16th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In today’s Gospel it may seem that Our Lord is showing disrespect toward his mother and his “brothers” (in the New Testament this expression refers to any blood relations), but he is inviting them to go from considering what it means to be a member of a family to being in communion with God and with others. When God explains his intimate being he describes it in terms of Father and Son, and even the Holy Spirit is considered often from the perspective of love, the hallmark of every good family. A healthy and happy family is not only a blessing for its members, but for those who have the grace to know them as well. One of the greatest compliments you can give a friend is to say he or she is part of the family.

We know Mary is a great mother who loved and supported her son from the Annunciation all the way to Calvary and beyond. It’s safe to say that the “brothers” were incredulous about Jesus and what he was doing; in Gospel accounts of Jesus’ visits to Nazareth he lamented how little he could do there due to their lack of faith. In his response today he is paying a compliment to his mother while inviting his “brothers” to go beyond their blood relation with him to a faith that brings them into a communion with him, his disciples, and God–to become part of the extended family of all believers, by striving to do God’s will. His mother is not only a good mother; she has lived her entire life in perfect harmony with God’s will, and therefore she’s already his biological mother and well along to path to being the mother of all believers.

Let’s pray today for all families to be healthy, happy, and holy, and for all believers to treat each other like brothers and sisters, knowing it is God’s will for us.

Readings: Exodus 14:21–15:1; Exodus 15:8–10, 12, 17; Matthew 12:46–50.

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s Gospel the scribes and Pharisees were seeking a sign in the way it doesn’t normally work: signs are a gift. If you demand a sign, often you won’t get it, because signs are a gift from God and he sends them when and how he pleases. In this case, Jesus has already worked various signs regarding his mission from the Father. When Our Lord responds with the story of Jonah he is speaking of his impending Death and Resurrection, a great sign, but by connecting it to the story of Jonah he is also sending a message: destruction is at hand if his listeners, the scribes and Pharisees, do not repent. His message from the beginning of his public ministry has been that the Kingdom is at hand, and repentance and belief are expected. The people of Nineveh did penance for their sins, and in the end the Lord did not destroy them or their city.

The scribes and Pharisees had to repent and believe in order to avoid a spiritual catastrophe. When Our Lord says something greater than Jonah is happening in this case, he’s referring to a spiritual destruction, something far worse than physical death or loss. He’s also referring to an unimaginable sign: Resurrection. If he is blunt in his response it is because he knows the stakes are much higher in this instance and there’s already been a lack of repentance and faith despite all the signs he has already worked. It’s no coincidence that after his Resurrection he only appeared to his disciples: they received a confirmation of their faith in witnessing the Risen Lord.

Let’s ask Our Lord to strengthen our faith today in whatever manner he chooses.

Readings: Exodus 14:5–18; Exodus 15:1b–6 Matthew 12:38–42.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s Gospel the Good Shepherd not only goes in search of the lost sheep, but they go looking for him: they know their lost and Our Lord will watch over them. The First Reading reminds us that the Lord promised to personally shepherd his people after certain shepherds had mislead them, mistreated them, and scattered them: the kings of Israel had not shepherded the Lord’s sheep as they were called to do. When Our Lord sees the crowds seeking him out everywhere, he feels that same compassion, wanting to care for them and lead them to those pastures Jeremiah speaks about in the First Reading. Jesus is Lord and Good Shepherd.

Our Lord doesn’t walk the earth anymore as he did, but people still continue to seek him. Why? The Second Reading tells us that the blood of Christ has drawn together people from near and far: through his sacrifice we feel the call in our hearts to be united through him. Anything that separates us can be overcome through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross: we are reconciled with him and reconciled with each other. Our Lord still works to gather his sheep and lead them to greener pastures, aided by the shepherds he has appointed. After Jesus’ Ascension the people would be seeking out the Apostles taught by Jesus in order to be united into the flock that always remains the Lord’s, as they do today through bishops and priests.

