11 November, 2019. Monday of Week 32

1st Reading: Wisdom 1:1-7

Think of the Lord constantly, and seek his guidance truly

Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth,
think of the Lord constantly and seek him with sincerity of heart;
because he is found by those who do not put him to the test,
and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him.
Perverse thoughts separate people from God,
and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish;
because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul,
or dwell in a body enslaved to sin.
While a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit,
and will leave foolish thoughts behind,
and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.
For wisdom is a kindly spirit,
but will not free blasphemers from the guilt of their words;
because God is witness of their inmost feelings,
and a true observer of their hearts, and a hearer of their tongues.
Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world,
and that which holds all things together knows what is said.

Responsorial: Psalm 139:1-10

R./: Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

O Lord, you search me and you know me,
you know my resting and my rising,
you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
all my ways lie open to you. (R./)
Before ever a word is on my tongue
you know it, O Lord, through and through.
Behind and before you besiege me,
your hand ever laid upon me.
Too wonderful for me, this knowledge,
too high, beyond my reach. (R./)
O where can I go from your spirit,
or where can I flee from your face?
If I climb the heavens, you are there.
If I lie in the grave, you are there. (R./)
If I take the wings of the dawn
and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
even there your hand would lead me,
your right hand would hold me fast. (R./)

Gospel: Luke 17:1-6

Instruction on scandal, repeated forgiveness, and the power of faith

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”


Called to righteousness

All this week we will read from the Book of Wisdom, the last of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. Then we will move on read stories from the revolt of the Maccabees and the Prophecy of Daniel, describing how Jews suffered in the struggle to keep to the law of Moses, which was outlawed by powerful invaders. These books reflect bitter persecution by foreigners, but as a glimmer of hope, Daniel foretells the glorious coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven.
The Book of Wisdom is very practical. It urges us to be aware of our behavious and live with our feet firmly on the ground. It advises us to be steady in our behaviour, to value our personal integrity and not take foolish advice, nor put God to the test. It urges us to rebuke injustice, be prudent in eating and drinking and to mind our language as well as our actions.
The Jewish teacher in Egypt, in the first century B.C., who composed the book of Wisdom (probably in Alexandria) offered an alternative schooling to that provided by the Greek philosophers. His Jewish students should have a religious outlook on life, aware of God’s presence within oneself and open to a God-filled universe. His advice is interwoven with a sense of God’s presence in all things. Nothing is too small, no question too trifling, no challenge too large nor any problem too complex, for the influence of God not to be near, helping us to find our way.
Today’s gospel broaches a problem that often bothers people who are high-minded, trustful and idealistic: how to cope with the faults of others. In our multicultural society, where conflicting moral standards are accepted in civil law, we need to be more tolerant of flamboyant lifestyles. But Jesus defends moral innocence and warns his disciples against giving scandal. On the other hand, idealists often find it hard to forgive. Because a sense of morality seems obvious to them, they cannot empathise with the addictions of others. If religious people seem too prissy to accept the good intentions of the secular world, it may scandalise people outside the church. Our quest for holiness must be balanced by trust that God is also guiding the lives of others.
If you can’t help, at least don’t hinder! Jesus warns against scandal, which means putting an obstacle (skandalon) to trip someone else; leading them astray, away from the Lord. Its opposite is encouraging others, being near them as they try to grow to their full maturity. We can do that in various ways. Some become faith-friends or prayer-friends to children preparing for the sacraments, to support their search for God. If children know that adults are praying for them, it helps them appreciate their friendship with Jesus and his friendship with them.
In a fine example of faith friendship, Luke presents Mary and Elizabeth as mutually supportive in prayer. Each helped the other to put her full trust in God. Elizabeth’s joyful praise of the special grace given to Mary inspired the wonderful Magnificat, a hymn to God’s mercy.
Maybe we feel that our own faith is not strong enough to be a spiritual support to others, like that. Like the apostles we need to pray, “Lord, increase our faith.” In response to that prayer, Jesus assures us that even a little faith can work wonders, even a small mustard-seed of faith can help develope the faith of others.


Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

Martin (316-397) was born in Pannonia (now Hungary), where his father was a cavalry officer in the Roman army. When Martin was conscripted he too joined the cavalry, but finding that army life conflicted with his faith he made his way to France, where his fellow Christians elected him bishop of Tours. Legen has him cutting his cloak in two, to give half to a beggar who was in rags in the depth of winter. Because of his many miracles recorded by Sulpicius Severus, throughout the middle ages Martin’s shrine in Tours was a pilgrims stopping-point en route for Compostela in Spain.

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