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Aug 23, 2013 Written by 

22nd Sunday in ordinary time year c (1st september, 2013) Be the first to comment!

Theme: Contract or Covenant?”

When he hosted high-ranking guests, former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was fond of taking them on evening walks on the grounds of the White House.

Inevitably, he would point skyward and recite, “That is the Spiral Galaxy of Andromeda.It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It is 2,500,000 light-years away. It consists of one hundred billion suns, many larger than our own sun.”

Then, after a brief silence, Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go in”. Roosevelt, even though he was the President, he was aware that in order for people to work together effectively and for truth to prevail, they needed a certain perspective regarding their position in the grand scheme of things. He realized that self-importance or a lack of the truthfulness we call humility militates against personal growth and interpersonal exchanges.

In today’s readings, Joshua bin Sira and Luke the evangelist have expressed similar insights in a more profound manner. Each calls his audience to stand in truth before God and others. As believers we are not to be enamored of what they see or unhappy because of what they don’t see. We are to look beyond our own perceived importance. Humility calls for a change of perspective that leads us to look at others first. Looking up at the stars may help; but it is that shift in perspective from me to you which is most effective. When we look outward rather than inward, we cultivate unselfishness; we recognize that the needs of others is an opportunity for elevating their status rather than our own. Valuing others above myself and my concerns affords them dignity. Caring for those who cannot reciprocate is perhaps, the ultimate test of humility, in that I have nothing to gain except the blessedness of giving. Then, in my selfless giving, I will begin to look for my identity not in the mirror but in their faces and in their needs. Then will I also be able to look at the stars, realize the truth of my smallness, and rejoice in the Creator who made both them and me.

When Aurelius Augustinius better known as Augustine the bishop of Hippo was converted to Christ in 387 AD, he was happy to share his experience with others. One of his wisest recommendations was this: “For those who would learn God’s ways, humility is the first thing, humility is the second thing and humility is the third.” Augustine had learnt, but not without difficulty and struggle, the truth for which every sincere believer searches and from which at times we also escape: God is all in all, and without God we are nothing. With God, however, we shine as brightly as any star, and as free as the 80-year-old person with grey hair who has finally begun to live life in fullness.

First Reading: Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

A businessman once asked the Servant of God Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who was serving as president of Tanzania at the time, how he could know when he had developed the attitude of a servant. He replied, “By how you act when you are treated like one.” In this text, Joshua ben Sira anticipated that teaching when he called his contemporaries to conduct themselves humbly and simply before others. Ben Sira gained his practical wisdom and good common sense throughout a lifetime of study and travel. In sharing what he had learned, the ancient wiseman and teacher intended to strengthen his audiences’ fidelity to their Jewish traditions, whether they lived in Judah or elsewhere throughout the world.

Again this text presents Joshua ben Sira’s wisdom concerning humility and pride as the words of a loving parent counseling a child in the fine act of social interaction. Ben Sira urged his audience to live modestly, simply and free of the pressures of excessive ambitiousness and not to yield to pretentiousness. The humility he urges upon his audiences is not a blind or passive subservience but an active, virtuous trust in God that translates into caring for others. It is important to note that Ben Sira did not direct his advice solely toward the lowly or the poor, for whom humble, simple living had become almost second nature. Rather, he called for society’s great ones (see 3:18) to strive for that truthfulness before God and others that did not equate their personal worth or importance with their material wealth which is never an easy challenge. The tendency to value ourselves and others in terms of property and money continues to characterize much our so called modern culture. Even in the Church, it is not usually the housekeeper or the gardener whose name is engraved and posted on plaques for all to see and admire. Instead it is normally rich donors who are memorialized in this way. Today, Joshua ben Sira and Jesus of Nazareth suggest a humble route to fame. They encourage us to be content with the reward of doing good here and now so as to enjoy the resurrection of the upright, which only God alone can give.

Second Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24

We need to put ourselves in the position of the original recipients of the letter to Hebrews to understand its purpose. In the first one hundred years of Christianity, believers in Jesus had endured a major persecution by Nero in the 60s, the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in the 70s, an even more widespread persecution by Domitian in the mid- to late 80s and a significant change in the complexion of the community from Jewish to gentile. These experiences were made worse by the lengthening delay of the returning Jesus and the doubts, fears and laxity that came about because of this delay. For some, these challenges were becoming more and more unsustainable, and a return to Judaism became an attractive alternative for some Jewish Christians.

Aware of their experiences and sympathetic to their struggles, the author of the letter to Hebrews encouraged his audience to remain patient and faithful to Christ. In this letter, the ancient writer repeatedly invited readers to recognize that a return to Judaism would be tantamount to a denial that God’s promises and the people’s messianic expectations had been fulfilled in Jesus. That is why this text compares the Jewish law with the good news of salvation that had been preached and published in the person and through the mission of Jesus Christ. Formerly, the law and the covenant were surrounded by a series of images and experiences that evoked terror as well as fear. For the exodus generation, the presence of God was a fearsome thing. Even an innocent animal that unknowingly came into contact with holy Sinai would be put to death (see Exodus 19:12-13). Moses himself, who was God’s chosen one and appointed leader of Israel, was terrified in the divine presence (see Heb 3:1-6). Despite the untouchable transcendence of God, the exodus generations lived out their experiences of God in an earthly and temporal environment.

With the establishment of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, however, humankind was introduced into the glory of God’s eternal presence. In Jesus, God had afforded this experience to sinners; those who have been baptized into his saving death and resurrection and who eat at the Eucharistic table enjoy, by way of anticipation, a taste of what will be fully savored and celebrated in eternity. This “now, but not yet” or “all this and heaven too” aspect of Christian existence informs present life with meaning and purpose as well as with an abiding hope in what will be. Some of us, like the recipients of Hebrews, may be tempted to turn away from Christ because the struggle seems too great and the wait for his return too long. But the letter to Hebrews says, ‘Don’t look back. Move forward, savoring every taste of eternity along the way’.

Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14

Usually, those who host dinner parties choose their guests carefully so that all present may enjoy themselves in a warm and pleasant atmosphere. Given his behavior as portrayed in so many Gospel narratives, Jesus may not have received many second invitations. He seems to have been a disturbing, even at times tough guest. He upset the standard protocol; he seemed unaware to the delicate dance that is oriental hospitality. But Jesus was not trying to pass collect for Mr. Manners. He was announcing in his words and by his actions the kingdom of God, where traditional social information must yield to a new way of living and being. In the reign Jesus came to herald, situations will be reversed. The lowly will be exalted and the self-righteous will be humbled. Moreover, the invited guests will not be those whose names appear on the first class-lists of society but those whose names appear to be of no consequence to anyone but God. Like Joshua ben Sira, Jesus Christ recommended to his table companions the virtue of humility and truthfulness before God and one another. Those who insist upon their own importance and the place of honor have already been rewarded with the dubious, fleeting dignity that self-assertion brings. But people of truth, who recognize their own lowliness and need, will one day know the honour of union with the Lord in the never ending messianic banquet.

At the same time we stand warned against the ease with which this Jesus’ teachings can be twisted into a new strategy for self-exaltation; taking the lowest place out of true humility is one thing; taking it as a way to move up is another. This entire scene can become comic strip if it inspires a competitive rush for the lowest place, with everyone keeping their ears cocked toward the host, waiting for a call to “move up higher!” When Jesus turned his attention to his host, he addressed the human penchant for self-interested reciprocity, which gives in order to receive. Jesus’ suggestion that the poor, lame, blind and what have you; be the honored guests flew in the face of such reciprocity, but, as he did with so many established practices, Jesus suggested another way. He called his audience to practice “kingdom behavior.” Just as God invites all people to experience the divine reign and just as God makes no exceptions or conditions and does not expect any return, so it should be among us the followers of Jesus. Notice the extreme nature of Jesus’ challenge. He doesn’t say, “Give money to the poor” or “Provide for the needs of others by volunteering a few hours at a shelter.” He says, “Invite them into your home; sit at table and eat together.” Isn’t this precisely what Jesus did to illustrate the depths of his love for his own? Isn’t this precisely what the community of believers does at every Eucharistic gathering? This action is an outward sign of the inward communion believers should have with Christ and with one another. Jesus suggests that breaking bread with God’s least ones should be more than a Sacramental action. It should be a way of life. Do we really take him at his word?

Application

Jesus tells us to deal with each other in humility and kindness at meals, which is a paradigm for all human interchange. The Letter to Hebrews says that we are gathered together in a covenant with God. Yet deep down, how people do get along with each other is a mystery as old as society to the extent of saying that only written contracts can save us from dishonesty. The general view is that people are inherently dishonest and selfish, while some believe we are basically generous. Scientists even think they have found a “selfish gene” an actual gene in our DNA that makes us work only for ourselves. This idea suggests that even if we lose our life saving a drowning child, somehow we had an ulterior, selfish, unconscious motive for doing so. There are three basic ingredients of a contract. It is performance-oriented; it is a limited commitment; and it is strictly reciprocal. We ought to keep in mind that God makes no deals, no contracts, only covenants. Our relationship with God is about every aspect of our life for all time. And since nothing escapes God, there is no escape clause. We may break our covenant, but God cannot be unfaithful. Even if we act like servants, God treats us like children. Contracts are for litigants, covenants are for lovers.

Fr Paulino Mondo

24853 Last modified on Monday, 02 September 2013 05:18
Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo

Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo is a Comboni Missionary Priest. He holds a PhD in Moral Theology from Academia Alphonsiana Lateran University Rome. Currently he is the Assistant Parish Priest Our Lady of Africa Mbuya- Kampala and Secretary Missionary Animation Comboni Missionaries Uganda. For the last twenty years he has worked as missionary in Kenya where he served in various capacities as National Youth Chaplain, Secretary of National Lay Apostolate, Secretary and Director Missionary Animation, Parish Priest Holy Trinity Kariobangi, Director of Radio Waumini Kenya, Program presenter of Know Your Faith Vatican Radio, Staff writer with National Mirror and New People Magazine, Theologian of Kenya Episcopal Conference, Dean of Eastland’s, Visiting Lecturer on Ethics, Social Doctrine to various Universities, Board Member various Colleges and Secondary Schools, member of College of Consultors Archdiocese of Nairobi, Theologian Delegate to the Second Africa Synod on Reconciliation, Justice and Peace and Synod on New Evangelization for transmission of Christian faith.

Tel 0787058387

Email: Pmondo@ourladyofafrica.org

Website: www.ourladyofafrica.org

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Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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