Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Hosea 8:4-7,11-13  +  Matthew 9:32-38
July 5, 2022

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few ….”

The cry that we hear Jesus utter in today’s Gospel passage—“the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few”—is one that we usually associate with the need for vocations in the Church.  But Jesus also speaks through these words about the harvest of one’s heart and the fruits of one’s soul.  In each person is a soul created by God, and each soul is capable of being completely filled, as much as it is able:  that is, to be “perfected” by God’s grace.

Unfortunately, this “harvest of the soul” is neglected by so many of us by our actions and our inaction.  We are not willing to believe what the Church teaches about God calling every human person to be a saint.  The Church at the Second Vatican Council spoke strongly about the “universal call to holiness”.

God gives each one of us many gifts, but only when we talk with God and are strengthened by Him do we learn how to use those gifts correctly, in accord with His plan.  Through our prayer, and God’s grace, our minds and wills can be formed, so that we can be more perfectly the saints God wants us to be.

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]

PLEASE NOTE:  In the United States, there are optional Scripture readings for Independence Day (click HERE).

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Hosea 2:16,17-18,21-22  +  Matthew 9:18-26
July 4, 2022

“Courage, daughter!  Your faith has saved you.”

In today’s Gospel passage are two people who see how God wants to be in their lives in time of need.  In our day and age, most prayers that are offered to God are prayers of petition.  Perhaps that’s always been the case.  In fact, our knowledge of that fact doesn’t mean that we ourselves don’t have lengthy lists of petitions that we’d like to offer to God.

It’s true that petitionary prayer—in which we ask for something from God—is not as selfless a form of prayer as adoration, or even as selfless as thanksgiving or contrition.  But God does desire that we present our petitions to Him.

Consider the woman in today’s Gospel passage.  She had suffered for many years.  She interrupts Christ right in the middle of His trying to help someone else.  We should make that woman’s faith our own:  not simply her faith in Christ’s power, but also her faith in His patience and compassion.  There is no true need in our lives that we should not offer to God.

Of course, not every petition is answered as we wish, as are the petitions of this woman and the official.  Sadly, some Christians stop offering their petitions to God—or even stop believing in God—when He doesn’t provide the responses they want.  But growth in prayer requires the acceptance of God’s “No”’s, and learning through them to trust more deeply His providential Will.

Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Amos 9:11-15  +  Matthew 9:14-17
July 2, 2022

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?”

It’s the disciples of St. John the Baptist—and not the saint himself—who appear and speak in today’s Gospel passage.  Nonetheless, today’s passage offers us similarities and contrasts between these two cousins:  one of them the voice of the Word, and the other the Word made Flesh.

One of the more obvious contrasts concerns fasting, and the fact that John’s disciples fast while Jesus’ do not.  But John’s disciples misunderstand the reason for this difference.  They misunderstand the relationship between John and Jesus.  Perhaps they thought of them as two equally inspiring religious figures.  Perhaps they thought of them as two equally valid paths leading to God’s righteousness.

In fact, John leads to Jesus.  John himself preached this clearly, but his disciples did not hear John clearly.

The last four sentences of today’s Gospel passage offer two mini-parables as a way to see these differences between John and Jesus.  Jesus is the new wine that must be poured into new wineskins.  This parable echoes His first public miracle at Cana [John 2:1-12].  To follow Jesus, a new approach to God must be accepted.  To be a disciple means to follow John in the constant need for penance and repentance.

OT 13-6 Wedding at Cana Mary

Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Amos 8:4-6,9-12  +  Matthew 9:9-13
July 1, 2022

“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Today’s Gospel passage presents to us the vocation of Saint Matthew.  The word “vocation” literally means a “calling”.  A vocation is something “vocal”, which comes from the Voice of God (or perhaps better, the Word of God).  That might not seem earth-shattering news.  But what we sometimes forget is that a Christian vocation is not announced by Christ to a Christian at a single initial moment, as the old TV series began each week with the explanation of the spy’s mission, should he choose to accept it.

Rather, a Christian vocation is “declared” to the Christian in an on-going, unfolding manner.  Of course, it’s true that in the beginning a specific form of vocation is made known:  marriage or life as a vowed religious, for example.  But that is only the beginning of Christ’s announcement of one’s vocation.  That is only the beginning of Christ’s guidance.

Throughout the course of living out one’s Christian vocation, the Christian must expect, listen for, and heed God’s Word.  Each of these is a different skill in the skill-set required to flourish in one’s vocation.

The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Isaiah 66:10-14  +  Galatians 6:14-18  +  Luke 10:1-12,17-20
July 3, 2022

I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.

