Pastoral Sharings: "30th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2014 

By the time of Jesus the Law had greatly expanded from 
the original ten commandments. One writer says that 
there were 613 actual Laws as well as 365 prohibitions 
(one for every day in the year) and 268 prescriptions 
(one for every bone in the body).

Obviously not all these rules and regulations were of equal weight and the rabbis constantly disputed which of them were more important than the others. So we can see where the question of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel comes from. It is not just a matter of curiosity but a point of contention among the lawyers and religious figures of the day, something which was of real importance to them.

Today we might find such a question a bit abstract and not very relevant but you have to understand that the ancient world was a very different place and their concerns were quite other than ours. They lived in a religious world dominated by the Temple and the various factions gathered around it. What to us seem obscure matters of religion were of vital importance to them.

However the purpose of the question in today’s Gospel is not to find the answer but, as we are told, to disconcert Jesus. They want to wrong-foot him; to try to find something which they can use against him.

In this and in the previous few chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, extracts of which we have had read to us over the last few weeks, the Pharisees have been trying hard to catch Jesus out. They have put questions to him like the one last week about whether taxes can be paid to Caesar. Their purpose is to look for a chink in his armour so that they can find something to use against him.

On each occasion Jesus outsmarts them. He either gives an answer they do not expect or he responds with a parable which puts them in a bad light. By now they are a bit exasperated and running out of things to ask him so they pose this question about which is the greatest commandment.

Jesus gives the answer that there are two great and interrelated commandments: Love God and love your neighbour. The Pharisees perhaps seeing that they cannot get the better of him simply back off.

It is interesting that, true to form, Jesus does not use the same categories as the Pharisees in their disputations about which is the greatest commandment. They ask which one commandment is the greatest and he gives them not one commandment but two. He does not place the first above the second but says that the second is like the first.

What is interesting is his follow-up statement that on these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets, in other words the whole body of Jewish teaching. From this remarkable statement we see that the Jewish religion is based not on rules and regulations, as the Pharisees would have us believe, but on love.

This is something that they do not expect. Yes, I am certain that the Pharisees love their wives and their children but it is obvious that their religion is not based on love; rather their religion is based on the observance of rules and regulations. In a word their religion is mechanical: according to their way of thinking if you observe this set of rituals or that set of behaviours then you will be righteous in the eyes of God.

What Jesus proposes is something that they have completely overlooked. For all their study of the scriptures the Pharisees have failed to notice the great pillar on which their religion is based, namely love.

They have not understood what the true nature of God really is. They do not realise that the sole motivating force of God is love. They do not understand that what God wants from us is for us to simply love him and our fellow creatures.

The Pharisees did not understand this simple equation. We realise that their failure to appreciate this important point is very reason why Jesus came into our world. He came to make sure that we perfectly understand just what God is like and what we need to do in order to live with him forever.

The message of Jesus, to use the beautiful phrase of St John, is that ‘God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them’.

The task then of anyone who wants to be one with God is to learn to become a good lover in the very broadest sense of that term. What we ought to be striving for is to deepen our care and concern for and our appreciation of all those around us and to be constantly reaching out to God in our prayer as well as in our good works.

What we need therefore is profound passion in our lives, a deep and warm and powerful love for our God and our fellow human beings.

This word passion is very interesting because its roots are in the word suffering. When, for example, we speak of Christ’s Passion we mean his suffering on the Cross but we recognise that the motivation for his suffering is his great love for us and his concern that we should have the way to heaven opened up for us.

There is no room for a cold Christian; there is no space in the Church for a stony-hearted Christian. These concepts are complete contradictions.

What we are long for is passionate, warm and loving Christians; members of the Church who care deeply about the welfare of those around them. We want Christians whose hearts are moved by the sufferings that they see and who want to do whatever they can to help to build a better world.

When we describe someone as passionate we mean that they are excited and ardent about whatever it is that gets them going. In society at large we can see many passionate people in sport, in the arts, in politics and many other areas of life. It is hard for anyone to achieve a measure of success in a particular sphere without being passionate about what they do.

However, what we are talking about here is Christianity. And what we are talking about goes far beyond a particular sport or a political viewpoint. What we are talking about is the most important thing that exists; namely God himself. We are speaking about the greatest kind of love that there is, the love of God and flowing from this the love of our neighbour.

