For October 20, 2016
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
your Son commanded us to love one another as he has loved us,
and he taught us that he loves us as you love him.
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us as we read your word,
so that as we come to understand your love for us
we may better love you, and all you have created, in return.
St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.
First Reading – Sirach 35:15b-22b (NAB) (RSV)
? The book of Sirach belongs to the “wisdom literature” section of the Old Testament. It was written in Hebrew at the beginning of the 2nd century BC by a man named Joshua, either the son or grandson of Sirach. The book begins with a prologue written by Joshua’s grandson, who translated his grandfather’s Hebrew text into Greek in the late 2nd century BC. The Catholic Church considers this book canonical (inspired) Scripture although it was not part of the accepted Hebrew scriptures.
? In the New American Bible (NAB), this reading is verses 12-19a. In the Revised NAB, it’s verses 15b-22b. In the Revised Standard Version (RSV), this reading is verses 12b-18a. This is due to differences in splitting up the sentences of this chapter into verses. If there is any confusion, this passage begins with “For he is a God of justice” (NAB) or “For the Lord is the judge” (RSV), and concludes with the words “will not delay” (NAB and RSV).
? This chapter admonishes the reader to keep the commandments, to be kind, to be generous in charity, to avoid bribes; in general, to act with justice. From there it describes the most just one of all, God, which is where our reading begins. The themes in the reading are very similar to Jesus’ parable about the widow and the judge (Luke 18:1-8).
? This whole chapter is worth reading, but we’ll stick to what we’ll hear at Mass. For some reason, the reading at Mass skips the verses about the tears of the widow, but we’ll include those too.
Gospel – Luke 18:9-14 (NAB) (RSV)
? St. Luke was the author of both a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke reports at the beginning of his gospel that many others had already compiled narratives of the life of Jesus, and that his is “an orderly account” intended to assure you (the reader) of the truth of the things you have heard. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus”, which may have been a person, but it may just be a generic term (because it is Greek for “lover of God”).
? This reading picks up immediately after last Sunday’s reading, about perseverance in prayer. The theme of prayer is continued, but the emphasis is now on one’s attitude in prayer.
? A parable is usually a brief story that teaches a lesson by way of comparison or allegory. The word comes from the Greek parabole meaning “to throw (bole) alongside (para)”, just like hyperbole (an exaggerative expression) means “to throw (bole) beyond (hyper)”.
? Pharisees were a religious sect in Judaism; their name means “separated ones”, and they were so named for two reasons. First, they were so concerned to keep the Jewish faith free from foreign religious practices that they demanded strict separation from Gentiles (non-Jews). Second, they considered themselves set apart from other Jews because of their strict adherence to priestly laws concerning ceremonial purity, despite not being priests! They looked down on other Jews who did not live up to their observances. Jesus considered them to be good teachers of the Law, but not good doers of the Law. He recognized that they were more focused on exterior purity than interior purity, and on adhering to the tiniest parts of the Law while actually overlooking the most important parts. (Read Matthew 23 for his rant against them.) Because of this conflict, the Pharisees considered Jesus an enemy and sought to have him discredited, and they eventually arranged for his arrest, trial, and execution.
? Tax collectors (or “publicans”) on the other hand, were notorious among the Jews for being allied with their Roman rulers and for extorting additional money on top of the taxes that were owed. Pharisees despised the tax collectors (and all other sinners, for that matter), and were outraged that Jesus would speak and dine with them. One of the apostles and evangelists, Matthew (also named Levi), was a tax collector (see Matthew 9:9).
? What links can you find between the Old Testament and Gospel readings?
? What does it mean to be “partial” or to “show partiality”?
? What does the First Reading teach us about what God thinks of justice?
? How should we conduct ourselves in prayer if we wish to be heard by God?
? What does Jesus say about the manner in which the Pharisee prayed (see Luke 18:11)?
? What is the content of the Pharisee’s prayer? To whom does he compare himself?
? What type of person might the Pharisee represent?
? What is the content of the tax collector’s prayer? To whom does he compare himself?
? What type of person might the tax collector represent?
? Is righteousness displeasing to God, and sin pleasing to Him?
Do fasting and tithing displease God?
? What positive lessons can we learn from both the Pharisee and the tax collector?
? How do we exalt ourselves? How do we humble ourselves?
❤️ What are some prayers we know that ask God for forgiveness?
? What can some of these prayers teach us about forgiving others?
❤️ Consider what both readings say about prayers reaching God in heaven.
What can they teach us about ourselves reaching heaven?
When we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer.
Catechism 2559 on Luke 18:9-14
When reading or hearing this parable, do you ever stop and think to yourself, “I’m glad I’m not like the Pharisee”? If so… read the parable again.
When a class takes a test, if the teacher grades on a curve, it usually means the student who scores the highest on the test, no matter what their actual score is, is considered to have scored 100%, and the other students are graded in proportion to that student. Its opposite is grading the students without comparing them to each other, but to a perfectly taken test.
How did the Pharisee believe God “grades” humanity? What did the tax collector believe?
? What have I learned about who God is,
so that I can love Him better?
? What have I learned about Christ,
so that I can recognize his love for me better?
? What have I learned about the Christian life,
so that I can show my love for God and neighbor better?
❤️ How can I incorporate into prayer what I have learned,
so that I can express my gratitude for God’s love?
grant us the grace to be humble in your presence,
to confess our sins and strive for righteousness in your sight.
Keep us from becoming proud and setting ourselves apart;
rather, may our witness to your great love for mankind
encourage all to approach you and be welcomed into your kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord.