Invite the Poor, Crippled, Lame and Blind

08-28-2016Weekly Reflections

"Alms atone for sins" (Sirach 2:29). Alms are mercy translated into hands-on compassion. Jesus confirms Sirach's wisdom, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7). "Conduct your affairs with humility" (Sirach 3:17). Humility: we're all alike and special, for we're children of God. Jesus confirms that wisdom, too: "Do not recline at table in the place of honor. Take the lowest place" (Luke 14:8, 10). In fact, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite friends, relatives, wealthy neighbors. Invite the poor, crippled, lame, blind," physically or figuratively, society's most vulnerable and marginalized, "who cannot repay you" (see 14:12–14). Jesus seems to be telling us to prepare for eternity with God's chosen by becoming their friend here and now. Mercy is measured not by our delight in welcoming those we like most or who can repay us best, but by sincerely embracing those we like least, who cannot repay us at all. Utter humility inspires pure mercy; pure mercy leads to eternal joy.

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Will I be Saved?

08-21-2016Weekly Reflections

This Jubilee Year of Mercy and Pope Francis' ministry have renewed our understanding that the Church's heart is open wide to all, and the heart of the gospel is God's mercy. Flooded with God's mercy, our hearts should overflow as channels bringing to wounded and weary hearts Jesus' healing mercy. For Jesus warns, our own salvation is not guaranteed by the Liturgy of the Word ("you taught in our streets") nor by the Eucharist ("we ate and drank in your company") (Luke 13:26). People far from that banquet, "from the east and the west and from the north and the south . . . will recline at table in the kingdom of God" (13:29). Rather, showing mercy is key to obtaining mercy ourselves (Matthew 5:7). So we should never dare ask what "someone" asked Jesus, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" (Luke 13:23). The crucial question is "Will I be saved?" And Jesus' answer is another question: "Have you shown mercy to everyone, freely, gladly, no limits, no conditions, no exceptions?"

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Share Mercy

08-14-2016Weekly Reflections

This Jubilee Year of Mercy bids us share our own experience of Jesus' mercy with those on what Pope Francis calls the "peripheries"—people who feel marginalized, even unwelcome—inviting them to come home. But with all this mercy, why today's mayhem? "Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Lk 12:51). Jesus "breaks down" those "breakups" in painful detail—parents, children, even in-laws. "Against" appears eight times in five verses. Jeremiah faced death for bearing witness (Jer 38:4). Can't we bear at least a small share of the sometimes merciless cost of sharing mercy? The Letter to the Hebrews warns us, keep your "eyes fixed on Jesus" and "so great a cloud of witnesses," lest we "grow weary and lose heart" as we run "the race that lies before us" (Heb 12:1–3). After all, "for the sake of the joy that lay before him," Jesus "endured the cross" (12:2). Can't we endure our small crosses for the sake of sharing mercy?

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Be Vigilant and Faithful Servants

08-07-2016Weekly Reflections

"Last Sunday's "Parable of the rich fool" delivered a compelling reason to do the right thing—now: "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you" (Luke 12:20). Today, Jesus warns us: "You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come" (12:40). Though we do not know when our Master will come, we do know what our Master expects to find. Jesus expects us to be vigilant (12:37) and diligent (12:42) in our work for the kingdom, but also filled with reverent mercy toward our fellow servants and ourselves. Hopefully, Jesus' warning not to get drunk and beat each other up (12:45) does not apply to us literally! But what changes do I need to make, right now, so that the many people outside "the Master's house" will want to come inside to experience the healing comfort of Jesus' own mercy in the compassion of Jesus' modern-day disciples?

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Grow Rich in what matters to God

07-31-2016Weekly Reflections

"You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you" (Luke 12:20). Hardly sounds like mercy! Unlike some contemporary rich folks, there is no indication of lying, stealing, or cheating in Jesus' parable. The rich man made a living, not a killing. Why does Jesus name him "fool"? First, because of presumption. Five times in nine verses, the rich man declares, "I shall." God's not in charge here, I am! Second, selfishness—four times, "my/myself." No God, no neighbor; he talks to himself, about himself: my possessions, my productivity, my plans! So, instead of chasing "treasure for ourselves," Jesus and Pope Francis' Jubilee Year of Mercy bid us grow "rich in what matters to God" (12:21), namely, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Give food, drink, clothing, and healing; visit the imprisoned; bury the dead. Heal with Jesus' own gentleness the doubt, ignorance, and sins of others; comfort, forgive, be patient; and pray for the living and dead.

