31 August 2010

31 Aug 2010, Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
1 Cor 2:10b-16

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.
Among men, who knows what pertains to the man
except his spirit that is within?
Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God.
We have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.
And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom,
but with words taught by the Spirit,
describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.

Now the natural man does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God,
for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it,
because it is judged spiritually.
The one who is spiritual, however, can judge everything
but is not subject to judgment by anyone.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Lk 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee.
He taught them on the sabbath,
and they were astonished at his teaching
because he spoke with authority.
In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,
and he cried out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
Then the demon threw the man down in front of them
and came out of him without doing him any harm.
They were all amazed and said to one another,
“What is there about his word?
For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits,
and they come out.”
And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.

Meditation: Luke 4:31-37

“He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” (Luke 4:36)

St. John Vianney (1786–1859), the patron saint of parish priests, lived such a holy life that he often attracted the unwanted attention of the devil. Stories abound telling how, night after night, demons harassed Vianney to try to exhaust him and prevent him from hearing confessions. At one point, Vianney noticed that “the assaults were more numerous if, on the following day, some big sinner was due to come.” On one such occasion, his bed was even set on fire!

Like the case of demonic possession we see in today’s Gospel, such physical attacks by the devil are extremely rare. But just because we don’t battle with Satan this way doesn’t mean he isn’t busy troubling us. He is real—and he really hates us. We have been given the promise of eternal life in heaven, something he lost when he rebelled against God. His primary goal now is to make us as miserable as he is!

That’s why Satan and his demons are always trying to oppress us, maybe through a spirit of laziness, lust, gluttony, pride, or any number of other ways. They also try to use the non-sinful elements of our emotions, like fear and anxiety, to wear us down and keep us from experiencing everything Jesus came to give us. That’s why we should never dismiss the spiritual aspects of the sins and temptations that beset us. As St. Peter said: “Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

What can you do when you are feeling harassed by the devil? First of all, turn to God! Don’t just rely on your own strength. Ask the Lord to drive away whatever spirit is bothering you. Put your faith in the authority of the name of Jesus. It’s the ultimate weapon against the forces of hell. Let Jesus deal with these evil spirits, and you’ll find relief. Send the troublesome spirit to the cross, where Jesus can deal with it and set you free. You’ll be amazed at how confident you will be that with Christ you can do anything!

“Jesus, thank you for giving me your name as a defense against the evil one. To you be blessing and honor, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor and power and might forever!”

30 August 2010

30 Aug 2010, Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
1 Cor 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,
proclaiming the mystery of God,
I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,
and my message and my proclamation
were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of spirit and power,
so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.

Lk 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Is this not the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said,
“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

Meditation: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

“… so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5)

The apostle Paul was a bright, persuasive, well-read expert in Jewish theology. He may have had his flaws, but he was still one of the most influential men in the early church. The Corinthian church, a growing and thriving community, testified to the work of this great “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Yet Paul was always careful to emphasize that the church was built “on the power of God,” not on his wisdom or the wisdom of any other apostle.

Like St. Paul, we too are called to build the church. And, again like St. Paul, we are called to build on the foundation of God’s wisdom and power, not human wisdom. Does that mean that we shouldn’t try to be dynamic and engaging as we spread the good news? Of course not! We should do whatever it takes and use whatever tools we have available to us to present the gospel so that people will be moved to open their hearts to the Lord. That’s what it means to become “all things to all, to save at least some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

The point isn’t what you can or cannot do. You don’t need a particular skill set to succeed as a witness to the Lord. You don’t have to look impressive or feel strong and energetic to do God’s will. All you have to do is listen to the Holy Spirit and try your best to follow his guidance.

The best way to become an effective sharer of the gospel is to sit quietly with the Lord in prayer every day. Set aside all your concerns and focus on Jesus, his kingdom, and his goal of bringing people to heaven. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you the best ways to witness and share your faith. Then, take some steps during the day to act on what you think God has said. Remember: The most important thing is not what we do but how we put our hope in the power of God to work in our day and in our circumstances.

“Holy Spirit, I want to follow your lead. Show me what you want me to do today, so that I might make way for your power to be seen in this world.”

28 August 2010

29 Aug 2010, Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.

Reading 2
Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a

Brothers and sisters:
You have not approached that which could be touched
and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness
and storm and a trumpet blast
and a voice speaking words such that those who heard
begged that no message be further addressed to them.
No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Lk 14:1, 7-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Meditation: Luke 14:1,7-14

“My friend, move up to a higher position.” (Luke 14:10)

Every day, all around the world, Jesus sets a banquet for his people and invites each of us to a “place of honor” (Luke 14:8). It’s the Eucharist, and Jesus is our host. Let this truth fill your imagination at Mass today. Try to picture yourself seated at table with “countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven … and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:22-24). See what kind of effect this has on your experience of the liturgy!

Here is a story of what can happen at Mass. A young woman was in deep sorrow over circumstances in her life. She knew that she should try to fight the thoughts of hopelessness that raced through her mind, but she found it next to impossible. She barely made it through the liturgy, and as she rose to go to Communion, she began to pray in her heart: “Jesus, deliver me from the hand of the enemy. Jesus, deliver me from the hand of the enemy.”

When she returned to her pew, she knelt down, buried her face in her arms, and wept silently. Just then, she felt a sense of deep relief. Her challenges remained, but the despair was gone. Jesus had taken on her burden. She knew she could face her life with new hope because she was convinced that Jesus was with her.

This is the glory of our God: He invites all of us to his banquet table. Whether physically or spiritually, we are all poor, lame, or blind (Luke 14:13). No matter how tough our exterior, we all long for peace and healing. And guess what? Jesus wants to shower us with these very gifts every time we receive Communion. So go to him humbly saying, “Lord, I am not worthy; say the word and I will be healed.”

“Jesus, I approach your throne with hope, knowing that you wait for me in the celebration of the Mass. Come, Lord, and set me free so that I can know joy in your presence!”


Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Discussion

(Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29; Psalm 68:4-7,10-11; Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24; Luke 14:1,7-14)

1. In the first reading we are advised to “humble” ourselves and we will find favor with God. St. Augustine called humility the “royal road”. It was, he said, the way God came to us, and, therefore, the only way back to Him. What do you think that means for your life?

2. The Responsorial Psalm calls God the defender and provider of the lowly, the forsaken, orphans, widows, and the poor and needy. In fact, when Christ came on earth, he did not appear to the rich, the important, and powerful, but to those who were considered lowly and outcasts. To what extent have you tried to follow in Christ’s footsteps? Whose company do you tend to seek? Why? Do you need to make any changes?

3. The second reading says that unlike the Israelites, to whom God spoke in darkness and storms and fire, we can approach God directly in the Sacraments and in our prayer. In fact, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and we can receive Christ in the Eucharist every time we go to Mass. What additional steps can you take to reinforce your appreciation of this fact, and prepare yourself, before attending Mass?

4. Today’s Gospel again gives us an important lesson in personal humility. Someone has said that humility does not consist in thinking less of ourselves, but in thinking of ourselves less often. What can you do to make the Lord more present in your day, and to make yourself less the center of your day?

5. The Gospel also brings us to the next step in holiness. When we think of ourselves less often, we are able to be of service to those of God’s people who need our attention. How can you open yourself more to serve those less fortunate? Discuss some possible ways you could work together with others to reach out to the poor and needy.

6. The meditation tells us that: “No matter how tough our exterior, we all long for peace and healing.” What are some areas in your life that need a deeper peace and healing? Offer these areas to the Lord for healing the next time you receive the Eucharist? If you are in a small group, share the fruit of doing this at your next meeting.

28 Aug 2010, Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

Reading 1
1 Cor 1:26-31

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God.
It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God,
as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,
so that, as it is written,
Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

Mt 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.
After a long time
the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents
came forward bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

Meditation: Matthew 25:14-30

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

When we read the parable of the talents, it’s only natural to think about our own God-given talents. Perhaps we’re good at analyzing situations. Perhaps our hearts go out to those in need. Perhaps we’re hard workers or natural leaders. Maybe we have dancing feet, the gift of gab, or tireless energy.

It’s wonderful to take such an inventory, especially if we praise God for the gifts he has given us and ask him how he would have us use them or increase them. But St. Paul cautions us to see things a little differently. He points out that God has not chosen the wise, the strong or the prestigious. He has not chosen the “gifted.” Rather, God has chosen the simple, the weak, even those who are despised. Why?

Unfortunately, it’s easy for the smart and the powerful to think they’re self-sufficient. They find it harder to admit their need for God, so they remain closed to the love he longs to share with them. It saddens him when we are so blinded by whatever cleverness or strength we have that we keep it for ourselves instead of placing it in his hands and letting him bring it to life.

Does this mean we should minimize our talents? Not at all. Rather, we should ask him for the humility to recognize that those gifts come from him. We should also try to complete the circle by offering our gifts back to him, eager to see what we can do together.

How might this look? It might look like a gourmet cook volunteering at a soup kitchen, getting used to the idea of serving the poor, and then offering to add a new flavor to the soup. It might look like a talented singer teaching a child to cantor for a school Mass. It might look like putting your arms around a friend, even though you have no idea why God is allowing the suffering she is experiencing. In moments like these, both of you can discover the mystery of God’s generous love as you “grow rich” in his grace and favor (Matthew 25:29).

“Father, thank you for the wisdom and strength you give me. Help me wrap these gifts in your love and offer them back to you so that together we can build your kingdom.”

27 August 2010

27 Aug 2010, Memorial of Saint Monica

Reading 1
1 Cor 1:17-25

Brothers and sisters:
Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written:

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the learning of the learned I will set aside.

Where is the wise one?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?
For since in the wisdom of God
the world did not come to know God through wisdom,
it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation
to save those who have faith.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Mt 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Meditation: Matthew 25:1-13

“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)

Why did these five “wise” virgins refuse to share their oil? Aren’t God’s people supposed to be generous? But think about the position they were in. Asked to be wedding attendants, their job was to welcome the bridegroom when he came to collect his bride. Without their lamps burning, they couldn’t even see him, let alone greet him properly! Why should they give away their oil, then, and fail in their calling?

In the Bible, oil often represents the Holy Spirit, the “oil of gladness” that fuels the “lamp,” the light of God’s word (Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 119:105). And the Holy Spirit is not something we can just give away like a flashlight. The Holy Spirit isn’t a “something” at all; he is a “someone”! We certainly can point others to God—as these women pointed their friends to the merchants where they could get their own oil—but we can’t think that we can do what only God can do in a person’s heart.

This parable is not about being selfish but about being watchful. Jesus is warning us that salvation is not automatic: If we don’t hold on to the light of his grace, we can lose it. If we grow careless, our hearts can become so darkened with sin that we no longer seek God’s mercy. In that state, we won’t recognize him when he comes to us—and in a sense, he won’t “know” us either!

So how can you keep your faith alive? The key is persistence. We don’t become saints all at once but little by little. Your prayer may consist of reading just a passage of Scripture every day and sitting in silence for ten minutes. You may go to daily Mass or Sunday Mass. Whatever you are doing now to seek God, keep it up and try to increase it a little bit at a time. A flame that burns steadily is less likely to die out than one that flickers. With the fire of the Spirit burning inside, you have nothing to fear!

“Lord, don’t let my love for you grow cold! Help me to let go of anything that dims my devotion to you. May I never stop seeking your grace, for you are the fountain of life!”

