The readings for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time are a great gift to us because they remind us that our greatest gifts aren't possessions, but God found within us.
In the first reading, the author reflects on the fruits of human labor. For example, the man who has labored "with wisdom and knowledge and skill" must leave all his property to "another who has not labored over it."
The readings for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time make clear that God desires to share His power with sinful mankind.
To fully appreciate the importance of the first reading from Genesis, we must review what had happened just before this passage from Genesis. Abraham and Sarah were very old, many years past the childbearing age. Yet God had promised over and over again to Abraham that he would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands of the sea shore.
The readings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time demonstrate that submission to God brings about His glory. In the first reading, Abraham instinctively practices the virtue of hospitality by inviting three men, traveling through the hot desert, a shade tree, water to bathe their sore feet and refreshing food.
He is the father of our faith, and his descendants were reminded to practice hospitality to strangers. Unknowingly, Abraham entertained three angels who told him that in one year his aged wife would be expecting a child.
God does great things even in the midst of a sinful people. In the first reading for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, God calls Jerusalem to rejoice. The Israelites had just returned from exile in Babylon, caused by their sinfulness. They had abandoned the covenant of Moses.
God didn't abandon the Israelites. In fact, God used the secular King Cyrus to return the Jews to their homeland and to rebuild the land and the Temple. While in exile, they learned their lesson. Without a temple in which to worship, they were forlorn and despondent. Now God tells them to rejoice.
Perhaps the responsorial psalm for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time captures the theme of the day's reading best. "I set the Lord ever before me; with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed."
Elijah does exactly this in the first reading. He has just undergone a conversion from self-pity, depression and despair. Jezebel was chasing him, and he longed for death. At the mountain on Horeb in a cave, Elijah met the Lord.
The readings for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time celebrate God's plan of redemption for His people. As usual, the prophetic passages from the Old Testament speak in a veiled yet hopeful language.
Zechariah quotes the Lord; "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition." What does it mean "to pour out...a spirit of grace and petition"? Could this be a people's acknowledgment of their own sinfulness and a petition for mercy? Whatever God promises to do, by using the term "pour out," He promises to do so in lavish abundance.