Tuesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 TI 2:1-8, 11-14
You must say what is consistent with sound doctrine,
namely, that older men should be temperate, dignified,
self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance.
Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior,
not slanderers, not addicted to drink,
teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women
to love their husbands and children,
to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers,
under the control of their husbands,
so that the word of God may not be discredited.Urge the younger men, similarly, to control themselves,
showing yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect,
with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech
that cannot be criticized,
so that the opponent will be put to shame
without anything bad to say about us.For the grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of the great God
and of our savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.
Responsorial Psalm PS 37:3-4, 18 AND 23, 27 AND 29
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
By the LORD are the steps of a man made firm,
and he approves his way.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
The just shall possess the land
and dwell in it forever.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Alleluia JN 14:23
Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 17:7-10
Jesus said to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
Another warning from Luke today (and one which is only found in this gospel) about complacency. As we read this parable we must be careful – as with many of the others – not to confuse matters by dragging in issues which are anachronistic.
Jesus asks if we had a slave who had spent the day working in the fields, would we invite him to sit down, have his supper and take a good rest? Or would we not rather tell him first to prepare his master’s supper and, after the master had eaten his fill, only then would the slave be able to eat and rest? Would we even express gratitude to a servant who was only doing what was expected of him?
Here, let us forget current ideas about union rules and democracy and what have you! No one in those times, either an employer or a slave, would have thought of questioning what Jesus is saying. At the same time, we might remember Jesus saying that watchful servants will be welcomed by their master who will make them sit down and will wait personally on them (Luke 12:37) and that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as an example of service.
What we are dealing with here is our relationship with God. The point Jesus is making is that God need never be grateful to us for anything we do for him. No matter how much we do for him, we can never put him in our debt. Everything we give to God (or to God through others) is simply giving back to him a small portion of what he has already given us. It is well said in Preface IV for Masses on Weekdays: “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace.”
God can never be in our debt. He can never be under any obligation to us. Perhaps that is what some of the Pharisees thought. They felt that, because they kept the Law perfectly, God owed them salvation. We see that in the scene of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the Temple, where the Pharisee’s prayer gives the impression that God should be deeply grateful, among so many negligent people, to have such a good person as him.
We can do the same thing ourselves when, for instance, we think that by saying certain prayers or performing certain acts (novenas, indulgences, pilgrimages, etc) God should jump to attention and do what we are telling him to do, to give us what we are asking for.
All our living out of the Gospel is not a compliment paid to God. On the contrary, we can never be grateful enough to him for showing us the way to truth, love, freedom and happiness which Jesus taught us and for giving us the grace to walk his Way. With God, all our giving is only a partial giving back.
What is the role of the elderly? Often they think they are useless. They think they cannot do much. In the sunset of their life, they seem to be waiting only for death, languishing away their days, regretting, moaning, lamenting and complaining. They are insecure, seek unreasonable attention and make demands on others. When attention is not met, they become interfering in the lives of others, fault finding, judgmental, critical, negative and always pouring cold water on any initiative of the young. They are imposing in their ways and always discouraging to those who come after them. Nothing seems to please them in spite of attempts to satisfy their whims and fancies.
Such attitudes are counter-productive. Instead of aging gracefully and loved, they become a nuisance and often intolerable to those looking after them. This is not how one should grow old. This is the advice of St Paul in his letter to Titus. He wrote, “The older men should be reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy.” Indeed, the elderly must live a dignified life befitting their years of contribution to the family and society, sharing their wisdom and their life experiences. They must maintain a serenity that commands respect and reverence. They must have self-respect and continue to be active in life according to their age, mobility and cognitive level.
In this way, the elderly are called to play their role as mentors and sage to the young. Because of their knowledge and experience, they are the ones that the young could turn to for counsel and advice. Most of all, they could be a source of inspiration to the young. The elderly are most suitable for this role because knowledge is cumulative. The older we get, the more knowledge we acquire over time. Learning takes place beyond the few years of formal education we have, but continues throughout our whole life. Furthermore, most of us grow in wisdom and understanding through the experiences of life and the mistakes we make. We learn to become wiser, more realistic, more humane, more understanding and down to earth not through theories, ideologies and book knowledge, but as a result of our life experiences.
Experience and knowledge of course is a double-edged sword. Many of us, because of our past experiences, seek to impose our experience and views on others, forgetting that the experiences we have are always limited. No one has a monopoly of experiences. Often, experiences shape the way we look at life, positive or negative events that we have encountered. This is where the danger lies. We can become so narrow-minded and myopic that we see life only through our experiences and dismiss other peoples’ experiences. So in guiding the young, we must be careful that we are not wet blankets to their plans and dreams. Our task is to inspire, encourage and enlighten, not to discourage or to destroy. Most of all, we must never impose our views on the young because their times are different from ours and the challenges are also very different. What was a help to us might not be to them today.
So what should we impart to the young? Firstly, we need to help them to be well grounded in the truth. Truth is not merely doctrines but the wisdom of life experiences. Truth is not merely academic but existential. This is what St Paul advises us. That is why those guiding the young must have sound faith and be grounded in the truth. Otherwise we mislead the young and cause them greater harm. We cannot be mentors unless we continue to grow in faith and in the truth. This calls for a prayerful life and contemplation. Elders must spend the remaining years of their lives contemplating on their actions and the lessons they could share with the future generation. Some write their biographies, which is a good thing.
Secondly, we need to guide our young people in prudence. Young people are passionate but often reckless without weighing carefully the risks involved in the actions they take. They tend to be compulsive and reactive to situations, often acting and reacting without thinking. They are not able to see further than the immediate need. They have yet to learn responsibility, not just for themselves but also for those close to them or under their charge. At this point of their life, they are searching for their own identity and can think only of themselves. Hence they still do not understand the meaning of responsibility. They do not understand the risks and the consequences. For those who us who have gone through life, we would have been tamed over the years and come to realize that rash decisions can cause irreparable harm. We come to understand how our actions and words can affect not just our loved ones but the lives of future generations, for better or for worse.
Thirdly, they must teach the young to be sober. Young people tend to allow their passions and emotions to control them. They are temperamental and impulsive. They are unstable and behave like wild horses seeking to be tamed. A sober man is one who has his mind under control and is able to control his passions and instinct. He knows that giving in to self-indulgence can destroy his health, his life and his family. The follies of life are not worth the little pleasures that we get out of them. A little pleasure but a whole life of misery and pain! That is the tragic mistake of man.
Yet, in helping the young, we must be patient and understanding. We must avoid being impatient and judgmental because we only put them off and alienate them. We should avoid being reprimanding of the young. We must appreciate that they lack experience in life. Often they are over confident of themselves and therefore tend to be reckless, stubborn and self-willed. Reflecting on our own lives; we too had walked that way. We disregarded the wisdom and advice of our elders and upon looking back we regret. Well, experience whilst being the best teacher also requires us to pay a high price for learning. Unfortunately, no one knows something until he experiences it. We could have saved the school fees, but that is life. We grow through mistakes and sufferings. So we must be sympathetic, forgiving, tolerant and accepting of the young when they make mistakes or insist on going their own ways. We do not try to control their lives because they need to grow. Giving them freedom and respect for their decisions is the way to earn respect from them. The worst thing is to become resentful of them and their ways.
In the final analysis, the best way of mentoring is not by teaching but by living. We teach best by our life rather than words. St Paul reminded Titus that if his teaching were to be effective, he must walk the talk. Our duty is to teach not just doctrines and truth but to live them in our very life if we are to be truly convincing. There is nothing like a living book and a living example of love and compassion. That is why as elders we must, as St Paul urges us, conduct ourselves well so that we can be an inspiration and example to others. We must show ourselves to be people in control of ourselves and wise in our words and actions. If we are to help the young to exercise self-discipline, then we must show that we are in mastery of our moods, words and temper.
If we show ourselves to be sincere in what we do and in seeking to help them, they will be more docile and receptive to our advice. This is what St Paul wrote, “In everything you do make yourself an example to them in your sincerity and earnestness and in keeping all that you say so wholesome that nobody will be at a loss, with no accusation to make against us.” If we help them without selfish motives, we will avoid the temptations of imposing our views on them. Often young people distrust their elders because they think that they are self-serving; that their interests are not with them. They will trust us more and be grateful to us for our advice if we give them without conditions and expectations, even of acceptance. By inviting them to live a just life, they will find salvation for themselves and peace in their lives.
