October invites us to reflect on Respect Life, the Rosary, the life of St. Francis, and much more…
First of all, let us wish our St. Francis parishioners, a happy and joyful Feast of St. Francis. Feast of St. Francis of Assis is on October 4th, but we celebrate on Sunday, October 2nd. St. Francis of Assis loved the whole universe. The custom of blessing animals originated from St. Francis’ love for all creatures. Animals used to come and listen to his preaching. How beautiful is it to begin the month of October, respect life month, by reflecting on St. Francis’ love for all God’s creation.
I think in 2019, most of us watched the movie, "Unplanned." After the movie, I said, what a powerful message. Why is it powerful because it involves real life? Life matters. The month of October is the month of respect life and the month of the rosary. This year, the theme for the respect life is "Called to serve moms in need." Every moment of our life from womb to tomb is a gift from God and He is our Hope. Every season of our life encounters challenges—moments of being vulnerable, but those vulnerabilities give us the opportunity to grow closer to Christ who is our Hope. As I mentioned above, October is the month of the Rosary, a devotion to our Mother Mary, which connects with respect life month. When we meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, we walk through the life of Jesus: from the very moment of his conception in the womb of Mary, through his passion death, and resurrection to his ascension and coming of the Holy Spirit. He restored the dignity of our life. Through his salvific action, we received the dignity of life.
In this month of October, let us pray for life: life from the womb to the tomb. During the first week, we pray and pray for unborn babies, mothers, and babies aborted and for the healing of their parents. In the second week, we will be praying for/with people with different abilities (disabilities). We call it Inclusion Awareness Sunday. If you know someone who has not received the Sacrament at an appropriate age, please call Kathy Rominske, and Sandy Kennedy, as we can prepare them for the Sacraments.
October 18th is also the feast of St. Luke, who was a physician and patron saint of the medical profession. On the Third Sunday close to the Feast of St. Luke, we pray for all those who are sick, the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of the Sick, and offer a special prayer for the caregivers and healthcare professionals. On the fourth Sunday, we celebrate World Mission Sunday. Pope Francis wrote in his 2017 message, “Carrying out our mission, let us draw inspiration from Mary, Mother of Evangelization. Moved by the Spirit, she welcomed the Word of Life in the depths of her humble faith.” On the fifth Sunday, we meditate and pray for domestic violence and human trafficking. Again, an opportunity to reflect on the dignity of life in our day-to-day life.
Twenty-seventh Sunday, the reading invites us to reflect on faith and its effect on our life. St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “To one who has Faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without Faith, no explanation is possible.” In the first reading Habakkuk begins by complaining to the Lord: why doesn’t God do anything about violence and injustice? If we continue reading the following passage we will see God’s response, saying that he is preparing the Babylonians to come and destroy the evil doers and the prophet acknowledges the divine judgment.
In the Gospel reading, the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”. Faith is a gift from God. We need to nourish our faith through reading/listening to the Word of God and receiving the Sacraments and putting them into practice. Our faith is alive when focused on the love of God and neighbor and grows when our prayers and actions are driven by charity. Jesus told his disciples, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.”
Do we ask God to increase our faith? Have you noticed things happened even when we questioned or doubted? God is always beside us, let us ask him to increase our faith.
Sins of Omission
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. He teaches life in the kingdom of God. Today’s reading invites us to reflect on the sin of omission. Can I live to continue living in comfort while turning a blind eye to those around me who are in misery?
During the time of Amos, the Davidic kingdom was divided into two: Israel, the northern kingdom with its capital Samaria, and Judah, the Southern kingdom with its capital Jerusalem. Amos was a sheep breeder of Tekoa in Judah, but God called him to prophesy in the northern kingdom during the prosperous region of Jeroboam II. They didn’t care much for his words, and he was expelled by the priest in charge of the royal sanctuary.
They were lying on ivory beds…they bawl to the harp sound of the harp…they dine on the lambs from the flock, drinking wine from the bowlful and using the finest oil for anointing themselves. It was all good, it was a blessing from God, but how they used it selfishly. They forgot others in need.
In today’s Gospel, the story of the rich Man and Lazarus tells us what is expected of us as disciples of Christ. In Jewish tradition, they believed that poverty and sickness result from God’s punishment. Deuteronomy 28:58&59, “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, and to fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD, your God, the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants wondrous calamities, severe and constant calamities, and malignant and constant sicknesses.” For the rich, wealth is God’s blessing, so they can live a luxurious life. We read in Luke 6: 24, “But woe to you who are rich, for you, have received your consolation.” In the character of the rich man, we can see the evidence of love for money and the lack of mercy for the poor Lazarus. We don’t see in the Gospel he is doing anything against Lazarus. But we can see he ignored Lazarus, not helping in his hardship.
