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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