether false prophets, corrupt religious leaders, or the money changers in the temple.  “Those who try to enter by going in another way are thieves and robbers!”  We need to know the voice of the Good Shepherd against all the other noisy background voices competing for our souls.

As a community, we know each other.  So when someone new comes to our liturgy, it takes a while for us to get to know them and get used to their presence.  We give them time.  And when they have attended our liturgy over a period of time we feel they have joined our community, sometimes we may even know their names.  Their mere presence over the weeks is enough for us.  In a way, we have become Good Shepherds as a community.  But as an individual, we still represent the Good Shepherds through our words and actions when we influence others in good ways, leading them back to the Lord.  That is a Good Shepherd, merely someone who leads another back to the Lord.

The time comes in our lives when we become the Good Shepherd ourselves to others.  Today there are too many Gatekeepers, those who keep people out because they are different form our community.  The early church had too many gatekeepers.

Orthodox means right or correct belief or teachings.  But who determines those who are right or wrong?  The split between the Roman and Orthodox Churches was over the “filioque” clause that the Roman Church added to its Creed.  Who was right or wrong there, the Roman Church?  In the end it was just another way to describe how the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son: “and the Son” or “filioque”.  Whereas the Orthodox believed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son.  The Romans pictures the Trinity as a triangle; the Orthodox pictures the Trinity as a straight line!  Who is right, who is wrong, who cares?

Pope Paul VI admitted that it was two ways  to view the Trinity and thus ended the 800 and more years of separation.

Today’s nitpicking over the Liturgy (or whatever) will be tomorrows quiet resolution and acceptance of differences.  We need more Good Shepherds, not more Gatekeepers.  We can leave the Gate-keeping up to the Good Shepherd who laid down his life because of all the bickering.

We are called to be “Other Christs”, and that implies being Good Shepherd, that is, to lead others to Christ.  That is why we pray to Mary, as she formed her son, may she form us into other Christs that we may lead others to him.

 

 

 

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Lost Sons”

24TH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME

Luke 15

The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Sons”

 Today’s Gospel from Luke, we read the whole of Chapter 15, The Lost Ones: “The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Sons.”  The “Prodigal Son” is the most popular.  Prodigal means recklessly extravagant or lavish, and that is how the first son spent his money–at least it was on others.

But the story, and all three stories for that matter, is about the lost.  The wonderful addition to the story line in the “Prodigal Son” is that it tells a lot about the Father, and that is hidden message behind all Gospel three stories, Jesus is referring to “God the Father.”

The lost sheep was so important that the Shepherd, left the other 99 in the desert to go search for it.  And there was great rejoicing when the lost sheep was found.

The woman, who found the lost coin, called her neighbors to rejoice with her at finding her loss.  I am sure her party for the neighbors cost more than the coin!

The father rejoiced at his lost son returning home and threw a celebration.  Of course, the son was never lost!  He knew the way home all the time.  But he was lost from his father’s love.  That is why even the older son was lost too.  He considered himself a servant to his father; that was how he saw his relationship.  “All these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders!”

The older son saw himself as one of his father’s servants.  Did he ever once serve his father out of love?  The younger son knew that is father loved him, but felt that he deserved to be treated as his father’s servants, and that is how he introduces himself upon his return.  “I no longer deserve to be called your son!”

I am sure that Jesus wants to portray the Heavenly Father as the same father in the this story; an easy pushover, who against all decorum and dignity, runs down the road to meet his son.  Picture this old man running to his son.  It should have been the other way around.  And he quickly covers his son’s shame with the robe of dignity, ring of authority, and the shoes of the wealthy.  The poor went barefooted or wore sandals.

“And you never gave me a young goat to feast on with my friends.”  I can’t help but come back to the older son, because he could represent many who come to church every Sunday, and keep the commandments, and follow the rules, but have never experienced God’s love, especially God’s forgiving love.

I believe many have occasionally experienced God’s love, but haven’t dug deep enough to realize that his love has been there all along.  The Father had always loved his older son, both sons, but it took the younger son a disaster to realize it.  How about the older son?  What does he need to do to really experience his father’s love?  He needs to look beyond himself to see his father’s love everywhere, even right under his nose.  “Son, everything I have is yours!”

As we continue to celebrate the Eucharist this day, may we leave here touched in a deeper way by signs of God’s love for us in all we do this week.  Lord, help us to be open to you in our lives and to know that everything you have, is ours, especially your love.

 

 

 

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Are You Still Following Me?”

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Luke 14:25-33

“Are you still following me?”

The gospel starts out telling us that Great crowds were traveling with Jesus.  And he turned and addressed them.