The interesting aspect of this story is God gave the poor man a name, Lazarus, which means God is my help. Despite a life of misfortune and suffering, Lazarus does not lose hope in God. In the second part of the story, Lazarus is enjoying Heavenly bliss as a reward for his fidelity to God in his poverty and suffering, while the rich man is thrown down into the excruciating suffering of Hell as punishment for not showing mercy to Lazarus, who was in need.
The question may come to our mind, why was the rich man punished? Did he commit any sin? The sin of the rich man is the sin of omission although he did not drive either the poor Lazarus or the stray dogs from in front of his door nor did he prevent either from sharing the discarded crumbs and leftovers from his table. He did not kick Lazarus. He was not cruel to him. But he failed to recognize Lazarus as a human being and a brother. He did no wrong, but he did nothing good, either. In Catholic teaching, that is the sin of omission: not doing what one is supposed to do.
What is the sins of omission? If we leave undone the good or the duties to which we are bound by those obligations, we commit sins of omission. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus is not recognizing the needy. What are some of our sins of omission?
Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our baptismal call. Each one of us is called to be a catechist. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to this mission as a community of faith. On catechetical Sunday we take a moment to pray for our catechist who committed to share our faith with our young children and youth. There are a good number of people who volunteer to teach our faith to our young people. We recognize them and we thank them for their generosity. Thank you!
For the last two years we used Family of Faith for religious education. It is for the entire family and then parents taught the class for the rest of the month at home. Parents meet every first Wednesday of the month. Our children and youth will have class every week. The parent session is for the entire cluster, please come and join.
Catholic Service Appeal
First of all, I take this opportunity to thank all of you for your generous support to our parish, and yearly Catholic Service Appeal (CSA). Your generosity makes a difference. This weekend is the KICK-OFF of our annual CSA 2022-2023. The theme for this year's appeal is “Centered in the Eucharist." As you know we are in the three year Eucharistic Revival program. God is not distant, he is with us, he breaks and shares with us. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. We listen to the CSA message centered in the Eucharist.
Sometimes we ask why I need to give my money to the Diocese. It can be used in my local church. It is a valuable thought. The reality is we are part of the universal church; we are part of the bigger mission. Whether promoting vocations, educating our future priests, providing lay ministry formation, teaching, evangelizing, providing outreach to youth, young adults, and those in need, diocesan ministries reach beyond the ability of any single parish to support. We benefit from the Diocese in so many different ways. You should have received the CSA booklet in the mail. It will give you a picture of how our money is used and how many lives you have touched.
The Goal for this year for our parishes are: St. Anthony $36,538.00; Immaculate Conception $10,791; and St. Francis $3,631.00. Thank you to all those who have already returned the CSA envelope. If you didn’t bring it, please do so. If everyone participates we can reach the goal. Let us respond to Bishop Power’s invitation and make it a successful one.
Today’s reading reminds us to be a faithful steward. The first reading from the Book of Amos reminds us to be a God’s faithful steward and show justice and mercy to all. During the time of Amos, Israel was divided into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. The business community was corrected and they exploited the poor. Deuteronomy 25:11 on wards gives various precepts. They knew how to treat each other, but disregarded. Injustice against the poor is a sin. So, the Lord warned the people through Amos of the coming down of the kingdom because they are not good stewards.
The Gospel of Luke 16:1-13 presents to us the unrighteous steward to tell us urgency and preparedness. The parable of the dishonest steward has to be understood in the light of the Palestinian custom of agents acting on behalf of their masters and the usurious practices common to such agents. About the loss of his position the steward makes use to find favor with his master’s debtors and prepare for his future. Steward's last minute effort provided last minute success in winning the favor of the debtors and making his future financially secure.
Jesus points to the steward as both an example and warning. Jesus says, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning “that in which one trusts.” The dishonest steward expresses a tendency of wealth to lead one to dishonesty. Eternal dwellings: or, “eternal tents,” which is heaven. Investing in God’s kingdom means investing using our treasures properly. Our life should be centered on love of God and one another, and everything else to boost the goal.
