Weekday Gospel Reflection


Monday in the Twenty Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 11:29-32 -World English Bible

29 When the multitudes were gathering together to Jesus, he began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks after a sign. No sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah, the prophet. 30 For even as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will also the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and will condemn them: for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, one greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, one greater than Jonah is here.

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore when your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light; but when it is evil, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore see whether the light that is in you isn’t darkness. 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly full of light, as when the lamp with its bright shining gives you light.”

In Luke 11, Jesus complained about the selfish contemporaries who sought a heavenly sign, an event to awe and dazzle them. He fleshed out his critique with two analogies: the preaching of Jonah and the light from a lamp. Like Jonah who spread God's word among the pagan Ninevites, Jesus evangelized among the people with a message of repentance. The call to metanoia was the sign but, unlike the people of Nineva, many in his audience failed to recognize it, much less heed it. As a result, the righteous Gentiles, the Queen of the south, those of the nations who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, even the men of the Assyrian capital, all would stand to condemn Jews who failed to change their ways for the Kingdom. Notice the judgment did not come from the prophets or great men from Israel's past, but from outsiders. An insult, indeed.

Jesus employed the lamp as an analogy to what someone saw. The decision where to look revealed his inner character. Did that person look upon the good or the evil? If he looked upon righteousness, he would stand in the light, but if he gazed upon wickedness, he would hide in the dark. In the context of Jesus' complaint, he defined the good as conversion, the bad as shunning the message. The “sons of light” (a favorite phrase from the Dead Sea Scrolls) received the word of God with joy, while the “sons of darkness” rejected any call to repent.

How have you heard God's call today? How has his word changed you?

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Tuesday in the Twenty Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 11:37-41 -World English Bible

37 Now as Jesus spoke, a certain Pharisee asked him to dine with him. He went in, and sat at the table. 38 When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed himself before dinner. 39 The Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but your inward part is full of extortion and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones, didn’t he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give for gifts to the needy those things which are within, and behold, all things will be clean to you.”

When Jesus dined at a Pharisee's home, he skipped a ritual cleansing. Such washings imitated the mikveh, a ritual immersion that symbolized a break from the profane world of daily life and prepared the Jew for dining in the Lord's presence. Mikveh baths were common in the homes of Palestine at the time of Jesus and played a central part in the daily rhythm of Jews. Yet, the Lord did not even wash his hands as an act of kosher and this caught the Pharisee by surprise.

At this point, Jesus launched into a tirade. He criticized the Pharisees for emphasizing external behavior over intent, ritual over purity of the heart. But, implicitly, his critique ran deeper. Such washings marked the profane from the sacred, the time of ordinary activity from that of worship, “my time” from God's time. Jesus considered such demarcations useless. There was no such thing as “my time.” There was only God's time. In terms of the Kingdom, either the believer lived in the presence of YHWH every moment of the day or he did not live in God's presence at all. How does one live as if the Kingdom were present? Act with mercy.

How have you acted with mercy today?

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Wednesday in the Twenty Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 11-42.46 -World English Bible

Jesus said to the Pharisee:

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but you bypass justice and God’s love. You ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like hidden graves, and the men who walk over them don’t know it.”

After Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their focus on behavior over intent, he lambasted them for their lack of compassion and their self-importance. In the former, their concern for minutia blinded them to the greater vision of mercy. In the later sense, the perks leadership gave them went to their heads; they desired privilege over a concern for those in their care. So, the awful metaphor of the hidden grave was appropriate; they had no real life in them.

We must see the critique of Jesus for what it really was, a caricature. Not all Pharisees loved minutia and power over the needs of the faithful. Many became followers of Jesus. Others became the forefathers of modern Judaism. Instead, we should view the the Lord's rant not against a certain class of people but against the temptations of leadership. Leadership lies not in the details of the task but in a greater vision, not in the advantages of being the boss but in the care given to those served.

How are you a leader in your family? In your community?

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Thursday in the Twenty Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 11:47-54 -World English Bible

Jesus said to a scribe:

47 “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. 48 So you testify and consent to the works of your fathers. For they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; and some of them they will kill and persecute, 50 that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zachariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.’ Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you took away the key of knowledge. You didn’t enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in, you hindered.”

