Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else. “Once there were two men who went up to the Temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. I fast two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.”

Luke 18:9-14

The entire point of is to let us praise God, make us humble before God and to open us up to the path of love. Everything else, meaning the liturgy, the sacraments, the prayers, is meant to further these purposes. When we turn them away from these purposes and onto ourselves, we have undermined the meaning. This leads to the dreaded “holier than thou” attitude of self-righteousness! No, humbleness and love are the way to go!

Jesus was driving out a demon that could not talk; and when the demon went out, the man began to talk. The crowds were amazed, but some of the people said, “It is Beelzebul, the chief of the demons, who gives him the power to drive them out.”

Others wanted to trap Jesus, so they asked him to perform a miracle to show that God approved of him. But Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long; a family divided against itself falls apart. So if Satan’s kingdom has groups fighting each other, how can it last? You say that I drive out demons because Beelzebul gives me the power to do so. If this is how I drive them out, how do your followers drive them out? Your own followers prove that you are wrong! No, it is rather by means of God’s power that I drive out demons, and this proves that the Kingdom of God has already come to you.

“When a strong man, with all his weapons ready, guards his own house, all his belongings are safe. But when a stronger man attacks him and defeats him, he carries away all the weapons the owner was depending on and divides up what he stole.

“Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering.

Luke 11:14-23

Jesus gets accused of being in league with Satan after he drives out a demon. His interesting defense is, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Whose house is he talking about? On one hand, he’s talking about the realm of the demons. His defense is that one demon would not drive out another, for those kinds of divisions would weaken the realm of demons. But on another hand, he’s talking about the house of the people. If the people allowed those who sought to trap Jesus to divide them from him, this would mislead and weaken them. And in another way, Jesus is talking about your house. If you let anything divide you from Jesus you, too, will be misled and weakened.

That Jesus brings up division when the topic is demons is no accident. The goal of demons is always scattering; it is to break up communion. Jesus is always the voice of communio, of bring things back together.  

Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with—not until the end of all things. So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven.

 

Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus promise that he has not come to abolish the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it. He presents himself as a new Moses, promulgating the definitive law. Everybody has seen those references in the bottom of the pages of the bible, the ones that refer verses on the page to other ones elsewhere in the bible. Few pursue these references! They do slow you down. But it’s interesting to follow them now and again. You will find that throughout the New Testament, Jesus is fulfilling a substantial number of things mentioned in the Old Testament. And many times, the references can provide you with insights and other contexts which richness and meaning to what is being said in the verse before you. It can be fun and profitable!

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.

“Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”

And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Jesus reveals the root of our inability to forgive. The incapacity to forgive comes from one place, a false sense of self. We cling to resentment, anger, and self-righteousness precisely because we feel that our lives and our dignity belong to us. But nothing that we have or that we have is ours, everything about us is “on loan” from God. When we put our forgiveness to others in relation to God’s forgiveness for our own sins, then we find that forgiveness becomes possible for us, too. 

“I tell you this,” Jesus added, “prophets are never welcomed in their hometown. Listen to me: it is true that there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah, when there was no rain for three and a half years and a severe famine spread throughout the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to anyone in Israel, but only to a widow living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon. And there were many people suffering from a dreaded skin disease who lived in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha; yet not one of them was healed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with anger. They rose up, dragged Jesus out of town, and took him to the top of the hill on which their town was built. They meant to throw him over the cliff, but he walked through the middle of the crowd and went his way.

 

Luke 4:24-30

 

BUILT WITH BOLDGRID


REJECTION IN NAZARETH

Jesus complains that prophets never appear to be welcomed in their own lands. In fact, the Hebrews must have had a habit of killing their prophets. Many passages in the bible bring this up, as does Christ in other places, such as Matthew 23:37:

 

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!”

It looks like Jesus was about to get that same treatment here in Nazareth, his own hometown! The people in the synagogue meant to throw him off a cliff! 

I suppose that’s because a prophet’s task is often to say uncomfortable things that people do not want to hear. Nobody likes to hear that he is going about things the wrong way. Nobody likes to hear that he needs to change. Change is difficult, it requires resolve and discipline. 

Nevertheless, Jesus calls us to embrace this challenge. Following him is not easy, he calls you to live a new life altogether. The rewards are great, though. A life filled with love and devotion to God is one that’s lived better, it is its own reward, before you even get to salvation. 

 

It was almost time for the Passover Festival, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. There in the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and pigeons, and also the moneychangers sitting at their tables. So he made a whip from cords and drove all the animals out of the Temple, both the sheep and the cattle; he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins; and he ordered those who sold the pigeons, “Take them out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that the scripture says, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.”

The Jewish authorities came back at him with a question, “What miracle can you perform to show us that you have the right to do this?”

Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again.”

“Are you going to build it again in three days?” they asked him. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple!”

But the temple Jesus was speaking about was his body. So when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what Jesus had said.

While Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in him as they saw the miracles he performed. But Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew them all. There was no need for anyone to tell him about them, because he himself knew what was in their hearts.

John 2:13-25

THE CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE

Jesus’ actions against the money changers in the Temple were probably what sealed his fate in the minds of the Sanhedrin, the governing council of the Jews. These actions were direct affronts to their authority, and they were violent. The great anger of Jesus was fueled by their failure to serve the people properly, and even more by their corruption of the Temple from a place of worship into a marketplace. Jesus reacted violently to the pangs of these wrongs, and this led his watching disciples to think of the passage, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.” This passage is from Psalm 69; it is a song of a persecuted man. Can you imagine how angry and how determined Jesus was? For John tells us he personally and purposely fashioned a whip from cords to set upon the money changers!