This weekend's readings remind us that God is loving and forgiving. Our God is a God of new beginnings. In the first reading from the book of Exodus God agrees for Moses to remain faithful to the Sinai covenant, even though people have gone away from the Lord and worshiped the Golden Calf. Moses was gone to the top of the mountain for “forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18). While he was on the top of the mountain receiving instruction from the Lord, people of Israel at the foot of the mountain grew impatient. They made a Golden Calf and worshiped it. It seems that the golden calf was intended as an image, not of another god, but of the Lord, whose strength was symbolized by the strength of a young bull. The Israelites, however, had been forbidden to represent the Lord under any visible form. We read in the Exodus 20:4&5, “You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them.” In response to Israel’s infidelity, God declares to Moses that he will execute the course on Israel for their infidelity. But Moses pleads for people and asks God to remain faithful to the Sinai covenant even though the people have broken it. Moses uses three arguments: (1) they are God’s own people, redeemed with God’s great power (Exodus 5-15); (2) God’s reputation will suffer if they are destroyed; (3) the covenant with Abraham still stands (Genesis 22:15-17). Hearing his arguments, the Lord’s change of mind is a testimony to Israel’s belief in the power of intercessory prayer. God shows his mercy towards Israel.
The Gospel of Luke chapter 15 presents God’s limitless mercy and forgiveness. Today’s passage we see three lost and found stories. Through all three of them, Jesus shows us that his mission is to call sinners to repentance, for which there is more reason to rejoice than there is over those who have never strayed from the faith. Jesus repeats this message several times in the Gospels. We read in Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” It was the occasion of the call of Matthew.
All three parables in today’s Gospel are about lost and found which brings great celebration of joy. In the first parable, the shepherd gathers his scattered sheep and looks for the lost one. Jesus, the good shepherd came to call his people together and to reconcile back into one-fold. Second, a woman loses a coin. She had ten but lost one of them. Each one is worth an entire day’s wage. She turns the house upside down in search of it. Third, the story of the prodigal son. I would like to call this story, the story of a prodigal Father who lavishly forgives his lost son.
This parable narrates the exile and homecoming of historical Israel. After King Solomon, Israel split into two kingdoms, living like brothers’ side by side, northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdom (1 King 12). By the eighth century the Assyrians captured Israel where they worshiped idols. In Ezekiel 37:21-23, we read God welcomes home the exiled son by lavishly sharing mercy and forgiveness.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son came and asked for his share of property. It was unusual and even shameful for a son to ask for his inheritance before his father’s death. We read the guideline for the distribution of inheritance in the book of Sirach 33. Younger son collected everything and took a journey into a far country and lived lavishly. Jews considered pigs unclean animals (Leviticus 11:7), but in desperate need the prodigal son agreed to feed the swine. We read in the Gospel for today, “When he came to himself” return to the father. On the other hand, my father was waiting for him. He ran and embraced him. The action of the father recalls the mercy shown to Jacob in the book of Genesis 33:4. Father gave him a robe and a ring which is a symbol of honor and authority in the Bible, (Genesis 41:42). Then the father says, “My son was dead, and is alive again…” which shows the change of status from curse to blessing.
The parable of prodigal son narrates the continuing struggle of the spiritual life, where repentance and conversion are part of an ongoing process. God is always waiting for us to share with love and mercy.
Happy Labor Day!
This year before Labor Day, schools are open, it seems like we are more active, and society is more engaged and busier. It is an opportunity for us to pray for each one of us, our labor, and whatever we do. It is also a special moment to pray for our children and youth, who are going back to school. That’s their labor - study well. Let us pray for them, their families, teachers and so on.
Labor Day is the day we can be proud of what we do, and respect others for their great service. Pope Francis pointed out, "Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. . .. It gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, to contribute to the growth of one's own nation." Happy Labor Day weekend!
During this ordinary time, I mentioned a couple of times that the reading focused on the formation of disciples. Today’s reading invites us to reflect on the cost of true Christian discipleship. In the Gospel of Luke 14:25-33, Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem. Luke says that a great crowd was following him. He knew his destination and was fully aware of the cost he must pay. It is a total commitment. At the same time, crowds expected him to liberate them from the Romans and regain control of their land. He would be their Messiah and savior. Jesus turned around and told them you can’t follow me unless you hate your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even your own life. We see in Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Here Jesus told them to hate. Did he really mean hate? It is an idiomatic expression of “to love less.” We read in the Gospel of Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus is not asking his disciples to “hate” their families but rather to make him our first love. There should be nothing to stop us from the commitment to the Lord.
