31 July 2010

31 July 2010, Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, priest

Reading 1
Jer 26:11-16, 24

The priests and prophets said to the princes and to all the people,
"This man deserves death;
he has prophesied against this city,
as you have heard with your own ears."
Jeremiah gave this answer to the princes and all the people:
"It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and city
all that you have heard.
Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds;
listen to the voice of the LORD your God,
so that the LORD will repent of the evil with which he threatens you.
As for me, I am in your hands;
do with me what you think good and right.
But mark well: if you put me to death,
it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves,
on this city and its citizens.
For in truth it was the LORD who sent me to you,
to speak all these things for you to hear."

Thereupon the princes and all the people
said to the priests and the prophets,
"This man does not deserve death;
it is in the name of the LORD, our God, that he speaks to us."

So Ahikam, son of Shaphan, protected Jeremiah,
so that he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

Mt 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, "This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him."

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
"It is not lawful for you to have her."
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
"Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist."
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.

Meditation: Psalm 69:15-16,30-31,33-34

“You who seek God, take heart!” (Psalm 69:33)

These are beautiful words. But when we pair them with today’s readings, we can see how practical—even life-saving—they can be. Let’s imagine how Jeremiah and John the Baptist, today’s main characters, might “take heart” in their very desperate situations.

In Jerusalem’s final days, God gave Jeremiah an unpopular message: Babylon would conquer the city, and the people should surrender rather than resist. Hearing Jeremiah proclaim this demoralizing message, Jerusalem’s leaders tried to silence him permanently. It was only through the intervention of Ahikam that his life was spared. Imagine what his prayer was like as his life hung in the balance:

God, rescue me from the mire; don’t let me sink. Don’t let the floodwaters overwhelm me. Let your saving help protect me, God, that I may praise your name in song. I trust you, Lord. May your words live on in the hearts of those whom I love.

John attracted throngs of people seeking baptism and asking what God expected of them. Ordinary people, tax collectors, soldiers—he told each how to live righteously. When Jesus came on the scene, John encouraged his own disciples to follow Jesus instead. Because John fearlessly criticized Herod’s illegal marriage, Herod had him thrown into prison, leading John to wonder if he had been wrong all along. What do you think his prayer would have sounded like as he sat there, waiting for his execution?

Lord, when I first saw Jesus, I was convinced he was the Messiah. But now I’m not so sure. Did I waste my life chasing after a fantasy? Was all that time in the desert really worth it? I am afflicted and in pain, Lord. Please come and help me. Protect me, that I may glorify your name.

Is there some way that you feel imprisoned today? It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as Jeremiah or John’s situations for you to follow their example. Whatever the situation, seek God and take heart! He is with you, working out his purposes and giving you his strength and comfort.

“I pray to you, Lord, for the time of your favor. God, in your great kindness answer me. Because I seek you, Lord, let me take heart, for I know you hear me.”

30 July 2010

30 July 2010, Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Jer 26:1-9

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim,
son of Josiah, king of Judah,
this message came from the LORD:
Thus says the LORD:
Stand in the court of the house of the LORD
and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah
who come to worship in the house of the LORD;
whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing.
Perhaps they will listen and turn back,
each from his evil way,
so that I may repent of the evil I have planned to inflict upon them
for their evil deeds.
Say to them: Thus says the LORD:
If you disobey me,
not living according to the law I placed before you
and not listening to the words of my servants the prophets,
whom I send you constantly though you do not obey them,
I will treat this house like Shiloh,
and make this the city to which all the nations of the earth
shall refer when cursing another.

Now the priests, the prophets, and all the people
heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD.
When Jeremiah finished speaking
all that the LORD bade him speak to all the people,
the priests and prophets laid hold of him, crying,
"You must be put to death!
Why do you prophesy in the name of the LORD:
'This house shall be like Shiloh,' and
'This city shall be desolate and deserted'?"
And all the people gathered about Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

Mt 13:54-58

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?"
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house."
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.

Meditation: Matthew 13:54-58

“Where did this man get all this?” (Matthew 13:56)

How could Jesus’ townsfolk not see who he really was? He had already performed so many miracles and spoken so insightfully about the Law of Moses. But to them he was still the carpenter’s son from down the street. So because they came to him with such low expectations, they had a hard time experiencing the healings, deliverances, and other works of wonder that so many others received. Because of their lack of faith, they placed limits on what they would allow God to do for them.

Do you limit Jesus? Has he become your Savior only on Sundays or in times of crisis and difficulty? Of course he wants to touch you during Mass. And yes, he loves to be with you in the hard times. But he wants to be so much more as well. He wants to talk with us and walk with us as he did with Adam and Eve in the garden. He wants to give us counsel in our decisions, cheer us on in our successes, and teach us from our mistakes. He wants to give us good gifts and teach us how to serve our loved ones more humbly. Jesus wants to be our constant companion!

It can be hard to believe, but God really does delight in revealing himself to us in the everyday events of our lives. What’s more, he actually enjoys being with us, even when we’re sitting through a meeting at work, watching television at home, or doing the laundry. And the more we learn how to sense his presence, the more we will receive his blessings, his revelations, and his love.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is completely committed to you! Even when your mind is taken up with the demands of the day, he is still close to you. You may not be able to feel his presence all the time, but he is there, speaking words of love, shielding you from the devil, and forming you in hidden, unseen ways. In the face of such love, how can we do anything but place our faith and trust in him?

“Jesus, in so many ways you remain a mystery to me. I don’t always feel you but I know you are with me. Thank you, Lord, for your unending love!”

29 July 2010

29 July 2010, Memorial of Saint Martha

Reading 1
Jer 18:1-6

This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Rise up, be off to the potter's house;
there I will give you my message.
I went down to the potter's house and there he was,
working at the wheel.
Whenever the object of clay which he was making
turned out badly in his hand,
he tried again,
making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.
Then the word of the LORD came to me:
Can I not do to you, house of Israel,
as this potter has done? says the LORD.
Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand, house of Israel.

Jn 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
"Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you."
Jesus said to her,
"Your brother will rise."
Martha said to him,
"I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?"
She said to him, "Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world."

Meditation: John 11:19-27

St. Martha

I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God. (John 11:27)

Wait a minute! Is this the same Martha who complained to Jesus that her sister Mary had left her to do all the hard work? How could Martha now make such a bold proclamation of faith in Jesus? We can only conclude that she took Jesus’ words seriously—both his words about Mary having chosen the better part and his words just now about his being the resurrection and the life. Instead of spending all her time being worried and upset about “many things,” she began to learn how to sit at Jesus’ feet and let his words sink into her heart.

Undoubtedly, Martha was growing in her faith. Taking more time to listen to Jesus, Martha must have been moved by his parables and his explanations of who he was and what he had come to do. How else could she have known that God would do whatever Jesus asked of him? How else could she have made such a statement of faith in the midst of her grief over Lazarus’ death?

We all have a bit of Martha in us. We can get worried and anxious about many things. But if Martha can change, so can we! All it takes is the decision to set aside time for Jesus every day. He’ll take care of the rest. Over time he will convince us of his love. He will begin to change our attitudes. He’ll even give us a deeper sense of mission and purpose for our lives!

