St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

In today’s Gospel the story of Matthew’s call and conversion come straight from the apostle’s mouth. Matthew had the grace to not only be an apostle, but to share with us the Gospel of Our Lord through his account of the earthly life and mission of Jesus. His life took a radical turn from being a tax collector, considered a traitor by his people, to a witness of the life of Jesus.

When Our Lord tells the Pharisee’s today who were critical of his dinner company that he was sent to sinners, Matthew’s words came straight from the heart. Our Lord came to save the world, not condemn it, and we see this in the story of Matthew’s calling and in Matthew’s desire after meeting Our Lord to have his friends know him as well. He knows he doesn’t need to impress Our Lord by only introducing him to squeaky clean people; he himself didn’t fit in that category. The disciples learned this lesson too, eating alongside tax collectors and sinners, but accompanied by Our Lord.

Let’s contemplate the example of Matthew’s calling and conversion today and pray that sinners even today encounter Our Lord and turn to him for healing and mercy.

Readings: Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13; Psalm 19:2–5; Matthew 9:9–13.

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s Gospel Our Lord invites the apostles, and us, to revisit what we consider to be the path to greatness. As St. James reminds us in today’s Second Reading, jealously and selfish ambition only lead to discord. If we really want to be at peace with ourselves and with others, the path to greatness is the path of wisdom. It may provoke resentment on the part of those who don’t follow it, as is reflected in the wicked men conspiring in today’s First Reading, but it is the path to lasting peace, where people aren’t at war to get ahead at the expense of another or bitter that someone has achieved something that they haven’t.

Our Lord describes the path to greatness today as one of service, and not just any service. Even an ambitious person can seek to perform some service to achieve his ends. When Our Lord gives the example of serving a child, it’s like a cold bucket of water dumped on the disciples’ selfish ambitions. Babysitting is not high in anyone’s book in terms of a career, nor nanny, and, sadly, even in some circles of society the vocation to be a parent is avoided. But God reveals himself in terms of family relationships, and Our Lord tells us today to serve that child in his name in order to serve not only him, but Our Heavenly Father who sent him. No matter how great we become in the eyes of society we can never neglect even the least members of it, because our only ambition should be to serve. Nor can we forget that if we achieved anything in our life it was thanks to our parents.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us “get ahead” on the path of humility and service.

Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17–20; Psalm 54:3–8; James 3:16–4:3; Mark 9:30–37.

24th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us how the Word of God can grow in us. First, we have to open the door to it: we have to listen to what he is saying. That involves a desire in our heart and mind to welcome it in, and to use it to shape our lives, even when our inclinations say differently. A parable is a sort of test to see whether we’re really interested.

Second, we won’t just understand it on our own: even his best disciples asked for an explanation; today he mentions that they have already started receiving teachings about the Kingdom of God without the need to use parables as tests of whether they really care. The Church has grown in understanding of the Word of God throughout her history, helped by the Holy Spirit, and Our Lord has entrusted this mission to the Apostles and to their successors, the bishops, in order to help us understand. We need Church teaching to help us understand.

Finally, it requires perseverance. Our Lord describes the dispositions necessary to receive the Word of God: to “embrace it with a generous and good heart.” A generous and good heart requires a lot of work, and the Word of God is meant to help achieve that. That involves lifestyle changes, attitude adjustments, swallowing our pride, and turning the other cheek, not just once, but repeatedly. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us persevere in welcoming his Word into our hearts with the proper dispositions of life and of heart.

Readings: 1 Timothy 6:13–16; Psalm 100:1b–5; Luke 8:4–15. See also 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and Friday.

24th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

The mention of holy women in today’s Gospel underscores their importance not only to the first generations of believers, but to us as well. Some of these same women on the day of the Resurrection were the first witnesses of the Risen Lord, because as they followed him and served him today, so they sought to do him one last service when he was laid in the tomb, and ended up giving the news to the Apostles. Their example teaches us the good traits of every disciple: gratitude, generosity, and service.

They’ve been blessed by healing in their life, and they show their appreciation with gratitude. Maybe the blessings we’ve received haven’t been as dramatic as someone like Mary Magdalene, but they are a cause for gratitude. These blessings prompt them to respond with generosity: the holy women helped Jesus and the other disciples out of their own resources. It’s likely that their names are mentioned here alongside the Twelve not only to be remembered, but also for the first hearers of Luke’s Gospel to know how they came to know and follow Our Lord after meeting them or hearing about them. Lastly, this gratitude and generosity are translated into service: they don’t just stay home and send care packages. They follow Our Lord and serve him and the Twelve in their work of proclaiming the Gospel. Everyone has a role in the work of evangelization.

Let’s ask Our Lord to grow in gratitude, generosity, and service, inspired by the example of these holy women.

Readings: 1 Timothy 6:2c–12; Psalm 49:6–10, 17–20; Gospel Luke 8:1–3.

24th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

Conversion in the spiritual life is when life takes a turn for the better. The Christian life is a life of conversion, whether we have turned away from a life far from God and full or sin, or have been lifelong believers who received deeper understanding of who God is and all he’s done for us. A life of conversion means life will constantly be taking turns for the better, not necessarily in the area of material things, health, etc., but in a holy life with God in Christ that blooms, little by little, into eternal life.

In today’s Gospel we see a contrast between a converted sinner–the sinful woman–and someone who is observant, but is not living much of a spirit of conversion–Simon the Pharisee, as is reflected in how coldly he treats people, as if he is doing them a favor of tolerating their flawed existence. Conversion leads to charity: love for God and love for others. The “sinful” woman is abounding in it after a life of things she thought were loving, but were simply sin. She is experiencing a strong moment of conversion and Our Lord is the means through which she shows her appreciation to God. It’s not just because Our Lord was nice to her when everyone else was not; in his own words, it is her faith that has led to her conversion and the gift of forgiveness.

Conversion is a journey; we never forget where we’ve been, and, God-willing, we never forget where we’re headed. Let’s examine all the turns for the better Our Lord has granted us in our life, turns for the better in the true sense of the word: turns toward God and away from sin. If we’ve been blessed with a good life, let’s thank him. If we’ve been freed from a life of sin, let’s thank him even more. Wherever our starting point, he has been with us every step of the way and deserves our love and thanks.

Readings: 1 Timothy 4:12–16; Psalm 111:7–10; Luke 7:36–50.