31st Sunday in Ordinary Time [a]

Engaging Faith | Wed, Oct 26, 2011

By John Bucki, S.J.
Source: Center of Concern

This week's lectionary reflections

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time [a]
 October 30, 2011

Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13
Matthew 23:1-12

October 31: Halloween
November 1: All Saints
November 2: All Souls
November 6: Daylight Savings Time ends in the U.S.
November 8: Election Day in the US


Poverty is a scourge against which humanity must struggle ceaselessly.  We are called to an ever greater solidarity so that no one will be excluded from society.
Pope Benedict XVI, October 16, 2005

The one gift of salvation coming from God through Jesus-Sophia in the Spirit upends power relationships, transforming all teachers, fathers, masters, great ones into servants of the little ones. … Jesus’ Abba signifies a compassionate, liberating God….
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is, 82

The solidarity which binds all people together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.
John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, #157

There is a Zen story about a man riding a horse which is galloping every quickly.  Another man, standing alongside the road, yells at him, “where are you going?” and the man on the horse yells back, “I don’t know.  Ask the horse.”  I think that is our situation.  We are riding many horses that we cannot control.  The proliferation of armaments, for instance is a horse. We have tried our best, but we cannot control these horses.  Our lives are so busy.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, 65

Thoughts for your consideration

Catholic Social Teaching affirms the principle of solidarity or to put it simply, we believe that we are all brothers and sisters.  In the words of today’s first reading we were all created by the same God.  We have one common parent.  We are called not to rule over or dominate one another, but rather to be of service to one another and to live in loving solidarity with each other.   Jesus was upset with those in authority who sought honors or prestige or control over others. Jesus was critical of those who focused on themselves and not the common good.  Jesus was about service.

We can apply this perspective to some of the important issues of our day.

1.    War and peace:  Human beings, corporations, and their governments work to control and dominate others.  They resort to war and violence in order to gain or preserve a place of power, wealth or control.  This is not the way of Jesus.  

2.    Economic injustice: Human beings and their corporations and institutions work to gain wealth and economic domination.  In the process people are sometimes left out.  Wages are sometimes inadequate and unjust. Capital is sometimes misallocated.  Billions of people remain very poor. Some have too much and some have too little. Children and the poor are not taken care of. This is not the way of Jesus.  This seems to be the point of the “occupy wall street” people.

3.    Racism and xenophobia: Human beings sometimes dominate and stereotype others. Sometimes whole groups of people are “left out.”  This discrimination can be reflected in our laws and policies. It can be reflected in our trade policy or in our economic policies or in the way we deal with refugees and immigrants. We forget that we are all brothers and sisters.  God’s covenant is forgotten.  This too is not the way of Jesus.

4.    Political arguments: In the United States, politicians and newspeople end up verbally fighting with each other and focus on attacking each other and winning “points” rather than entering into a true dialogue and discernment of the truth. This is not the way of Jesus.

Divisions come about when people are looking for power or control rather than looking for God, wisdom, solidarity, and the common good.

The way of Jesus is wonderfully imagined in the maternal image of the second reading: “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.”

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

 Jesus says: “The greatest among you must be your servant.”  
Who are the people who have given you good examples of this type of greatness?  
When have you seen this attitude exhibited in the policies of an institution or government?  

Once an American tourist called on the Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim. The tourist was intrigued by the fact that the Rabbi's house was simply filled with books. His house was very simple with only a table and a bench for furniture.
The surprised visitor enquired, “Rabbi, where is your furniture?
The Rabbi shot back the same question to him, “Where is yours?"
The puzzled visitor asked, “Mine???, well I am only a visitor"
“So am I," said the Rabbi

Actions – Links

The Peace Pulpit, Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton
The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company is able to make available Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton's weekly Sunday homilies.  Go to:  

“Occupy movement is 'very biblical'”
from the Catholic Register (A Canadian Paper) written by Michael Swan

Crazy Facts
Who Are America's Poor Children? The Official Story
“Fourteen million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $22,050 a year for a family of four. The number of children living in poverty increased by 21 percent between 2000 and 2008. There are 2.5 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000.   Not only are these numbers troubling, the official poverty measure tells only part of the story. Research consistently shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet. Children living in families with incomes below this level – for 2009, $44,100 for a family of four – are referred to as low income. Forty-one percent of the nation’s children – more than 29 million in 2008 – live in low – income families.”

United Nations Population Fund: 7 billion people by October 31
It is estimated that the world populations will hit 7 billion people on or about October 31, 2011.

Prayers of Intercession

Response: In You, O God, we find peace.
For an end to war and violence, we pray….
For fair wages and just working conditions for all workers, we pray….
For corporations and institutions that they might respect their employees and respect the common good of all, we pray…..
For an end to racism, xenophobia, and all the biases which undermine the dignity of people, we pray….
For refugees and immigrants and all those seeking a welcoming place on our planet, we pray….
For the homeless and the hungry in all of our communities, we pray…..
For healthy and respectful political discourse that we may learn from and listen to one another, we pray…..
Prayer - Meditation

Prayer for Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one creator; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


Philippians, Chapter 2, contains a wonderful hymn of praise to the humble spirit of Jesus.

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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