Today’s readings are again directed to believers, communities of faith. As in last week’s reading, Amos confronts us with a condemnation of those whose lives are focused on pleasure and self-absorption. The psalm contrasts that focus with the Lord’s—justice for the oppressed; food for the hungry; freedom for captives; sight to the blind; raising of those who are bowed down; loving the just; protecting strangers, orphans, and the widow; and by doing so, thwarting the way of the wicked. Timothy urges the pursuit of righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Luke tells the familiar tale of the wealthy man and the poor beggar at his doorstep, who experience life very differently in this world and in the next. We are once again being given clear indications about how God intends for us to live our lives.
Two of today’s readings make it quite clear that God is on the side of the poor. Amos describes in detail the exploitation of the poor and needy. The psalm repeats that God acts to benefit the poor and lowly. But Luke turns things upside down, telling a tale of a conflicted steward, about to be fired, who demonstrates his cleverness and is rewarded. Like the community to whom Paul writes in Timothy, these readings are personal, directed to believers, members of the Jewish and Christian communities, who struggle to deal with personal choices about how to conduct their lives. They offer an outline for how God wishes us to live in a world as complicated and as confusing as
Welcome to "Lost and Found Sunday"! Just in case being in church makes us proudly consider ourselves especially religious, today's Gospel suggests that we'd be wiser to admit that we're sometimes lost. Then we'll eventually be happily counted among Jesus' "found," because today Jesus focuses on a lost sheep, lost coin, lost son. Jesus does so because the Pharisees and scribes, proudly considering themselves especially religious, "began to complain" that Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them." So Jesus warns them—and us—to stop judging others. Marvel instead that God's amazing grace has found us! Indeed, we should become Jesus' friends lovingly trying to find others. So Exodus asks, if God "relented in punishment" and pardoned us, shouldn't we forgive fellow sinners graciously? Even Paul admits his "arrogance" as "foremost among sinners." We too, happy at being "mercifully treated," should share with everyone else Jesus' unfailing patience.
With any luck, summer delights will continue a while past last weekend’s Labor Day: refreshing recreation (with maybe an occasional swim) or enjoyable relaxation on the deck (with tasty outdoor grilling). Truth is, for some of us, this year’s Labor Day came way too early. With many schools back in session for a while already, mealtimes and driving schedules needed readjustment to coordinate youth sports with adult commitments. Some religious education and parish programs resumed, too. No surprise, then, that this weekend’s scriptures sound a little like post-summer challenges. For instance, Wisdom reminds us that believers in God can never be content with “timid deliberations” and “unsure plans.” Paul challenges longtime friend and follower Philemon to “let the good you do be voluntary.” Jesus instructs “great crowds” traveling with him—including us—on three things necessary for all true disciples to accomplish. On this early autumn weekend, our scriptures describe disciples’ lifelong labors.
The readings today center on mindfulness, awareness of where we stand in God's plan. The mountain of Sinai carries a message of the majesty and distance of God, while Jesus' presence as host of the banquet speaks of intimacy and mystery. September's shadow calls us all to mindfulness as we prepare to return to life outside of summer. The Christian life holds these two places of knowledge of God in careful balance. Even in the accounts of the Passion we see the table of the upper room in balance with the Mount of Olives.READ MORE