Sts. Martha, Mary, & Lazarus

Sts. Martha, Mary, & Lazarus
Exodus 40:16-21,34-38  +  John 11:19-27 [or Luke 10:38-42]
July 29, 2021

Click HERE for the new propers for today’s feast.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”

On this revised feast of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, the Gospel Reading must come from the feast day.  The other readings may come from the day in Ordinary Time, which the feast supersedes.  However, there are two options for the Gospel Reading on this feast.

The first option offers a bit more flattering portrait of Martha.  The occasion is the death of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.  Martha goes out to meet Jesus, while Mary sits at home, which is an interesting contrast to the sisters’ respective roles in the other Gospel Reading for the feast.  Martha’s words to Jesus express not only her love for her deceased brother, but also for Jesus, as well as faith in Jesus.  Yet Martha is missing something.  When Jesus declares to Martha, “Your brother will rise”, she does not understand fully what Jesus means.  Jesus is promising that her brother will return to her, not on “the last day”, but on that very day when Jesus and Martha are speaking.  It’s to Martha’s credit that when Jesus makes more clear His intention, Martha makes clear her faith in Jesus.  This faith in Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life”, is a model for our own faith.

The second option for the feast’s Gospel Reading is perhaps the better-known Gospel story about Martha.  Martha is overshadowed by her sister Mary, the latter being an example of putting “first things first”.  Nonetheless, perhaps the example of Martha in this passage is more like most of us Christians.  To identify with Martha in this passage is to humble ourselves and to recall that our good works are empty if they don’t proceed from a faith that’s nourished by the Word of God.

Martha and Mary

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 34:29-35  +  Matthew 13:44-46
July 28, 2021

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.”

Jesus offers us two brief parables today, both metaphors describing “the Kingdom of Heaven”.  Either parable and its imagery would suffice for a day’s meditation.  Perhaps we could meditate, though, upon common threads between the two.

In the first parable, the treasure is buried.  In the second, the pearl of great price is sought by a merchant.  In both cases, the object of great value and meaning has to be discovered.  But there’s a difference between the two.  While the treasure is out of sight, presumably the pearl is in plain sight, yet like a needle in a haystack as it rests amidst many other items in the market.

In the first parable, we don’t know whether the person who finds the treasure was looking for it, or chanced upon it.  In the second parable, Jesus tells us that the merchant was actively “searching for fine pearls”.  The differences and possible differences between these two parables allows us to apply them to various situations in real life.  After all, sometimes an individual seeks the Faith for many years before receiving it as a gift from God.  Others, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, are struck by what seems a bolt from the blue.  Nonetheless, for all, faith in Christ and life in Christ are a treasure worth all that we have to give.

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Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 33:7-11;34:5-9,28  +  Matthew 13:36-43
July 27, 2021

   “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”   

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus offers a point-by-point explanation of the parable that He preached in the passage proclaimed a few days earlier in the cycle of Ordinary Time weekdays.  The evangelists rarely offer us examples of Jesus explaining a parable, so today’s passage is insightful not only in terms of the parable’s content, but also in terms of Jesus’ method of using parables.

We might wonder, to start with, what the significance is of the evangelist telling us that it’s after “Jesus dismissed the crowds” that “His disciples approached Him” to ask for an explanation of the parable.  This is an important distinction that the evangelist didn’t have to note for Jesus’ explanation to make sense.  Perhaps the evangelist is highlighting the importance of petitioning God for deeper insight into His revealed Word.

Jesus explains the meanings of seven persons or things from the parable.  This allegorical explanation of the parable is important because it’s in accord with the method of interpreting Jesus’ parables commonly found in the writings of the saints in the patristic and medieval periods of Church history.  This method is often rejected today by scholars who offer their own theories about the interpretation of parables.  It’s important to note that among those whom modern scholars criticize are not only canonized saints whose holiness is proven, but also—as we hear today—Our Lord Himself!

OT 17-2

Sts. Joachim & Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Sts. Joachim & Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Exodus 32:15-24,30-34  +  Matthew 13:31-35
July 26, 2021

“But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it ….”

If you work on a computer, you know how many things one can do with them.  They can help us with our homework, with our finances, with preparing a talk, with sending messages and pictures to our loved ones by email.  The list seems endless.

The more we get used to working with computers, the more we get used to doing what the professionals call “multi-tasking”:  that is, trying to do several things at once.  With computers, this means printing one thing, sending an email, downloading a file, and so on and so forth, all at once.  With computers, the more you can multi-task, the smarter you are.  Or so the theory supposes.

Jesus is saying something very different in today’s Gospel passage.  The parable that He tells us has a simple point:  we need to focus on God in order to love Him.  In a way, Jesus’ parable reminds us of what Jesus said to Martha when He visited the home of Martha and Mary.  Martha and Mary were very different sisters.  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words, while Martha was multi-tasking all over the house.  Mary focused her attention on Jesus, while Martha did not.

