Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm calls reverence a blessing: “Happy are those who fear the Lord” (Psalm 128).


Ephesians 5:21-33 has become in our day the “unquotable passage” in Scripture because of the words:


Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.” A prudent preacher would not touch this text with a barge pole!


We should note, however, that the text begins by calling both husbands and wives to: “be subject to one another.” And this is “in reverence for Christ.” The passage ends using the same word “reverence” for what wives should give to husbands. So everything is based on seeing Christ in one another.


It gives perspective to note Paul’s use of the word “subject” when he describes the final establishment of God’s reign throughout the world:


When all things are subjected to him [Christ], then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.1

Obviously, if God the Son is “subject” to the Father, then being “subject” does not imply inequality! The focus here is on order, not prestige.2 Paul urges this “submission” to the Gospel, to government and to the leaders of the local community.3 Peter tells Christians to submit to the authority “of every human institution,” slaves to their masters, wives to their husbands, and younger Christians to the elders.4


What the apostles are urging here is order, and respect for existing roles in society, even if the role itself ought not exist (e.g. slave masters). As stewards of the kingship of Christ, who know “there is no authority except from God,” and that “those authorities that exist have been instituted by God,” 5 we respect the existing roles in society even while in some cases we work to abolish or modify them. Happy are those who fear (reverence) the Lord” and see him in every person!


Obviously, in our time the cultural roles of husbands and wives have changed. Paul would say today that all should respect the order we recognize as right today.

In Luke 13: 18-21 Jesus warns us not to expect the Church (or anything else!) to be perfect in our time — or to look the same in a few years as it does today. The kingdom grows at the pace of a seed becoming a tree, or like “yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” But it grows. Change is taking place, and as stewards of his kingship we have to help it happen. A tree doesn’t look like a seed. Bread doesn’t look like flour. If the Church today looked like the Church of the first centuries, it would mean we are stagnant.


In our speed-oriented society, we get stressed-out waiting for jobs to be accomplished, phone calls to be returned, or even for our computers to process data! Jesus, however, teaches us to wait unstressed “in joyful hope” while working patiently — in peace — for the only thing of ultimate importance: the final victory of Christ.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Respect order and work for change.

1 1Corinthians 15: 22-28. Note v. 23 “each in his own order.” Jesus was also “subject” to Mary and Joseph: Luke 2: 51.

2 See Sunday 29 above.

3 2Corinthians 9:13; Romans 13: 1-5; 1Corinthians 16:16.

4 1Peter 2:13,18; 3:1, 5:5.

5 Romans 13:1.


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Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time


The Responsorial Psalm roots the Christian life in the mystery of Christian identity: “Behave like God as his very dear children” (Ephesians 5:1 and Psalm 1).

In Ephesians 4:32 to 5:8 Paul puts the Christian life in a nutshell: “Follow the way of love.”


What does this mean, in the concrete? It means to love others “even as Christ loved us.” And he did this by “giving himself as an offering to God.” Compare this with Paul’s baptismal text:


I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”1


This means that, wherever our live bodies are, we will be “sacrificed” to doing the will and work of God. That is what we live for. How do we do this in practice? Three ways:


1. Make everything physical in your lifestyle embody Christ’s values. This is to bear witness as a prophet.

2. Use your body to give visible, expression to the invisible life of grace in your heart (faith, hope, and especially love), and so mediate life to others as priest.

3. Use your body, your physical activity, to make changes in the environment (family and social life, professional and political milieu) as a steward of Christ’s kingship committed to establish the reign of God over every area and activity of human life on earth.


The guiding principle of Christian life is, ““Behave like God as his very dear children.” And why? St. Paul says it is because “your holiness forbids” anything less than this. We live and love like Christ because by Baptism we have “become Christ.” We are his body on earth. Because we are Christ the Son we are filii in Filio, sons and daughters of the Father and temples of his Holy Spirit.

In Luke 13: 10-17 we see Jesus taking the initiative to change something very wrong in Jewish society that is also very prevalent in ours. The priests and Pharisees were so focused on law-observance that they failed to take note of peoples’ pain. Jesus said of them:


They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.2


So, unasked, he heals a woman on the Sabbath, knowing the reaction it will provoke. Then he used the reaction to teach Christian priorities. This was an act of leadership. It called the authorities to change.


When anyone — and this includes priests, teachers and parish staff — is unfeeling, anyone who sees it should always react — kindly, respectfully, but firmly.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Insist on the “way of love” with everyone.