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Blessed are the Merciful, for they will be shown Mercy

07-24-2016Weekly Reflections

This week, the universal Church focuses in prayerful solidarity on World Youth Day in Krakow, where WYD's founder, Saint John Paul II, served as archbishop. Its theme coincides with that of Pope Francis' Jubilee Year of Mercy: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7). Today's Gospel echoes the same theme, as Jesus unites prayer with mercy in "The parable of the persistent friend." Jesus teaches us not only what words to pray, but what deeds must match authentic prayer. How beautifully down-to-earth is Jesus' portrait of a God who can be trusted to do what is best for us. A pesky neighbor disturbs a sleeping friend and disrupts the household. Yet beautiful images unfold. Persevering prayer receives active, practical mercy in loaves of bread, recalling Luke's unique expression for the Eucharist, "the breaking of bread" (Luke 24:35; Acts 2:42). WYD, the Jubilee, and Jesus thus unite to define perfect prayer as persevering communion with God and unconditional mercy toward our neighbor.

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Go and Do AND Sit and Listen

07-17-2016Weekly Reflections

Last Sunday's "Good Samaritan" parable concluded with Jesus' command: Go provide hands-on mercy to the next person you meet, no conditions, no limits, no exceptions. But today, Jesus seems to criticize Martha's hands-on mercy of hospitality, while praising Mary's "hands-off" as "choosing the better part" (Luke 10:42). Mary sat listening (10:39), leaving Martha "burdened with much serving by herself" (10:40). So, is the contemplative life of prayerful silence "superior," but the active life of earning a living, raising a family, running parishes, schools, hospitals, and social service ministries "second-class" discipleship? No; Jesus' example is not either/or but both/and: silent communion with God, boundless compassion for people. If we do not seek Jesus in silent prayer, how will we find Jesus in all others? If we do not serve Jesus in others, will our worship, despite its beauty, be anything but empty ritual? This Jubilee Year of Mercy offers us Jesus' two-fold challenge: both "go and do" and "sit and listen."

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Mercy for ALL: No conditions, No limits, No exceptions

07-10-2016Weekly Reflections

Could anyone object to Jesus' supreme lesson in mercy, the parable of the Good Samaritan? Jesus' devoutly religious audience certainly did! Scant sympathy for anyone foolish enough to travel crime-ridden "Jericho Highway" alone. Much sympathy for priest and Levite, hurrying to assigned temple ministry, unwilling to risk ritual impurity through hands-on mercy. No sympathy for Jesus' scandalous hero. Samaritans were religious apostates and political enemies. Jesus challenges them—and us—to seek God's presence not only in liturgical beauty but in a fellow traveler's self-inflicted misfortunes. See God's presence even in someone outside the law, whose hands-on mercy springs not from religious obligation but from the heart's instinctive goodness. Since Jesus became our "Good Samaritan" despite our foolishness and sins, who are we to ration our mercy? "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). The next person we see who needs hands-on mercy! No conditions, no limits, no exceptions. Especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Jesus commands, "Go and do likewise" (10:37).

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Proclaim the Kingdom of God

07-03-2016Weekly Reflections

Last Sunday, Jesus rebuked James and John for wanting to "call down fire from heaven" (Luke 9:54–55) on an unwelcoming town. As he sends forth disciples today, Jesus again forbids retaliation against non-receptive listeners (10:10–11), showing us how to be Jesus' "missionaries of mercy" this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Like the first disciples, we are sent not to proclaim ourselves but Jesus. As Jesus sent them in pairs, so are we also to work together in the community of the Church. We often describe the Church as Isaiah describes Jerusalem in today's first reading, our comforting, nurturing Mother (Isaiah 66:13). So, going forth gently, like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3), we share comforting peace, nurturing food and drink (Luke's image for Eucharist), and Jesus' healing promise of unfailing, unconditional mercy (10:5, 7, 9). Thus Jesus bids us proclaim the kingdom of God by showing what God's kingdom looks like in action. "Go, preach the Gospel," Pope Francis' saintly namesake of Assisi is said to have instructed his first friars, "and when necessary, use words!"