Saint Paul tells us today about a spiritual gift that he received from God.  This gift is called the “stigmata”, which refers to Jesus’ wounds from the Crucifixion.  Very few saints have received this gift:  among those who have are St. Francis of Assisi and St. Padre Pio.

But in case we’re tempted to think of the stigmata as mere scars, we ought to realize that St. Paul bore, in addition to the open wounds of Jesus’ crucifixion, the physical pain of those wounds.

To understand what it means for a person to bear the stigmata, it’s helpful to hear St. Paul declare, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  The stigmata, including its pain and disfigurement, sharply distinguish the world from the person who bears these marks.

A few weeks ago the Church celebrated Pentecost.  From the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the Church has grown to the ends of the earth and through the course of twenty centuries.  The life of the Church stands in contrast to “the world” of which St. Paul speaks.

The Christian believer is caught between the Church and the world.  The “catch” stems from the fact that fallen human nature is powerful in its “fallen-ness”.  Try to imagine, if you can, someone who has the five marks of the stigmata on his own body, but doesn’t even notice them.  That’s pretty hard to imagine.  We might be able to imagine someone who is absent-minded not noticing someone next to him bearing the stigmata, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine that someone who bears those wounds does not notice them.

Since you and I are not likely to be given the marks of the stigmata, we might think it a waste of time to speculate about such matters.  But bring the subject closer to home:  if you do not have to deal with the stigmata, what about the wounds caused by your sins?

Personal sins may not often cause physical wounds, but they do often cause wounds of other types.  These wounds often go either unnoticed by us, or are ignored.  Perhaps this is because the pain of these wounds seems greater if we acknowledge it.  Perhaps it’s because acknowledging the pain would imply the need for some sort of action on our part.  We easily look past our sins and their effects on our selves and others.

All this is to say that in dealing with the wounds that mark our souls, we have a radical choice to make.  Each of us has to decide by what means to deal with these wounds, if at all.  St. Paul suggests that we deal with these wounds through the power of Christ’s Cross.

What does St. Paul mean when he claims that through “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”?  Consider the explanation of “The Way of the Cross” offered by the 20th century Carmelite friar, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD in his work titled Divine Intimacy:

“We must be thoroughly convinced that if the Holy Spirit works in our souls to [conform] us to Christ, He can do so only by opening to us the way of the Cross.  Jesus is Jesus crucified; therefore, there can be no conformity to Him except by the Cross, and we shall never enter into the depths of the spiritual life except by entering into the mystery of the Cross.  St. Teresa of [Avila] teaches that even the highest… graces are given to souls only in order to enable them to carry the Cross.  ‘His Majesty,’ says [Teresa], ‘can do nothing greater for us than to grant us a life which is an imitation of that lived by His beloved Son.  I feel certain, therefore, that… favors are given to us to strengthen our weakness, so that we may be able to imitate Him in His great sufferings’ [Interior Castle VII, 4].”

This coming week, say your daily prayers kneeling in front of a crucifix.  If because of health you’re unable to kneel, place a picture of the Crucifixion before you, and look at this image of Jesus dying for you on the Cross as you offer all your prayers through the power of the Cross.

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Amos 7:10-17  +  Matthew 9:1-8
June 30, 2022

“The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”

Amos, the Old Testament prophet from whose book we hear in today’s First Reading, was considered obnoxious because he preached the need of repentance on the part of everyone in Israel, including the king and the priests.  Amaziah tried to get the king to get rid of Amos:  not only because he took offense at Amos’ preaching, but also because he held Amos in contempt.

Amaziah considered Amos a “nobody”.  Amos actually admitted that he was not a prophet in his own right.  Nor did he belong to the official guild of prophets, which was a considerably large group.  Amos was just a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.  On top of that, Amos was not even from Israel:  he was from the southern land of Judah, which had not yet been combined with Israel into one kingdom.  So he was a foreigner in Israel.

But in spite of all appearances, Amos had credentials of the highest order.  It was the Lord Himself who had taken Amos from the south, to be a prophet in the north.  Amos’ worth was not due to his own wisdom.  It was due only to the fact that the Lord had called him.  As the old saying goes, “God does not call those who are qualified.  He qualifies those whom He calls.”

In other words, we trust that when the Lord gives us a job to do, He’s also going to give us the grace needed to complete that job.  This is true of any small, daily job the Lord might hand one of His sons or daughters.  God probably has such a job in mind for you this day.  So expect that job, but also trust that God will grant you the grace to complete it.

OT 13-4 Gospel

Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles

Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles
Readings for the Vigil:
Acts 3:1-10  +  Galatians 1:11-20  +  John 21:15-19
Readings for the Day:
Acts 12:1-11  +  2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18  +  Matthew 16:13-19
June 29, 2022

“I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”

Peter, whom Jesus in today’s Gospel passage entrusts with the care of His Church, was very different than Paul.  Peter’s personality was rough and impatient.  He was poor and uneducated.  Now if Jesus had thought as worldly people do, He never would have chosen Peter as the first pope.  Instead, he would have chosen someone like Paul, refined and educated.

Regardless of their differences, Peter and Paul came to the same end:  martyrdom for the Holy Name of Jesus.  In the year 67, Saint Peter was crucified upside-down in the circus of Nero, and buried nearby in an out-of-the-way cemetery on a hill called the Vatican.  Saint Paul, after being held a prisoner in Rome for many years, was beheaded just outside the walls of the city.

As with their Lord, these two men came to what seemed to be shameful deaths.  Unfortunately, unlike their Lord, there was no report of Peter or Paul rising from the dead.  They were simply failures.  That’s surely how they were sized up by many around them, both in the Roman Empire and perhaps even among some members of the Church.  What kind of foundation had they laid for the Church?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Roman Church, the church that spread from that city throughout the world.  Twenty centuries later, the Church certainly is universal, with more than one billion members across the globe.  But are we really any holier than those first members of the Church?  Are we willing to put our lives or even our names on the line for Christ?

Our spiritual lives are never a “done deal.”  They are always under construction.  The Mass we share in is a continual source of strength for us, as each week we struggle to be faithful disciples of Jesus.  Each day is a building block of faith, in which, by our daily sacrifices, we build up others as well as our own spiritual lives.

St. Irenaeus, Bishop & Martyr

St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr
Amos 3:1-8;4:11-12  +  Matthew 8:23-27
June 28, 2022

“What sort of man is this … ?”

Today’s Gospel passage offers another example of the disciples not seeing the forest for the trees.  Their question at the end of the passage is sincere and understandable, not rhetorical:  “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”  They admit their ignorance of the deeper identity of Jesus.  They do know that he is more than just a fisherman or carpenter.  They do know that he has miraculous powers.  But what exactly does that knowledge reveal?

All told, today’s Gospel passage is just a snapshot.  There’s no way to perceive from this single event that this man is the divine Word made flesh, much less that He will die on a cross for the salvation of all mankind.  You and I, of course, know the rest of the story, but these disciples do not, and are understandably perplexed.  But where does that leave our reflection on this passage?

Perhaps we can relate to these disciples in this specific instance by attending to the dialogue between the disciples and Jesus in the middle of the passage.  In our own lives, we also cry, “Lord, save us!  We are perishing!”  The difference is that these disciples faced mortal danger, while we often face concerns that are much less significant, and are often of our own manufacture.

Nevertheless, what we and these disciples have in common is the same gracious Lord Jesus.  To each of us, no matter what our supposed dangers and no matter their origins, He responds by offering the “great calm” that is ours through faith.

OT 13-2

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Amos 2:6-10,13-16  +  Matthew 8:18-22
June 27, 2022

… He gave orders to cross to the other shore.

Several times during His public ministry, Jesus acts in a way that might be called “anti-social”.  This would be a mistaken perception, of course, but we still might wonder why Jesus acts as He does in these cases.

In today’s brief Gospel passage, when “Jesus saw a crowd around him, He gave orders to cross to the other shore.”  This prefaces the interaction between Jesus and two disciples.  We might be tempted to wonder whether this scene took place on a Monday morning.  The scribe sounds like an idealistic young person, while Jesus seems to splash cold water on his enthusiasm.  The other disciple expresses concern for a deceased loved one, a concern which Jesus seems to dismiss.

Have you ever felt that your enthusiasm for God has gone unmet?  To your desire for a deep spiritual life, have you perceived a sort of shrug on God’s part, if not a rebuke?  If so, you are in good company.  The story is told that Saint Teresa of Avila, suffering persecution because of her reform of the Carmelite order, complained to God about the hostility and gossip she faced.  Jesus told her, “Teresa, that’s how I treat my friends,” to which she responded, “No wonder you have so few.”

It’s not a good idea to banter with God as Teresa did without first possessing her level of holiness.  Still, we might be tempted to agree with her.  More importantly, however, we need to agree with the Lord.

We can speculate that there are two reasons for the distance that Jesus creates between Himself and others during His public ministry.  One is that “distance makes the heart grow fonder”.  The other is more practical:  Jesus doesn’t want to give others more than they can chew.  In other words, we often aren’t ready for what God has to give us.  Even during Holy Week, after three years with Jesus, all but one of His apostles fled from the Cross.  When we agree with the Lord that His Will—even His Cross—is what’s best for us, the distance between ourselves and God will diminish.