Fr Bob Writes – July 31, 2016

In our gospel this Sunday, Jesus is asked to mediate in a family quarrel over an inheritance, and refuses to be drawn into the dispute.  Below is a commentary by Fr Dempsey on this passage:

“Most people don’t get bent out of shape over issues of inheritance…who gets what and how things should be divided up.  Nevertheless, I have heard many an account of siblings at odds with one another, some not speaking to one another for years, over questions of inheritance.  In Jewish society at the time of Jesus, all the children in the family shared in the inheritance, the eldest son receiving a greater portion than the others.  The fellow in our gospel reading appeals to Jesus as an authority figure to support his case against his brother.  Who was most greedy, whether this  man or his brother or both, we don’t know, but it seems that both were putting a pretty high value on material possessions and that this conflict was dividing the family.

The parable that Jesus goes on to tell responds to that tendency and the ultimate vanity or waste of time and energy expended in acquiring and accumulating material possessions. ..how it robs people of greater relational and spiritual blessings.

Have you ever experienced a conflict with siblings over the distribution of a parent’s possessions?   How important are material things in your life?  We haven’t changed a great deal since Jesus’ time.  This reading is as counter-cultural today as it was back then.  What cultural values in our society tend to be at odds with the values Jesus encourages?  How can we best uphold the values of Jesus while being part of our North American society?

Fr Bob Writes – July 17, 2016

Both our first reading and gospel this Sunday show great examples of the gift of hospitality.  Hospitality was and is so much a part of the Middle Eastern culture.  It is engrained in the people.

In our first reading, Abraham invites three strangers to a meal and his offer is accepted.  To refuse hospitality would have been an insult.  Such was the culture of Abraham in which a man’s reputation was measured more by his generosity and hospitality than by his wealth or status in society.  Consider the amount of food set before Abraham’s three visitors.  Three measures of flour is the equivalent of a half bushel or 30 pounds of flour.  That’s a lot of rolls in addition to a whole roasted calf set before the visitors.  Such was the culture of hospitality in which Jesus would provide 150 gallons of choice wine for a wedding feast and feed 5,000 with twelve baskets of food left over.  The leftovers would not go to waste, but placing far more before the guests than they could eat was a mark of generous hospitality. What are some indicators of a person’s character or importance in our Canadian society?  Abraham did not show hospitality so as to get anything in return, but, through the visitors, God promises to be generous to Abraham in return by finally granting him a son through Sarah.  God is never outdone in generosity!!

Martha, in our gospel story, is in the same tradition as Abraham in showing hospitality.  Her sister Mary also shared the same basic attitude of showing hospitality to visitors, but she had different priorities than her sister in making Jesus welcome to their home.  The two attitudes are meant to be complementary, not in opposition to each other.  There is a time to be active in service of the Lord, as last week’s parable of the Good Samaritan shows, and there is a time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.  The trick lies in knowing when is the right time for what.

How would you show hospitality to Jesus should he come to your home?  How do you show Christian hospitality to others?

Fr Bob Writes – July 10, 2016

The familiar and much-loved parable of the Good Samaritan which Jesus tells in our gospel this Sunday has timeless value.  Countless individuals and groups have interpreted and re-interpreted the story to suit their own culture and times.  The wounded man, left for dead and ignored by the priest and Levite in turn, has been cast and re-cast to suit each generation’s example of the marginalized and despised: ethnic minority, AIDS victim, leper, tramp, take your pick.  Which category of society inspires us most with dread and revulsion?  They become the challenge to the Christian of the day to show mercy on them, as the Samaritan does on the half-dead Jew in the parable.

Behind this story is the culture of animosity felt between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus.  Occupying the same country, they nonetheless despised each other.  They had their own creed, their own place of worship, their own expectation of a Savior, and rejected their fellow country-men’s version of these.  Only a couple of Sundays ago, Luke’s gospel told us the story of Jesus and the disciples making their way to Jerusalem and being chased out of a town in Samaria because the people there knew they were going to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, instead of at their own place of worship.  The apostles James and John want to call down fire from heaven to destroy the town, yet it was they who are rebuked by Jesus, not the Samaritans.  Jesus shows time and again his openness and welcome to Samaritans which would have upset and challenged his disciples in their Jewish xenophobia.  And this parable of the Good Samaritan would have been the icing on the cake as far as they were concerned.  Note how the lawyer in the gospel passage this Sunday cannot bring himself to even say the word “Samaritan” in answer to Jesus’ question as to who proved the neighbour in his parable.  He can barely get out the words :The one, I suppose, who showed him mercy,” no doubt through gritted teeth!!

And so this parable of the Good Samaritan challenges us, once again, to re-examine our deeply-ingrained prejudices and ask ourselves, ‘Which group or individual do I instinctively shy away from , in disgust or fear or suspicion?  In this Year of Mercy especially, Jesus invites us to move beyond the limits of our own cultural discrimination to prove neighbour to those in any kind of need.