Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
Romans 6:12-18

Brothers and sisters:
Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies
so that you obey their desires.
And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin
as weapons for wickedness,
but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life
and the parts of your bodies to God
as weapons for righteousness.
For sin is not to have any power over you,
since you are not under the law but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law
but under grace?
Of course not!
Do you not know that if you present yourselves
to someone as obedient slaves,
you are slaves of the one you obey,
either of sin, which leads to death,
or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin,
you have become obedient from the heart
to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.
Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.
Commentary on
Rom 6:12-18

In the first part of this selection, St. Paul exhorts the Romans to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ and to avoid sin. He uses the unique existential argument that the Law defines sin and therefore Christians are not under the Law but under the Grace of Christ.

In the second part he defends the argument that obedience to Christ sets his audience on the road to salvation since obeying Christ’s commandments leads to righteousness and frees them from sin which was introduced by Adam and defined by the Law.

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 124:1b-3, 4-6, 7-8

R. (8a) Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say, had not the LORD been with us–
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive;
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us
a prey to their teeth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

We were rescued like a bird
from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Commentary on
Ps 124:1b-3, 4-6, 7-8

Psalm 124 is a song of thanksgiving. In these verses God is praised for rescuing his chosen from their enemies and natural disasters so they could live in the freedom he had promised in his covenant.

Luke 12:39-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, he will put him
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
Commentary on
Lk 12:39-48

Following the Lord’s initial exhortation to his audience about the need to remain faithful even if it seemed the hour was getting late, St. Peter asks the Lord if that message is for everyone or just for the disciples. The Lord responds with a parable similar to that which was used in the previous verses (
Luke 12:35-38) and then punctuates it with a special injunction for the disciples. He uses the analogy of a servant entrusted with the master’s property concluding with “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” The final verse in this passage answers St. Peter’s question clearly.


There is an interesting parallel between the passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans from the first reading and the Gospel of St. Luke’s parable of the servants. In St. Paul’s letter, he makes a complex argument that rather than being wholly good as the Pharisees may have supposed, the Law actually introduced sin to mankind by defining acts as sinful. Before the Law mankind was ignorant of good and evil as defined by God. How could there be sin if sin was not ever defined. It would be like going to visit a person at their home and being told upon entering that no one was allowed to wear shoes inside. The children growing up in such a home would assume that wearing shoes in the house was a bad thing since it was forbidden to them.

The Law of Moses defined God’s rules to the Hebrews and in their interpretation of those laws whole classes of regulations sprang up. The problem arose when the children of Israel ignored the authority of God the Father. He sent his only Son, the foretold Messiah, to fulfill the Law and to teach God’s children what the Law was intended to communicate about God’s will. When the Hebrew’s rejected the Lord, they rejected the freedom from sin He offered and they became slaves to an unfulfilled law which bound them in sin.

The parallel we find between St. Paul’s apology and the teachings of Christ in the Gospel is found in the existential nature of the arguments. In the Gospel, St. Peter is questions Jesus, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” – do the attitudes and instructions being given to the disciples regarding fidelity and service to the Gospel apply to all of the faithful? Jesus answers with a story the moral of which is the degree to which the people of God will be held accountable for their faithfulness. It is in direct proportion to the authority they assume in God’s service.

In other words, we define our responsibility by our ability to act upon the faith we have been given. In other words, the more faith we are given, the greater insights into God’s will for us, the more responsible we will be held for acting on those impulses and applying the gifts we are given. Again using analogy, the person who walks into a city street on a clear night and looks up might see as many as a thousand stars. That person could not be faulted for seeing so few. They could only see what their eyesight and the conditions of darkness allowed. That same person who walks to the summit of a mountain on a clear night would see thousands upon thousands of stars and might be amazed at what they could not see before. Going even further if that person had access to images from the Hubble Space telescope and could see the billions upon billions of stars and galaxies that existed, unseen from earth they would be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what can be seen of the universe God created.

To those of us with great access to the indwelling Holy Spirit and the faith that God walks with us always, great things are expected. The person with great strength of spirit is intended to be vigilant always for the means by which it can be used for God’s greater glory. Our prayer today is that we always seek the face of God in all we do and thereby remain vigilant so the Lord may never find us inattentive.


[2] The picture is “The Idle Servant” by Nicolaes Maes, 1655
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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