"Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over." Zacchaeus was serious about following Jesus. Maybe at the start he was just curious when he ran ahead to scale that sycamore tree. But that curiosity developed into a life-changing experience when Jesus called him by name. At that moment, when the Lord chose Zacchaeus to be his host for the evening, the rich tax collector "came down quickly and received him with joy." And shortly thereafter came his promise of conversion and penance. Not only would he change his ways; he would make up for his former ones. And thus Jesus declared, "Today salvation has come to this house."READ MORE
"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." The Pharisee and the tax collector--polar opposites by practice. The one is a religious leader, a professional follower-of-the-law. The other is a deviant who extorts money for himself as he goes about his economic business. But in today's parable, Jesus flips these perceptions around. The humble tax collector is the one who "went home justified." Whereas the Pharisee has a flawless outer appearance, when we see a glimpse into his inner thoughts we detect his vanity and presumption. We see a man who may keep the letter of the law, but who is not truly converted to God's ways in his heart. The tax collector, on the other hand, pleads for God's mercy, recognizing that he needs it.READ MORE
"Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?" The widow in today's parable didn't give up. She kept "bothering" the judge by coming to him and asking for a decision in her favor. Ultimately, her persistence caught his attention and influenced his behavior. Jesus seems to be teaching us today that this quality of faithful persistence is a good one to have. Thus, he advises us to call out to God not once, not twice, but "day and night." This is a fitting image for the idea of continual prayer; it goes on all the time without ceasing.READ MORE
"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" Jesus had worked a miracle of healing for ten people afflicted with leprosy. They had cried out for him to have pity on them, and he did. But only one member of this group took the time to return to Jesus, fall at his feet, and thank him. Why?
Perhaps some were so busy rejoicing that they forgot to give thanks. Perhaps others thought they deserved to be healed and thus did not think in terms of gratitude for the miracle. Maybe some in the group weren't sure that the healing was going to last. Or, possibly, some of them were just selfish and lazy. Whatever the case, Jesus affirms the one man who does the right thing: "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." Jesus thus establishes this Samaritan man as our example. We too are to glorify "God in a loud voice" for all that he has done for us.READ MORE
"When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'" What a humble attitude this would be! Jesus challenges us today not to boast, not to seek special praise, not to consider ourselves worthy of some great reward when we follow him. Rather, he honestly reminds us that it is simply our duty to do all we "have been commanded."READ MORE
"'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad.'" Today's Gospel reading is Jesus' parable about a "rich man," whose name we do not know, and a "poor man," named Lazarus. The story shows both men after death, the rich man in torment, and Lazarus enjoying the comfort that he was deprived of during his earthly life.READ MORE
"And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently." It's important to pay attention to the details of the parable Jesus tells in today's Gospel. At first glance, it might seem as if Jesus is encouraging us to be dishonest. But in fact, it's just the opposite. The steward in this tale was reported to his master "for squandering his property." In other words, the steward was not being responsible with what he was in charge of. And the master was ready to fire him on account of it. But then, the steward had a change of heart. (This isn't so hard to comprehend--sometimes it takes a real threat for us to realize we need to change our ways, doesn't it?) So the steward went to the people from whom he had previously collected money to "make friends" with them. How? By reducing their debts.READ MORE
"Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple." It's a modern misconception to think of Jesus as the ultimate nice guy who only said things that everybody loved to hear. Of course Jesus is the perfect model of charity and compassion, but he also gave some very challenging teachings. Today's Gospel is a case in point. Not many people are thrilled by Christ's lesson today that insists God must be first in our lives. Few are those who love to hear this instruction to renounce our beloved things as well as our beloved relationships. But Jesus does not mince words. We are to "hate" our "father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters," and even our own life.READ MORE
"When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you." Today Jesus instructs us to be generous enough to serve others without expecting repayment. At least, without expecting to be repaid in THIS life. It's interesting that the Gospel concludes with Jesus' promise that if we follow this teaching, we "will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." In other words, God will "repay" our generosity on earth by welcoming us into heaven. Really, what better investment could there possibly be?READ MORE
"Behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." For Jesus' original audience, this reference was meant for those Jews who presumed their salvation while judging others as being unworthy of entering the kingdom of God. Jesus was always quick to teach that believing in him was what mattered, not membership in a certain class or a particular religious circle. Therefore, some of the (last) Gentiles who professed faith in Jesus were ready to enter the kingdom before some of the (first) Jews who rejected the Messiah.READ MORE
"From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three." What a sad image Jesus paints in today's Gospel. Causing family strife--fathers against sons and mothers against daughters--is not the effect we like to imagine Jesus having on people. But as he says today, "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." The fact is, and always has been, that not everyone chooses to follow Christ. This causes conflict.READ MORE
The disciples ask Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." What follows in Jesus' response is the very familiar Lord's Prayer. It reminds us that God desires private time with us,
alone, in our rooms and approaching him with an honesty that is found only in the most intimate of friends.
Everyday Discipleship- Recognize God in Your Ordinary Moments
My father would always say to me when I was growing up, "Whatever is mine is yours." He was always very generous toward me and, if I am being truthful, probably spoiled me. We were not a rich family by any measure, but I never really wanted for anything. If I asked, I would receive.
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing." Martha was caught up in a whirlwind of her own making. She stressed herself out with all the tasks and chores she thought she had to do to host Jesus, but Jesus wasn't the one who expected all of that. He just wanted Martha's presence, her company and friendship. His only expectation was that Martha would prepare for him her heart, but she was fixated on preparing her home instead.READ MORE
"He replied to him, 'You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.'" In today's Gospel a scholar questions Jesus about how to gain eternal life. In case anyone ever wonders whether heaven is within reach, one only needs to refer to this Gospel. Jesus provides a clear answer that gives us a clear plan of action: We are to love God with all that we are, and also to love our neighbors. Really, it's that simple.
The scholar, however, complicated things to make himself look better. Instead of accepting the simplicity of Jesus' instruction, he wanted to split hairs, asking, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied with the story of the Good Samaritan -and the lesson that our neighbors are not just those we know or love. Rather, our neighbor is the person that needs our help, the person whom we would rather ignore, the per-son whom God puts in our path. In short, everyone is our neighbor and we are called to treat everyone with mercy. This is part of how we gain eternal life.READ MORE
One of the questions parents and teachers often ask children is, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" For younger children the answer can change from week to week. Children may say at one time, "A basketball player," and at another, "An airplane pilot," and at another, "A zookeeper." The answer could depend on whatever story or television show caught their fancy that week. But as children mature, they start considering seriously the answer to that question. As they enter college they begin directing their lives toward what will be a particular profession in life.READ MORE