If we can harness a deep passion for the things of heaven in our lives then there is nothing we cannot do; no place we cannot go; no door that can ever be closed to us, least of all the door of heaven.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 26, 2014

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A–October 26, 2014
Today, a Pharisee tries to test Jesus. Even though he was a legal scholar, his question reveals a stunning ignorance. How?

Gospel (Read Mt 22:34-40)

Jesus stirred up animosity against Himself among religious leaders by teaching several pointed parables about the kingdom of Heaven. In our reading today, a Pharisee, “a scholar of the law,” tested Him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?” What prompted this question? Legal scholars in Jesus’ day spent all their time poring over the Law of Moses and rendering judgment on its meaning. However, for a man whose vocation was God’s Law, this question shows that something had gone terribly wrong.

30th Sunday: The Heart of the Law
In 1927 my grandfather, my father’s father died.  My dad was just 10 years old. his older brother was 13.  His four sisters were 11, 8, 5, and 2.  My grandmother was in her mid 30’s.  There was no welfare, no child support, no social security.  Then the depression hit.  My father and my uncle and aunts not only survived, but as individuals and as family, they  prospered.  How was this possible?  It was possible because their neighbors felt a deep responsibility to help the widow, Minnie Pellegrino, and her children.

Six Practical Steps To Catholic Joy
I recently had coffee with a fellow Catholic who gloomily shared his ongoing struggles with overtly living out his faith in the real world and reluctance to discuss his faith with others. He made it clear that going to Mass on Sunday was all he could or should be doing. Unfortunately, this is a very common tale. The conversation became really interesting and a little uncomfortable when we discussed why people become apathetic about their faith, hesitate about converting or leave the Church altogether.

God leaves many things unresolved. Here are some reasons why
One of the great mysteries of God’s providence is that He often leaves things unresolved or unattended to for a very long time. Often, despite our fervent prayers, He doesn’t rush to fix everything, and He has His reasons for this.

What are the Essential Qualities of Prayer?
In my parish ministry and work around the archdiocese, one of the questions I receive most frequently is like the question posed to Our Lord in Luke’s Gospel, “He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1) People simply want to know, “How should I pray? Can you help me improve my prayer life?”

The Four Ends of Mass
“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” – St. Padre Pio

After a talk I gave a while ago, a young man came to me with a question. “I think I’m a good Catholic,” he began, “but I don’t go to mass. I hear it’s a sin not to go, but I don’t understand that. I guess I don’t see the point. Can you give me any reasons why I should go?” His question was sincere, and it led to a long and healthy discussion of why being present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is important in the life of a faithful Catholic.

The Rosary: The Best Prayer for Men
Devotion to Our Lady may not seem an intuitive thing for some Catholic men.  Growing up, I’d occasionally catch my father as he finished praying the Rosary early on Saturday mornings (begun in peace when the rest of us were asleep), or notice he’d left his handsome set of beads lying out on a coffee table.  I had the blessing of his example.  Other men know their fathers have placed a Rosary in their locker at work (try and find a Catholic firefighter who doesn’t have either a Rosary or a saint’s medal) or even just keep one in their pocket, where from time to time they’ll pause and touch the beads.  But for those men who haven’t “seen” or “heard,” how do we make sense of the Rosary as a manly devotion?

Why Does the Lord’s Prayer Ask God not to Lead us into Temptation – Why Would God do Such a Thing?
Most of you know that I write the Question and Answer Column for Our Sunday Visitor. And every now and then it is good to bring these works of mine together. An interesting question came in today (actually it is asked quite frequently) and I’d like to give my answer and add just a few things more that wouldn’t fit into the column. First the question, then the answer and a brief elaboration.

Q: Why does the Lord’s Prayer ask God not to lead us in temptation? Why would God do that? I have also read texts in the Bible about God hardening people’s hearts. Again why would God do that?

Suffering, Catholic Style!
A while back on my personal blog, I presented a secular view of suffering. I posited that, for the secular left, suffering is seen as worse than sin or death. Suffering has no meaning, and the goal becomes maximizing pleasure and avoiding pain.

There is a very different view of suffering on the Catholic side o’ town.

The late, great John Cardinal O’Connor of New York once told a suffering woman, “Christ could have saved the world by His miracles, but He chose to save the world by His suffering.”

