It is clear that the main theme of our readings is perseverance in prayer. In the first reading we heard how Moses stretched out his arms in the desert and the Israelites gained the upper hand in the battle. When his arms eventually drooped through tiredness the Israelites began to lose the battle. So, Aaron & Hur had to prop his arms up on a rock so that they would not droop. In this way their enemies were conquered and the victory was won.
It is often interesting when reading about one or other of Christ’s healings to note that he very often forgives the sins of the sick person and this forgiveness seems to bring about their physical healing. At other times Jesus his puts out his hand or makes some other sign like putting paste on a blind man’s eyes. In most cases we can identify a particular moment when the healing takes place.
In the Gospel today we hear the Apostles asking Jesus to increase their faith. They understand the first lesson that faith is necessary but we presume because they feel that they do not have very much faith they want to know how to increase it, and in this they are probably not too different from us. Like them we too often feel very keenly that our faith is completely inadequate and that we could do with much more of it.
What we have for this Sunday’s Gospel is what seems at first sight to be a straightforward parable about social justice. It is a story about the rich and the poor and in particular it is about how in the final analysis it is the poor and the persecuted who will be vindicated by God.
The Gospel text today is rather puzzling. It is about the dishonest steward who when he faced dismissal marked down the debts owed to his master by various of his debtors. He did this in order that once he was made redundant these men would be obligated to help him. When the master finds out about his actions, he unexpectedly praises the steward for his dishonesty.
We are surely all extremely familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. It is unique to the Gospel of Luke and is a wonderful lesson in forgiveness. It has been the Gospel chosen for countless services of reconciliation and maybe some of us are so familiar with it that we have forgotten just what a wonderful story it is.
The opening phrase of today’s Gospel is rather puzzling. Can Jesus really be telling us to hate our very closest relatives? And can he who came to give us life insist that we hate our own lives? Many scholars suggest that what we are dealing with is a difficulty of translation. They suggest that Jesus does not actually mean that we should hate our lives or those close to us. They tell us that the idiom used in Hebrew actually means ‘love less’ and not literally ‘hate’. This then leaves us with the idea that we should love Jesus even more than we love our own close family or even our own lives.
The Gospel this Sunday is about humility. Christ urges us not to shove ourselves forward in an ambitious way trying to make ourselves out to be better or more important than we actually are. He says that the better thing for us is to be modest and unassuming; and if by doing this you have undervalued yourself, others will surely rectify the situation for you.
The readings today seem to be about salvation and the question of the villager is as relevant today as when it was first posed: Will only a few be saved? And then there is the question behind the question: Will I be saved?
At first glance the extract from St Luke’s Gospel set before us today is probably seen by many as rather distressing and difficult. Quite naturally we want our families to be united and we also believe that Jesus wants the same thing for us. And so to hear him saying that he has not come to bring peace on earth but rather division and that from now on families will be divided three against two, two against three, we find quite difficult and contradictory.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket