27Sep 27 September. Tuesday, Week 26

Saint Vincent de Paul, memorial

1st Reading: Job 3:1-3

Job’s anguished lament at the misfortunes heaped upon him.

After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said:

“May the day of my birth perish,
and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’
“Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?
Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?
For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest
with kings and rulers of the earth,
who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,
with princes who had gold,
who filled their houses with silver. Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child,
like an infant who never saw the light of day?
There the wicked cease from turmoil,
and there the weary are at rest. “Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?

Gospel: Luke 9:51-56

The long journey narrative begins as Jesus proceeds towards Jerusalem.

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.


The winding journey

Today we are invited to share in a journey to Jerusalem with Jesus, following the will of God. The way may be winding or thorny, and is partially formed by the environment around us. Hopefully it will be mainly marked by health and kindness, unlike the harsh life that Job has so mournfully described.

The Gospel begins Luke’s long journey narrative. All the way to the end of ch. 19, Luke assembles sayings of Jesus which Matthew and Mark scatter elsewhere in their stories. Luke thereby makes a theological (not a geographical) statement that everything points mystically towards Jerusalem, that is towards our union with Jesus in his sufferings, death and glorious resurrection which focus on Jerusalem.

The journey narrative opens with Jesus being rejected in Samaria. These half-caste people in central Palestine had been rejected by the conservative Jews and by this time they were fiercely hostile to Jerusalem. Jesus will not let his disciples pray for the destruction of the Samaritans, but gives them time, just as poor, tormented Job needed time to curse and to be angry. We learn later how many Samaritans were converted to Christianity soon after Pentecost. Even while Saul was persecuting the church, the deacon Philip went down to Samaria preaching the Gospel and curing many people. The joy in that town rose to fever pitch, a very far cry from today’s rejection story. Luke’s account is preparing for this moment of glory. The Bible respects the different stages in life and enables us to see each of them as a way of following in the footsteps of Jesus.

James and John, hotheads

The disciples James and John, the sons of Zebedee, often show themselves in the gospels to have a very different mindset to that of Jesus. On one occasion they approached Jesus and asked him for the two best seats in his kingdom, one on his right and the other on his left. On that occasion, Jesus brought them down to earth by asking them if they were willing to drink the cup he must drink, the cup of suffering. In this morning’s gospel, they react in a very hostile way to a Samaritan village that refused hospitality to Jesus and his disciples. They wanted Jesus to use his influence with God to ensure that they were punished. Jesus again rebukes these two disciples. Rather than responding to their request, he simply went on to another village. In Luke’s gospel especially, Jesus’ mission is to reveal the hospitable love of God for all, even for those who rejected God’s Son. He puts into practice his own teaching to love the enemy, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who abuse us. The father in the story of the prodigal son is very much a Jesus figure in that sense; he showed abundant love for the son who had cursed and abused him. A few verses after the gospel we have just heard, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan, another Jesus figure who showed love to his traditional enemy, a Jew. Jesus makes the hero of that parable a member of the same group who had refused Jesus hospitality. There is a bigness of spirit here, a generosity of heart, which we are all called to give expression to in our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

St Vincent de Paul, priest.

Vincent (1581-1660) from Gascony, France, was a priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor. Renowned for compassion, humility and generosity he was a pioneer in clerical training and in serving the poor. To help in his work he founded the Congregation of the Mission (“Vincentians”) and the Ladies of Charity, later known as the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. The most flourishing lay Catholic charitable group is also named after him

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