Discipleship is a serious commitment. Jesus says, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?” (28). We read in the Gospel of Matthew 10:38, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Since Romans used crucifixion to torture the criminals, Jews needed no explanation. The difference is that before Jesus’ crucifixion the cross was a sign of shame and rejection, afterwards become a sign of victory. Christ clearly instructed his listeners about the call to discipleship.
In the second reading, Paul wrote to Philemon from the prison. He was imprisoned not for crime but for his commitment to God. The first reading from the book of Wisdom reminds us that as a disciple of Christ, we need the gift of wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Wisdom cannot be acquired by human effort alone; it requires the correct disposition of humility and obedience. God gives us this Divine Wisdom directly in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and the Spirit empowers and instructs us through Divine Revelation in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. We need the gift of wisdom to understand God's way and live discipleship.
St. Anthony Daycare is temporarily closed.
As you know the daycare was always struggling to find enough staff. You might have noticed in the bulletin and website; my name was listed as Daycare director. Finally, this summer we had enough staff in our daycare. By the end of May, Morgan joined as one of the teachers for the summer. She is a college student and now she is going back to college. Stephanie joined us as director. This was her first time as a director. First place, she didn’t want to be the director, but I asked her to try. So, she did try for three months, and she decided to leave. Morgan, another teacher, is moving from Park Falls. Now we have only one teacher left. We were searching for teachers, but the applicants were not qualified. They were willing to go to school, but they won’t be able to help us until they finish the classes. So St. Anthony Daycare is temporarily closed. Thank you to all of the teachers, parents, and all those who supported our daycare.
"Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God” Sirach 3:18. The theme of today’s readings is the need for true humility which leads us to develop a generous heart that shares with others. The readings give a warning against all forms of pride and self-glorification. They say the virtue of humility helps us to open our minds and hearts to the needs of the people.
The first reading from the book of Sirach reminds us that if we are humble, we will find favor with God, and others will love us. The virtue of humility has two aspects: being humble before God and opening our hearts and hands to others. We read in Matthew 23:12, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” The prayer before communion should exemplify our inner mode before God, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Ben Sira is perhaps warning his students against the perils of Greek philosophy. Greek philosophy of the day insisted on reason as the sole arbiter of truth. But Jews knew that faith had a great role as well. Catechism of the Catholic Church (159) says that faith and reason compliment each other and work in tandem.
In the Gospel, Jesus talks about a wedding banquet: "When you go to a banquet" and "When you give a banquet." Jesus offered a lesson on humility and charitable generosity without seeking neither honor nor reward. C.S Lewis writes, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Jesus instructs us to sit in the lowest place – a lesson of humility – greatness measured by the concern for the other. We read in James 4:6, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 1Peter 5:6 says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
“When you hold a banquet, don’t invite friends or relatives or wealthy neighbors, …Rather invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, who are unable to repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:14). Matthew 10:42 says, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” God will look favorably on works of mercy at the judgment. John 5:28&29 says, “Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voices and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.”
The second reading from the Hebrews compared the two covenants of Moses and of Christ. This passage gives us the image of the heavenly liturgy. In contrast to the theophanies of God at Mount Sinai that so terrified Israelites, the new covenant, the heavenly liturgy is one of celebration and unity. Our weekly participation in the Mass is so vital to our spiritual lives. Abel’s murder put Cain in danger of death by retaliation (Genesis 4:8-9), but the death of Christ brings in the forgiveness of sins and salvation.
We bring each one of us with our blessings and needs, strength and weakness to the celebration of Mass and ask God to bless us and give us nourishment so we can grow in our relationship with him by doing the works of mercy.
From the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time onwards the reading was progressing on discipleship. It started from the call, sending out two by two, prayer, inheritance and now we are reflecting on how many will be saved.
In the first reading, Isaiah answered prophetically a similar question about salvation. Jews were trying to recover from their long exile and enslavement in Babylon. The prophet sees great things for Jerusalem. He tells the people that someday people of all nations would come to worship. The third part of the Isaiah (56-66) tells us that He is God for all the people rather than Jews alone. It shows us that God wants everyone saved.
Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, and he was teaching. Some asked him an interesting question, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" We may want to know the answer too, isn’t it? First, we have to depend on the grace of God. We read in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God…” Second, it depends on our cooperation and obedience. We read in Philippians 2:12 “So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
Jesus stresses the difficulties of entering through the narrow gate. There is a story behind the narrow gate. A narrow gate was a small gate built into the much larger city gates of a city. It allowed someone to enter after hours when, for security reasons, the main gates had been closed and locked. The gate was too small to enter with more than a few items. Animals, carts, weapons, and other large items had to remain outside the gate until the opening of the main gate in the morning. The night gate for the city of Jerusalem was nicknamed the “needle’s eye”. Jesus doesn’t answer the question regarding how many people will be saved. He was not interested in statistics. His answer was more personal…here’s how YOU can be saved. It is not easy to go through a narrow gate. You may have to wait or bend yourself. There will be challenges.
