March 28, 2010


Palm Sunday
Luke 22:14 - 23:56

The Meal for Sinners - The Meal of God's Kingdom

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus shares many meals with people. The highlights are the meals he shares with sinners and the social outcasts (Levi, Zacchaeus, tax collectors, public sinners). But he also sits with the Pharisees and religious leaders (7:36-50; 11:37-54), who oppose him, and are guilty of self-righteousness.

Even in the Old Testament, the meal is already used as an image of God's Kingdom. Continuing that tradition, Jesus' meals indicate who are invited to God's Kingdom.

And now, "When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles." Like others who have shared meals with Jesus, the apostles are sinners and people with human flaws and weaknesses. One of them, "whose hand is with [Jesus] on the table" will betray him. Peter will deny him. The rest, "all his acquaintances stood at a distance" when he is crucified.

To this weak and flawed disciples, Jesus shares his last meal.

Morever, he promises to pray for Peter, and installs him as the leader of his followers, "Simon, Simon, I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

And, Jesus invites all of them to the table in the Father's Kingdom. "I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

The invitation to the meal of the Word of God made flesh and the Eucharist is now offered to us sinners. The Kingdom of God continues to welcome all.

This reflection is based on the Commentary by Fr. Francis J. Moloney, SDB, in The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings, Year C. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991; p. 82-84.

March 20, 2010


5th Sunday of Lent - C (March 21, 2010)
John 8:1-11

"I Came so that They Might Have Life and Have It More Abundantly"

The woman in this Gospel passage has been caught "in the very act of committing adultery." One can imagine the condition she is in when she is dragged out into public view and made to "stand in the middle" of the crowd.

Obviously, Jesus' opponents have no concern for her. They are interested in finding fault with Jesus, not the woman's well-being. They have turned her into an object, a means to corner Jesus.[1] In their eyes, she is no longer a human being.

Unlike them, Jesus treats the sinful woman with respect. Jesus speaks to her after everybody else has left. It is the first time she is recognized and acknowledged.[2] Moreover, Jesus addresses her with "woman," the same formal word he uses to address his mother at Cana and at the foot of the cross.

The scribes and the Pharisees are more than ready to stone the woman. For them, she is already dead.

On the contrary, Jesus, out of compassion, offers her an opportunity to live. But it is not just her physical life. He "offers her the possibility of a newness of life in a right relationship with God."[3] He says to her, "Go, and from now on do not sin any more."

The sinful woman encounters the Savior, who has come so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

[1] Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998; p. 261.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid, p. 262.

5th Sunday of Lent - C

Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino, 1621 (Dulwich Picture Gallery)

March 13, 2010


4th Sunday of Lent - C
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

How Do I See Myself in God's Family?

The well-known parable, commonly referred to as "the parable of the prodigal son," is really the story of a loving father and his two sons who do not appreciate the father's love.

The younger son does not want to live with his father. He wants to go away. Moreover, he wants to take his share of the inheritance while his father is still alive. His action, in a sense, expresses his desire for his father to die, so he can take "the share of the estate that should come to [him]."

Then, it is his hunger, not an appreciation for his father's love or his repentance, that forces him to "come to his senses." Thus, he wants to return home, where he does not have to "die from hunger."

And so he returns home, thinking of asking his father to take him in, not as a son, but as "one of the hired workers."

In response, not only does the father restores him to his rightful place in the family, he actually celebrates with a feast. For the returned son, this is the occasion to slaughter the fattened calf that has been fed with grains, not grass, "to put on extra weight and tenderness" for a special celebration. [1]

The older son, though he never leaves home, is never there. Worse, his wish is to be able to have "a young goat to feast on with" his friends. He does not want to share his life or his joys with the father. In the family, he sees himself not as a son, but a slave (a position even lower than a hired worker). [2]

As a result, he sees his father as a master. (Ironically, the servant, while speaking to him, refers to the man as "your father"). And he sees his brother only as "your son," and not "my brother."

Therefore, though he lives with the father, he never knows or accepts his father's love. For him, life in the father's house is burdensome. ("All these years I have slaved for you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.")

In response to the angry older son, the father points out that he has been treating him not as a son, but as an equal. "Everything I have is yours." [3]

Such is the contrast between the loving father and his two sons who never appreciate the father's love. One wants to be a hired worker to have his needs met. The other, sees himself as a slave and life in the father's house a burden.

How do I see myself in God's family?

[1] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 238.
[2] The original Greek text is better translated "All these years I have slaved for you" as in The New Jerusalem Bible, New York: Doubleday, 1985 than "All these years I have served you" as in the text of The New American Bible used in church readings.
[3] Johnson, p. 239.

March 12, 2010

4th Sunday of Lent - C

Painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo


3rd Sunday of Lent - C
Luke 13:1-9

Figs from a Fig Tree

In the parable, the landowner comes "in search of fruit on [the] fig tree." In a sense, he expects no miracles but the ordinary. The fig tree is expected to bear figs.

In the similar way, the gardener pleads with the landowner to give the fig tree more time, while he intends to "cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it" so that "it may bear fruit." Again, the gardener is going to help the fig tree to do what it is supposed to do -- producing figs.

Such is the story of the Christian life. Such is the call to holiness for each one of us. With God's help, we are to become holy according to our unique vocation, in the circumstances of our particular life. That is God's invitation for us to become holy, to bear fruits, in the ordinary of our daily life.