Even now the Lord seeks to guide us and unite us. Let’s thank him for being the shepherd willing to lay down his life for us, and make his blood bear fruit in our lives through reconciling with anyone with whom we may be separated. Reconciliation with others goes hand in hand with reconciliation with God.

Readings: Jeremiah 23:1–6; Psalm 23:1–6; Ephesians 2:13–18; Mark 6:30–34.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord works quietly and does not draw attention to himself out of concern for reprisal from the Pharisees. Nevertheless, he knows his mission must continue and hiding is not an option. Even today Christians experiencing persecution quietly risk their lives or their reputations practicing their faith, and even behind closed doors Our Lord is working through His Spirit and winning over souls. Even today Our Lord works quietly through His Spirit in the hearts of those who are broken, desperate, or thirsting for some meaning in life in the face of an emptiness that they experience in the world and in themselves. Our Lord may have been in danger from the Pharisees, but like his disciples today, the work must continue and he wants our help.

In a world that prides itself on making a lot of noise in order to be heard we must take to heart the prophecy of Isaiah in today’s Gospel that Matthew applies to Jesus and his mission (Isaiah 42:1–4; 41:9): no matter what adverse circumstances arise, Christ wants to bear hope and justice to everyone. When the prophecy speaks of the “Gentiles” it goes beyond the Jews to all the nations, just as today we don’t just focus on concerns “in-house.” Believers may be soft-spoken and not seek a lot of fanfare, but they are called to go out into the world, not just stay at home and hide. Through their efforts they help the Lord save that person whose faith, hope, or love is about to be extinguished, and those broken people who seem about to break completely. Those people don’t need scolding, condemning, or bullying but mercy and compassion. If the goal is hope, they should be encouraged and accompanied as that flickering flame is stoked once again and the damage in their lives starts to mend. There’s not a lot of recognition in this mission, and sometimes, sadly, criticism, but we must help Christ continue his work.

Our Lord is working in hearts that are weak and broken through His Spirit even today. Let’s help him in this mission through our courage, compassion, and hope.

Readings: Exodus 12:37–42; Psalm 136:1, 10–15, 23–24; Matthew 12:14–21.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that the true measure of a rule, law, or precept is whether it serves the Lord and serves man, especially our fellow man, but also us. Specific laws are given for specific circumstances, and sometimes it can be challenging to determine how a law is to be applied, or whether it is to be applied at all. The Pharisees saw the disciples’ behavior as a violation of the law, plain and simple. Jesus responded that if the disciples were breaking the law, so did David when he was fleeing King Saul, and so were the priests every Sabbath who attended to the things of the Temple on a day when no work should be done. In these two example we find one instance where the law doesn’t apply (priests serving in the Temple on the Sabbath), and another whether circumstances required that the law not be followed for the sake of a greater good (David needing food because he was fleeing Saul–see 1 Kings 21:1-6).

In the case of the disciples they needed to eat, because they were doing the Lord’s work, and their “Rabbi” required them to work on the Sabbath. The “Rabbi’s” interpretation of the rules regarding the Sabbath were not as strict and inflexible as the interpretation the Pharisees had followed. We know too that the Lord was providing the authoritative and authentic interpretation, because he was God. However, in responding to the Pharisees he describes the “Son of Man” as Lord of the Sabbath, and usually when he refers to himself by that title he is speaking of a human criteria being established. That is why even in the case of David we mentioned above the priest had to allow that David and his men eat the bread that was normally not reserved for them. When we are discerning in prayer whether circumstances call for the application of a certain rule, precept, or law, Our Lord has established authorities to help us make the right decision based on all the goods, greater and lesser, that are at play. The most basic criterion is whether we are serving the Lord and serving others by our actions.

Let’s ask Our Lord to foster in us a spirit of prayer and discernment in following any laws that oblige us, and to help us see the best way to serve God and serve our fellow man by following them.

Readings: Exodus 11:10–12:14; Psalm 116:12–15, 15, 16bc, 17–18; Matthew 12:1–8.