Spiritual life is not that easy, so only a few will enter the glory of God. In the Gospel of Matthew 22:14, we read, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” The final judgment will come at the end of time when the faithful will be rewarded and the unrepented will be punished. We read in Matthew 21:43, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” Jesus also tells us that it is not easy when we see others from the east, west, north, and south reclined at the table in the kingdom of God, while we are cast out.
Jesus does not tell us all this to depress us or to discourage us, but he loves us. To know and experience his love, we just need to do is to look at the Cross. His love sums up there. He gave every means to enter the narrow gate. We have sacraments, we have Eucharist, and food for our journey: we listen to his words, eat His Body, and drink His Blood. We may fail from time to time, He gave us the Sacrament of reconciliation. He gave us fellow Christians to support and to walk with us. Let us ask God to bless us with his grace, so we can walk with him and grow in our discipleship and enter through the narrow gate.
A couple of years ago, Fr. Jacques Hamel, whom ISIS terrorists murdered, and recently Christians in Nigeria were murdered. A couple of priests were captured and found dead. This weekend's readings encourage us to live our faith courageously. It raises two questions: are we able to live our faith in our daily life? Are we facing challenges?
In the first reading, Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because he refused to tell the king what the king wanted to hear. The reading takes us back 600 years before Christ when the land we know now as Iraq was named Babylon. The Babylonians were mighty at that time. Jeremiah showed the courage of his prophetic conviction by telling King Zedekiah that the Lord God said he had to surrender to the mighty army of the Babylonian empire to save Israel. Such talks were viewed as unpatriotic, and Jeremiah was considered a traitor. The prophet was cast into a cistern but was saved from death by the Ethiopian official Ebed-melech. Since the king did not listen to God’s counsel given by His prophet, Babylon captured and destroyed Jerusalem. Jeremiah faced suffering and opposition for following God’s word. His life was not easy. In chapter 20 we see Jeremiah was going through the interior crisis and cursed his own life. “Cursed be the day on which I was born! May the day my mother gave me birth never be blessed!” (20:14).
The conflict that Jeremiah provoked within his own household and his ministries illustrate Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel reading (Luke 12:49-53) that he came “to set the earth on fire,” not peace, “but rather division” and that household will be divided against each other. The fire is a symbol of God’s presence and love (Deuteronomy 4:24; Acts 2:3); God’s judgment on sinners (Leviticus 10:2, Matthew 22:7), and divine purification (Luke 3:16; 1Peter 1:7).
God offers us his love, mercy, salvation, and desire that we accept and respond to his gifts. God offers these gifts freely and generously, but all are willing to accept them so that division will occur even within the families. Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Peace is possible only if we embrace him in faith (John 14:27).
The second reading from the Hebrews, which Paul wrote to the Judeo-Christians who had been rejected by their fellow Jews, expelled from their synagogues, and cut off from family and old friends. Christ presents the ultimate example of patients and persevering fidelity to the will of the Father through his suffering and death on the Cross. He went to Jerusalem knowing that he will be arrested and crucified.
We, too, are called to do our best until our great run for the Faith is crowned with victory. God walks with us every moment. He knows we face difficulties and temptations, so he gave us sacraments to give us nourishments, forgiveness, and healing. He also gave us fellow Christians to support each other in our faith journey. Let us grow in love for our faith and share it with many.
Cling to the Lord….
Last weekend we meditated on true treasure and this weekend how do we grow in our faith and how do prepare to embrace the true treasure? The second reading starts with the definition of Faith. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrew 11:1). Faith involves trust and confidence in God’s word even if it cannot be verified by our human senses and reasoning. The virtue of hope springs from his combination of faith and confidence. We cannot see God directly as he is, face to face, but by faith, we know God and have a personal relationship with him.
In the First reading from the Book of Wisdom, we hear the faith of the Israelites. We are told how their Faith and Hope resulted in their liberation. They were warned of the coming Passover; they were prepared, escaped from the angel of death, and offered the righteous sacrifice in peace.