It’s quite amazing when you think about it. Martha went from being anxious and agitated at a simple dinner party to being able to handle something as upsetting as a death in the family—even to the point of letting this event stretch her faith in Jesus. This is the kind of change that God wants to do in all of us. It can happen to you! Today in prayer, recall one or two recent situations in which you felt the Lord inviting you to a deeper trust in him. Then join Martha in her proclamation of faith. Celebrate the Messiah, who has come to raise all of us from death to life!

“Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the resurrection and the life. Thank you for coming into the world to give us your peace!”

28 July 2010

28 July 2010, Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Jer 15:10, 16-21

Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!
a man of strife and contention to all the land!
I neither borrow nor lend,
yet all curse me.
When I found your words, I devoured them;
they became my joy and the happiness of my heart,
Because I bore your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit celebrating
in the circle of merrymakers;
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone
because you filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain continuous,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook,
whose waters do not abide!
Thus the LORD answered me:
If you repent, so that I restore you,
in my presence you shall stand;
If you bring forth the precious without the vile,
you shall be my mouthpiece.
Then it shall be they who turn to you,
and you shall not turn to them;
And I will make you toward this people
a solid wall of brass.
Though they fight against you,
they shall not prevail,
For I am with you,
to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD.
I will free you from the hand of the wicked,
and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.

Mt 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."

Meditation: Jeremiah 15:10,16-21

“I am with you.” (Jeremiah 15:20)

Surely each of us has had tough days. Maybe even tough weeks or months. One problem after another seems to pile up—sometimes relatively inconsequential things: We oversleep and are late for work or school, we misplace something valuable, or someone else gets the attention we want. We may face much more serious setbacks: We lose our job, our health fails, or we feel alone or isolated. We may even suffer when we see those we love undergoing hardships. Our faith can be shaken to the point where we begin to question whether God really is with us.

Jeremiah has important words for us at times like these: God has not abandoned us! As a prophet of the Lord, he went through difficulty himself. Just think of how it felt when he was arrested and almost killed for speaking the word of the Lord. Or imagine what it cost him to experience in his own heart the pain that God feels when his people turn from him. In the midst of these hardships, Jeremiah cried out to God, and God comforted him. Did Jeremiah have to face his own failings and repent? Yes. Did he have to continue on despite the difficulty? Yes. But God affirmed that he would always be with Jeremiah and would deliver and rescue him.

Do you feel burdened? Do you feel that your relationship with God is not what it once was? Don’t give up! It’s precisely at those times when you don’t feel God’s presence that you need to exercise your faith all the more. Go ahead and repent if you need to. Take a deep breath, offer a silent prayer of trust, and take up your cross again. Choose to keep going, even if you are apprehensive. You will find the Lord walking with you, even if it’s in unexpected ways.

It is beyond question that God loves you. Today, take hold of opportunities to put your faith into practice. When your hope begins to waver, reread God’s promises to Jeremiah. Let the Holy Spirit comfort you so that you can walk on in confidence. God is walking right next to you. He is faithful. He will bring about his purposes in you!

“Father, help me to see that you are always with me. I believe that you have not abandoned me. I trust in your unfailing love.”

27 July 2010

27 July 2010, Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Jer 14:17-22

Let my eyes stream with tears
day and night, without rest,
Over the great destruction which overwhelms
the virgin daughter of my people,
over her incurable wound.
If I walk out into the field,
look! those slain by the sword;
If I enter the city,
look! those consumed by hunger.
Even the prophet and the priest
forage in a land they know not.

Have you cast Judah off completely?
Is Zion loathsome to you?
Why have you struck us a blow
that cannot be healed?
We wait for peace, to no avail;
for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.
We recognize, O LORD, our wickedness,
the guilt of our fathers;
that we have sinned against you.
For your name's sake spurn us not,
disgrace not the throne of your glory;
remember your covenant with us, and break it not.
Among the nations' idols is there any that gives rain?
Or can the mere heavens send showers?
Is it not you alone, O LORD,
our God, to whom we look?
You alone have done all these things.

Mt 13:36-43

Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
"Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
He said in reply, "He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the Evil One,
and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the Kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear."

Meditation: Jeremiah 14:17-22

“Let my eyes stream with tears.” (Jeremiah 14:17)

It’s always easier to hear a message of hope than a message of woe. That’s why the people of Jerusalem found it hard to accept many of Jeremiah’s prophecies. He warned them that unless they turned back to God, their land would suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, everything Jeremiah said came to pass: drought, famine, an invading army, and finally exile. What can possibly inspire us about this tragic tale?

If we look around, we can see at least as many problems today as existed in Jeremiah’s time. In fact, if we think about it long enough, we may also be moved to tears. What of all the pain caused by abortion, drug addiction, and domestic violence? What of the poor who live in unimaginable squalor? As God’s people, we must surely empathize with all of the sadness, loss, and suffering.

But our response doesn’t have to end there. In fact, it would be unchristian to let it stay there. Many critics of religion point to suffering as a reason not to believe in God, but we can say exactly the opposite. God’s will is not to cause suffering but to stop it. That’s why he sent his Son! Jesus came to free us from sin and to give us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). He came to bring heaven down to earth and he now calls all of us to build that kingdom here and now.

We shouldn’t just sit around and watch things get worse. We all share in Jesus’ office of priest, prophet, and king. Sometimes we’re called to be like priests and minister his healing and his salvation to those who are hurting and alone. At other times we can act as prophets, speaking the word of the Lord to those who have lost hope or don’t know if they can trust in God. And we can exercise kingly gifts: providing food, shelter, and justice for the marginalized, the, poor, and the neglected.

Yes, our eyes should “stream with tears.” But at the same time our hands and feet should be just as busy, bringing hope and healing to all God’s people.

“Lord, give me compassion for the wounded people you have placed in my path. Give me the courage to reach out to them and the wisdom to help them as best I can.”

26 July 2010

26 July 2010, Memorial of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne,

Reading 1
Jer 13:1-11

The LORD said to me: Go buy yourself a linen loincloth;
wear it on your loins, but do not put it in water.
I bought the loincloth, as the LORD commanded, and put it on.
A second time the word of the LORD came to me thus:
Take the loincloth which you bought and are wearing,
and go now to the Parath;
there hide it in a cleft of the rock.
Obedient to the LORD's command, I went to the Parath
and buried the loincloth.
After a long interval, the LORD said to me:
Go now to the Parath and fetch the loincloth
which I told you to hide there.
Again I went to the Parath, sought out and took the loincloth
from the place where I had hid it.
But it was rotted, good for nothing!
Then the message came to me from the LORD:
Thus says the LORD:
So also I will allow the pride of Judah to rot,
the great pride of Jerusalem.
This wicked people who refuse to obey my words,
who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts,
and follow strange gods to serve and adore them,
shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.
For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man's loins,
so had I made the whole house of Israel
and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD;
to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.
But they did not listen.

Mt 13:31-35

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'"

He spoke to them another parable.
"The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened."

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:

I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.

Meditation: Matthew 13:31-35

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast.” (Matthew 13:33)

There are a lot of ways to look at Jesus’ parable about yeast. If we do some creative thinking, we can see the wheat as standing for the Eucharist, the living bread we receive at every Mass. After all, the Mass is what unites us to Christ and gives us a share in his kingdom. But if that is true, how should we see the yeast? The Eucharist is made from unleavened bread, like the ancient Passover bread. And Paul tells us that we are to get rid of the “old yeast” of sin, and become “a fresh batch,” without yeast, purified by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Here, as in many of his other parables, Jesus uses a symbol to turn our understanding upside down. The yeast Jesus is talking about is invisible: It is our faith, because only faith can bring the kingdom to life. It is the “leaven” of faith that lets Jesus, present in the Eucharist, rise up in us and do his work in the world.