53 As he said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be terribly angry, and to draw many things out of him; 54 lying in wait for him, and seeking to catch him in something he might say, that they might accuse him.

In the third set of woes from Luke 11, Jesus took aim at the scribes, experts in the Torah who arbitrated legal disputes and handed down judgments for ordinary Jews. Implicitly, he equated their focus on the legal decision with the death of God's messengers. They dug into the minutia that allowed loopholes for the ruling elite to ignore divine will, the same escape clauses the prophets railed against. The scribes honored the holy martyrs from the past (at a safe distance) while the apostles and prophets of the Messiah brought a message that endangered their status in the community. In the eyes of the scribes, these later critics had to go.

In Luke 11:49-51, Jesus quoted an unknown saying or source. Notice the sweep of the statement that summarized salvation history in the blood of the prophetic martyrs, from the foundation of the world to the death of the last prophet (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). Yet, new messengers arose beyond Zechariah. The concern for the right ruling for the right instance bogged down the scribes, keeping them from entering the Kingdom and impeding those who wished to enter.

The rant of Jesus exploded any possible goodwill between him and the Pharisees, thus setting the stage for his arrest on trumped up charges.

Have you been bogged down in the details of Christian life? What has challenged you to look beyond your needs to God?

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Friday in the Twenty Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 12:1-7 -World English Bible

1 Meanwhile, when a multitude of many thousands had gathered together, so much so that they trampled on each other, Jesus began to tell his disciples first of all, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 But there is nothing covered up, that will not be revealed, nor hidden, that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light. What you have spoken in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

4 “I tell you, my friends, don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear him, who after he has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

6 “Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all counted. Therefore don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows.”

Even in the midst of the crowd, Jesus warned his disciples about the Pharisees and encouraged them to evangelize despite their opponents. He urged his followers to declare the Good News openly, despite the dubious character of the Pharisees. What he shared with them in private, they had the duty to proclaim in the marketplaces, without concern of persecution. In fact, they should fear only God, who controlled all things. YHWH measured the worth of the disciples far more than five sparrows that a poor Jewish pilgrim would buy for two small Greek coins, so he could offer a meager sacrifice in the Temple.

Notice the implicit choice the disciple had to make. Spread the Good News or face punishment of Gehenna, symbol of eternal punishment by fire. Like the other gospel writers, Luke might have painted the urgency of evangelization in broad strokes and extreme language, but he portrayed the need of ministry. Jesus willingly put his life on the line for his message; disciples should do likewise.

How have you shared the Good News today?

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Saturday in the Twenty Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 12:8-12 -World English Bible

Jesus said to his disciples:

8 “I tell you, everyone who confesses me before men, him will the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies me in the presence of men will be denied in the presence of the angels of God. 10 Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, don’t be anxious how or what you will answer, or what you will say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say.”

In beginning of Luke 12, Jesus warned his followers of coming persecutions, but to trust in God. He returned to the subject of judgment, but on a more cosmic level. Evangelization, confessing the name of the Son of Man, was evidence for acquittal in the Final Judgment, where Christ himself would plead on the disciples behalf before the angelic jury.

Then, Jesus made a statement that still puzzles people today. To speak against the Son of Man would be blasphemy, but what did he mean by blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? And why was one offense forgivable while the other was not? Some scholars argue for a particular instance of sin (where a disciple might disagree with Jesus) against a general sin (rejecting the entire message). Others argue the sin referred to the particular charge made by the Pharisees that Jesus exorcised demons by the power of Satan (see Matthew 12:22-32), confusing the power of the Spirit with that of the devil. In either case, the “sin against the Holy Spirit” involved an utter and complete rejection of the Good News. The controversy and ultimate question about the sin, however, revolved around agency. Does the act of the person make the sin unforgivable? Or, was the sin so odious that God would refuse to forgive the person? The identity of the sin and the agency of unforgiveness still vex us today. And, dear reader, to those questions I personally have no clear answer.

In the end, proclaiming the Good News would lead to conflict, even persecution. A disciple could not predict nor prepare for coming tensions; he could only trust in the Spirit. And, maybe in Luke's mind, the question of trust separated the sinner from the saint.

How have you placed your trust in the Spirit today?

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