Our reading reflects Exodus chapters 11 and 12. While the angel of the Lord was striking down the firstborn of Pharaoh and other Egyptians, Israelites were vigilantly offering righteous sacrifice to the Lord and eating the lamb's meat to fortify themselves for their coming escape. That night was the first Passover. They were in full of hope and confidence in their God, the liberator. At the end of the Passover meal, they praise God by singing the Psalms. We read in the Gospels, that Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. In Matthew 26:30 we read, “Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” We read in the Gospel of Mark 14:26, the same.
The Gospel (Luke 12:32-48) warns Christians to be ready for the second coming, like servants waiting for the master’s return to the house. Luke emphasizes for his readers the importance of being faithful to the instructions of Jesus in the period before the parousia. The parable of the faithful and the unfaithful servant is about leadership and responsibility. The apostles were compared to domestic servants who were charged with various duties in the household of the kingdom.
The Gospel talks about the necessity of watchfulness. If the master comes during the second watch, which is between 10 pm and sunrise, the faithful servant would be ready to receive him. We can see a similar message in the Gospel of Matthew 25:1, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” The message is to be prepared, be vigilant.
According to the Fathers of the Church, Jesus’ words in this passage have two senses. In the narrower sense, the words refer to the Second Coming of Jesus, but in the broader sense, they refer to the time of our own death, when God will call us to meet Him and to give Him an account of our life on earth.
The question for reflection is how do we prepare? Gospel gives us the answer: Love and God and love one another. In the Gospel we read, Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father, is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
Last weekend we meditated on treasure: focus on God. This weekend we meditate on all other treasures: money, talent, time, and so on. How do use our treasures?
We should be like Israelites, who were not taken by surprise on the night of the Passover because they were saved because they had been warned. We, too, must cling to the Hope of a future that may seem too good to be true, and we, too, are expected to be steadfast in our Faith, even when we see no signs of the fulfillment of God’s promises. Be a faithful servant.
Philip Arthur Fisher was an American stock investor best known as the author of Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, a guide to investing that has remained in print ever since it was first published in 1958. He says, “The stock market is filled with individuals who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing."
This weekend's reading talks about spiritual investment. In the first reading from the book of Ecclesiastes, the voice of the narrator (Qoheleth) talks about “Vanity.” Qoheleth means one who gathers or preacher. The author identifies himself as the “Son of David, king of Jerusalem,” so the scriptural scholars say the author is Solomon.
Solomon sets out to pursue three common human goals, three pursuits to which many people devote their entire lives: 1. Pleasure or joy which we see in Ecclesiastes 2:1 “Come, now, let me try you with pleasure and the enjoyment of good things.” See, this too was vanity. 2. Wisdom which we read in 2:12-17 “What about one who succeeds a king? He can do only what has already been done. I went on to the consideration of wisdom, madness, and folly… Therefore, I detested life, since for me the work that is done under the sun is bad; for all is vanity and a chase after wind.” 3. Toil or labor for possessions which we read in 2:18-26 “I detested all the fruits of my toil under the sun because I must leave them to the one who is to come after me… For to the one who pleases God, he gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the one who displeases, God gives the task of gathering possessions for the one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chase after wind.”
Fr. Bloom reported from Krakow, 2016 World youth day. He says, Pope Francis is a big soccer fan and when he mentioned the sport, young people cheered. When he referred to the World Cup, it brought even louder cheers. Then he paused, looked at the sea of youth, and said, "Jesus is a greater prize than the World Cup!" Young people stood, raised their hands, and gave a sustained cheer.
Jesus is the one great prize. That's what we see in today's readings. In comparison to Jesus, everything in this world is vanity. Only Jesus has ultimate worth - and only in him does anything have value. The Ecclesiastes says, “Vanity of vanities,” “All is vanity.”
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the rich fool. This parable teaches that life centered on greedy ambition and satisfaction is empty of meaning. The fool is oblivious that his life will end, together with all his accumulated material possessions. Rich says “…so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). In the book of Sirach 11:19 says, “When they say: “I have found rest, now I will feast on my goods,” They do not know how long it will be till they die and leave them to others.”
Jesus is not disregarding his skills and ability to acquire wealth, but rather his selfishness. Jesus was called the rich fool because he lost his aptitude to invest wisely. His life was consumed with his possessions and his only interests were in himself. Jesus is not talking against wealth or rich, but he is talking about the use of it. A fruitful life involves charity towards others and detachment from material goods.
Our ultimate goal in life is to be eternally happy, not temporarily happy. Without God all life is meaningless. But with God, every aspect of our lives proclaims the reason for our creation: to know him, to love him, to serve him. He is our true treasure.