He reveals the highly intense, focused and disruptive sides of his nature. But always, a nature focused on justice and what is right. 

One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, “This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!” So Jesus told them this parable:

Jesus went on to say, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the property now.’ So the man divided his property between his two sons. After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing. So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs. He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat. At last he came to his senses and said, ‘All my father’s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve! I will get up and go to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and started back to his father.

“He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms around his son, and kissed him. ‘Father,’ the son said, ‘I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’ But the father called to his servants. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast! For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ And so the feasting began.

“In the meantime the older son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Your brother has come back home,’ the servant answered, ‘and your father has killed the prize calf, because he got him back safe and sound.’ The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in. But he spoke back to his father, ‘Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’”

Luke 15:1-3,11-32

THE PRODIGAL SON

In this famous parable, the father is the icon of the Lord and the Prodigal Son is the icon of you most likely! Okay, you haven’t run off to lead a life of dissipation and squandering your inheritance on prostitutes or any great sins of this dire nature, but the Prodigal Son is the universal stand-in for all sinners. The joyful message is that God wants you to come home to him, he wants to forgive his penitent children who return to him from sin. This is an occasion to celebrate!

This development comes as shock to the Prodigal Son. He is overwhelmed and surprised because he knows he does not deserve it. None of us deserve the grace of salvation that we’ve been offered, as it happens. It is gift freely given by God! 

“Listen to another parable,” Jesus said. “There was once a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press, and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to tenants and left home on a trip. When the time came to gather the grapes, he sent his slaves to the tenants to receive his share of the harvest. The tenants grabbed his slaves, beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again the man sent other slaves, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all he sent his son to them. ‘Surely they will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the owner’s son. Come on, let’s kill him, and we will get his property!’ So they grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

“Now, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” Jesus asked.

“He will certainly kill those evil men,” they answered, “and rent the vineyard out to other tenants, who will give him his share of the harvest at the right time.”

Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what the Scriptures say?

‘The stone which the builders rejected as worthless
turned out to be the most important of all.
This was done by the Lord;
what a wonderful sight it is!’

 

“And so I tell you,” added Jesus, “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce the proper fruits.”

The chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables and knew that he was talking about them, so they tried to arrest him. But they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.

 

Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

In this parable the vineyard stands for Israel, God’s chosen people. But they act as poor tenants and commit evils against God in this wonderful place he has built for them. God resolves to replace them with new tenants. This is the Church of Christians, the new cornerstone, a new home for the Kingdom of God.

We Christians are but tenants, though, not owners. We are as entrusted with responsibilities of caring for it just as the former tenants were. And this should be the focus of our lives!

“There was once a rich man who dressed in the most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury every day. There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man’s door, hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven. The rich man died and was buried, and in Hades, where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw Abraham, far away, with Lazarus at his side. So he called out, ‘Father Abraham! Take pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue, because I am in great pain in this fire!’ But Abraham said, ‘Remember, my son, that in your lifetime you were given all the good things, while Lazarus got all the bad things. But now he is enjoying himself here, while you are in pain. Besides all that, there is a deep pit lying between us, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, nor can anyone cross over to us from where you are.’ The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, where I have five brothers. Let him go and warn them so that they, at least, will not come to this place of pain.’ Abraham said, ‘Your brothers have Moses and the prophets to warn them; your brothers should listen to what they say.’ The rich man answered, ‘That is not enough, father Abraham! But if someone were to rise from death and go to them, then they would turn from their sins.’ But Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from death.’”

Luke 16:19-31

Bishop Barron’s comments on this passage are all about economic inequalities, and the real need to care for the poor and unfortunate. That’s fine, those are important points, but they are very self-evident it seems to me. So, keeping that inequality in mind, I also focused on the finality of separation between heaven and hell. The rich man is languishing in real flames, begging for cool water, but the bridge between him and those feasting cannot be crossed by anyone regardless of intent. The separation is stark and harrowing, so much so that the rich man begs for Lazarus to be sent as a warning to the living. Well, we know that somebody did come, rising from death for the aid of the living, and that is Christ himself. Jesus is foreshadowing his own death and resurrection here, also foreshadowing that even despite the miraculous gift of grace that comes with this, some will not be convinced. What a heavy price to pay for those who do not heed!

jesus and the zebedees

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and spoke to them privately, as they walked along. “Listen,” he told them, “we are going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. They will condemn him to death and then hand him over to the Gentiles, who will make fun of him, whip him, and crucify him; but three days later he will be raised to life.”

Then the wife of Zebedee came to Jesus with her two sons, bowed before him, and asked him for a favor.

“What do you want?” Jesus asked her.

She answered, “Promise me that these two sons of mine will sit at your right and your left when you are King.”

“You don’t know what you are asking for,” Jesus answered the sons. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

“You will indeed drink from my cup,” Jesus told them, “but I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. These places belong to those for whom my Father has prepared them.”

When the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers. So Jesus called them all together and said, “You know that the rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others— like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.”

 

Matthew 20:17-28

 AMBITION

Well the Zebedees, meaning the disciples James, John and their mother, got motivated by ambition. They sought the places of honor in the kingdom; they sought to get ahead.

But Jesus turns the tables on them by revealing that his kingdom is not like any other. In his kingdom, you get ahead by serving, by sacrifice. Honor in the kingdom isn’t about aggrandizing the ego, but emptying it out.