13th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In today’s Gospel the disciples ask themselves what sort of “man” Jesus is with the power to calm storms. When God chose to become flesh he also chose to be a teacher; if we consider the story of God’s wrath in today’s First Reading it’s no surprise that he wouldn’t immediately reveal himself as God–they’d be more terrified of him than the storm. It was a gradual process. If the disciples at this point had completely understood him to be God, they’d not have been afraid. After the Resurrection there was little room for doubt, and even then they doubted.

We are taught about Our Lord throughout our life of faith, but he is also within us, revealing himself gradually to the degree he thinks we’re ready. We’re often not as ready as he wants us to be, and that rocks our boat. In faith, little by little, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of him if we trust in him.

When our boat is rocking today let’s ask him to help us grow in faith.

Readings: Genesis 19:15–29; Psalm 26:2–3, 9–12; Matthew 8:23–27.

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

In today’s solemnity we are celebrating two living stones who stood firm. St. Peter encouraged believers under fire to “Come to him [Jesus]that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s mind chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).  Jesus gave Peter a special mission in today’s Gospel: “you are the rock on which I will build my Church”: He was a living stone who put out the nets for a catch after a long fishless night. He was the first one to tell Christ he didn’t know what he was getting into by inviting him to follow him, but Christ promised he’d be a fisher of men, and after all the trials and suffering, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, in the First Reading we see the whole Church praying for him after he was imprisoned.

St. Paul was so in awe of Peter’s special mission in the Church that he called him Kephas (Aramaic for Rock), and told the Christians to come after the apostles to build on that foundation: “you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple of the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-22). Saul was a living stone, but he was set on the wrong foundation, persecuting Christians, and the downfall was soon in coming. When he stopped kicking at Christ’s goad, putting all his talents at the service of the special mission that Christ gave him, he laid the foundation for generations of Christians, even to this day.

We are called to be those living stones who build upon the bedrock of the Church, to form that spiritual edifice, to build up the Church. Nobody says it will be easy. It won’t. Peter told Jesus “depart from me”: he did not feel up to the task. Jesus said “I have prayed for you, and when you come back to yourself, strengthen your brethren.” Paul told the Christians at Corinth that it was with “fear and trembling” that he preached the Gospel to them, but as he reminds Timothy in the Second Reading today, “the Lord stood by me and gave me power.” The Holy Spirit is the protagonist, we are just the instruments, he transforms us into living stones, if we let him. Let’s ask for the grace today through the intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul to be living stones in the Church.

Readings: Acts 12:1–11; Psalm 34:2–9; 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 17–18; Matthew 16:13–19.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s Gospel we see two acts of desperation mixed with faith that need a little encouragement. Jairus, despite his position in the synagogue, is not afraid to throw himself at Our Lord’s feet to beg the healing of his daughter. The hemorrhagic woman has tried everything and decides to take a risk on Our Lord being able to help her, but without exposing herself. Our Lord permits circumstances that help them close the gap between what they want–healing–and what they need to get it: faith and an a real relationship with God.

The hemorrhagic woman wants something good, and she received it, but she didn’t entirely go about it the right way. Touching a rabbi in her state was considered under Mosaic Law a ritual defilement of Jesus. She sought healing from Jesus, but wanted it on the sly: she didn’t want to be his disciple. Imagine her fear and shock when Jesus knew that someone had touched him and received healing from him. She couldn’t remain anonymous; God is not an ATM, and we shouldn’t treat him like one. All he wants in return for his help is our love and friendship. In this case, being open about her need and the miracle had another purpose: Jairus’ hopes had been dashed by the news that his daughter had died. Seeing what the hemorrhagic woman had received with little effort and, after a little coaxing, great courage, helped Jairus to have the faith and courage he needed for Jesus to work the miracle for his daughter as well in the face of an impossible situation.