26 August 2010

26 Aug 2010, Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
1 Cor 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother,
to the Church of God that is in Corinth,
to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mt 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Meditation: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

“You are not lacking in any spiritual gift.” (1 Corinthians 1:7)

It’s tempting to feel beaten down during the day, buried under hundreds of details that cry for our attention, harried by looming deadlines, mystified by our children’s (or our own) moods, fears, or choices. But the truth is, we are heirs of an amazing life! We don’t have to feel burdened or confused. No, like the Christians in Corinth, we too can be “enriched in every way” (1 Corinthians 1:5).

God wants us to become confident in the vast resources we have inherited in Christ! Jesus is more than eager to provide us with every spiritual gift we need. Imagine: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, faith, and fortitude are ours in abundance. And on top of that, mercy, forgiveness, comfort, compassion, and love are constantly flowing from the throne of our heavenly Father. And they’re all offered to help “enrich” our lives and the lives of everyone around us.

So how do we receive these gifts? Well, when we pray, we need to be specific—and honest—about the needs we have. Being clear with ourselves and with God about what we’re seeking and then taking time to rest quietly in God’s presence, will help open our eyes to the miracles God is pouring into us. At times, his answer will come in some unfolding event in our lives; or perhaps it will be a still, small voice in the quiet of our hearts or minds. Sometimes the understanding or fortitude or love we need will simply materialize at the right time.

However these gifts come, one thing is sure: God, who calls us to be holy, is faithful. Life doesn’t have to be too hard. Peace and hope are not beyond our grasp. They are not meant only for a chosen few. They are for every one of us, regardless of our age, natural talents, or station in life. It’s not a matter of our own efforts. Jesus is always with us to help us, to keep us constant in this life, and to make us ready to greet him when he comes again.

“Jesus, I want to receive all the gifts you have for me today. I trust in your goodness. Come, Lord, and help me to follow confidently in the way you lead me.”

25 August 2010

25 Aug 2010, Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
2 Thes 3:6-10, 16-18

We instruct you, brothers and sisters,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to shun any brother
who walks in a disorderly way
and not according to the tradition they received from us.
For you know how one must imitate us.
For we did not act in a disorderly way among you,
nor did we eat food received free from anyone.
On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked,
so as not to burden any of you.
Not that we do not have the right.
Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you,
so that you might imitate us.
In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that
if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.

May the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times and in every way.
The Lord be with all of you.

This greeting is in my own hand, Paul’s.
This is the sign in every letter; this is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

Mt 23:27-32

Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You build the tombs of the prophets
and adorn the memorials of the righteous,
and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’
Thus you bear witness against yourselves
that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”

“Shun any who conduct themselves in a disorderly way.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

Many parents of younger children find it effective to handle inappropriate behavior by imposing a “time out,” having the child sit in a chair facing a corner, perhaps, with no talking or playing allowed.

St. Paul, too, is imposing a sort of “time out” when he tells the Thessalonian Christians to “shun” certain members who are sowing disorder. Apparently, this community had its share of troublemakers who refused to work and who abused the generosity of their brothers and sisters in Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:6,11-12).

These words from Paul might strike us as harsh. What about love? What about mercy? No doubt, that’s what the faithful Thessalonians had been trying to do. But like a parent who sees the big picture, Paul realized that these good intentions might backfire and do nothing more than encourage bad habits. It was time for some tough love instead. Anything else would only reinforce the slackers in their idle, busybody ways. And eventually, this would pull the church apart.

What about us? Do Paul’s words give us permission to avoid people whose behavior we find lacking? Not really. We must always look upon them as our brother or sister. Of course, there are serious situations where we might decide to pull back from a relationship. But cutting off the people whose behavior bothers us shouldn’t become our rule of thumb.

Remember, Paul also said that discipline must be exercised in love, with a view to bringing offenders back into the family circle. And so he qualifies his directive in two important ways. “Do not be remiss in doing good” means continuing to respond generously to genuine needs. And “admonish him as a brother” means relating with love, not self-righteousness (2 Thessalonians 3:13,15).

For Christians past, present, and future, the bottom line is Jesus’ command: “Love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). And none of us gets a “time out” from seeking to carry it out!

“Jesus, give me a share of your love for each and every person I know. Help me to look at them with mercy and compassion. Show me how to love them in ways that will draw them closer and closer to you.”
Meditation: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10,?16-18

24 August 2010

24 Aug 2010, Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Reading 1
Rv 21:9b-14

The angel spoke to me, saying,
“Come here.
I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain
and showed me the holy city Jerusalem
coming down out of heaven from God.
It gleamed with the splendor of God.
Its radiance was like that of a precious stone,
like jasper, clear as crystal.
It had a massive, high wall,
with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed
and on which names were inscribed,
the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.
There were three gates facing east,
three north, three south, and three west.
The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation,
on which were inscribed the twelve names
of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

Jn 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Meditation: Revelation 21:9-14

St. Bartholomew

The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:14)

Today, we celebrate St. Bartholomew, one of the great “twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). And while this is a day to remember one of the early heroes of the church, we should also look at it as a day to celebrate our own role in the body of Christ. After all, we too have been incorporated into that building that stands on the firm foundation of the apostles.

So just what is this foundation? Jesus’ words to Nathanael—the straight-talking disciple in today’s Gospel who tradition tells us was also called Bartholomew—can give us some insight. “You will see the sky opened,” he promised, “and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). The foundation was divine revelation.

Ordinary tradesmen and lower-ranking public servants, the disciples weren’t necessarily the most talented men in Galilee. But Jesus didn’t call them because of their social status. Rather, he saw the “raw materials” of their personalities and chose to shape them through his teachings, his miracles, and the work of his Spirit in their hearts. This is what made them into witnesses for Christ and strong foundations for the church.

What about us? We aren’t necessarily the holiest, the smartest, or the most remarkable people. But we do have the Holy Spirit living in us, revealing Jesus to us! The heavens can open to us each day as we pray, read God’s word, or receive Jesus in the Eucharist. This is what roots us in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is what makes it possible for us to live as part of the bride of Christ! We are not worthy because of our attributes. No, it is God’s work in us, making us his workmanship, an essential part of his body!

As you remember St. Bartholomew, think about the splendor of the heavenly Jerusalem. And give thanks that God has invited you—and everyone—to be with him. He really does want you to imagine yourself rejoicing with him in heaven. You really can be a saint!

“Jesus, make me like your apostles! Open my eyes to your glory and transform me today.”

23 August 2010

23 Aug 2010, Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
2 Thes1:1-5, 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters,
as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more,
and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.
Accordingly, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God
regarding your endurance and faith in all your persecutions
and the afflictions you endure.

This is evidence of the just judgment of God,
so that you may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God
for which you are suffering.

We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Mt 23:13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

Meditation: Psalm 96

“Sing to the Lord a new song!” (Psalm 96:1)

The Book of Psalms has been the hymnal of God’s people for thousands of years. Tradition attributes the composition of many psalms to King David, “the singer of the songs of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1 NJB) and others to Jewish guilds of musicians connected with the names Asaph and Korah.

The Israelites sang psalms as they worshipped in the Temple. After the coming of Jesus, however, the earliest Christians—all of whom were Jews—came to see the psalms not only as prayers that Jesus himself had said but also as prophecies about Christ. This is why the psalms have been incorporated into the liturgical worship of the church, forming the heart of the Liturgy of the Hours and teaching us how to respond to the word of God at Mass.

The psalms are poems set to music, and they were originally intended to be sung. They resound with joyful praise and thanksgiving, tender love and blazing anger, rejoicing and suffering, trust and desperation. Taken as a whole, the psalms reflect just about every dimension of human experience. Because they are divinely inspired, each of us can find our own stories in the psalms—and use them to help us lift our hearts to the Lord.

How often do you sing psalms or hymns on your own? Not in your mind, that is, but out loud, with a full voice, as part of your prayer? If you have done this, you know that singing not only glorifies God, it frees us up and makes us more open to his presence. There’s something unique about the way singing puts us in a better place to experience the Lord and receive his blessings. So why not try singing during your prayer time today? Choose a hymn or song or psalm whose words capture what is in your heart. Choose something that helps you to praise the Lord. Don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune—you’re singing for God’s ears, and he loves to listen to you!

“Glorious God, I rejoice in your goodness and mercy! I lift my heart and voice, joining with all the saints and angels in a chorus of praise and thanksgiving to you, my majestic Lord and King!”

21 August 2010

22 Aug 2010, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Is 66:18-21

Thus says the LORD:
I know their works and their thoughts,
and I come to gather nations of every language;
they shall come and see my glory.
I will set a sign among them;
from them I will send fugitives to the nations:
to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan,
to the distant coastlands
that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory;
and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.
They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations
as an offering to the LORD,
on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries,
to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD,
just as the Israelites bring their offering
to the house of the LORD in clean vessels.
Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.

Reading 2
Heb 12:5-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters,
You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”;
God treats you as sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
At the time,
all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

Lk 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

Meditation: Luke 13:22-30

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” (Luke 13:23)

What a direct, difficult question! And Jesus gave a direct, challenging answer: “Many … will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Luke 13:24). Evidently, salvation is not a foregone conclusion! It’s something we have to take seriously, something we have to be sure we have taken hold of by faith every day.

St. Augustine said that God created us without our help but he will not save us without our help. While Jesus’ death and resurrection have brought about our redemption, we still have a role to play in letting that redemption penetrate our hearts and minds.

So how seriously do you take the promise of eternal life? Does it rank above or below the latest sale? Is it more important than spending all of Sunday watching football or baseball? Nothing is wrong with these things, of course. The question is whether we have put Jesus first in our lives and are taking the time to let him minister to us every day.

St. Paul once wrote: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The creed that we recite every Sunday at Mass is our statement of faith. So we can trust that salvation is ours as we “confess” this creed and as we place our faith and trust in the truths that this creed announces.

Taking eternal life for granted is a scary proposition. If salvation really is a foregone conclusion, then all is well and we have nothing to worry about. But if this assumption is incorrect, then the stakes are high. This is why we need to make it a point every day to make our own personal confession of faith based on the truths in the creed. It’s also why we need to ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to these truths every day so that we can place our faith in them more and more.

“Jesus, I believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that you are Lord and Savior.”

21 Aug 2010, Memorial of Pius X, pope

Reading 1
Ez 43:1-7ab

The angel led me to the gate which faces the east,
and there I saw the glory of the God of Israel
coming from the east.
I heard a sound like the roaring of many waters,
and the earth shone with his glory.
The vision was like that which I had seen
when he came to destroy the city,
and like that which I had seen by the river Chebar.
I fell prone as the glory of the LORD entered the temple
by way of the gate which faces the east,
but spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court.
And I saw that the temple was filled with the glory of the Lord.
Then I heard someone speaking to me from the temple,
while the man stood beside me.
The voice said to me:
Son of man, this is where my throne shall be,
this is where I will set the soles of my feet;
here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever.

Mt 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Meditation: Matthew 23:1-12

“All their works are performed to be seen.” (Matthew 23:5)

Jesus didn’t mince any words in criticizing these Pharisees for their outward display of holiness. That’s because he knew that many of them weren’t living up to the standards they expected from others. We can be sure they had good intentions. They studied the Law because they wanted to follow God’s will, but their behavior contradicted it. They modified their religious clothing to make it stand out more, and they sought the respect of the people, not for who they were but for their position in society (Matthew 23:5-7).

We might wonder why the Pharisees were so concerned about other people’s opinions. It’s not that they were insecure. It’s more likely that they were trying to protect their faith against corruption by their Roman occupiers. They wanted to preserve Judaism at all costs. And so they stressed ritual and tradition to the point that they lost sight of what was supposed to be underneath it. In the process, they started looking down on those who weren’t “true believers” according to their standards.

