Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 30, 2016
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 153

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 19:1-10
At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“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.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus desiring to enter the home of the lost even before they are penitent. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Our Savior helps us to find His Heart full of pity and kind mercy toward us even when our hearts are most hardened. Like Zaccheus, we need only the desire to see who Jesus is. Our Redeemer constantly bestows His holy love upon us. He continually pardons our daily faults against Him. He rewards our slightest services with great favors. He continues to recreate humanity through His merciful love for the whole human family.

How does the greatness of God’s mercy shine forth? God’s mercy makes us embrace what is good. While we truly belong to God, God has no slaves, only friends who choose to love freely. Conversion, on our part, depends on our free response to God’s love. We are ready to respond wholeheartedly to God’s love when we begin to purify our affections and works by forming them according to the Gospel. If we let go of our willful pursuit of self-serving things, we delightfully find that our spirit is liberated. Then we are free to choose the true and good life that God desires for us in Christ.

This practice of letting go of all that is not of God in us is a continual life-long struggle. For certainly as long as we live we shall have need of renewing ourselves, and of beginning over. This restoration is needed inasmuch as our changeable nature easily grows cold and begins to fail. There is no clock so perfect that it does not need repair. Like the clock that needs to be oiled so that it will be less subject to rust, you need to anoint your heart with the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist to restore your strength, and warm up your heart. In this way you consecrate yourself again to God’s love. If we really take care of our heart, each day we will renew it for God’s service.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 23, 2016
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 150

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 18:9-14
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings remind us that God responds without delay to the cry of those who repent of their wrongdoing. St. Francis de Sales notes:

With unrivaled mercy God opens the door of the penitent’s heart. This soul would have remained lost if God had not come to its assistance. To be truly sorry for not living up to the image of God in us, we must empty our heart of all things in order to enable our Lord to fill it with Himself. Alas, all the nooks and corners of our hearts are cluttered with thousands of things unworthy to be seen in the presence of our Savior. It seems that we thus tie His hands in order to prevent Him from giving us the gifts and graces that He is ever ready to shower on us if He finds us prepared.

Yet in repentance, the wonderful humility of our dear Savior enters our heart. Humility of the heart makes us aware of God’s goodness that is worthy of supreme love. Humility of the heart also gives us knowledge of our inability to love perfectly, and thus the need for our Savior who will raise us up from our lowliness until He makes us one with His greatness.

The value of the virtue of penitence is that it leads us to wholeness. We must be like the archer who in discharging a large arrow draws the string of his bow lower, the higher he wants it to go. We aim at the highest, to be united to God. Thus we must lower ourselves much by letting go of our self-sufficiency, and open ourselves to God’s help. Let us pour out all our tribulations before our ever-caring Savior so as to submit our whole being completely to Him. When we give our consent to let God love us the way God desires to love us, God will receive us in mercy, as well as reinvigorate and restore us completely to our true spiritual health, that is, sacred love.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2016
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 147

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 18:1-8
Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings encourage us to persevere in our faith in God’s goodness by being attentive to God’s Word. St. Francis de Sales also stresses the value of perseverance:

It is perseverance that wins us the crown. Yet it is the most difficult of all the virtues because of the weakness and inconstancy of the human spirit. One minute we desire to do one thing, but soon after we change our mind. We must keep constant watch over ourselves. The nectar of divine love cannot be distilled into a heart where the old self reigns. To grow in God’s love we have to work diligently at letting go of our self-centeredness, and live according to reason, not according to worldly tendencies.

Have courage. The teacher does not always demand that the pupil know the lesson without mistakes. It is enough that the pupil takes care to do its best to learn the lesson. Have you ever seen those who learn to ride a horse? They often fall off. Yet they do not think they are defeated. For it is one thing to be beaten sometimes, and quite another thing to be vanquished.

We do not always have to feel courageous and strong. It is enough to hope that God will give us the strength and courage when and where we need them. Surely Our Lord would never exhort the faithful to persevere if he were not ready to give them the power to do so. If we are faithful we will make great progress. Perseverance is the most desirable gift that we can hope for in this life. For this reason we must continually ask for perseverance by using the means God gives us in order to obtain it: prayer, helping others, frequenting the sacraments, associating with good companions, and hearing and reading Holy Scripture.

We must be like those sailing on the sea. Always looking to the pole star, they make headway because they know they are going in the right direction. Let us follow this beautiful star and this divine compass fearlessly, for it is our Lord who never fails us.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 9, 2016
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 144

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 17:11-19
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings emphasize gratitude. Gratitude is so much at the heart of Salesian Spirituality that St. Francis de Sales even makes it a part of his method of meditation. The following are some contemporary Salesian prayers of thankfulness:

Thank you God: for making haste slowly with my soul lest it stumble, for replacing my anxiety and preoccupation with care and solicitude, and for reminding me that only one thing is necessary, trust in you.

Thank you God for all the gifts of this day. In my impatience to do it my way, you alone know how many times today I have stumbled over you without ever recognizing you. Thank you for your patience with me. May I let you do your part.

Thank you God for blessing my efforts, not caring whether they were great or small, done well or badly. It mattered only that I tried to do Your Will. That always is enough.

Thank you for responding to my anger with your gentleness, for answering my petty lies with your truth, for healing my wounds and those I have wounded.

Thank you for taking me by the hand this day. Thank you for a day filled with a thousand trivial trials and little opportunities, and for the strength I borrowed from you in those scattered moments when I recognized your presence and responded to it as best I could.

Thank you for planting, in all the corners of this day, tiny reminders of your presence, that is, gentle inspirations meant to blossom into love. Cultivate these inspirations in me all the days to come. Please don’t stop now!

Thank you for walking with me, chatting with me and leading me gently through the garden of your love. Thank you for placing me in this garden where alone I will find you.

(Adapted from John Kirvan, Set Your Heart Free, Ave Maria Press, 1997)

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 2, 2016
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 141

A Reading from the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

Salesian Sunday Reflection
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings remind us that it is not enough to be a part of a believing community. For our faith to be alive we must share it through service. St. Francis de Sales notes:

A living faith produces the fruit of good works in all seasons. When we are open to the truths of God’s word, we live according to God’s love and not nature. Thus, our faith in divine love raises us up to unite our spirit with God, and it brings us to love the image of God in our neighbor.

An attentive servant must show unconquerable faith in our Savior especially in the midst of interior and exterior troubles. We must never lose courage in helping those who refuse God’s love, but pray and help them as far as their misfortune permits. Let us use all possible remedies to prevent the birth, growth and domination of evilness. In this let us imitate our Lord, who never ceases to exhort, promise, prohibit, command and inspire us in order to turn our will away from evilness, without depriving our will of its liberty.

Yet, we must not look for surpassingly perfect love in this life. Our progress in holy love is like the mythical bird called the phoenix. When newly hatched from ashes, it has little, tender feathers, and can only leap rather than fly. As it grows strong it soars freely in the air but not enough to remain long on the wing and often comes down to earth to rest. When it is perfectly renewed in spirit and strength, it remains on the mountaintop. In heaven, we shall indeed have a heart and spirit entirely free from contradictions and conflicts. As yet we have neither the spirit nor strength of the blessed. It is enough for us to love with all our heart, which means simply to love with a good heart and without reservation. Courage then! Let us rouse our faith again, and give it life through using the gifts God gave us to perform good works with holy love, since this is in our power.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)