Without faith, the transformation of the bread and wine, miraculous though it is, will have little effect on us. However, to be obedient, we don’t need a great amount of faith—just real faith. Simply to believe that Jesus is truly present for us in the Mass and to trust that he will give us his love and mercy is enough to start with. Then, as we continue to trust and to take him seriously, we can expect amazing things to happen. Like the woman who used only a little yeast to leaven a whole batch of flour, our little, but sincere, faith can make a big difference.

Jesus wants his love to grow in us. If we give our hearts to him at Mass, we will be blessed, and in turn, we will bless those around us. We will see miracles in our lives because the God of miracles will be with us. So let’s come to the Lord with expectant faith, for he is the most generous of fathers. Jesus told St. Faustina that those who “trust boundlessly” in him would receive all of his grace: “I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is my desire to give much, very much.”

“Lord, today I put my trust in your promises. Take my heart, and transform it with your love. Use my gifts to build your kingdom.”

25 July 2010

25 July 2010, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1

Gn 18:20-32

In those days, the LORD said: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great,
and their sin so grave,
that I must go down and see whether or not their actions
fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me.
I mean to find out."

While Abraham's visitors walked on farther toward Sodom,
the LORD remained standing before Abraham.
Then Abraham drew nearer and said:
"Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?
Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city;
would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it
for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?
Far be it from you to do such a thing,
to make the innocent die with the guilty
so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!
Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?"
The LORD replied,
"If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom,
I will spare the whole place for their sake."
Abraham spoke up again:
"See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord,
though I am but dust and ashes!
What if there are five less than fifty innocent people?
Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?"
He answered, "I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there."
But Abraham persisted, saying "What if only forty are found there?"
He replied, "I will forbear doing it for the sake of the forty."
Then Abraham said, "Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on.
What if only thirty are found there?"
He replied, "I will forbear doing it if I can find but thirty there."
Still Abraham went on,
"Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord,
what if there are no more than twenty?"
The LORD answered, "I will not destroy it, for the sake of the twenty."
But he still persisted:
"Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time.
What if there are at least ten there?"
He replied, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it."

Reading 2
Col 2:12-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him
through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.
And even when you were dead
in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him,
having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims,
which was opposed to us,
he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.

Lk 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."

And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within,
'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

Meditation: Luke 11:1-13

“Ask. Seek. Knock.” (Luke 11:9)

We all have our limits. Even with our own children, we have only so much patience. Sometimes we just get worn out and can lose our cool with them.

Isn’t it amazing, then, to hear Jesus say that our heavenly Father has unlimited patience? Isn’t it astounding that he tells us to go ahead and wear God out with our requests?

Despite these assurances, we can still find it hard to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking on heaven’s door. We still love God and trust him, but a sense of fate or common sense can overcome simple, trusting faith in the God of the impossible. We get worn out quickly or we lose our focus. Perhaps we spend a day or two on a petition, but we are nothing like the persistent neighbor with his nighttime request.

Brothers and sisters, God wants us to bombard him with our petitions every day. He assures us that we cannot overdo it. Part of the solution to problems like abortion, war, illness, broken families, and grinding poverty is constant, persistent, unrelenting prayer. Our Father wants to give us good gifts. He wants to help us with our problems. So be persistent. Go to him every day, and ask and ask and ask. Never stop asking. Never give up. Never lose hope.

“I thank you, Lord, with all my heart… . When I cried out, you answered; you strengthened my spirit.” So prayed the psalmist in today’s readings (Psalm 138:1,3). Surely we too can cry out to heaven with patience and persistence. Surely we too can keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Why? Because “the Lord is on high, but cares for the lowly” (138:6). That’s each one of us. He will never leave us wanting!

“Father, we ask you to heal our wounded, suffering world. Pour out grace from your throne, and renew the face of the earth. We will never stop praising you, for we know that you are faithful to the end.”


Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Discussion

(Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138:1-3,6-8, Colossians 2:12-14, Luke 11:1-13)

1. In the first reading, we discover that Abraham had such an intimate relationship with the Lord that he was willing to contend with Him on the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord is calling all Christians to this same kind of intimate relationship with Him. How would you characterize your relationship with Jesus Christ? With your Heavenly Father? How can these relationships be deepened in your life?

2. In the responsorial psalm, we hear these words, “The Lord will complete what he has done for me; your kindness endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands” (Psalm 138:7-8). These words echo St. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” How would you describe your trust and confidence in the Lord that he will complete the work he has begun in you?

3. In the letter to the Colossians, St. Paul says that God has “forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). Do you believe that through Baptism and faith in Jesus Christ, all your sins were nailed to the cross? In what way does (or does not) this truth of our faith influence how you live out your day?

4. In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples the perfect prayer, the Our Father, in response to his disciples’ request: “Lord, teach us to pray.” When we say the Our Father each Sunday at Mass we ask the Father to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Matthew 6:14-15, which are the verses immediately following the Our Father, goes on to say that, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” What is your reaction to these words? If there is anyone you need to forgive? Don’t delay – do it now.

5. The meditation ends with these words, “Surely we too can cry out to heaven with patience and persistence. Surely we too can keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Why? Because ‘the Lord is on high, but cares for the lowly’ (138:6). That’s each one of us. He will never leave us wanting!” How patient and persistent are you in your prayers? What steps can you take to increase your patience and persistence?

24 July 2010

24 July 2010, Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1

Jer 7:1-11

The following message came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Stand at the gate of the house of the LORD,
and there proclaim this message:
Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah
who enter these gates to worship the LORD!
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
Reform your ways and your deeds,
so that I may remain with you in this place.
Put not your trust in the deceitful words:
"This is the temple of the LORD!
The temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD!"
Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds;
if each of you deals justly with his neighbor;
if you no longer oppress the resident alien,
the orphan, and the widow;
if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place,
or follow strange gods to your own harm,
will I remain with you in this place,
in the land I gave your fathers long ago and forever.

But here you are, putting your trust in deceitful words to your own loss!
Are you to steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,
burn incense to Baal,
go after strange gods that you know not,
and yet come to stand before me
in this house which bears my name, and say:
"We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again"?
Has this house which bears my name
become in your eyes a den of thieves?
I too see what is being done, says the LORD.

Mt 13:24-30

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
"The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?'
He answered, 'An enemy has done this.'
His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
"First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

Meditation: Jeremiah 7:1-11

“This is the temple of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 7:4)

Picture a commanding figure standing in the Vatican and loudly proclaiming: “Don’t put your trust in the deceitful words, ‘I’m a Catholic, I’m a Catholic, I’m a Catholic!’” If you can imagine how unsettling that would be, you can begin to appreciate how the Jews reacted to Jeremiah’s sermon before the Temple in Jerusalem.

Chosen by God as his earthly dwelling, the Temple symbolized his protection over the whole nation. And the people Jeremiah addressed were not the lukewarm or the non-practicing. He was speaking to worshipers who were happily going about their public religious duties. How outraged they were to hear him foretell doom as he mocked their trusting cry, “the temple of the Lord!”

But Jeremiah was speaking God’s word, not his own. God truly was displeased to see his people loving liturgy without loving their neighbors. By neglecting and oppressing the poor and defenseless—the very ones God wanted them to care for—they had broken their covenant (Jeremiah 7:5-6; Exodus 22:1-4). They rejected justice, yet showed up to offer sacrifice, confident that God would bless them. But Jeremiah warned: You’re making this holy place “a den of thieves,” and God sees your hypocrisy (Jeremiah 7:11).

God hasn’t changed. He still hates self-centered religion that passes for worship. He still expects us to share his desire that everyone, especially the poorest and weakest, will have a decent life. Jesus made this clear from his opening mission statement about bringing glad tidings to the poor to his final parable about the sheep and the goats: Extend mercy to those in need.

Take a few minutes today to consider the issues Jeremiah raises. See if there’s some way you can help improve the lives of the disadvantaged. Is there a program in your parish or community that you can support? If you are already involved, see if there is someone else you can invite to join you. We may not change the entire world, but we can bring the light of Jesus into lives that are hurting, lonely, and forgotten.

“Jesus, I know it’s not enough to say holy words and visit holy places. I need to become holy! Fill my heart with your love for the poor. May my prayer—my whole life—be more and more pleasing to you.”

23 July 2010

23 July 2010, Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Jer 3:14-17

Return, rebellious children, says the LORD,
for I am your Master;
I will take you, one from a city, two from a clan,
and bring you to Zion.
I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart,
who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.
When you multiply and become fruitful in the land,
says the LORD,
They will in those days no longer say,
"The ark of the covenant of the LORD!"
They will no longer think of it, or remember it,
or miss it, or make another.

Mt 13:18-23

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Hear the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom
without understanding it,
and the Evil One comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold."

At that time they will call Jerusalem the LORD's throne;
there all nations will be gathered together
to honor the name of the LORD at Jerusalem,
and they will walk no longer in their hardhearted wickedness.

Meditation: Jeremiah 3:14-17

“They will call Jerusalem the Lord’s throne.” (Jeremiah 3:17)

Jeremiah’s prophetic call came during the reign of Josiah, a reforming young king. Josiah repaired the Temple, which led to the discovery of the Book of the Law. Newly aware of how his people had broken God’s Law, Josiah tore down pagan altars all over the country. At least for a time, he seemed to be a shepherd “after God’s own heart” (Jeremiah 3:15), so Jeremiah’s early prophecies were full of hope.

The Ark of the Covenant rested at the very heart of the Temple in Jerusalem. It held the Ten Commandments and it represented God’s presence among his people. No matter what happened, the people could always come to the Temple and be sure of encountering God. It’s no wonder they treasured the Ark!

We’re not sure what happened to that ark or when it happened. It was probably destroyed by an invader, and in this passage, Jeremiah speaks as if it is already missing from the Temple. But he looks forward to a day when “they will no longer think of it, or remember it, or miss it, or make another” (Jeremiah 3:16). Why not? Because God will dwell in the midst of his people, enthroned in those who gather to honor his name.

This became especially important to those who were exiled to Babylon a few short years later. Far away from the ruined Temple, they discovered new dimensions to their identity as God’s people. The written word of God, dietary laws, and heartfelt prayer became much more central than they were when everyone could come to Jerusalem and find God in the Temple.

Sometimes we are shaken by alterations in life as we know it. We lose a job and have to move across the country. A loved one dies. A new pastor changes things our parish has “always” done a certain way.

In situations like these, Jeremiah gives good advice. No longer look nostalgically to the past, wishing things could be as they once were. God is doing something new. Enthrone God in the present. Worship him in the midst of his people, and let him move you forward.

“Holy Spirit, you know how difficult change is for me. I know that you are always with me. Help me to trust you and to step forward into the new life you are offering me.”

22 July 2010

22 July 2010, Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene

Reading 1
Jer 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13

This word of the LORD came to me:
Go, cry out this message for Jerusalem to hear!

I remember the devotion of your youth,
how you loved me as a bride,
Following me in the desert,
in a land unsown.
Sacred to the LORD was Israel,
the first fruits of his harvest;
Should any presume to partake of them,
evil would befall them, says the LORD.

When I brought you into the garden land
to eat its goodly fruits,
You entered and defiled my land,
you made my heritage loathsome.
The priests asked not,
"Where is the LORD?"
Those who dealt with the law knew me not:
the shepherds rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after useless idols.

Be amazed at this, O heavens,
and shudder with sheer horror, says the LORD.
Two evils have my people done:
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns,
broken cisterns, that hold no water.

Jn 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
"They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don't know where they put him."

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb

and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them, "They have taken my Lord,
and I don't know where they laid him."
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?"
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
"Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary!"
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
"Rabbouni," which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
"Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
'I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'"
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
"I have seen the Lord,"
and then reported what he told her.

Meditation: John 20:1-2,11-18

St. Mary Magdalene

Mary! (John 20:16)

Mary Magdalene had been plagued by demons, and Jesus healed her. With gratitude, she joined the band of women who cared for his financial needs (Luke 8:2-3) and was among those who followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem (Matthew 27:55-56). Along with the twelve, she was privileged to hear his word and see his miracles every day. What’s more, while many fled in fear at the garden of Gethsemane, she stayed with him, a true disciple to the end (John 19:25).

Grief-stricken, Mary went to mourn at Jesus’ grave, out of respect and gratitude for all he had done for her. But her sorrow was turned into joy when she saw the empty tomb and then Jesus, risen from the dead! Calling her by name, Jesus freed Mary again—this time from the grief that had overcome her as she watched him die. With a single word, “Mary,” she was revived. And her reply, “Rabbouni,” Master, contained not only relief and joy but a pledge of faith in him and his gospel.

Just think: Jesus first appeared not to the priests and rulers of Israel, nor to the twelve apostles, but to a woman with a disturbed past. This was the person Jesus chose to be the first witness of the resurrection. This was the one he decided would have the honor of being the “apostle to the apostles,” the first evangelist.

God revealed himself to someone the world considered lowly and unlikely. Whatever kind of bondage Mary had suffered—whether she had been mentally ill, trapped in sin, or afflicted with a debilitating illness—it didn’t disqualify her. And neither are we disqualified, whether by past sins or current disabilities. Jesus came for just this reason, to deliver us from our sins and to fill us with the dignity of chosen and beloved children of God. He calls us each by name to share eternal life with him. He seeks to transform us, one and all, through his Holy Spirit so that we can be witnesses to his resurrection.

“Lord Jesus, you are the hope of glory! My heart rejoices at the sound of your voice. Thank you for awakening hope in me and lifting me up to new life in you.”

21 July 2010

21 July 2010, Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Jer 1:1, 4-10

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah,
of a priestly family in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin.

The word of the LORD came to me thus:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
"Ah, Lord GOD!" I said,
AI know not how to speak; I am too young."

But the LORD answered me,
Say not, "I am too young."
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Have no fear before them,
because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying,

See, I place my words in your mouth!
This day I set you
over nations and over kingdoms,
To root up and to tear down,
to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.

Mt 13:1-9

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
"A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear."