None of us is above temptation. Though we may not carry enormous Bibles or wear huge crosses to show off, we may still want to be recognized for who we are and what we can do. Or we may hide our gifts, imagining we’re not worthy enough to share them—which can also be a subtle form of pride. But our weakness in these areas shouldn’t discourage us. On the contrary, it should make us all the more eager to seek God’s mercy!

If you want to be humble, you don’t have to look any further than Jesus for your example. He never tried to get attention. He never promoted himself, and yet he drew far more people than the Pharisees ever could. That’s because he had what they needed—a relationship with his heavenly Father. You don’t have to impress anyone if you are following Jesus. You just have to stay close to him, and people will recognize his presence within you. He will purify your heart so that you can empty yourself, take up the cross, and serve him with joy!

“Father, help me to fix my eyes on your cross. I want to walk with you on the narrow road that leads to life. Lord, I give glory to you alone!”

20 August 2010

20 Aug 2010, Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church

Reading 1
Ez 37:1-14

The hand of the LORD came upon me,
and led me out in the Spirit of the LORD
and set me in the center of the plain,
which was now filled with bones.
He made me walk among the bones in every direction
so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain.
How dry they were!
He asked me:
Son of man, can these bones come to life?
I answered, “Lord GOD, you alone know that.”
Then he said to me:
Prophesy over these bones, and say to them:
Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:
See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.
I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you,
cover you with skin, and put spirit in you
so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD.
I prophesied as I had been told,
and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise;
it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.
I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them,
and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them.
Then the LORD said to me:
Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man,
and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD:
From the four winds come, O spirit,
and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.
I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them;
they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
Then he said to me:
Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
They have been saying,
“Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”
Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Mt 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Meditation: Matthew 22:34-40

“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36)

How easy to grasp—do not commit adultery; do not lie, cheat, steal, covet, or kill. Got it. Check it off. Now rate it. Is it worse to steal than to covet? Is it better to commit adultery than murder? Which is the least offensive sin, and which is the most offensive?

We like to simplify, codify, and try hard to obey. But God has a different way of looking at things: He looks at the heart. Greater than what we do—or keep from doing—is love. Jesus spelled it out for the Pharisees, and us too. Love God. Love others. “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).

Love—a love spilling out of a heart filled to the brim with God’s own love—is the greatest command that we are to “obey.” Love each other intensely, St. Peter advised the Christians in Asia Minor, because love covers a multitude of sins!?(1 Peter 4:8). Yes, sin happens. But love enables us to bear all things, hope all things, and endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). It joins all the other virtues together in perfect unity and goes far beyond (Colossians 3:13-14)!

At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This is not a statement meant to coerce us into obedience. It is a promise! If you love me—if my love fills your heart and if you rest in my love—you will obey. Such is the power of God’s love in us! It is strong enough to influence our thoughts and actions over and above our human passions and desires. Its effect on our lives is massive, so much so that sin diminishes and acts of service and compassion increase.

Allowing God’s love to fill and influence you is a pleasanter, easier way to obey than relying solely on human determination. So ask the Holy Spirit for a fresh outpouring of this love today. Don’t be shy; it’s something he loves to do! Let his love overcome strongholds of fear, lust, jealousy, and self-centeredness so that you can know his strength and comfort.

“Holy Spirit, fill me with the Father’s love today. Pour it into my heart, so that I can know the joy and freedom of obedience

19 August 2010

19 Aug 2010, Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Ez 36:23-28

Thus says the LORD:
I will prove the holiness of my great name,
profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your ancestors;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying,
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Meditation: Psalm 51:12-15,18-19

“Restore my joy in your salvation.” (Psalm 51:14)

O Lord, I come before you just as David did so many years ago. I come freely admitting my sins. I come humbly, acknowledging that my offenses have been an affront to your holiness, your justice, and your love. Have mercy on me, Lord!

O God, you have shown me how my thoughts, words, and actions have turned me away from your grace and your protection. I can see how the consequences of my sins have affected not only my relationship with you but my relationship with my brothers and sisters as well. O Lord, in your loving compassion, blot out my transgressions! Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins!

Father, through faith in you and by trusting in your Son’s death and resurrection, I believe that I have been redeemed. I believe that you can throw my sins from me as far as the east is from the west. Filled with confidence not in myself but in your power and mercy, I confess my sin and ask you to forgive me. Lord, I know that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation I can experience not only forgiveness but healing and restoration as well. And so I come to you, Father, hoping to receive your grace to begin again.

Thank you, Lord!

Father, words alone cannot describe what it is like to come back to you and feel your embrace once more. You promised through your prophet that even though my sins are as red as scarlet, they can be made as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). How can anyone fully express what it feels like to be made so clean?

Sometimes I think that being forgiven is like having a large, crushing load lifted from my back, allowing me to stand up straight again. Other times it feels like a heaviness is lifted from my chest so that I can breathe freely once more. And every time, I feel a wonderful strengthening through your grace, Lord, enabling me to say “no” to temptation. Thank you, Father, for the joy that this brings!

“Father, your love and mercy are unending! Inspired by your grace, I come to you now to be set free. Father, may I never forget you!”

18 August 2010

18 Aug 2010, Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Ez 34:1-11

The word of the Lord came to me:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!
Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.
You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.
My sheep were scattered
and wandered over all the mountains and high hills;
my sheep were scattered over the whole earth,
with no one to look after them or to search for them.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
As I live, says the Lord GOD,
because my sheep have been given over to pillage,
and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast,
for lack of a shepherd;
because my shepherds did not look after my sheep,
but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep;
because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I swear I am coming against these shepherds.
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
I will save my sheep,
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

Mt 20:1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Meditation: Matthew 20:1-16

“Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)

Why does the master keep going back to the marketplace to hire more laborers? Not because the work is so overwhelming that there aren’t enough workers to do it. Rather, this great-hearted master doesn’t want to overlook anyone who is willing and able to work. He knows that if a man is not hired on a given day, his family will have nothing to eat that night. He has compassion for that family and for the man who feels like a failure if he is unable to provide for them.

It is sad to note, however, that the laborers hired first did not absorb their master’s attitude. Not content to have just provided for their own families, they begrudge the master giving a last-minute opportunity to other men to do the same. They are proud of their long, hot day of work, and they feel they deserve a bigger reward, even if it means that their co-workers have to suffer.

Many of us have been given far more than our “daily bread.” Our families may not have every luxury they would like, but they probably won’t go to bed hungry tonight. And compared with the grinding poverty that so many in the developing world experience, we probably live like kings and queens.

So how generous are you with all that you have been given? Is there someone standing idle in the marketplace longing for an opportunity to find meaning in life? Is there a charitable organization in your area that is in need of financial help? Or perhaps one that could use your talents to build up its ministry? Let’s beg the Master to share his generous heart with us so that we can reach out to others with the love that sustains us every day. We have opportunities to share physical bread with others, and we have opportunities to share spiritual bread—through prayer, thoughtful support, and Christ-led companionship. God is calling us: “You too go into my vineyard” (Matthew 20:7). Let’s not delay in answering!

“Master, thank you for providing for my every need, especially my need for love and for meaning in life. Give me your generous heart toward all those you have placed in my life.”

17 August 2010

17 Aug 2010, Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Ez 28:1-10

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man,
say to the prince of Tyre:
Thus says the Lord GOD:

Because you are haughty of heart,
you say, “A god am I!
I occupy a godly throne
in the heart of the sea!”—
And yet you are a man, and not a god,
however you may think yourself like a god.
Oh yes, you are wiser than Daniel,
there is no secret that is beyond you.
By your wisdom and your intelligence
you have made riches for yourself;
You have put gold and silver
into your treasuries.
By your great wisdom applied to your trading
you have heaped up your riches;
your heart has grown haughty from your riches–
therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
Because you have thought yourself
to have the mind of a god,
Therefore I will bring against you
foreigners, the most barbarous of nations.
They shall draw their swords
against your beauteous wisdom,
they shall run them through your splendid apparel.
They shall thrust you down to the pit, there to die
a bloodied corpse, in the heart of the sea.
Will you then say, “I am a god!”
when you face your murderers?
No, you are man, not a god,
handed over to those who will slay you.
You shall die the death of the uncircumcised
at the hands of foreigners,
for I have spoken, says the Lord GOD.

Mt 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Meditation: Matthew 19:23-30

“Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Matthew 19:30)

A basic theological principle in Hebrew Scripture is that God always rewards virtue and punishes vice. As a corollary, people assumed that those who were wealthy must have earned that by living good lives, just as the poor, the sick, or the troubled must have reaped the consequences of having turned away from God.

No wonder the disciples were shocked when Jesus declared that a rich man will have a hard time entering the kingdom! He then made it even more vivid with the picture of a camel trying to squeeze through a needle’s eye. Some scholars think Jerusalem actually had a very narrow gate—the “eye of the needle”—through which a camel could pass only if his entire cargo were removed.

What cargo is impeding me from passing through the gates to which the Spirit is leading me? At first we may think about bad habits or material possessions that we anxiously safeguard. But more often than not, the offending cargo is more mental or spiritual in nature. I may be so accustomed to thinking of a certain person as my inferior that I fail to recognize the value of his new idea. I may be so bound to my orderly schedule that I have no time to respond to an unanticipated need—think, for instance, of the Pharisee and Levite hurrying past the victim on the Jericho road (Luke 10:29-32).

Every day the Holy Spirit gives us opportunities to taste the first fruits of God’s kingdom. We will see these opportunities as we unburden ourselves of the things we guard so jealously. He may invite us to pause and pray for a person who comes to mind. He may move us to help someone in need, whether by opening our wallets, our homes, or our hearts. Or he may prick our consciences about a harsh or judgmental attitude we have toward someone. It’s only as we are willing to lay down the “cargo” of our own agendas that we will find the grace to receive these invitations and say “yes” to him.

“Lord, give me the courage to put aside whatever is holding me back so that I can follow your way today. I want to pass through those gateways unencumbered, carrying only your love.”

16 August 2010

16 Aug 2010, Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Ez 24:15-23

The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, by a sudden blow
I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes,
but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears.
Groan in silence, make no lament for the dead,
bind on your turban, put your sandals on your feet,
do not cover your beard, and do not eat the customary bread.
That evening my wife died,
and the next morning I did as I had been commanded.
Then the people asked me, “Will you not tell us what all these things
that you are doing mean for us?”
I therefore spoke to the people that morning, saying to them:
Thus the word of the LORD came to me:
Say to the house of Israel:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I will now desecrate my sanctuary, the stronghold of your pride,
the delight of your eyes, the desire of your soul.
The sons and daughters you left behind shall fall by the sword.
Ezekiel shall be a sign for you:
all that he did you shall do when it happens.
Thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
You shall do as I have done,
not covering your beards nor eating the customary bread.
Your turbans shall remain on your heads, your sandals on your feet.
You shall not mourn or weep,
but you shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another.

Mt 19:16-22

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.

Meditation: Matthew 19:16-22

“Come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Whether we are rich or not, Jesus’ words to this young man apply to us as well. For ultimately, it’s not a question of how much or how little we have. Rather, it’s about priorities. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21). What we value gives some idea of our relationship to God: Do I have my possessions, or do my possessions have me?

The issue becomes much clearer when we see that material possessions are just a small portion of our gifts. No matter how wealthy we may be, if we are walking with the Lord we have all of the “riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). We have the love of Jesus, the power of his Holy Spirit, and the promise of everlasting life. These aren’t things we can buy or sell. They are gifts that we can choose to use for his glory—or to waste by keeping them all to ourselves!

Of course, our gifts really do not belong to us anyway. They all come from God, and we are just stewards who have been given a temporary lease on them. That makes it all the more important for us to use them wisely and to produce lasting fruit for his kingdom. It doesn’t take much: One small act of generosity can change an entire destiny. As in the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-9), it’s not whether we produce thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold, but that we start planting the seeds.

God really wants to keep our lives simple. When he says “sell all you have,” he is not asking us to take him literally. What he really wants is our hearts. The more pliable we become, the more open to his grace we become, the easier we will find it to be loving and generous. We won’t have to think so much about what to do for others, because we will be too busy doing it! All we have to do is say, “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.” He will take care of the rest.

“Jesus, you are the source of every blessing in my life. Nothing I have belongs to me, so I let go of all I have been holding onto. Use it all for your kingdom!”

14 August 2010

15 Aug 2010, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass during the Day

Reading 1
Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”

Reading 2
1 Cor 15:20-27

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death,
for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

Lk 1:39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

Meditation: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6,10

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary

… A woman clothed with the sun. (Revelation 12:1)

Today we celebrate the unique end of one of the most exceptional lives ever lived. Mary stands out among all humanity because she trusted in God wholly and completely. Even when her life and the life of her son were on the line, Mary continued to say “yes” to God. And as a reward for such steadfast and humble faith, the church proclaims that she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven.

Imagine Mary’s faith. It wasn’t the simple, innocent faith of a young child but the mature, reasoned faith of a woman whose mind was uncluttered by sin. When the angel Gabriel announced God’s plan to her, Mary reasoned in her heart that God wouldn’t ask her to do the impossible. Surely he would protect the child in her womb. Since God himself was the author of this plan, she could trust that he would see it through to completion.

This is the kind of faith that God wants each of us to imitate. Of course, none of us will ever be as perfect in following the Lord as Mary was. She was sinless, after all!

But at the same time, God does call us to try our best to follow his plans for us. And he doesn’t leave us to do it all by ourselves. Every day, he is pouring out grace, helping us to say “yes” to him in the situations that are set before us. Every day, he offers us words of encouragement in the Scriptures so that we can trust in his provision, even when logic tells us otherwise. Every day, he seeks to clothe us in his Spirit so that each of us can bring Christ into the world through the witness of our own lives of faith.

In the end, it is a very simple path—but one that leads to the glory of heaven.

“Thank you, Mary, for saying ‘yes’ to God. I want to follow the path that you paved. Please pray for me, so that I will know the same heavenly triumph that you now know.”

14 Aug 2010, Memorial of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr

Reading 1
Ez 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32

The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, what is the meaning of this proverb
that you recite in the land of Israel:

“Fathers have eaten green grapes,
thus their children’s teeth are on edge”?

As I live, says the Lord GOD:
I swear that there shall no longer be anyone among you
who will repeat this proverb in Israel.
For all lives are mine;
the life of the father is like the life of the son, both are mine;
only the one who sins shall die.

If a man is virtuous—if he does what is right and just,
if he does not eat on the mountains,
nor raise his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel;
if he does not defile his neighbor’s wife,
nor have relations with a woman in her menstrual period;
if he oppresses no one,
gives back the pledge received for a debt,
commits no robbery;
if he gives food to the hungry and clothes the naked;
if he does not lend at interest nor exact usury;
if he holds off from evildoing,
judges fairly between a man and his opponent;
if he lives by my statutes and is careful to observe my ordinances,
that man is virtuous—he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD.

But if he begets a son who is a thief, a murderer,
or lends at interest and exacts usury–
this son certainly shall not live.
Because he practiced all these abominations, he shall surely die;
his death shall be his own fault.

Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel,
each one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD.
Turn and be converted from all your crimes,
that they may be no cause of guilt for you.
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
Why should you die, O house of Israel?
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,
says the Lord GOD. Return and live!

Mt 19:13-15

Children were brought to Jesus
that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

Meditation: Ezekiel 18:1-10,13, 30–32

“Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge.” (Ezekiel 18:2)

What a strange proverb! To the Israelites, however, its meaning was clear enough: A person could suffer the punishment for the sins of his parents and ancestors. But the problem is that when something went wrong, such a belief allowed some to point the finger of blame at their forefathers, not themselves.

This isn’t how God works. Through Ezekiel, God made it clear that each person is responsible for the consequences of his or her own actions. And this is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that we can’t blame our ancestors; we have to own up to our own failings. But the good news is that none of us will be condemned for our parents’ or grandparents’ sins or failings.

But Jesus has even better news than this: We don’t even have to be condemned for our own past sins! The past doesn’t have to control our future. We don’t have to be trapped in a never-ending cycle of sin. God is always with us, always offering us the chance to turn to him and be forgiven. He is always offering us his grace to resist temptations that we have fallen to in the past. What’s more, we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which contains God’s own grace to give us the new heart and the new spirit that Ezekiel prophesied about (Ezekiel 18:31).

Isn’t it comforting to know that repentance is not meant to be a one-time event? Isn’t it wonderful to know that we can deepen our conversion every day through repentance? The Hebrew phrase that we translate as the call to “turn and be converted” (Ezekiel 18:30) comes from the word shuv, which means “to turn around” and to “repent.” It is an active verb, implying that this is something each of us must do on our own, taking responsibility for our actions and not blaming someone else or just waiting for things to turn around by themselves.

It can be challenging to face up to our sins. But the relief, freedom, and joy we experience in repentance can far outweigh our discomfort. God offers us a new beginning every day. So let’s take him up on his offer!

“Lord, your steadfast love is new every morning. Guide my steps today, so that I can turn from sin and turn toward you.”

13 August 2010

13 Aug 2010, Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Ez 16:1-15, 60, 63

The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations.
Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem:
By origin and birth you are of the land of Canaan;
your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.
As for your birth, the day you were born your navel cord was not cut;
you were neither washed with water nor anointed,
nor were you rubbed with salt, nor swathed in swaddling clothes.
No one looked on you with pity or compassion
to do any of these things for you.
Rather, you were thrown out on the ground as something loathsome,
the day you were born.

Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood.
I said to you: Live in your blood and grow like a plant in the field.
You grew and developed, you came to the age of puberty;
your breasts were formed, your hair had grown,
but you were still stark naked.
Again I passed by you and saw that you were now old enough for love.
So I spread the corner of my cloak over you to cover your nakedness;
I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you;
you became mine, says the Lord GOD.
Then I bathed you with water, washed away your blood,
and anointed you with oil.
I clothed you with an embroidered gown,
put sandals of fine leather on your feet;
I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear.
I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms,
a necklace about your neck, a ring in your nose,
pendants in your ears, and a glorious diadem upon your head.
Thus you were adorned with gold and silver;
your garments were of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth.
Fine flour, honey, and oil were your food.
You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen.
You were renowned among the nations for your beauty, perfect as it was,
because of my splendor which I had bestowed on you,
says the Lord GOD.

But you were captivated by your own beauty,
you used your renown to make yourself a harlot,
and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by,
whose own you became.

Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl,
and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you,
that you may remember and be covered with confusion,
and that you may be utterly silenced for shame
when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.

Mt 19:3-12

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him,
“If that is the case of a man with his wife,
it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

Meditation: Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63

“The word of the Lord came to me…” (Ezekiel 16:1)

What confidence Ezekiel must have had! In chapter after chapter, he introduces his prophecies with this bold statement. But how could Ezekiel be certain that God was really speaking to him? How could he tell it was a true prophecy and not just the result of a fertile imagination? How could he discern between his thoughts and God’s thoughts? In truth, how can any of us know for sure that God is speaking to us?

There is a long answer and a short answer to this question. The long answer is that we may never know for sure what comes from us and what comes from God. Sometimes it is just too hard to tell the difference. But we can always be confident that if the words we are hearing and sharing bring comfort, hope, and the challenge of deeper faith, then God must be behind them somehow. All we need to do is keep pursuing them and know that God’s word is getting out—no matter what its form or shape!

As for the short answer: Practice! It takes time to hear God’s voice. It takes experimenting with the words you think you are receiving in prayer—testing them against the truths of the gospel and the teachings of the church. And it takes courage to step out in faith and share these words with others to see what kind of fruit they bear. Surely Ezekiel did all of that as he tried to make sense of his spiritual experiences!

Whether we feel confident or shaky in our ability to hear God’s voice, it is vital that we slow down and take time to listen in prayer, to ponder Scripture, and to meditate on the church’s teachings. That’s the only way we’ll get to know God’s word and learn the best way to share it with the people in our lives. We should never doubt that God has called us to proclaim his word, whether it be through words spoken, kindnesses offered, or a life lived in humility, faith, and love.

“Lord, open my ears so that I may truly hear you. Help me to be still and listen, so that I can become a bearer of your word to the people you put in my path.”

12 August 2010

12 Aug 2010, Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1
Ez 12:1-12

The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house;
they have eyes to see but do not see,
and ears to hear but do not hear,
for they are a rebellious house.
Now, son of man, during the day while they are looking on,
prepare your baggage as though for exile,
and again while they are looking on,
migrate from where you live to another place;
perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house.
You shall bring out your baggage like an exile in the daytime
while they are looking on;
in the evening, again while they are looking on,
you shall go out like one of those driven into exile;
while they look on, dig a hole in the wall and pass through it;
while they look on, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness;
cover your face that you may not see the land,
for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.

I did as I was told.
During the day I brought out my baggage
as though it were that of an exile,
and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand
and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness,
shouldering my burden.

Then, in the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, did not the house of Israel, that rebellious house,
ask you what you were doing?
Tell them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
This oracle concerns Jerusalem
and the whole house of Israel within it.
I am a sign for you:
as I have done, so shall it be done to them;
as captives they shall go into exile.
The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden
and set out in darkness,
going through a hole he has dug out in the wall,
and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone.

Mt 18:21–19:1

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

Meditation: Matthew 18:21–19:1

“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

There is a story about a world-weary elderly man after the time of the French Revolution who was reduced to begging. He wandered from town to town, seeking alms to keep himself alive. Upon entering one small town, he made his way to the church, hoping for a handout. He wasn’t a churchgoing man himself, but he stayed there because of the steady stream of passersby.

One day, after watching the beggar on the church steps, a young priest of the parish approached him. He gave the beggar a cloak and invited him to his own house for a meal. The beggar hesitated, saying he was not a religious man, but the priest insisted. For several days afterward, the priest invited him to find shelter in the rectory. Finally, the beggar agreed and spent many days receiving the care and hospitality of his new friend. Eventually, through this priest’s witness, the man decided to come back to the church.

He tearfully confessed to the priest that he felt alienated from God because of the guilt he felt for betraying the family he had worked for as a young man. His employer had entrusted his wife and children to his care during the Revolution, but the man betrayed them. He handed them over to the authorities, and all but the youngest child were sent to the guillotine.

After telling the priest his story, the man lifted his eyes and saw on the wall a portrait of the very family he had betrayed. He asked where the painting came from, and the young priest, with tears in his eyes, said that this was his family. He was the youngest child. Everyone else had been executed during the Revolution. Uttering the words of absolution, the priest added, “and I forgive you as well. Be at peace.”

We may not have to forgive such a grievous wrong, but we are all called to forgive—especially those closest to us, who often hurt us most deeply. Forgiveness like this opens the gates of heaven and allows God’s grace to be poured out on us and on the person we forgive. So let this story inspire you. And let it move you to be merciful as well!

“Lord, help me to become a channel of your mercy in my home!”