This great truth is the basis of our understanding of redemptive suffering.

Let me back up a bit…

Heaven is for real and forever
God’s ways are not our ways, and his will is not always easy for us to understand.

We know that God has a plan of love for every life. But we also know that within his plan, people can find sickness and suffering that seems to have no reason, no justification.

These are some of my reflections as the sad drama of a young California woman has been unfolding this week on cable news and in the social media.

Conscience and Truth
Often I’ve asked my students to consider this question: “If you were doing something objectively morally wrong, would you want someone to tell you and try to convince you to stop?”

Pope: The Church Is a Beautiful and Visible Sign of the Love of Christ
VATICAN CITY — In his weekly address for his Wednesday general audience on Oct. 22, Pope Francis offered advice on fighting those tendencies that “dismember” the Body of Christ, such as jealousy and feelings of superiority.

“A jealous heart is a bitter heart, a heart that, instead of blood, seems to have vinegar. It is a heart that is never happy; it is a heart that disrupts the community,” he told tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

New Day, New Blessings
To say that I love being a high school chaplain is an understatement.  As I walk the halls of La Salle Academy, I’m often reminded of the verse from Psalm 16, “He has put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful ones who dwell in his land.”  I truly love the students that the Lord has entrusted to my spiritual care.

As a “father” to the students, I often challenge them to think and act differently.  So, for example, recently a student was in campus ministry and she expressed that she felt unhappy because it was a Monday!  Her feelings were not unlike many adults that wake up on Monday mornings with a feeling of discontent because it’s a new day (or new week) with new worries.

Discernment: What It Does and Doesn’t Mean
This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to give a decision over to God — how to discern what God wants us to do, when we have a choice before us. It’s one of the more widely misunderstood areas of our practical spiritual life, and I’m still figuring out what it means to live this way. Here are a few things I’ve figured out about what to expect when I pray for guidance in a decision:

Faith: The Secret to a Sacramental Marriage
It has been said that “it takes three to get married” — a man, a woman and God.

In fact, in 1951, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote a book with that sentiment in the title. 

For three Catholic couples who have a combined total of more than 150 years of sacramental marriage, they know that the beloved archbishop couldn’t have gotten it more right.

What is a Soul?
What is a soul? Or to be more precise, what is a human soul?  Or to be even more precise, what is a human being?  For that is really the key question; and I sometimes think that the biggest obstacle to understanding what the soul is is the word “soul.”  People too readily read into it various erroneous notions (erroneous from an Aristotelian-Thomistic point of view, anyway)—ghosts, ectoplasm, or Cartesian immaterial substances.  Even the Aristotelian characterization of the soul as the form of the living body can too easily mislead.  When those unfamiliar with Aristotelian metaphysics hear “form,” they are probably tempted to think in terms of shape or a configuration of parts, which is totally wrong.

Pope beatifies Blessed Paul VI, the ‘great helmsman’ of Vatican II
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Beatifying Blessed Paul VI at the concluding Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis praised the late pope as the “great helmsman” of the Second Vatican Council and founder of the synod, as well as a “humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his church.”

Of Hard Heads and Soft Hearts
My friend (we’ll call him Bob) has a problem with the Church’s “authoritarianism.” In particular, he suspects the Church’s creeds. For Bob, they are secret passwords which, if you say them while stupidly bobbing your head “yes,” allow you into the Church. He complains creeds keep people from thinking. He argues they lead to persecution and cause well-meaning believers to be excluded from the Kingdom by rule-bound bigots.

Flawless or Holiness; What’s a Parent to Do?
As a new parent, I have quickly noticed that everyone has an opinion about the best way to raise my child. Authors, other parents, parishioners, and even strangers on the street are quick to offer advice or criticism of my parenting. As if this were not enough, society tells parents that they are not smart enough to raise their own children. If you don’t buy this book and learn the correct parenting techniques, you will scar your children for life. Parents are afraid to trust their own decisions and are always looking to imitate the latest guru’s advice so they can raise perfect kids.

‘Saved by the Book’: How Sinners Became Saints through Spiritual Reading
My husband is a convert to Catholicism. Because he has made it a daily practice in his life to read spiritual books, his life has been completely transformed, and he has become a Catholic powerhouse for Christ.

I am absolutely speechless at what the Holy Spirit has done in the life of my husband as a result of his faithfulness to persevere in the discipline of spiritual reading. But he is not alone.

