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September 9, 2004 Edition

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Living the Scriptures
Faith Alive!
This week's readings
Pope's Prayer Intentions

God's mercy is for everyone:
He rejoices when He finds us!

photo of Fr. Brian Wilk
Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Fr. Brian Wilk 

I am sure that many of us have experienced, either through the media or perhaps directly, stories of large corporations cutting back their workforces without any apparent consideration for the individuals they are letting go.

It seems to be all about profits, rather than the welfare of those losing their jobs. People really don't seem to matter.

This is where today's stories of the lost coin and the lost sheep come into focus. Unlike some business decisions, both focus on the value of the individual.

Now I suppose somebody could say why worry about one silly coin or one silly sheep. To a good shepherd each sheep is important and precious.

24th Sunday
in Ordinary Time
(Sept. 12, 2004)
Ex 32:7-11, 13-14
Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
1 Tm 1:12-17
Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

As far as the coin goes, I suspect that in the time of Jesus one lost coin would buy much more than a dime or quarter would today. With such purchasing power, it is easy to understand why the woman searched so diligently for it. It meant a lot to her.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus was not really talking about sheep and coins. He was talking about people, about sinners, about us. Jesus is gentle and loving in his approach to the sinner.

The Gospel for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time tells a story of Jesus welcoming sinners. The three parables show God's deep concern for sinners and for the lost ones, and his joy when a lost one is found.

Jesus is telling us every person is important and precious to God. The importance that God places on us as individuals is all the more greater when we stray and are lost. God will love us more, not less.

The Pharisees were outraged that Jesus would spend so much time with sinners. Yet in face of their objections Jesus was always welcoming and gentle. He truly came to call sinners.

He knew that rejection would never really help to change a person - to bring the person "back home." The presence that Jesus created helped people of his time - and us today - to feel accepted and loved. It is in the midst of love and acceptance that true change can come to our lives.

It is comforting to consider that from a human point of view, the approach of Jesus makes sense. A child who is lost, cold, and wet needs warmth and nourishment, not a lecture. It is love, understanding, and forgiveness - given unconditionally by God - that brings us back home and keeps us there when we stray.

Reflection questions

• Am I willing to face up to the times in my life when I do get lost in my relationship with God, and am I willing to seek God's help in finding my way back?

• Do I make a conscious effort each day, by the way I live, to stay on the path and not fall into the holes that the world digs in the spiritual road?

God loves us as individuals. God calls us as individuals. The responsibility is ours to be open to God's call in our lives, to seek forgiveness in times of trouble, and to ask God for guidance and grace to find the path home when we make the wrong turn.

I once read that it isn't only sheep that get lost or fall into holes. People do, too. But they aren't as smart as sheep, because often they are ashamed to ask, much less cry, for help.

Fr. Brian Wilk is parochial vicar of Our Lady Queen of Peace and St. Joseph Parishes in Madison.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • Biblical scholars help others to better understand the dynamics of the ancient societies in which salvation history unfolded.

  • Scholars use every means available to reconstruct the society of ancient Israel and to minimize the tendency to read contemporary customs and practices back into biblical texts.

  • The fundamental goal in reading or studying the Bible is to come into communion with God.

    Catholic News Service
    3211 Fourth St NE
    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    One thing clear in the Bible "is this: God fulfills all of his promises, and he is cause for hope," Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium, said in a 2001 speech. He stressed hope's necessity and urgency for people living in fearful times.

    Hope was among Pope John Paul II's interests when he announced in 1999 that he would visit major places of biblical history. He recalled how Moses, looking out from Mount Nebo, saw the Promised Land. Moses' "gaze from Nebo is the very symbol of hope. From that mountain he could see that God had kept his promises," the pope said.

    Ultimately, a dedicated journey into biblical history will help to uncover how God interacts with us even today. The pope said:

    "To go in a spirit of prayer from one [biblical] place to another ... in the area marked especially by God's intervention helps us not only to live our life as a journey, but also gives us a vivid sense of a God who has gone before us and leads us on, ... a God ... who became our traveling companion."

    full story

    What Are the Scholars Looking for in the Bible?
    By Father Dale Launderville, OSB

    Catholic News Service

    The fundamental goal for the church in reading and studying the Bible is to try to come into communion with God. As the living word of God, the Bible is an inexhaustible treasure of God's word.

    Still, while our knowledge about the books of the Bible may increase over time, our questions about God as described in the Bible never will come to a conclusion.

    full story 

    How Bible Scholars Break Open the Bible
    By Father Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS

    Catholic News Service

    The New Testament stories are meant to be read aloud and heard. This defines our task as Scripture scholars who explore how to teach the Gospel.

    As a teacher, my purpose is first to contribute to the development of good Christian storytellers, men and women who can take a written Gospel story and read it aloud so that its communicative potential springs to life.

    full story 

    A Biblical Story About the Past -- and the Present
    By Father David K. O'Rourke, OP

    Catholic News Service

    Some Bible stories are peopled by characters with strength and flaws like our own. The people can be very real -- sometimes real bad, but not unlike us. These histories all presuppose that amid all the human confusion the hand of God is somehow at work. The challenge is to find it.

    I think of one story from the Book of Kings. This story dates from the early history of the Jewish people, about 800 years before the time of Jesus. It describes a weak but corrupt ruler by the name of King Ahab. He lived in a beautiful hill area of Samaria, northwest of Jerusalem and overlooking the Mediterranean. Even today it is a lush region of green fields, abundant olive trees and productive vineyards.

    full story

    Faith Alive! logo
     Faith in the Marketplace
    This Week's Discussion Point:

    Tell of a book of the Bible that fascinates you. Why is this so?

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2004 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of September 12 - 18, 2004

    Sunday, Sept. 12, 2004
    Reading I: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14
    Reading II: 1 Tm 1:12-17
    Gospel: Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

    Monday, Sept. 13, 2004
    Reading I: 1 Cor 11:17-26, 33
    Gospel: Lk 7:1-10

    Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004
    Reading I: Nm 21:4b-9
    Reading II: Phil 2:6-11
    Gospel: Jn 3:13-17

    Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2004
    Reading I: 1 Cor 12:31--13:13
    Gospel: Jn 19:25-27

    Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004
    Reading I: 1 Cor 15:1-11
    Gospel: Lk 7:36-50

    Friday, Sept. 17, 2004
    Reading I: 1 Cor 15:12-20
    Gospel: Lk 8:1-3

    Saturday, Sept. 18, 2004
    Reading I: 1 Cor 15:35-37, 42-49
    Gospel: Lk 8:4-15

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    September General Intention

    Old people, an asset for the society: That old people may be considered an asset for the spiritual and human growth of society.

    September Mission Intention

    Growth and development of the ecclesial communities in Africa: That in Africa a true brotherly cooperation may develop among all those who work for the growth and development of ecclesial communities.

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