Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle B

On today’s feast we celebrated Our Lord giving his closest disciples a glimpse of his glory in order to strengthen them for the trials that were to come. Peter would betray Jesus, then be forgiven by him and entrusted with Jesus’  entire flock. James would be the first martyr among the Apostles. John would be the apostle who lived the longest, yet desired to be with the Lord both on earth and on Heaven the most: this would be one of the experiences that would lead him to write two books of the New Testament: a gospel and the book of Revelation.

When Our Lord becomes transfigured on the mountaintop he is letting them see his divinity shine through. He is flanked by Elijah, representing all the prophets, and Moses, representing the Law. The Law and the prophets were two of the greatest pillars of Jewish belief, and Our Lord shows his disciples today that he is the culmination of all that the Law and the Prophets taught about the Messiah and about God. As the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Our Lord now brings us the definitive truth about God, fulfilling the Law and the prophets.

In moments of prayer Our Lord permits us at times to have a glimpse of his glory. We can respond enthusiastically, like Peter in today’s Gospel, but also with some fear and confusion at receiving such a wonderful revelation from Our Lord. The Heavenly Father tells us what our response should be in today’s Gospel: listen to His Son. Let’s ask for the grace today to listen to whatever Our Lord wishes to tell us.

Readings: Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14; Psalm 97:1–2, 5–6, 9; 2 Peter 1:16–19; Mark 9:2–10.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel on face value it seems Our Lord is being very harsh with the Canaanite woman. The First Reading reminds us that there was bad blood in the past between the Israelites and the Canaanites: the first generation of Israelites were so scared of them that they didn’t enter the Promised Land and continued to journey in the desert for forty years. Jesus is not just being driven by the prejudices of his time: when the Centurion asked him for help, another pagan, he didn’t hesitate (see Matthew 8:5–13). Jesus during his earthly ministry concentrated on the Jewish people; later his Apostles and disciples would bring the Gospel beyond the confines of Judaism, as is narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. So the conversation with the Canaanite woman is very similar to the Wedding Feast at Cana when Mary asked him to do something about the wine situation and he said, “my hour has not yet come” (see John 2:4).

Our Lord is having this conversation in front of all his disciples so that they could see that even someone who’d not been prepared to believe could believe. Like his response to Mary in the Wedding Feast at Cana, here he was inviting the Canaanite woman to offer something more: greater faith and humility. The Canaanite woman rose to the occasion that Jesus congratulated her on her faith and healed her daughter, not only to her benefit but to that of the disciples as well.

We can easily fall into rash judgments about others and their actions. We can pigeonhole them into caricatures or stereotypes. But Our Lord wants to bring the Gospel to everyone in their situation, with their strengths and defects, and lead them to Our Heavenly Father. Let’s ask for the grace to go beneath the surface of those we meet and help them to know the Gospel as well.

Readings: Numbers 13:1–2, 25–14:1, 14:26a–29a, 34–35; Psalm 106:6–7b, 13–14, 21–23; Matthew 15:21–28.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In today’s Gospel we see Peter exercising a faith that was still a work in progress when things seemed difficult. When things in our life seem difficult, and God reveals himself, we too can get scared, since we often associate God with life and death, when he actually wants to be with us in fair weather or foul weather, not just in crisis moments. When he reveals himself, as he did to the disciples, it is to encourage us to continue forward in faith.

Peter shows a faith today that is uncertain, but willing to take a risk in a seemingly impossible situation: he’s not just asking for a sign from Jesus that it is him, but he is also offering to take a risk in taking a step toward him. Jesus invites him to take the risk, and, when Peter’s faith starts to falter, he helps him. Peter started focusing on the wind and water–the difficulties–instead of on Our Lord. All he had to do was fix his eyes upon Jesus again and Our Lord was ready to help him and to continue to help him grow in his faith.

If things are difficult, be on watch for Our Lord revealing himself in your situation. He may ask you to do something risky, something seemingly impossible, but as long as you keep your eyes fixed on him with faith he will enable you to take the next step.

Readings: Numbers 12:1–13; Psalm 51:3–7, 12–13; Matthew 14:22–36.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord has just heard the new that his cousin, and his prophet, has just died on account of him. His Heavenly Father has permitted it as part of the plan of salvation, and, as all the Old Testament prophets before him, John the Baptist was condemned to death for bearing God’s message. Our Lord himself is the message of God, the Word, so he knows a similar fate awaits him. When he goes off for some silence and solitude, he seeks time with his Heavenly Father to process everything that has happened, just as we should when we’re faced with tragedy and sorrow in our life.

Today’s Gospel doesn’t say why he went off to pray, or what he said, but his actions speak volumes. Unlike Moses’ frustrated attitude today in the First Reading when the Israelites complain again and say they’re sick of the bread God is sending them from Heaven, Our Lord doesn’t ask the crowds seeking him to come back later and respect his time of prayer and mourning; he cured them, and didn’t send them off to worry about their own food, but provided for them personally. Even faced with sorrow and tragedy he had time for others, and gave himself to them completely, as one day he would do on the Cross.

We’ve also lost a loved one, someone who died because of us: Jesus. Every time we see a crucifix or celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass we remember exactly that. Let’s have the same attitude in gratitude for his sacrifice: an unconditional love and concern for others, even in moments of tragedy and suffering.

Readings: Numbers 11:4b–15; Psalm 81:12–17; Matthew 14:13–21.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time,Cycle B

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that when we become believers in Christ we can no longer live to same way. In today’s Gospel we see Jesus extending that invitation to the crowds for whom he had just multiplied the loaves and fishes, but yet they were still seeking a sign like the one recalled in today’s First Reading. The Israelites wanted their bellies filled, and complained, and were even willing to return to slavery just to have a full stomach. The people who sought Jesus in today’s Gospel still want nothing more than a full stomach, but Our Lord is trying to help them see what they really crave is what that full stomach gives them: life, not just for a few decades, but for eternity.

As Jesus reminds them, full stomachs didn’t enable those Israelites under Moses to live forever, even though the Lord provided them with manna to eat. Our Lord wasn’t just speaking metaphorically when he said he was the bread of life: every time we receive the Eucharist we know that he is the Bread of Life, and we know that one day that we’ll never need to fear dying of hunger or anything else ever again. Like the Israelites in the First Reading the people were still seeking signs, but now the moment had come for faith, a faith that lead to no longer living as the Gentiles did, just focused on immediate needs and concerns of this life and not seeing the bigger picture where this life is a pilgrimage toward eternal life. The Israelites who grumbled in the desert in the First Reading didn’t live to see the promised land due to their lack of trust in God; the people in today’s Gospel are being extended an opportunity to one day enter into the true Promised Land, but they have to trust the new Moses–Jesus–to lead them.

Let’s renew our faith today in Jesus as the Bread of Life and continue our pilgrimage here on earth, knowing that nourished by this Bread we’ll one day enter the Promised Land.

Readings: Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15; Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54; Ephesians 4:17, 20–24; John 6:24–35. See also 3rd Week of Easter, Monday and 3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday.