Homily – 31st Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Smith)

The image of the Good Shepherd is universally beloved. Christians see Jesus seeking out a stray. This was the most popular statue of Jesus in the ancient world partially because Romans used the image of carrying a sheep for Apollo caring for his devotees. A Christian could go to a sculptor and ask for an Apollo with lamb without causing suspicion. Jews saw the dutiful Shepherd as a sign of divine rule and care as we know from the 23rd Psalm. Also, the prophet Ezekiel used the image of the bad shepherd as the ultimate condemnation of the leaders of Jerusalem. These are particularly powerful passages and many of Jesus’ original listeners would have thought they condemned Jesus for reaching out to Zacchaeus. Luke would have understood this feeling, used it and we can understand the power of this passage only if we do as well.

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Faith Revealing Truth

Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus,
James Tissot, 1886-1896, Brooklyn Museum

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Thessalonians 1:11–2:2
October 30, 2022

We shall be reading the second letter to the Thessalonians for the next three weeks. It presents considerable technical problems. Scholars are uncertain who wrote it, from where, to whom, and indeed when. Some of these issues are interesting but examining them too closely may obscure that the letter reveals a consensus on the meaning of Jesus’ return for all time and fake news for ours.

The letter is called of “Second Letter to the Thessalonians.” It may not have been written by Paul nor to the Thessalonians, but it does examine the major theme of the letter, the return of Jesus.

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Homily – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Smith)

We read so much about the Pharisees in the New Testament that it is easy to forget that during Jesus’ ministry they were not the only nor even the most powerful Jewish sect. Scholars tell us that they have such a prominent place in the New Testament because the Pharisees were the only organized group of Jews that survived the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. They were in effect our only Jewish competition. The Pharisees were serious and thoughtful people with noble aspirations. They sought to bind everything they did in the day to God. Perhaps then a more important reason the Pharisees are mentioned so often in the New Testament is that Jesus, the gospel writers, and Paul saw them not only as competition but as a warning. The corruption of the best is the worst and Christians who also sought to give their entire lives to God could fall into the same trap.

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Living as a Christian Leader

The Pharisee and the Publican,
James Tissot, c. 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:10–14)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Timothy 4:6–8, 16–18
October 23, 2022

We will complete our reading of 2nd Timothy this week. We have suggested that it was written by an associate of St. Paul soon after the apostle’s death. The author mentions many people who we can presume were real and that they and their stories were known to the Pauline community. We have approached the letter as a novel in the form of a letter. This does not mean that the incidents related did not happen to Paul and the original readers were not unaware of them.

This is also the end of the letter, and the author will bring the many themes that he has examined throughout the letter together. The chapter begins with Paul commissioning Timothy as a church leader:
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Homily – 29th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Smith)

On first reading, today’s parable may seem uneventful. The widow does not strike the judge nor does the judge change and become just. He is more like the rich man in the story of Lazarus (16:19-31) who goes cluelessly to hell than Zacchaeus who repents and becomes a disciple (19:1-10). There is no movement either externally or internally. That indeed is the point and gives the parable its weight and power. 

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Being Formed in His Word

Old Woman Praying, Arent de Gelder, c. 1700

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.'”
(Luke 18:1–5)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Timothy 3:14-4:2
October 16, 2022

We continue today with our reading of the 2nd letter of St. Paul to Timothy. We are approaching it as an epistolary novel. Although the author is not St. Paul, he is writing not long after Paul’s death to people known by Paul and the community. His overall aim is to show that Paul’s gospel can continue without Paul but not without the ideas that Paul believed and the virtues he lived. One of the advantages of this novel approach is that it shows us the importance of a personal relationship with those with whom we wish to share the good news.

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Remembering Jesus Is Risen

Healing of the Ten Lepers, Jesus Mafa, 1973
from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr.
(About this Image)

Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”
(Luke 17:17–19)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Timothy 2:8–13
October 9, 2022

Last week we began examining the second letter of Paul to St Timothy
and I suggested that we read it as an epistolary novel. That is a novel
written in the form of a letter or letters. We will assume that the
author knew both Paul and Timothy as would many of those who read the
letter. The people are most likely real, and the situations would be
authentic. We will once more for convenience refer to the author as
Paul.

The instructions that Paul gave to Timothy on building the church are
less directed to its administrative structure than the attitudes and
virtues needed to lead a church. This week he will emphasize that no
matter who becomes Christian, the gospel requires a lively recognition
that Jesus was a Jew and that following him will not be easy.

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