Resources - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year A: Matthew
23:1-12 - They do not practice what they preach - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
chapter concludes what has been, a sustained attack on the leadership of the Scribes
and Pharisees. For these last few weeks of Ordinary Time we will hear Jesus speaking
to his disciples preparing them for what lies ahead. Jesus does not couch his
last attack on the Jewish leaders in diplomatic language; he calls them hypocrites
and warns the people about their behaviour.
Jesus is addressing
the people and his disciples but Matthew's audience is his own community who are
greatly influenced by Jewish leadership. Jesus acknowledges that the Jewish leaders
have great enthusiasm for the teachings of Moses and the Hebrew Scriptures and
Jesus encourages the people to accept those teachings but warns them not to follow
the way the Jewish leaders live out these teachings.
Jewish leaders were also adding heavy burdens to the interpretation of the Torah
that were making people's lives difficult and worship of God is not about burdening
people. By contrast Jesus proclaims that "I have come so that you may have
life and have it to the full" so if the religious teachings were not life
giving, they were not of God, they were of men. We hear echoes of Jesus' invitation
to "come to me all you who are heavily burdened
my yoke is light."
there is a clear differentiation between the burdens laid upon the people by the
Jewish leaders and the lifting of burdens by Jesus. Matthew writes for his community
who were defining themselves against the Jewish leadership of their time and showing
that their "Teacher" remains the greatest of all time.
words of Jesus remain a challenge for us because religious hypocrisy remains a
problem today. We are called "practising Catholics" for a good reason,
we are practising, so as to understand, the teachings of Jesus, it means that
we have not got it quite right yet. It is worth reflecting on whether we draw
attention to ourselves by numerous genuflections or throwing ourselves on our
knees so as to appear overly pious, or drawing attention to any of our good deeds.
consistently asks for "servant leadership" where so much of what we
do is done quietly and any adulation is directed towards God or the community.
There are any number of people who are quietly and peacefully transforming those
around them and they contrast those who criticise Readers, Extraordinary Ministers
or anyone who does not do things the way they have decided they should be done.
Our question remains - are we transformed into children of the light through our
religious experience or are we insisting on more and more burdens, tests and genuflections
to "prove" that others are worthy?
Year C: Luke 19:1-10 - Zacchaeus up the tree
- 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Tax collectors were
not the most popular of people in 1st C Israel. They worked for the Romans and
collected money from the Jews. More often than not the tax collectors were Jews
themselves and so were marginalised in a society based on honour and shame. Zacchaeus
was a rich tax collector and so he was even more estranged. Yes, he could buy
some friends but he could not buy respect.
keen to see Jesus and was not concerned about making himself look silly by climbing
a tree to achieve this. Certainly no one in the crowd would be prepared to make
way for him. Of all the people who had come out to see Jesus, Zacchaeus is chosen
by Jesus and no doubt there would have been many good people in the crowd. Jesus
has made it clear that he has come for the lost and the excluded. "This man
too is a son of Abraham." Zacchaeus responded immediately to Jesus and the
sincerity of his transformation is seen in the extent of his restitution. This
does not stop the 'murmuring' of the crowd. Is it a case of jealousy? Are they
judging Jesus as ignorant of Zacchaeus' behaviour? Are they seeing themselves
as better than Zacchaeus and so more deserving of the attention of Jesus?
the question becomes "who is more in need of conversion?" Because of
Zacchaeus' acceptance of Jesus and his changes to his life, salvation has come
to his household. The presence of Jesus makes possible what is humanly impossible.
Zacchaeus becomes respectable because Jesus has come to save the lost. Righteous
people can become so caught up in their own respectability that they miss out
on opportunities of transformation, situations where God is offering salvation
'today' and not be aware of their own need for conversion. We need to ask who
we are excluding - from our families, from our friends, from our inner-circles
in our work places. Do we make some people buy our respect by forcing them to
agree with our positions or stances? Are we prepared to 'go out on a limb' in
the hope that Jesus will stop nearby and offer us salvation TODAY.
Youth Ministry Resources 31st Sunday
in Ordinary Time
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