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Scrutinised by people admired by God

Zacheus had everything in life and yet is deeply dissatisfied. He has participated in many banquets and is still looking for food that satisfies.

The need he experiences is so compelling, so irresistible that to satisfy it he is willing to challenge the taunts of the crowd that did not sympathise with him.

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God doesn’t look at merit certificates

The parable in today’s gospel is directed at Christians of all times. The idea of gaining merit before God is profoundly rooted in our thought patterns. 

From the outset, we dislike the hypocritical, disagreeable, proud and presumptuous Pharisee. Our sympathies are all with the publican who, poor guy, did something wrong, but has a heart of gold. 

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From healing to faith

We can run the risk of reducing the message of today’s gospel to a lesson of good manners, to remember to say thank you to those who help us. 

The 10 lepers of the gospel represent all the people, the entire humanity far away from God. All of us—Luke wants to tell us—are lepers and need to encounter Jesus. No one is pure; we all carry on our skin the sign of death that only the word of Christ can cure.

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Can we continue to live in a religion of merits?

Can faith grow? If faith is reduced to the assent given to a list of truths, it cannot grow. But, if faith is growing in an unconditional trust in the Lord, then, it is easy to realise that it can grow or diminish.

We believe in Jesus, but we do not trust him totally. We don’t have the courage to untie ourselves from certain habits, to make certain renouncements. Here we have a faith that needs to strengthen itself.

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Inequality of wealth is not God’s plan

In ancient Israel, it was not possible to enrich yourself at the expense of the others because, at the coming of the jubilee year, in fact, all must be returned to the legitimate owners (Leviticus 25). 

Those who are not afraid of the punishment of God had already begun to add house to house and join field to field (Isaiah 5:8).

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A lost person is God’s defeat

Two parables of mercy will be offered to us in this Sunday’s gospel, that of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

The parables are addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees rather than the tax collectors and sinners who were seeking Jesus eagerly to hear what he had to say.

They frowned at this, muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 

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Discipleship is demanding

In today’s gospel—Jesus is amazed to see that “large crowds were walking along with him.”

He is seized by doubt thinking there is a misunderstanding, that the crowds have misunderstood his words. He turns and begins to explain what is involved in the choice to be his disciple.

Jesus makes three tough requests all of which end with the same severe refrain: cannot be my disciple!

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Positions of power in the Church

In today’s passage, we are in the house of a Pharisee at the end of the liturgy in the synagogue, and Jesus is one of the guests. In a Jewish banquet, a rigid etiquette is observed, as there are hierarchies to be respected. 

Seats are allocated carefully: at the centre are the people of honour who were invited to sit beside the host. At the same time, Jesus notices the awkward attitudes, embarrasment and clumsiness of people who were asked to take lower seats. 

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All are welcome but don’t be late

In today’s passage, Luke presents a Jesus with threats and condemnations. His advice is even strange—strive to enter through the narrow gate!

In Luke’s communities, laxity, fatigue, presumption of being right with God, arrogance, the belief that good intentions are sufficient and that salvation can be obtained cheaply have infiltrated. Luke realises that the risk of being excluded from the kingdom looms over many Christians. 

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Water and fire discord and peace

Today’s gospel combines a series of rather enigmatic sayings of the Lord. Let’s start with the images of fire and baptism. After the flood in the time of Noah, God swears: “Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 

From this promise a conviction is born and spread in Israel that, to cleanse the world of iniquity, God would no longer use water, but fire.