October 22, 2021 (readings)
- Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
- Fr. John Bartunek, LC
Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain—and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot—and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Opening Prayer: As I come into your presence today, I make my own the prayer of today’s psalm: Teach me wisdom and knowledge, Lord, because I trust in you, who are good and bountiful. Teach me to follow you more closely, to love you more deeply, to know you more fully.
The Present Time: Jesus energetically pointed out to the crowds that something truly remarkable was happening right before their very eyes: in Jesus, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and promises was taking place. And yet, many of them simply did not see it. They failed to recognize the action of God in all that Jesus said and did. They failed to recognize the voice of God whispering to their hearts through the events unfolding all around them. They were keenly aware of worldly things like weather patterns, but for some reason, they were easily blinded to the spiritual things, to the manifestations of God’s plan of salvation. How can that be? Jesus seemed to be frustrated with these people; he even seemed to put a large amount of the blame for their blindness upon themselves: You hypocrites! Maybe we think we would have done better if we had lived in Palestine at the time. But is that true? We know, we believe, that God is at work in us and in the world around us, drawing closer to us, at every time and in every place (Catechism 1). But how often am I aware of this loving presence? How easily do I discern this loving presence in the happenings and the people that go together to weave the tapestry of my daily existence? Do I really behave as if I knew this to be true? If not, perhaps I should be slower to judge those who seem even less spiritually sensitive than myself.
Settling Accounts: In this section of St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly exhorts us to live the here-and-now of our lives in light of the inevitable realities of death and the end of history. In today’s passage, he encourages us to live in peace with those around us, to be reconciled to those whom we have offended or who have offended us. He doesn’t want us to live with loose ends that will have to be tied up after we die. He wants us to resolve here and now everything we can. We have all heard stories of people who were agitated and upset by regrets, by unfinished business, as they lay on their deathbed. Jesus doesn’t want us to be one of those people. So he tells us to settle our differences, to reconcile with our opponents, to do penance for our sins, and to make up for our negligence now before we get to our judgment day. If I knew I were going to die in one week’s time, what affairs would I settle between now and then? Whom would I ask for forgiveness? Whom would I want to forgive? What festering conflict would I want to resolve? Jesus invites me to address those things without delay, for the good of my soul here on earth as well as hereafter.
A Tragic Mystery: We have heard the Gospel so many times. We have received the Eucharist and been to confession so many times. We have studied Church teaching and read so many spiritual books. And yet, here we still are, battling our self-centered tendencies and even falling into some of the same old sins over and over again. How can we explain this? St. Paul wrestles with this stark reality in today’s first reading: For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want… For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. This is our human condition: a state of contradiction, of interior battle. We need not be discouraged by the battle that rages within us. Neither need we be surprised. Human nature is fallen, and the world is fallen, and so our efforts to live by God’s grace are opposed even by ourselves. This is just the way it is. But God knows this, and he sent a Savior to redeem us from this absurdity and to show us the way to a more coherent life. Yet, the path of salvation is lifelong. For some reason, God permits the persistence of these inner contradictions throughout our lives. If even St. Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, had to struggle with these interior contradictions (which is clear from today’s first reading), then we have nothing to be ashamed of when we see them surface in us. May the words of St. Paul toward the end of his life be just as relatable as were his words about the battle within: I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
Conversing with Christ: Thank you for coming to earth to walk with us and teach us your Gospel, Lord. Thank you for giving me the gift of faith, which enlightens all my confusion and doubt. Thank you for never getting tired of reminding me to do my part to live coherently in this great Christian adventure. You know my weakness, Lord, but I know you only allow it to persist because you yourself want to be my strength.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take a step toward reconciliation in a relationship that has been festering. If I have no such relationships, I will make a visit to the Eucharist and pray to Jesus for those who do have such relationships.
For Further Reflection: Read this article on The Art of Forgiveness.
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