Your soul is like a field.  Jesus wants to sow good seed in your soul so that, at the end of your life in this world, He can find a rich field of grace to harvest.  But the parable that Jesus tells us shows that even though Jesus takes good seed everywhere He goes, some fields—some souls—are better than others.  The good soul, ready to accept the seed of God’s Word, is the soul that focuses on God.  This is the person who prays daily to God, asks His help, and knows that God will forgive all sins.  When we look at the crucifix, and pray to Jesus, focusing on His love for us, we see the One who will lead us to life forever with Him in Heaven.

Sts. Joachim and Anne

La Educación de la Virgen by Diego Velázquez [1599-1660]

for the optional Scripture readings for Sts. Joachim & Anne, click HERE

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 24:3-8  +  Matthew 13:24-30
July 24, 2021

“Where have the weeds come from?”

“Let them grow together until harvest,” the sower in Jesus’ parable says, referring to the weeds and the wheat.  Modern farmers may not follow the sower’s advice, but the parable is clearly meant to teach a lesson in spirituality, not agriculture.

Jesus begins the parable by clarifying that He is describing the “Kingdom of heaven”.  Some speculate whether the “Kingdom of heaven” and the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus often describes in parables are synonymous with Heaven itself, or with the Church on earth, or with both.  The history of the Church on earth makes it clear—to anyone whose hopes for Heaven are at all lofty—that there’s a significant difference between Heaven and the Church on earth.  Perhaps, then, the kingdoms that Jesus describes through His parables are ideals to be striven for?

Whether we answer any of those questions or not, we can derive spiritual principles from the parables that any sincere Christian will want to make her own.  Regarding today’s parable, the sincere Christian will naturally ask whether he is one of the weeds or one of the tares of wheat.  At different times we may be one or the other.  If we’re constantly complaining about “others” in our lives—”those weeds”—then we likely need to make a good examination of conscience.

One purpose of the parables is to give our daily life focus:  as the old maxim puts it, “to begin each day with the end in mind”.  In other words, we ought not live each day for the sake of each day.  We ought to live each day for the sake of the eternal Day that lies just beyond the hour of our death, when our Lord will, with divine circumspection and justice, separate the weeds from the wheat.

OT 16-6

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 20:1-17  +  Matthew 13:18-23
July 23, 2021

“But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it ….”

If you work on a computer you know that how many things one can do with them.  They can help us with our homework, with our finances, with preparing a talk, with sending messages and pictures to our loved ones by email.  The list seems endless.

The more we get used to working with computers, the more we get used to doing what the professionals call “multi-tasking”:  that is, trying to do several things at once.  With computers, this means printing one thing, sending an email, downloading a file, and so on and so forth, all at once.  With computers, the more you can multi-task, the smarter you are.  Or so the theory supposes.

Jesus is saying something very different in today’s Gospel passage.  The parable that He tells us has a simple point:  we need to focus on God in order to love Him.  In a way, Jesus’ parable reminds us of what Jesus said to Martha when He visited the home of Martha and Mary.  Martha and Mary were very different sisters.  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words, while Martha was multi-tasking all over the house.  Mary focused her attention on Jesus, while Martha did not.

Your soul is like a field.  Jesus wants to sow good seed in your soul so that, at the end of your life in this world, He can find a rich field of grace to harvest.  But the parable that Jesus tells us shows that even though Jesus takes good seed everywhere He goes, some fields—some souls—are better than others.  The good soul, ready to accept the seed of God’s Word, is the soul that focuses on God.  This is the person who prays daily to God, asks His help, and knows that God will forgive all sins.  When we look at the crucifix, and pray to Jesus, focusing on His love for us, we see the One who will lead us to life forever with Him in Heaven.

Jesus sowing seed 2

The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
II Kings 4:42-44  +  Ephesians 4:1-6  +  John 6:1-15
July 25, 2021

“… He withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

Signs frame today’s Gospel Reading.  Signs appear at the beginning and at the end of the passage.  This is significant because this Sunday is the first of five Sundays during which most of the sixth chapter of St. John’s account of the Gospel is scheduled to be proclaimed (although this year, one of these five Sundays will be displaced by the August 15th celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary).  This chapter of John 6 is where Jesus proclaims His teaching about the Most Blessed Sacrament:  the Holy Eucharist, which comes into our midst through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Consider the signs of Jesus that are mentioned.  At the beginning of today’s Gospel Reading, Saint John the Evangelist explains to us that “a large crowd followed [Jesus] because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.”  Then, at the end of the passage, St. John explains how after “the people saw the sign He had done” just then—that is, multiplying the loaves and fish—“Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, [and so] he withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

That’s one of the most melancholy verses in all of the Gospel:  Jesus “withdrew again to the mountain alone.”  Again.  Apparently this had happened before.  The problem, of course, wasn’t Jesus:  the one performing these signs.  The problem was in the crowds:  those who saw His signs but mistook their message.  Yet it’s not the crowds who withdraw.  It’s Jesus who chooses to withdraw repeatedly to the mountains alone.