Meditation: Jeremiah 1:1,4-10

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Consider what this simple verse means. You are irreplaceable. You are one of a kind. Before he even created you, God had a purpose for your life that is different from his purpose for anyone else’s life. And in making you, he gave you all the grace and talents you need to accomplish that purpose. Yet like Jeremiah, we can protest: “I don’t know how to speak,” or “I am too young/old/busy.” The list can be endless.

Forget that list! Instead, take one step in the direction you feel God is laying before you and see where it goes. Trust him to direct you and to correct the course if you get it wrong.

Once, while praying in a decrepit church, St. Francis of Assisi heard the Lord tell him: “Rebuild my house, which is falling in ruins.” Knowing nothing about building repair, Francis collected money and hired someone to do the job. After a little correction from God, he began physically rebuilding that church himself. After some more redirection, Francis understood that he was called to take up a life of poverty and preaching so that he could bring renewal to the whole church, not just reconstruct one building. So he did end up rebuilding the house of the Lord. It just took a while to get it right.

Take that one step, and he’ll show you the next. If you feel that the Spirit wants you to pray—then start praying! Maybe later he’ll have you invite other people to join you or give you a specific direction for your prayer. But start praying now. If you have a particular love for the elderly, call a local nursing home and ask about volunteer positions. Start with what you know and let the Spirit give you further direction as you go.

Don’t let the fear of getting it “wrong” keep you from getting started! God doesn’t mind mistakes and misunderstanding. The important thing is to set out. He will provide what you lack. He will empower you and redirect you where necessary. He will take care of the details, probably in ways you can’t even imagine. Just remember that God created you for a reason. He has called you to do things that only you can accomplish!

“Holy Spirit, help me know how I am supposed to serve. Give me boldness and trust in the Father’s guidance.”

20 July 2010

20 July 2010, Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Mi 7:14-15, 18-20

Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
That dwells apart in a woodland,
in the midst of Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
as in the days of old;
As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt,
show us wonderful signs.

Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
You will cast into the depths of the sea
all our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and grace to Abraham,
As you have sworn to our fathers
from days of old.

Mt 12:46-50

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you."
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
"Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?"
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother."

Meditation: Matthew 12:46-50

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” (Mathew 12:48)

Doesn’t it seem out of character for Jesus to dismiss his family so easily and associate himself with virtual strangers instead? What do you think Mary and the others thought when they heard him say these words?

Of course Jesus loved his family. Of course Mary held a special place in his heart. But here, as he was preaching and teaching, he decided to make an important point—and he emphasized that point by exaggerating it. Although it sounds extreme to us, Jesus’ audience most likely understood that he wasn’t really disowning his family. In a culture built so much on storytelling and oral tradition, exaggeration would have been quite common. Think, for instance, about another one of Jesus’ sayings: “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 18:8). Everyone knew he wasn’t telling them to maim themselves. He was just telling them how serious sin is.

So what does it mean that Jesus considers anyone who follows him to be in his family? Think about what an ideal family looks like. Families stick together in good and bad times. They are quick to forgive and slow to judge. They are loyal to each other and are always looking out for each other’s well-being. There is love and acceptance, as well as a desire for everyone to succeed.

This is what you can expect from Jesus. He has established a connection with you that is thick as blood. He is more than a confidant or a close friend. He is your brother. If we are willing to go out of our way for our family, imagine how much more Jesus will do for us!

No earthly family is perfect, but Jesus is. He loves you and wants to help you in any way he can. He wants to see you become the man or woman of God that he knows you can be. All he asks is that you try your best to follow him. Remember: He has all the resources in the universe to help you reach your goal. And that’s no exaggeration!

“Thank you, Lord, for being so faithful to me. Give me the grace to trust in your provision. Jesus, I delight in being part of your family!”

19 July 2010

19 July 2010,Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Mi 6:1-4, 6-8

Hear what the LORD says:
Arise, present your plea before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice!
Hear, O mountains, the plea of the LORD,
pay attention, O foundations of the earth!
For the LORD has a plea against his people,
and he enters into trial with Israel.

O my people, what have I done to you,
or how have I wearied you? Answer me!
For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
from the place of slavery I released you;
and I sent before you Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam.

With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow before God most high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with myriad streams of oil?
Shall I give my first-born for my crime,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
You have been told, O man, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do the right and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Mt 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
"Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you."
He said to them in reply,
"An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here."

Meditation: Matthew 12:38-42

“We wish to see a sign from you.” (Matthew 12:38)

We might be tempted to feel a little smug when we think about the scribes and Pharisees who were hounding Jesus. How could they possibly have missed seeing the truth about him? He gave them a greater sign than Jonah. He was greater than the wise King Solomon! Surely we would have been more discerning! Why were their spiritual senses so dull?

What blinded the Pharisees is something that can afflict us even today: familiarity. They had seen “prophets” come and go. They knew Jesus as the son of a small-town tradesman and a wandering preacher from Galilee, and that’s all they could see him as. As a result, they didn’t expect anything more from Jesus. Their assumptions about him were set early, and there was no need to change what they considered to be true about his “type.” Just keep putting pressure on him to prove himself, they thought, and he would eventually back down or be proven false.

How about us? We may have been going to church all our lives. Perhaps we are used to seeing crucifixes at home or at church, and we can recite Bible stories from years of hearing them. We’ve been doing this so long that we think we know how Catholicism “works,” and by extension, how Jesus works. But when was the last time you gave him the chance to surprise you? Or even more to the point, when was the last time you took a chance and stepped out of the boat to join him on top of the lake?

In prayer today, ask Jesus to show you something new about who he is or the life he has called you to. Or try opening your Bible and re-reading a familiar parable, looking for the surprise that was revealed to the people in the story. At Mass, let Jesus take your breath away with the beauty of the eucharistic prayer. Keep your eyes open as you interact with family and friends today: How is Jesus showing himself to you through them? Let Jesus increase your faith. Let him deepen your confidence in those things you cannot see but are still very real.

“Jesus, I don’t want to be blind to you! Give me a glimpse behind the veil. Open my eyes and heart, Lord, to your revelation.”

18 July 2010

18 July 2010, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Gn 18:1-10a

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre,
as he sat in the entrance of his tent,
while the day was growing hot.
Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.
When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them;
and bowing to the ground, he said:
"Sir, if I may ask you this favor,
please do not go on past your servant.
Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet,
and then rest yourselves under the tree.
Now that you have come this close to your servant,
let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves;
and afterward you may go on your way."
The men replied, "Very well, do as you have said."

Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah,
"Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls."
He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer,
and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.
Then Abraham got some curds and milk,
as well as the steer that had been prepared,
and set these before the three men;
and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.

They asked Abraham, "Where is your wife Sarah?"
He replied, "There in the tent."
One of them said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year,
and Sarah will then have a son."

Reading 2
Col 1:24-28

Brothers and sisters:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and in my flesh I am filling up
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
on behalf of his body, which is the church,
of which I am a minister
in accordance with God's stewardship given to me
to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.
But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles;
it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
It is he whom we proclaim,
admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Lk 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."

Meditation: Luke 10:38-42

“Martha, Martha …” (Luke 10:41)

What a classic example of how closeness with God trumps religious activity! We all can see how Martha was focused on doing things for Jesus: cooking, cleaning, and making Jesus comfortable. Obviously, she couldn’t see that Jesus cared more about sharing a conversation than sharing a perfect meal.