Many saints, because they read a spiritual book, were induced to forsake the world and give themselves completely over to God.

EVIL vs GOOD: It May be Time for Everyone to Choose Sides
It seems that now, in the early 21st century, people of faith have been thrust into the Canyon of Decision. This is  a place where a personal decision must be made and only two choices are available. Those choices are Good vs Evil. God is the perfection of all that is GOOD. Satan is the owner of all that is EVIL. Satan hates exponentially. He hates everything and everyone, including his own followers.

He has tried throughout the ages to convince himself that by destroying the God of Love he might find some unattainable and perverted joy. He has been wrong and knows in his deformed and blackened self that he can NEVER destroy God, his own creator. It follows that he can also NEVER feel joy or happiness of any kind. He also knows that he has no one to blame for his condition but himself.  So “hate” is his thing. Nothing can “hate” like the Prince of Darkness”.

FaithWorks! – 36 – Fr Longenecker’s Newsletter on the Practical Practice of the Catholic Faith
In the last issue we began a new series on the seven sacraments. The sacraments are not just once and done rituals, but elements of our daily spiritual lives.  God wants the sacraments to be a vital means of grace in your life–a power to transform you into the image of Christ from the inside out.

What is the most misunderstood historical event?
Most people understand the trial of Galileo Galilei as a key example of religious bigotry clashing with the advance of science and the textbook case of “Medieval” ignorance and superstition being superseded by reason and science.  In fact, the whole rather complex affair was not the black-and-white “science vs religion” fable of popular imagination and the positions of both Galileo and of the various churchmen involved were varied and complex.  The popular conceptions of the Galileo Affair are marked by a number of myths:

Why the Crusades Were “Glorious”
This post is the first in a series about the most prevalent modern myths about the Crusades and how to refute them.

The Crusades are one of the most misunderstand topics in Church history. Movies and TV present as established fact an outdated anti-Catholic narrative about them that stays alive by sheer repetition. Not only do secular critics of the Church use this narrative to attack Catholicism (and religion in general), but many Catholics unwittingly accept it as true.

Your Soul Finds Rest in God
We all suffer in this world more or less, either from anxiety of mind, or sorrow of heart, or pain of body. And nevertheless we all long for rest; we seek it eagerly; and we wear ourselves out all our lives in this search without ever attaining the ob­ject of our desires.

Where is rest to be found? Where shall we seek it? This is a most interesting question if ever there was one.

The Antichrist is Dead Set on Destroying Fatherhood
Joseph Ratzinger, I think, will go down in history as the best cultural physician of our day not because he fixed everything, but because he correctly diagnosed the ailments.  The seminarian and scholarly readers out there will no doubt be familiar with his solution to the many problems of modern scholarship, especially so-called “historical Jesus” traditions.  His answer to the problem is the hermeneutic of faith, an approach to scholarship that acknowledges the necessity of faith if one is to study things of faith.  Seems obvious?  Yes, it is, but it still needs to be said.

A Silent Priest is a Dead Priest – A Meditation on a Teaching of St. Gregory the Great
A former Archbishop of Washington was known to often remark, “There’s nothing deader than a dead priest.” Some wondered as to the meaning of this expression, and those who knew him the best explained that it was a sort of version of the old Latin expression Corruptio optime pessima (The corruption of the best is the worst thing of all).

Of all the men on the planet who need to be alive, vocal, clear, and active, the priest is one of the most critical.

You Owe It to Yourself to Read The American Catholic Almanac
I was cruising through my new favorite book, The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States, when I came upon the April 7 entry, entitled “The Duke.”

It began, “When asked about his religion, John Wayne usually gave one of two responses. Either he claimed to be a ‘presbygod____nterian’ or a ‘cardiac Catholic.’”

God, Catholic Moral Theology, and Tetris
Those of us who grew up in the 80’s are familiar with Tetris. It’s a video game. The computer deploys different shaped blocks from the top of the screen. The player’s job is to configure the blocks and arrange them so as to form straight horizontal lines. Upon becoming so arranged, the lines are eliminated freeing up more space and gaining the player points. However, as the game progresses the blocks begin to fall at an increasingly faster pace. Once they pile up to the top of the screen, as they always do at some point, it’s game over and the player has to begin again.

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