At the end of Holy Week comes further isolation atop a mountain.  Because the crowds mistake Jesus’ greatest sign—the Sign of the Cross, in which the crowds see mortal shame instead of immortal glory—most of Jesus’s disciples abandoned Him to Calvary.  Atop Mount Calvary, Jesus takes upon His shoulders the sins of the world, and on behalf of man cries the psalm of solitude:  “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” [Psalm 22:1].

But that’s getting ahead of the story.  At the end of today’s Gospel Reading, “Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, [and so] He withdrew again to the mountain alone.”  This sentence by itself seems strange, but it reveals an important point to keep in mind throughout the Sundays when we hear from John 6.

Your average human being, if he knew that a crowd were wanting to make him a king, would definitely not retreat into solitude.  We see this in the culture of the Internet, where on blogs or through YouTube an individual can become something of a celebrity.  Jesus did not want to be a celebrity.  Jesus wanted crowds to follow Him, but only for the right reason.

Both at the beginning and end of today’s Gospel Reading, the crowds are following Jesus for wrong reasons:  not bad reasons, but not the ultimate reason for following Him.  When “Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee”, “a large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick.”  This large crowd is mistaking the means for the end.  They seem to think that Jesus is in this world to be some miraculous physician.  They don’t understand that His miraculous cures are meant to be attention catchers, not the object of Jesus’ life.

At the end of our passage, after the Multiplication of the Loaves, the people proclaim Jesus to be “‘the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.’”  “They were going to … carry Him off to make Him king.”  They think Jesus is in this world to rid it of hunger by His miracles.  They don’t understand that the miracle of feeding 5000 is meant to be an attention catcher, not the object of Jesus’ life.

Both signs—healing the sick and feeding the hungry—beg an important question.  What was the object of Jesus’ life on earth?  What were all of Jesus’ miracles advertising?  The rest of John 6 answers this question, revealing to us the divine Person of the Word made Flesh:  the Son of God who offers us His Body and Blood as strength for the journey, and a foretaste of the Love that awaits at journey’s end.

St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene
Songs 3:1-4 [or 2 Cor 5:14-17]  +  John 20:1-2,11-18
July 22, 2021

… while it was still dark ….

Early in the morning on the first day of the week… that is to say, in the beginning… we see Mary Magdalene huddled at the tomb weeping.  We must give her credit for this, since the apostles themselves were not faithful to the Crucified Lord in this way.  For ourselves, we pray for the grace to persevere in the midst of suffering, to allow our souls to thirst for Our Lord and God without despair in the midst of suffering.  We pray for the ability to hope during those times when we cannot see the Lord present before us.

Only in the midst of such suffering, of such weeping, of such self-emptying, can the Lord be seen clearly, as He calls us by name.  We recognize Christ, and we accept the commission He offers us.  He has news for Mary Magdalene to report:  namely, that He is ascending to His Father and our Father.  Perhaps, though, this is even more difficult:  to rejoice at someone’s return when he tells you he’s getting ready to leave you forever.

After all, on that Easter morning, who wants to hear about the Ascension?  We want to glory in the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead!  And yet that is not where Jesus points us.  Throughout His life, and in His death, he always points away from Himself toward the Father, even on the very morning of His Resurrection.

Noli Me Tangere Giotto

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 16:1-5,9-15  +  Matthew 13:1-9
July 21, 2021

And He spoke to them at length in parables ….

Jesus paints four illustrations in today’s parable.  The first three are pictures of the sower laboring in vain because of “the path, rocky ground”, and “thorns”.  Only the fourth illustration describes seed falling “on rich soil”, producing “fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

The first illustrates ignorance:  specifically, ignorance about what the Word of God tells us.  To grow in humility, we cannot be ignorant.  To grow in humility requires knowledge of God, and self-knowledge.  Knowledge of God is simple, because God is simple.  God is Love.

But self-knowledge is more complicated.  Self-knowledge has two parts:  knowledge of myself as a fallen person, who has stumbled and fallen into the filth of sin; and knowledge of myself as someone loved by God, who has picked me up, washed me in the Blood of the Lamb, and raised me to the dignity of His own child.

These three forms of knowledge, then—knowledge of God, knowledge of myself as fallen, and knowledge of myself as raised by God—are like three legs of a stool on which I sit.  Without any one of these three, I will fall to the ground.  Without all three, I cannot grow in the virtue of humility.

Humility is the foundation of the spiritual life.  Humility will grow inside of you as you rest more in the knowledge of who you are, and who God is.

OT 16-3