But didn’t James tell us that anyone who listens to the word of God and doesn’t do what it says is like someone who gazes into a mirror and then immediately forgets what he looks like (James 1:22-24)? Perhaps Martha was onto something after all. Yes, she was a bit too preoccupied with the demands of hospitality, but maybe she was just trying her best to be a doer of the word and not just a hearer. Maybe she understood that you can’t have real communion with God without service.

This message certainly applies to our relationship with God, but it also applies to our relationships with one another. Scripture tells us to “serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13), to “strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14), and to use our God-given gifts to take care of each other (1 Peter 4:10). We don’t grow in love for each other simply by talking, after all. We grow by doing things for each other!

Jesus didn’t rebuke Martha for being a servant. That would contradict so much of his teaching—and so much of his own example. No, he wanted her to see that she had allowed anxiety and stress to control her more than simplicity and love. He wanted her to see that she lost her temper because she had lost her perspective.

Jesus wants to speak to us just as he spoke to Martha. He wants to invite us to sit with him and receive his abundant love. At the same time, he wants to give us energy for the work he’s called us to. May we all eat the Bread of Life and then go out and give away what God has given us!

“Lord, thank you for calling me into your service! I delight in serving you because I love you.”

17 July 2010

17 July 2010, Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Mi 2:1-5

Woe to those who plan iniquity,
and work out evil on their couches;
In the morning light they accomplish it
when it lies within their power.
They covet fields, and seize them;
houses, and they take them;
They cheat an owner of his house,
a man of his inheritance.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
Behold, I am planning against this race an evil
from which you shall not withdraw your necks;
Nor shall you walk with head high,
for it will be a time of evil.

On that day a satire shall be sung over you,
and there shall be a plaintive chant:
"Our ruin is complete,
our fields are portioned out among our captors,
The fields of my people are measured out,
and no one can get them back!"
Thus you shall have no one
to mark out boundaries by lot
in the assembly of the LORD.

Mt 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus
to put him to death.

When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place.
Many people followed him, and he cured them all,
but he warned them not to make him known.
This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

Meditation: Matthew 12:14-21

“The Pharisees went out and took counsel against him to put him to death.” (Matthew 12:14)

There’s a sense of foreboding in today’s readings, as if dark clouds are gathering on the horizon. The prophet Micah predicts a “time of evil” for the people of Israel (Micah 2:3). And after seeing Jesus heal a man on the Sabbath, some Pharisees begin talking about how to get him killed (Matthew 12:14).

It’s a good thing we know how the story ends. Micah prophesies later that the Messiah will come and “shepherd his flock” (Micah 5:3). And Matthew tells us that all this, even the Pharisees’ plotting, was part of God’s grand plan of salvation (Matthew 12:20).

We too are living in days of uncertainty, and many of us can feel as if dark clouds are gathering. We may feel that a culture of life is giving way to a culture of death. We may be experiencing financial difficulties, failing health, or wounded relationships. Sometimes, just reading the newspaper can leave us unsettled or anxious.

And yet for Christians, this is the reality: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Jesus is the light, and through him, sin and death have already been defeated. Because God has already won the victory, we can be victorious as well. Do you believe this? Remember: The paradox of the cross is that victories can look like defeats. Those watching Jesus dying on the cross certainly would have had difficulty believing that he had just saved the world!

We need to cling to hope at all times, and especially when things seem darkest. We need to learn how to stand firmly on the truth of our faith. God is on our side. He will never abandon us. He is always with us!

If you find yourself lacking in hope, ask God to give you more. You may as well get as much as you can now, when you need it. It won’t be of much use to you in heaven. After all, that’s where all of our hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. So ask now, and your generous Father will pour it out!

“Jesus, you are the light of the world. Fill me with such hope that I never doubt your power and presence, even in the darkness. Jesus, I trust in you.”

16 July 2010

16 July 2010, Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8

When Hezekiah was mortally ill,
the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him:
"Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order,
for you are about to die; you shall not recover."
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord:

"O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly
I conducted myself in your presence,
doing what was pleasing to you!"
And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: "Go, tell Hezekiah:
Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David:
I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.
I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the Lord's temple;
I will add fifteen years to your life.
I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria;
I will be a shield to this city."

Isaiah then ordered a poultice of figs to be taken
and applied to the boil, that he might recover.
Then Hezekiah asked,
"What is the sign that I shall go up to the temple of the LORD?"

Isaiah answered:
"This will be the sign for you from the LORD
that he will do what he has promised:
See, I will make the shadow cast by the sun
on the stairway to the terrace of Ahaz
go back the ten steps it has advanced."
So the sun came back the ten steps it had advanced.

Mt 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
"See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath."
He said to the them, "Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath."

Meditation: Isaiah 38:1-6,21-22,7-8

“The sun came back the ten steps it had advanced.” (Isaiah 38:8)

Hezekiah, king of Judah, was desperate. Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, had declared war on all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Now he was heading toward Jerusalem, the capital and Hezekiah’s home. And to make matters even worse, Hezekiah was facing a mortal illness. He turned to God in fervent prayer, and the Lord sent Isaiah with a message: Hezekiah would be healed, and the Lord would rescue the city.

Could this word be true? Hezekiah humbly asked for a sign. And what a sign he received: God actually changed the course of the sun!

God was not offended by Hezekiah’s request. On the contrary, he was happy to oblige. He wanted to show Hezekiah—and all the people of Jerusalem—his love and faithfulness.

Throughout Scripture, God has spoken through dramatic signs. Gideon saw the morning dew only dampen the ground and not a fleece blanket he laid on the ground (Judges 6:39-40). Balaam heard God’s message to him through a talking donkey (Numbers 22). And Noah saw a rainbow in the sky as proof of God’s covenant love (Genesis 9:11-17).

God is still sending us signs today. He can be very creative in these signs as he tries to get our attention. Maybe you feel a strong tugging in your heart urging you to call an old friend. You may have a dream that stays with you long after you have woken up. Perhaps you are awakened in the middle of the night and are prompted to pray for someone. Even rays of sunshine breaking through clouds can be his way of reminding you that he is with you.

So stay alert today. Know that God will be trying to get in touch with you as the day unfolds. Know that he will be sending you signs today. Some may be obvious, and others may be subtle. He may offer you guidance, or he may simply encourage you. All you need are open eyes, open ears, and an open heart. God will take care of the rest.

“Holy Spirit, I don’t want to miss your signs today. Help me to stay alert so that I can hear and see your work in my life.”

15 July 2010

15 July 2010, Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, bishop and doctor of the Church

Reading 1
Is 26:7-9, 12, 16-19

The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.
Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD,
we look to you;
Your name and your title
are the desire of our souls.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
When your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world's inhabitants learn justice.
O LORD, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.

O LORD, oppressed by your punishment,
we cried out in anguish under your chastising.
As a woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pains,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.
We conceived and writhed in pain,
giving birth to wind;
Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.
But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;
awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the land of shades gives birth.

Mt 11:28-30

Jesus said:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Meditation: Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened.” (Matthew 11:28)

One of the characters in the film The Mission is a Spanish slave-trader, Mendoza, who lives in South America. Mendoza is known as a hard man with a fiery temper, and in one fit of rage, he ends up killing his own brother. Overcome with grief, he confesses his sin to a Jesuit missionary priest and then performs a penance of his own choosing: He will follow the missionaries through the jungle, dragging a heavy net filled with his armor. Mendoza eventually collapses, and one of the priests cuts his bundle loose. But Mendoza reties it and trudges on. Finally, an Indian spots him. Instead of killing him, however, he cuts the man’s bundle again and throws it over a cliff. Freed of his burden, Mendoza is also freed from guilt.

In a similar way, Jesus wants to free us from our burdens. When he says, “I will give you rest”(Matthew 11:28), he’s not telling us to abandon our responsibilities or ignore God’s commandments. He just wants to rid us of the oppressive weight of guilt and self-condemnation that we can place on our shoulders. He wants us to get rid of the idea that we can atone for our own sins, that heroic acts of penance and self-punishment can convince God to forgive us.

Never forget that Jesus has done all the heavy lifting! He has already atoned for all of your sins—past, present, and future. And because of his cross, he has set you free from all condemnation. Your efforts, well-intentioned though they may be, can never accomplish what Jesus did for you on the cross. As Isaiah wrote, “Salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth” (Isaiah 26:18).

So rejoice in your salvation! Take Jesus’ words to heart and come to him so that you can find rest and refreshment. Get rid of the yoke of your sins and take up his “yoke” of trust and surrender. God never intended for you to be trapped in guilt or anxiety. He wants to shower you with his freedom, his love, and his joy!

“All praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus! You are my Redeemer and my Friend. I happily place my sins and failings in your hands for you to deal with. Come, Holy Spirit, and let me know your freedom and joy!”

14 July 2010

14 July 2010, Memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, virgin

Reading 1
Is 10:5-7, 13b-16

Thus says the LORD:
Woe to Assyria! My rod in anger,
my staff in wrath.
Against an impious nation I send him,
and against a people under my wrath I order him
To seize plunder, carry off loot,
and tread them down like the mud of the streets.
But this is not what he intends,
nor does he have this in mind;
Rather, it is in his heart to destroy,
to make an end of nations not a few.

For he says:
"By my own power I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I am shrewd.
I have moved the boundaries of peoples,
their treasures I have pillaged,
and, like a giant, I have put down the enthroned.
My hand has seized like a nest
the riches of nations;
As one takes eggs left alone,
so I took in all the earth;
No one fluttered a wing,
or opened a mouth, or chirped!"

Will the axe boast against him who hews with it?
Will the saw exalt itself above him who wields it?
As if a rod could sway him who lifts it,
or a staff him who is not wood!
Therefore the Lord, the LORD of hosts,
will send among his fat ones leanness,
And instead of his glory there will be kindling
like the kindling of fire.

Mt 11:25-27

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

Meditation: Matthew 11:25-27

“No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)

When we were children, many of us imagined God as a stern judge, sitting at his desk wearing pinch-nose glasses and watching our every move. Every time we did something wrong, he would open the Book of Life to the page with our name on it and make a check mark in the naughty column. We knew that one day we would have to stand before the Judge and explain all those check marks.

So has your concept of God matured? Or are you stuck in a grade-school rut? Do you still see God as a distant, unapproachable Creator? As a heavenly policeman just waiting for you to break his laws? As a perfectionist who condemns you for every minor misdoing?

One way many of us deal with these misconceptions is by putting aside any thoughts of God the Father and focusing our attention on Jesus instead. After all, he’s much easier to relate to because he became a man. He showed himself to be a kind, caring person who gave his all for us. We feel we can open our hearts to him and not be afraid of his judgments, even if we are not perfect. But still, somewhere in the back of our minds is this image of the Father—an image that is just plain contrary to the way Jesus revealed God to be.

Remember: Jesus came to earth so that he could reconcile us with the Father. It was God himself—our compassionate, patient, merciful Father—who sent Jesus to us in the first place. Everything Jesus ever said or did was meant to reveal the Father-heart of God so that we would not fear him but run to him. It’s amazing, and sometimes hard to grasp, but it is still true: God wants to have a relationship with us. And the best part is that we don’t have to go looking for him. He has already chosen us and reached out to us. All we have to do is open our hearts to receive him.

“Father, show yourself to me even more today. Help me to know you and to love you so that I can feel your presence in my life more deeply.”

13 July 2010

13 July 2010, Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 7:1-9

In the days of Ahaz, king of Judah, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah,
Rezin, king of Aram,
and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah,
went up to attack Jerusalem,
but they were not able to conquer it.
When word came to the house of David that Aram
was encamped in Ephraim,
the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled,
as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.

Then the LORD said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz,
you and your son Shear-jashub,
at the end of the conduit of the upper pool,
on the highway of the fuller's field, and say to him:
Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear;
let not your courage fail
before these two stumps of smoldering brands
the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans,
and of the son Remaliah,
because of the mischief that
Aram, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah,
plots against you, saying,
"Let us go up and tear Judah asunder, make it our own by force,
and appoint the son of Tabeel king there."

Thus says the LORD:
This shall not stand, it shall not be!
Damascus is the capital of Aram,
and Rezin is the head of Damascus;
Samaria is the capital of Ephraim,
and Remaliah's son the head of Samaria.

But within sixty years and five,
Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation.
Unless your faith is firm
you shall not be firm!

Mt 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the nether world.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

Meditation: Isaiah 7:1-9

“Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!” (Isaiah 7:9)

Judah’s King Ahaz had reason to be afraid. Assyria was threatening every country in the Middle East. The northern kingdoms of Israel and Syria invited Judah to join them in a military alliance, but Ahaz refused. He preferred to become a vassal of Assyria. So Israel and Syria besieged Jerusalem, intending to replace Ahaz with a non-Davidic ruler willing to join them. In the face of this threat, Ahaz and his people found their hearts trembling like leaves in the wind.

So God sent Isaiah to reassure King Ahaz: “Remain tranquil and do not fear” (Isaiah 7:4). Trust in the Lord to deliver you. If you have trouble trusting him, ask for a sign. But Ahaz chose to rely on Assyria rather than on the Lord. And in that choice, he showed that he preferred the security of a power he could see and feel over faith in an invisible God. Unable to follow Isaiah’s urging to stand firm, he gave in to his fears and asked a pagan king to protect him instead.

What makes me “tremble” today? Perhaps I am perplexed about how to resolve a complicated situation. Perhaps I’m aware of my own inadequacies in the face of a challenge. Perhaps I feel I’ve messed up so badly that it can’t be fixed.

These are good starting points, actually. It’s good to tremble every now and then. It’s one way to be reminded of your limitations and your need for God. But for heaven’s sake, don’t stay there! Move forward! When you find yourself lacking in wisdom, lean into God’s wisdom, and you’ll find strength you never knew you had. When you know you can’t do something, take a calming breath, and rejoice in the God who can do everything. When you are faced with your failures, thank the Lord that he is faithful to forgive and swift to cleanse your conscience.

Don’t be like Ahaz! Stand firm in your faith that only God’s plan will win out. And it’s a good plan, too, far better than anything you can devise. So “remain tranquil and do not fear” (Isaiah 7:4).

“Father, I surrender every situation to you today. I believe that you have a good plan for me and I know you will help me to stand firm in you.”

12 July 2010

12 July 2010, Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 1:10-17

Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!
What care I for the number of your sacrifices?
says the LORD.
I have had enough of whole-burnt rams
and fat of fatlings;
In the blood of calves, lambs and goats
I find no pleasure.

When you come in to visit me,
who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more!
Bring no more worthless offerings;
your incense is loathsome to me.
New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies,
octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear.
Your new moons and festivals I detest;
they weigh me down, I tire of the load.
When you spread out your hands,
I close my eyes to you;
Though you pray the more,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow.

Mt 10:34-11:1

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's enemies will be those of his household.

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

"Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet's reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man's reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

Meditation: Isaiah 1:10-17

“Hear the word of the Lord!” (Isaiah 1:10)

What an auspicious opening for the Book of Isaiah! This fellow was convinced that his message came from God and that it was a word for all the people of Jerusalem to hear. What was the source of his confidence? Isaiah had a terrifying vision of the all-holy God, a vision that filled him with dread over his own sins and the sins of the people. Intertwined with that dread, however, was the assurance of God’s own mercy for him—and an invitation to go and speak God’s words of warning, judgment, and hope to the people.

This dramatic vision gave Isaiah a deep awareness of human sinfulness—both his own and that of the people. “Woe is me!” he cried. “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). It was a conviction that shaped his whole prophetic ministry. Like every other prophet of the Lord, he spoke to the political situations of his day, but—again like every other prophet—he did so by calling the people to repentance. “Act with justice and compassion!” he cried. “Put aside idolatry, greed, and corruption! Care for the poor and needy!”

Isaiah never gave up hope. In some of the Old Testament’s most memorable passages, he spoke of a time when God’s peace and justice would rule Israel. He spoke with great confidence about a coming king, who would be called “Wonder-Counselor,” “Prince of Peace,” and “Immanuel” (Isaiah 9:5; 7:14). Many commentators see these as references to the righteous King Hezekiah, but with the eyes of faith, we can see them also as descriptions of Jesus, who is the fulfillment of every prophet’s words.

Isaiah’s ministry spanned more than half a century, roughly 749 to 687 b.c., and it encompassed a number of upheavals for the people. Yet through them all, messages like today’s passage ring out clearly, both for the people of ancient Jerusalem and for us today. When all is said and done, it’s a simple message from a loving God: “Cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim” (Isaiah 1:16-17).

“Lord God, lead me in the path of your holiness. Teach me how to live a life pleasing to you in every way.”

10 July 2010

11 July 2010, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Dt 30:10-14

Moses said to the people:
"If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.

"For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out."

Reading 2

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Lk 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law?
How do you read it?"
He said in reply,
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself."
He replied to him, "You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live."

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
"And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied,
"A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
'Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.'
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"
He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy."
Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Meditation: Luke 10:25-37

Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)

In his questioning and counter-questioning with Jesus, this lawyer revealed a deep sensitivity to the word of the Lord. Unlike most of the other experts in Judaism—who were among Jesus’ most bitter opponents—this one got to the heart of the entire plan of God with two simple commands: Love God, and love your neighbor.

In his answer, the lawyer demonstrated what Moses told the Israelites centuries earlier: “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:14). He showed that the way of God is written, almost genetically, within the impulses of our human nature, and for this he won Jesus’ approval.

Brothers and sisters, the gospel isn’t hard to understand. It’s not a complex set of theological formulas. We don’t need years of education to get to its core. God has written it on our hearts, and in the depths of our conscience, we all know the truth.

But there is more to this passage than a conversation between two religious leaders. Jesus not only told the lawyer that he was on the right track, he also said: “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28). Evidently, it’s not enough for us to understand the truth. Our understanding should lead us to doing the truth as well. So in the end, the gospel is just as demanding as it is simple.

Whenever we hear God’s word proclaimed at Mass, Jesus tells us: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). He asks us to embrace the simplicity of his message and to silence the inner voices that try to make excuses and protest that Jesus is asking too much. Moses was right: The word is not far from us at all. The Holy Spirit—the love and power of God—is always with us to teach us and to empower us.

“Thank you, Jesus, for writing your words on my heart. By the power of your Spirit, give me the courage and humility to go and do the works of your gospel. Jesus, make me more like you.”

Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Discussion

(Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-7,16,20; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12,17-20)

1. In the first reading, Moses tells the people the command they are to fulfill is already “something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” Jesus summarizes this command for us in the Gospel reading: love God and love your neighbors. How would you characterize how you are fulfilling this command? What small step may God be asking you to take to better love Him and your neighbors?

2. The responsorial psalm is a cry for help by the psalmist who is “afflicted and in pain.” Why is he able to respond to this affliction and pain with these words: “I will praise the name of the Lord in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving”?

3. In second reading from the letter to the Colossians, St. Paul’s ancient hymn says that in Christ all things are reconciled. What areas of your life may still require a deeper reconciliation with God or with your neighbor?

4. In the Gospel reading, in response to the man who wanted “to justify” himself, Jesus tells the beautiful story of the Good Samaritan. Which of the characters in the parable do you relate to the most? Why?

5. The Good Samaritan is often taken as a model of Jesus’ care for each of us. With this in mind, how do you relate the care to the man who was victimized with how Jesus has cared for you?

6. In the meditation, we hear these words: “Evidently, it’s not enough for us to understand the truth. Our understanding should lead us to doing the truth as well.” If you are in a group, pray for one another for the grace and power to live out the truths of the Gospel, especially to love God and our neighbors. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as a starting point.

10 July 2010, Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 6:1-8

In the year King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,
with the train of his garment filling the temple.
Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings:
with two they veiled their faces,
with two they veiled their feet,
and with two they hovered aloft.

They cried one to the other,
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!"
At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke.

Then I said, "Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

He touched my mouth with it and said,
"See, now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed, your sin purged."

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
"Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"
"Here I am," I said; "send me!"

Mt 10:24-33

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more those of his household!

"Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father."

Meditation: Matthew 10:24-33

Do not be afraid. (Matthew 10:31)

It’s natural to be afraid of the unknown, and for many of us evangelizing is a great, vast unknown. So many what-ifs come up in our minds that we just want to run away and hide. But as we work on developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit, we find that fear gradually fades away and is replaced by a calm confidence.

Getting to know the Spirit is vital to evangelization. Why? Because only the Spirit can put us in touch with the love that casts out fear and lightens burdens. And whenever this happens, we are freed up to care for the people around us. We begin to trust that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle and that he won’t give us opportunities to witness that are beyond our ability. And even if we do face situations in which we are challenged beyond what we think we can do, the Spirit will comfort and strengthen us with the promise that with God all things are possible. So even if we misspeak or misstep, God is there to correct us gently and to comfort us, teach us, and even bless our misguided efforts.

So how can we allow the Spirit to make us into more effective evangelists? Practice, practice, practice. Start slowly, but be willing to take a few risks when you think you feel the Spirit nudging your conscience. Try introducing yourself to someone after Mass and saying something positive. Just one small step of faith can do wonders in helping overcome an initial awkwardness. Then your friendliness can set the stage for a more personal sharing of your faith.

Remain as simple and personal with people as you know God is with you. You don’t have to get into doctrinal debates or controversies. All you have to do is share from your heart, confident that the One who has counted every hair on your head is standing next to you. Remember: Evangelism is all about introducing people to a person—Jesus. And that’s something the Holy Spirit is an expert at. So invite him in, and watch as your fears dissipate, and the gospel shines from your heart.

“Jesus, give me the courage I need to share your good news with the people around me. Holy Spirit, come teach me, and encourage me to be your ambassador!”