Sunday Word

Don’t be afraid to sacrifice

Father David Scotchie
Sunday, Nov. 11
1 Kgs 17:10-16; Ps 146:7-10; Heb 9:24-28; Mk 12:38-44 or 41-44

Three years of famine and drought brought death to the land. A widow was preparing a last meal for herself and her son before they died. Then Elijah, a prophet and foreigner, showed up.

He called to the widow, “Please bring me a cup of water,” which in a drought would not be easy to come by. He added, “Before you eat, make me something to eat.”

You would expect it to be the other way. Elijah, being a man of God, should help the widow and child. He should bring them food and water.

It’s like an aid worker coming to Panama City flattened by Hurricane Michael and demanding, “Make me something to eat.”

Elijah promised that the Lord would provide for the widow and her son until the drought ended. “You will not die, you will live. Do not be afraid” (1 Kgs 17:10-16).

But with the promise came a condition: The widow had to give while still in her need. Elijah was asking the widow to give not from her surplus, but from her substance. Or in a word, sacrifice.

Pig and Chicken went walking past the church. Chicken poked Pig, saying, “Pig, we should help the church.”

Pig asked, “Good idea, what did you have in mind?”

Chicken scratched, “How about we provide breakfast?”

Pig paused, “What do you mean, breakfast?”

Chicken chirped, “Ham and eggs.”

Pig stopped. “Not so fast. For you, that’s a donation. For me, that’s a sacrifice.”

The difference between a donation and a sacrifice is the difference between eggs and ham: One is from surplus and one is from substance.

There is another difference. A donation has little effect on the donor. However, a sacrifice greatly affects the donor.

On Veterans Day, we remember military personnel and veterans who served our country. For some, their service cost them their health, their hearing, or an arm; for others, their marriages and children suffered. For still others, it cost them their life. Their sacrifice saves. For people in our country and abroad, it protected freedom and the cause of peace.

The sacrifice might be small in the eyes of others. Jesus praised the poor widow who put two small coins in the temple treasury: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk 12:41-44).

Christ offered himself in sacrifice to take away the sins of many (Heb 9:28). Just before we receive his body and blood, soul and divinity in Communion during Mass, we acclaim, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.” We are saved not by his preaching or healing or hard work.

His sacrifice on the cross saves us. The sacrificial Lamb of God takes away sin.

The widow made a leap of faith. When she gave Elijah her last meal meant for herself and her starving son, God gave her what she needed. The jar of flour did not go empty. The jug of oil did not run dry. They did not die. They lived.

Paradoxically, sacrifice saves you. This is not to say that when you sacrifice, you will win the lottery. It is to say that sacrifice is the way to life. It gives life for others and eternal life for you.

Your sacrifice will hurt, but do not be afraid. God gives you what you need when you give from your need. You shall not die. You will live.

“The Lord keeps faith forever, the fatherless and the widow he sustains. Praise the Lord, my soul!” (Ps 146:7a, 9a, 1b).

To take to prayer: When has a sacrifice made a difference in your life?

Vote with a conscience

Father David Scotchie
Sunday, Nov. 4
Dt 6:2-6; Ps 18:2-4, 47, 51; Heb 7:23-28; Mk 12:28b-34

This Sunday’s Gospel commands us to love God with all our soul, mind and strength. “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:28-34). What does it mean to love your neighbor?

A man had earlier asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He kept the commandments. He did not murder, commit adultery, steal, defraud or bear false witness. Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

The man’s face fell. He went away sad, for he had many possessions (Mk 10:17-22). The man did no harm. He was law-abiding and decent. But neither did he do any good.

Elections are where our faith hits the road. Either we follow Jesus and treasure our neighbor, or we walk away in sadness.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6. My own ballot is for a senator, representative, governor, several state officials, various judges, two county commissioners, one school board member, three city council members, and two Soil and Water Conversation District supervisors. Don’t forget the 12 proposed amendments to the Florida state constitution.

So many decisions! The easy way out is to vote the party line.

You may have voted Democrat since the Great Depression. You may have voted Republican since Ronald Reagan declared, “It’s morning in America.” As Catholics, though, our allegiance is not to an ideology or an economic system. We are not sheep blindly following a political party line. We are the flock of the Lord.

