21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 21

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Today’s first reading gives us some of the last few verses of the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. It appropriately sounds a triumphal note, a vision of all the nations of the world streaming up to the heavenly Jerusalem to partake in the heavenly banquet at the end of time. Note the mention of the far-away places that undoubtedly seemed so exotic to the ears of Old Testament Jews, all to emphasize the universality of the salvation promised by God to the human race.
This vision stands in stark contrast to the partial answer Jesus gives to the bold question about how many people will be saved. To challenge his listeners, Jesus concentrates on the imagery of the “narrow gate” and “locked door” that confront those who seek to be saved. Yet in the end Jesus himself appeals finally to the Isaian imagery of people coming from the four corners of the earth to “recline at table in the kingdom of God.” 
The two readings, therefore, in the end leave us with some ambiguity about how the grace of salvation is to be distributed by God.
The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews harks back to an experience every adult has shared, the lessons of childhood teaching us the constraints of human society. Maybe the way God instills his grace in us is much the same—so that God can strengthen our “drooping hands and weak knees” in order to heal us along life’s journey.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 7

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Our first reading conjures up memories of the Passover event when the Jewish people were freed from their cruel oppressors in Egypt. God intervened to save his people and punished their adversaries. The same note of divine retribution is struck in today’s gospel, though Jesus warns us in the parables that we ourselves may be the target of divine accountability if we fail to heed the urgent warnings of approaching judgment. It’s important that we not moralize on these passages as if they are meant to depict a simple reward or punishment treatment from God. The intention rather is to energize and inspire us to respond to the divine call of grace so that we approach the present moment with a sense of urgency and not delay our response to God.
Our second reading from the letter to the Hebrews is a beautiful description of the power of faith and traces the theme of faith through the bible. Most meditations on faith begin with Abraham, who is rightly called “our father in faith.” The three great religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their first inspiration back to Abraham, a source of unity that unfortunately is too frequently ignored in our world today. Faith is described not as a body of certain knowledge that gives us a privileged position over others. Rather faith is seen as a signpost pointing us in the direction of the homeland that is promised to us by God.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 24

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Last week we met three visitors whom Abraham welcomed into his home. One of them was the Lord himself. In today’s reading, Abraham engages the Lord in a negotiation about the fate of the corrupt city of Sodom. The issue is God’s judgment, how the good and the evil are to be separated and treated differently according to their deserts.
The Church gives us this reading today because Abraham is pleading with God, petitioning the Lord’s mercy—just as Jesus in the gospel instructs us to petition the Lord in prayer.
Don’t be afraid to let a smile cross your face and perhaps a slight chuckle emerge from you lips as you hear the exaggerated negotiating tactics Abraham employs to get his way with the Lord. Despite the levity of the reading, it communicates the same truth that Jesus emphasizes concerning the power of prayer.
The second reading expresses a favorite truth that Paul preached so often, that through baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ has brought us to life, having forgiven us all our transgressions is the source of our freedom from sin and guilt.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 10

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

One of the great dramatic scenes of the Bible is depicted in today’s first reading. The people of Israel, after their escape from slavery and their long forty-year trek through the desert, are about to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land—what today is called the “West Bank.” Living in the new land will require many adjustments, adopting new customs and social practices to fit the new circumstances of settling down in their own land. So Moses, their leader, assembles all the people before him and details for them how they are to manage this climactic change and establish a new way of life.
It’s an imaginative portrayal and probably never happened in exactly that way. It may have taken a century or more to complete the adjustment period. But the Book of Deuteronomy gets the point across that the Law instructs the people how they are to live, what values they should hold dear and what behaviors they should put into practice. Today’s passage is the very end of Moses’ long speech, so Moses reminds the people that the Law will always remain right before them as a guide and a challenge.
In today’s gospel, Jesus will offer a dramatic illustration of what the Law means in practice. It is indeed a law we have every opportunity to follow and put into practice. All we have to do is notice all the people around us who need our help, no matter who they are or where they come from. And then respond.For our second reading, recall that there are a number of places in the New Testament that describe who Jesus is for us. Frequently, the words used were originally put into a song and the author is simply writing down the lyrics from the song. This is the case in today’s second reading.  The first line sets the tone: Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God. It’s a beautiful way to contemplate the mystery of Christ.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 3

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The last few chapters of the Book of Isaiah speak of the time after the Jewish people returned from exile and faced the task of rebuilding Jerusalem. Given the sad effects of the exile, those were hard times. So the prophet spoke words of encouragement, reminding the people of the grand destiny that the Lord was restoring before them. The words of today’s reading are so filled with confidence and celebration, it must have been hard for the people to believe them.
It must have been the same experience for the seventy-two disciples that Jesus sent into the impoverished countryside of Samaria. People heard the proclamation that the Kingdom of God was about to break open before them. And the promise came to them from the lips of disciples who brought nothing with them other than the word of promise. Today’s gospel describes the effect this had on the people of Samaria.
Today’s second reading continues our reflection on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. When Paul says he boasts only in the cross of Christ, he means that everything valuable in his life is the result of what Christ had done for him and comes from Christ, and not from anything else. Paul was entirely focused on the Lord Jesus Christ.

—Walter Modrys SJ

This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.