1 Romans 12:1

2 Matthew 23:4


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THE THIRTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A


Preserve the Gift of Love in Hope


Inventory

What do you ask God for most often? What do you experience him doing for you most often? How often do you ask him for strength? The strength to do what?


Input


The liturgy today focuses our attention on the love to which God calls us. But it does not presume that we can love as we should by our own strength.


The Entrance Antiphon urges us to “Seek the Lord and his strength.” We will find that strength by “seeking always the face of the Lord.” We draw our strength from knowing God (Psalm 104). The Responsorial Psalm declares that we love God because he is our strength: “I love you, Lord, my strength” (Psalm 18).


In the Opening Prayer we ask God to “strengthen our faith, hope and love” so that we may “do with loving hearts what you ask of us. In the Alternative Opening Prayer we ask God to “strengthen our faith to accept your covenant and give us the love to carry out your command.” The theme of today’s celebration is asking God for the strength — for the faith, the hope, the love — to do what he asks of us, making God’s will, his desires, his priorities, our own. This theme pervades the Our Father and the whole Rite of Communion.

Don’t abuse strength


Exodus 22: 20-26 warns us not to take advantage of the weak and not to oppress them. “You shall not molest or oppress an alien… any widow or orphan.” If we do, and “they cry out to God,” God will use his strength to correct us.


Likewise, “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors... you shall not act like an extortioner… by demanding interest.” Well into the sixteenth century “usury” meant lending money at any rate of interest at all, and the “ordinary magisterium” (which is Church teaching that is official but not necessarily infallible, and is subject to revision), condemned it as being always a sin. When the theologians finally realized that money is not just a medium of exchange but “capital” — something that works for you as much as a mule does — then they saw it is not unchristian to charge rent for money. Now “usury” means the sin of charging too much interest.


In the spirit of this teaching, however, we might ask what business practices make us guilty of taking more from the weak or the poor than is compatible with Christian love. What makes a price, or a rent, or the charge for our services, too high? Should the price be adjusted, when economically feasible, to the customer’s ability to pay? Should the poor be asked to contribute as much as the rich to civic needs (such as roads and schools) by paying the same sales tax that the rich pay on things they have to buy (like food and gas)? How much does income tax really balance this off?


The answers to questions like these need to come above all from the laity, not the clergy, because, according to Vatican Council II, the “reform of the temporal order,” the renewal of social structures and civic policies, is the proper field of action, the explicit apostolate, of the laity. To take this responsibility is the most evident exercise of stewardship in the Church. As “stewards of the kingship of Christ” we are responsible for establishing the reign of God’s principles — above all, the reign of love as God teaches love — over every area and activity of human life on earth.


To bring this about, leadership must come from every person, in every walk of life. We need input from the halls of learning and the households of the bargain-hunters; from those in the “ivory tower” and those in the coal mines. Stewardship is everybody’s job. We look to God for the strength to do it in love: “I love you, Lord, my strength.

One law: love


In Matthew 22: 34-40 Jesus boils everything down to love: love for God and love for every other human being on earth: “This is the greatest and first commandment.”

Love is not just a feeling, or even just showing affection. Parents’ love would include exercising prudent stewardship over their children’s inheritance: not just property, but above all their religious heritage, their cultural heritage, the environment and world they will live in. If we have love for all of God’s children — and love God with all our heart, we will invest all we are in what everyone else on earth, with our help, can become. This is the love most like God’s. God is that One who chooses to invest everything he is in what we can become. Jesus invested his life in this, not just on the cross, but every minute he lived. That is the love we are called to. It is the total abandonment of self in unrestricted stewardship. Only God can give us the strength to love like this: I love you, Lord, my strength.

Stewardship in receiving


1Thessalonians 1: 5-10: Stewardship is exercised, not only in dispensing, but in receiving. When God offers us a gift, it is responsible stewardship to accept it, appreciate it at its proper value, and make use of it. St. Paul praises the Thessalonians for the way they responded to his teaching:


In spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia….


God has invested in us truth and love, the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” through the ministries of countless people. Now we, “like good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” need to “serve one another with whatever gift each has received” (1Peter 4:10).

Insight

How, in my life, can I make my stewardship love and my love stewardship?

Initiative:

Make an inventory: What has God invested in you? How you have re-invested it?

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