If you need something and turn to God today because you feel you are out of options, that’s okay; Our Lord can work with that. But you also need to let him into your life, before, during, and after your need, and ask him to help you believe against all odds. All he asks in return is your love and friendship.

Readings: Wisdom of Solomon 1:13–15, 2:23–24; Psalm 30:2, 4–6, 11–13; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13–15; Mark 5:21–43.

12th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

It is no small feat to impress Our Lord, but in today’s Gospel the Centurion, a Roman officer and not a Jew, manages to do it. The Centurion was making an incredible act of faith against all odds. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, members of the chosen people, had been prepared, spoon fed, for centuries to achieve the level of faith that the Centurion is showing in today’s Gospel, and, as Scripture often reminds us, they often lacked faith in the Lord. The Centurion in approaching Jesus even knows that by Mosaic law he is not worthy to have a Jew enter his house, since for a Jew it would mean ritual defilement. He’s not entitled to be a Jew, and so he shouldn’t, in the mentality of the time, be entitled to any benefits of the chosen people. Yet even as a “fan” of the Jews and their religion something moves him in his heart to approach this rabbi who is more than a rabbi and ask that someone dear to him be healed. This episode in Jesus’ earthly life was a prelude to to moment when the Gospel begins to be proclaimed beyond the confines of Judaism.

The Centurion also shows us that when we ask Our Lord for something in prayer we need to acknowledge that he is under no obligation to grant it, but with the confidence that he will. If the Centurion did not have this simplicity and confidence he would have asked Our Lord if he could heal his servant, have him come to his house, pepper him with repeated pleas along the way, and perhaps pace around nervously as Jesus attended to his friend. In another moment Jesus teaches us that Our Father knows what we need before we ask (see Matthew 6:8). It is also the faith of the Centurion that gives him the simplicity and confidence to know that Our Lord doesn’t have to do a lot of things to perform the miracle. Faith helps us to not wring our hands in anxious prayer, but to simply ask for what we need, with humility, and to be grateful for whatever we receive from Our Lord.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to grow in a faith that trusts in him and knows that we only have to ask him for what we need and our prayer will be heard.

Readings: Genesis 18:1–15; Luke 1:46–50, 53–55; 8:5–17.

12th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel it may seem that a simple, albeit miraculous, healing has taken place, one of many during Our Lord’s earthly ministry, but considering the cultural attitude and Mosaic law at the time regarding lepers we are witnessing a great act of courage and faith on the leper’s part as well as a great act of compassion on Jesus’ part. Leprosy was considered a punishment by God for sin by the Jews of the time (see, for example, the punishment inflicted on Miriam when she grumbled against her brother Moses’ leadership in Numbers 12). Lepers were to avoid appearing in public and to announce they were nearby to warn off those who might come in contact with them. Because of this they were also considered ritually impure: no Jew would want to go near them, much less touch them. It’s not clear whether the “crowds” are witnessing this too, but the leper was breaking the law by approaching a rabbi in this way. Any Jew would have expected Jesus to reject him outright, but Jesus doesn’t hesitate to touch the unclean and impure leper and may him clean and pure again.

How embarrassing, even humiliating, it can feel when we go to Confession, and that just involves getting in line with maybe a few people who are more or less strangers and then, in the silence of the confessional, coming clean about our sins knowing the priest will keep it completely confidential (even to the point of martyrdom). Leprosy may not have been sin, but it continues to symbolize it even today because of its appearance in Sacred Scripture. Sin makes our lives decay and rot spiritually: if it could be seen, not only would it horrify us, but it would repulse others as well. Our Lord has the same attitude toward us, sinners, as he did toward that leper: he does not hesitate to draw near us, or let us draw near him, and to reach out and touch us with healing and forgiveness.

Let’s examine the spiritual leprosy afflicting our lives–sin–and muster the faith and courage to approach Our Lord in the sacrament of Confession and receive healing and forgiveness.

Readings: Genesis 17:1, 9–10, 15–22; Psalm 128:1–5; Matthew 8:1–4.