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Ordinary Time 19 (C)
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Readings for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1. Wisdom 18, 6-9

  • The night of the Passover.  It was the night on which Israel remained awake and witnessed the wonderful acts of God on their behalf. 
  • Israel was to have courage through this terrible night, awaiting the salvation of the just.  We too declare today that “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior,” our own deliverance. 
  • This reading, in the spirit of all scripture, records winners and losers.  You punished our adversaries, however, and we take care not to assume the role of the God for whom “vengeance is mine.”  And you glorified us whom you had summoned, so that we would take no pride in our own resources.
  • The holy children of the good were offering sacrifice.  Again, God calls the people to remember its deliverance as they roasted and consumed the lamb, putting into effect with one accord the divine institution. 
  • Climax: Your people awaited salvation. 
  • Message for our assembly: We give the credit of our worldly success and abundance to God.  Is this lip service or a true conviction?  What are the implications if God is the author?
  • I will challenge myself: To read with understanding these somewhat obscure reflections on the Passover.

2. Hebrews 11, 1-2 and 8-19

  • I hear the beginning of the great homily from Hebrews about faith.  As I work through the thicket left us by this literal translation, I go searching for strategic handholds that my listeners can use to follow me through.
  • Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.  Don’t rush through it.  Allow my listeners to enter another world, in which these ancient dreamers were led by God and where the scandal of the cross becomes the wisdom of God.  We all trust the evidence of our sense perception and suspect something about the occult.  But this is different fare.
  • Because of it the ancients were well attested.  The author meant to say that our forebears’ strange dreams and actions would make sense and be celebrated ever after in the light of this faith, this openness to encounter with the one God. 
  • Then the story of Abraham and Sarah begins.  He went out, not knowing where he was to go.  The author is reminding his listeners that they must be prepared also to leave their comfortable lives behind and go where God directs.  How can our assembly identify with him?  Let me try to make a connection.
  • Again and again Abraham acted by faith.  The author does not mean by faith an assent to revealed propositions that identifies me with a given religion.  He means an act of belief or trust that turns me into an instrument of God’s will.  Abraham appears in Genesis not as one more Semitic herder looking for fertile pasture land, anxious to pass his wealth on to a son – the Abraham who interests us today – but as the believer with enough faith to change world history.  And after the collapse of the false gods that led our army into Arabia and Iraq, my listeners and I must be careful not to reject the genuine article attested here by scripture. 
  • In this visionary world we see one man, himself as good as dead, and his sterile wife, bringing to birth descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky.
  • Then there were others whose lives we also celebrate.  They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.  They desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.  Again and again it will take all my conviction to turn this ancient text into our own manifesto.
  • At last comes the climax, the apparent contradiction.  That God was able to raise even from the dead.  Let me keep some high purpose in reserve until this point, for our faith takes us to the grave’s edge.
  • Central point: We will not get the point of the homily unless we share the faith of our forebears to the full.
  • The message for our assembly: Have we ever been to this place?  Are we comfortable there?
  • I will challenge myself: To present this “realization” and “evidence” as more real to myself than the everyday observations of my life.

Gospel. Luke 12, 32-48

  • Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  As Jesus reminded his listeners continually, what else do we need than that God’s kingdom come to fruition among us?  What else do we need?  Let me say it as if I were describing something so precious that my words cannot express it. 
  • Sell your belongings and give alms.  All of today’s readings remind us of a people on the move, leaving comfort behind. 
  • Gird your loins and light your lamps.  As spiritual heirs of Judaism, Christians came to expect that God’s acts of fulfillment would come at an hour you do not expect.  We are passing through many dreadful decades in which secret police and armies of occupation knock on doors while their victims are asleep.  It may take a great faith for me to declare that our own Lord of history commands the night as well as the day.  But then I inherit the faith of which Luke speaks.
  • You must also be prepared.  The Son of Man will come.  This is what Jesus means.  We have to have the courage and the determination to break away from our life as we know it.  I need to get that across today, not in a harping way but in a quiet confidence of someone who will not allow himself to be diverted off his message.  I know that God will do this because of my faith.  Now let the whole church, compromised daily by its earthly treasures, know this also.
  • Climax: Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant. 
  • Message for our assembly: We are so wedded to our families, our jobs, our lifestyles, our inborn greed, that this Gospel makes us very uncomfortable.  And it should.  
  • I will challenge myself: To make Jesus’ invitation to the disciples come alive for the assembly.

From Word to Eucharist: As we get older it becomes easier to turn to a lifeway of vigilance.  In the hurricane season just begun, we are all used to vigilance.  When we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!” during our procession to the Eucharistic table, can our prayer become a lifeway for everyone?

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