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Serve One Another through LOVE

06-26-2016Weekly Reflections

Yet again in Ordinary Time, Jesus seems to demand extraordinary commitment. A would-be disciple enthusiastically volunteers to follow Jesus "wherever" (Luke 9:57). Jesus replies that "wherever" means "nowhere to rest his head" (9:58). To other candidates, Jesus brusquely denies reasonable requests to fulfill family obligations (9:59, 61), declaring that discipleship demands total commitment—now! But Jesus also demands that we not judge how others respond. When James and John volunteered to "call down fire from heaven" (9:54) to destroy an unwelcoming town, Jesus "turned and rebuked them" (9:55). All violence of any kind is completely unacceptable among Jesus' disciples, a lesson this Jubilee Year of Mercy is teaching the Christian community once again. Paul's challenge to the Galatians and us reinforces Jesus' decisive command to James and John that they express their commitment to him through compassion for others. We must abandon the violence of "biting and devouring one another" (Galatians 5:15), choosing instead to "serve one another through love" (5:13).
—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Take up Your Cross Daily, and Bear one Another's Burdens

06-19-2016Weekly Reflections

Today, as he often does, Luke portrays Jesus "praying in solitude" (Luke 9:18). The Jubilee Year of Mercy invites us to rediscover the value of silence as the prayerful setting in which to reflect on the ways in which God's mercy transforms our lives, in order to make mercy the heart of our own lifestyle. But in a line that sounds odd, Jesus "rebuked" his disciples "and directed them not to tell anyone" (9:20–21) after they professed their faith in Jesus as "the Christ of God" (9:20). Jesus challenges us also to profess our faith not by what we say, but by what we do: take up our own cross daily (9:23) and "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). Our gratitude for God's mercy toward us should make us instruments of God's mercy toward all. Then, as Zechariah prophesies in today's first reading, the fountain of God's mercy will open to purify the whole world from the sin and selfishness that cause suffering and sorrow to so many (Zechariah 13:1).

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Humble Sinners or Judgmental Pharisees?

06-12-2016Weekly Reflections

On today’s Jubilee for Those Sick and Suffering Disabilities, Jesus encounters a woman who is “spiritually ill.” She is thus “disabled” from participating in Israel’s worshiping community or polite society.On today’s Jubilee for Those Sick and Suffering Disabilities, Jesus encounters a woman who is “spiritually ill.” She is thus “disabled” from participating in Israel’s worshiping community or polite society. Bathing Jesus’ feet with tears, drying them with unveiled hair, anointing them (Luke 7:38) risk Jesus’ becoming “unclean.” Yet his mercy welcomes even such inappropriate behavior as her sincere manifestation of love: “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace” (7:48, 50). Go not just in “peace,” but in shalom, the all-enveloping, life-changing assurance of God’s mercy. She is anonymous, “known in the city” only as “a sinful woman” (7:37). The character with name and religious title, “Simon the Pharisee” (7:36, 40), judges her harshly, but himself not at all, and thus forfeits God’s mercy. This Jubilee Year of Mercy challenges us to self-examination. In which role do we most often cast ourselves, humble sinner or judgmental Pharisee? Jesus declares that only by an unfailing willingness to show mercy to fellow sinners can we hope to obtain mercy ourselves (see Misericordiae Vultus, 9).

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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Are you doing your part as an Extraordinary Christian?

06-05-2016Weekly Reflections

Half the liturgical year 2016 is completed after six months of extraordinary celebrations. The Incarnation mystery: Jesus' advent, nativity, epiphany. The Paschal mystery: Jesus' passion, death, resurrection, Pentecost's Holy Spirit. The solemnities of Holy Trinity and Jesus' Body and Blood. Today the Church resumes Sundays in Ordinary Time, but with a Gospel of extraordinary mercy: Jesus raises a dead man to life. Yet the one who benefits most from his extraordinary mercy is not the dead son, but his widowed mother. With her husband and only son deceased, this woman's material support, in that patriarchal society, had vanished. So had her emotional support, leaving her helpless, abandoned, on society's "peripheries." One of Pope Francis' hopes in calling this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is to transform us into more extraordinary Christians, by making our caring outreach to just such vulnerable people, and our practical self-sacrificing love for them, our ordinary, daily, Christian way of life!

—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.

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