I suspected that Jesus wanted to thin that crowd out a little.  “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters…;” the original gospel probably had Jesus stopping there for a moment.  And when he looked around and noticed that the crowd had not thinned noticeably yet, he added the last part, “…and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

At one point in our lives we surely come to the point of hating most of the above, maybe not seriously hating, but at least getting fed up!  But hating our own life?  Now, that is another matter.  Either way, hating them in order to follow the gospel?  That seems pretty extreme.  After all, in another place Jesus commands us to love them all, especially our parents, and strangers, and even our enemies.

What is happening here in this gospel?  Is this another example of Hebrew Literary Hyperbole?  Could be…I don’t want to put words into Jesus’ mouth.

Let’s put this gospel in context of the parables that come before it and after it.  Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was about the Wedding Feast that no one, who was invited, could come.  They all had excuses.  The readings that come after this Gospel are all about the Lost ones; like the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.

To be honest, the Gospels were written to be read to a crowd who were lost in their spiritual lives, as Jesus said; “I have come for the Lost Sheep.”  However, it is a reminder to us the cost of following the Lord.  What are we willing to do or change to be disciple of Christ?  But hate?

The first reading, Paul’s letter to Philemon, gives us a very good clue.  Paul, who is in prison, is writing to Philemon, concerning Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave.  Paul sees now as his spiritual son in Christ, a relationship that probably grew with Onesimus’ visits to him while in prison.  Paul is not simply asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus, Paul challenges Philemon to welcome his illegal runaway back “no longer as a slave, but…brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man”—an equal, honorable human being—“and in the Lord’.  That is quite a challenge and change Paul is asking Philemon to take and undergo!

Does following Christ change our old view of life and way of seeing things, to a new way of seeing them?  Are we willing to see our old relationships with one another take on a new way, in the love of Christ?  Paul is asking Philemon to hate the old way of his relationship to the slave Onesimus, and to see him in a new way, as his brother in Christ.

I would hope, as disciples of Christ, we could apply that not only to our relationships but to anyone we meet.  It is not easy.  That is why Jesus reminds us to sit down and calculate what it would truly cost to follow him by living in his love and loving others with that love.

Paul wrote Philemon to hate the old way, where Onesimus was your slave, your property.  Love Onesimus in the new way with the love of Christ that makes him your brother.

The Eucharist, which we celebrate today, gives us the strength to live in the love of Christ, turning aside from relationships that are harmful or not life giving and turning to Christ, the source of all our life and love and relationships.

May we live always in the love of Christ and may it continue to sustain us this day and always to love others.

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Where Your Treasure Is”

19th Sunday Ordinary Time

Luke 12:32-48

“Where Your Treasure Is…”

One time I asked my students to imagine that their house had caught on fire.  They had only minutes to run back in the house to rescue one thing, one item…something, anything.  What would that item be if they could retrieve it from their burning house?

They took a few minutes to think about the question, and especially about the item that they could run back into the house to rescue, and write it down.  Most said they would rescue family pictures, since they couldn’t be replaced.  A few mentioned money, and fewer mentioned items that could really be replaced.

I think the family pictures were the favorite item in the long run.

Today’s gospel tells us, “For where your treasure is there also will your heart be.”  Sometimes, it takes a disaster to realize what we treasure most, and usually it is family, since that is what the pictures represent.  Where our treasure is there also will our hearts be.  And if our family is our treasure then nothing will come between us and them.  We will also find that we put all out time or a good portion of our time in our families.

Jesus reminds us that is how we should be with our heavenly treasure.  We should also be prepared to meet the Lord at any time, “…for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  And this is how we prepare for the Lord, by celebrating the Eucharist.  I can’t think of anything better to prepare ourselves.  It is getting through the rest of the week that is the difficult part.

One way is to get into the habit of repeating the Lord’s name throughout the day, reminding ourselves of his presence in our lives no matter where we are.  But some may find this difficult, others may find this embarrassing, and some may develop a form of amnesia where they just forget all the time.  Now when I say repeating the Lord’s name, I mean in a good way, of course.  We all have that aunt or uncle who has the bad habit of repeating the Lord’s name.  When I was a kid, I had thought my own aunt was quite the religious person, until my mother explained the difference to me after we left her home.

The last part of the gospel has always frightened me, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

I wasn’t concerned with the much or the more part, but with the entrusted part.  It is at baptism that the entrusted part begins, because we become Ambassadors of Christ, as St. Paul writes.  We represent Christ to others, because we have been entrusted with Christ.  He is our treasure, and he is where our hearts should be.  Others will be looking to see what we do with this treasure.