Our bishops urge us when making political decisions to make moral judgments “consistent with the Gospel and with Catholic teaching” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”). Some may consider the Church to be just another voice among the clutter of campaign ads and pundits. Yet Catholics have a moral obligation to form their conscience according to Church teaching.

The Church’s teaching is not “just another political opinion or policy preference among many others. Rather, we urge Catholics to listen carefully to the Church’s teachers when we apply Catholic social teaching to specific proposals and situations.”

It takes work to be a good Catholic. We have to do more than listen to sound bites and surf social media. We have the moral obligation to form our consciences according to Catholic teaching.

To help us make moral judgments, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has polled candidates. Their responses to the Candidate Questionnaire Project assist us to become informed voters. Knowing where the candidates stand on matters concerning human life and dignity and the advancement of the common good is essential to responsible faithful citizenship.

Can a Catholic in good conscience vote Democrat? Can a Catholic vote Republican? A better question is which candidate is “consistent with the Gospel and with Catholic teaching?”

Love God. Love neighbor. Vote Catholic.

To take to prayer: Bring your ballot before the Lord.

Father Scotchie is the pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo. He is the co-author of “Rites of Passage: Preaching Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals” (Liturgical Press), and can be reached at frdavidscotchie@gmail.com.

Bartimaeus of Jericho

Father Brian Campbell
Sunday, Oct. 28
Jer 31:7-9; Ps 126:1-6; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52

The world around us is a big place. It seems like everything is constantly moving, changing, on the go. We can get so caught up in the noise that we often miss the chance to get to know the people right in front of us. In this week’s Gospel of Mark, Jesus is on the move as he travels from Jerusalem to Jericho. Through the noise and movement he hears the cry of a man in need. Within our moving, noisy world there is a lot of suffering that often goes unnoticed. This week, let us encounter the Lord who notices and stops for us. May we learn from him and do the same.

Our first reading this week from the prophet Jeremiah speaks of a remnant people of Israel who are scattered in different locations. This is written during a time in the sixth century B.C. when the Israelites had been conquered by the Babylonian empire. Jerusalem had been ransacked, many were killed and most of the survivors were taken away from Israel to the desert regions of Babylon to do slave labor. Imagine if something like that happened to us?

The people that Jeremiah describe as “the remnant” are real people with real needs — some are blind and lame, pregnant women, parents and mourners who have lost everything. Through Jeremiah, God makes known a great irony: Those who appear in this world to be losers, unimportant or weak will end up being the most important winners of all. God will bring them out of the desert to a place filled with life: “I will have them walk by brooks of water” (Jer 31:9).

In Chapter 10 of St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus and his apostles journey from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Jerusalem is around 2,500 feet elevation and the trip to Jericho is a consistent trek way down to 850 feet below sea level. Jericho is the lowest city on earth and one of the oldest too. So old is Jericho that we hear of it in the Old Testament book of Joshua, Chapter 6. Approximately 3,400 years ago after the Exodus of the Israelites from the Land of Egypt, Jericho would be condemned for a collapsing defeat. Most of us know the story of how it’s walls fell at the prayers, singing and marching of the Israelites. Jericho, the old and low city known in the Old Testament for divine judgment, will in the New Testament become known as a place of divine mercy.

It is in this epic, noisy desert town that Jesus hears the cry of a man who people walked by on a daily basis and probably didn’t even know his name. Imagine the scene: desert sand flying in the air from crowds of people and mules walking, through the noise of merchants calling out for customers to buy their locally crafted spikenard, a voice is heard: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mk 10:47).

This insignificant man, forgotten by the world, had never been able to see the desert around him. But he knew the desert within for having lived with the handicap of blindness his entire life. The great irony is that everyone else that day with physical vision was unable to “see” what was most important. We do not know any of their names. But we do know the name of the unimportant, forgotten one who, though blind, could “see.” Bartimeaus of Jericho called upon Jesus in faith, naming him as Son of David, the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. Jesus hears, heals him and 2,000 years later we know his name.

In the desert moments of life it is hard to understand why we are having such a hard time. Feeling scattered and battered, we thirst. The Scriptures remind us to never give up, but to cry out with faith in our weakest hour. God has an ability to work through suffering to give us an insight we would never have expected. This week may we call upon the most holy name of Jesus in faith, receiving from him living water and true sight.

Father Campbell is a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach and parochial vicar at Our Lady Queen of the Apostles Parish in Royal Palm Beach.

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