Let us teach and show everyone that we are merely servants of God. We are not here to proclaim our ideas or ourselves. We are here to be servants of the gospel. We take care of others, especially the young so that they too can be servants of God and find meaning and purpose. We have no claims on them, only God alone does.
Let Jesus ultimately be our only mentor. There is only one teacher and that is the Christ. St Paul wrote, “You see, God’s grace has been revealed, and it had made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions.” Jesus showed Himself to be a mentor in life and in death. St Paul said, “He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.” This is the kind of mentorship that we need today. We need mentors who are ready to sacrifice themselves for the good of others by having no ambition of their own except to do good and give hope and life to others.Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
• The Gospel today narrates the parable which is found only in Luke’s Gospel, and has no parallel in the other Gospels. The parable wants to teach that our life has to be characterized by an attitude of service. It begins with three questions and at the end Jesus himself gives the answer.
• Luke 17, 7-9: The three questions of Jesus. It treats of three questions taken from daily life, and therefore, the auditors have to think each one on his own experience to give a response according to that experience. The first question: “Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep would say to him when he returned from the fields, ’Come and have your meal at once?” All will answer: “No!” Second question: “Would he not be more likely to say, ‘Get my supper ready; fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You yourself can eat and drink afterwards?” All will answer: “Yes! Certainly!” Third question: “Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told?” All will answer “No!” The way in which Jesus asks the questions, people become aware in which way he wants to orientate our thought. He wants us to be servants to one another.
• Luke 17, 10: The response of Jesus. At the end Jesus himself draws a conclusion which was already implicit in the questions: “So with you, when you have done all you have been told to do, say ‘We are useless servants, we have done no more than our duty”. Jesus himself has given us example when he said: “The Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10, 45). Service is a theme which Luke likes. Service represents the form in which the poor in the time of Jesus, the anawim, were waiting for the Messiah: not like a king and glorious Messiah, high priest or judge, but rather as the Servant of Yahweh, announced by Isaiah (Is 42, 1-9).
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, says to the Angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word!” (Lk 1, 38). In Nazareth, Jesus presents himself as the Servant described by Isaiah (Lk 4, 18-19 and Is 61, 1-2). In Baptism and in the Transfiguration, he was confirmed by the Father who quotes the words addressed by God to the Servant (Lk 3, 22; 9, 35 e Is 42, 1). Jesus asks his followers: “Anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20, 27). Useless servants! This is the definition of the Christian. Paul speaks about this to the members of the community of Corinth when he writes: “I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God gave growth. In this neither the planter nor the waterer counts for anything, only God who gave growth” (1Co 3, 6-7). Paul and Apollos are nothing; only simple instruments, “Servants”.
The only one who counts is God, He alone! (1Co 3, 7).
• To serve and to be served. Here in this text, the servant serves the master and not the master the servant. But in the other text of Jesus the contrary is said: “Blessed those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. In truth, I tell you, he will do up his belt, sit them down at table and wait on them” (Lk 12, 37). In this text, the master serves the servant and not the servant the master. In the first text, Jesus spoke in the present. In the second text, Jesus is speaking in the future. This contrast is another way of saying: the one who is ready to lose his life out of love for Jesus and the Gospel will find it (Mt 10, 39; 16, 25). Anyone who serves God in this present life will be served by God in the future life!
• How do I define my life?
• Do I ask myself the three questions of Jesus? Do I live, perhaps, like a useless servant?
The lives of the just are in Yahweh’s care,
their birthright will endure for ever.
Yahweh guides a strong man’s steps and keeps them firm;
and takes pleasure in him. (Ps 37,18.23)
Tags: aging gracefully, don't dismiss other peoples’ experiences, He sacrificed himself for us, Jesus showed Himself to be a mentor in life and in death, Lk 17:7-10, mentoring is not by teaching but by living, November 8 2016, pour yourself out, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 37, Their birthright will endure for ever, TI 2:1-8 11-14, to be well grounded in the truth