12th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

Today’s First Reading captures the sentiments of the Israelites undergoing the Babylonian Captivity, recalled two days ago. They’re trying to come to grips with why the Lord handed them over to their enemies. What a great contrast with today’s Gospel, when a Roman centurion, part of the people who are occupying Israel centuries after their return from the Babylonian Captivity, is showing more faith in Our Lord and his power to heal than the Lord’s Israelite contemporaries.

Today we live a far different type of “conquest” and expansion. Today, thanks to Our Lord, all of us, whatever our ethnic background, are invited to form a part of the Kingdom of heaven, Christ’s Kingdom, and we pray with every Our Father that it come. That centurion foreshadows all of us with no drop of Jewish blood who met and became disciples of Our Lord and children of God through baptism. The Jews are not excluding from this opportunity, but as Our Lord taught them in today’s Gospel, faith is what will usher them into a lasting Kingdom that is secure from their true enemies: sin and death. Even the healing today of the centurion’s servant is a foreshadowing of the power of Christ the King.

Let’s thank Our Lord today for inviting us to form a part of his Kingdom, and help him to make his kingdom come and reconquer hearts for God.

Readings: Lamentations 2:2, 10–14, 18–19; Psalm 74:1b–7, 20–21; Matthew 8:5–17. See also 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

Birth of St. John the Baptist (2)

Today we commemorate the birth of the last Old Testament prophet, but also the prophet who would have the grace of heralding the Messiah. This solemnity, a few months after the Annunciation, remembers the first rays of the dawn of hope that became Our Savior. John, like Mary, is the first rays of a new life that would be restored and one day achieve fullness in Christ. As the First Reading reminds us today he, like Our Lord, would have suffering in the fulfillment of his mission for the sake of the Messiah.

John would be beheaded in prison before Our Lord carried out the work of redemption on the Cross, but the First Reading also reminds us that he would receive his reward and recompense for his service. Even as we celebrate John’s birth today, we also remember his birth into Heaven after successfully completing his mission for the benefit of us all. Even Paul, as today’s Second Reading reminds us, could not forget the role of John, and in many moments of the Acts of the Apostles the disciples encounter those who have only known John, happily baptizing them in Jesus’ name to complete their reconciliation with God.

John is involved in our mission as disciples of Christ, even today. Let’s pray for his intercession on his birthday so that our own mission to herald the Messiah is fruitful.

Readings: Isaiah 49:1–6; Psalm 139:1b–3, 13–15; Acts 13:22–26; Luke 1:57–66, 80. See also Advent, December 23rd and Birth of St. John the Baptist.

12th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Southern Kingdom of Judah also succumbs, just as the Northern one did, due to its infidelities. Its young, new king, instead of being a force for change and zeal, was just as wicked as the kings who had preceded him. Jeremiah warned Judah about relying on the Lord to always intervene, even when they were not doing his will, and, as Our Lord warns us in today’s Gospel, they built their lives on sand, generation after generation, king after king, and when the storm of Babylon came Judah was easily swept away: the best and brightest of Judah were led captive into Babylon to begin what Israel remembered forever after as the Babylonian Captivity.

Today’s Gospel concludes a series of teachings by Our Lord, teachings that we’ve been considering in recent weekdays. He reminds us that if we want to build our life on something solid we need to put his words into practice and, in so doing, do his will and the will of Our Heavenly Father. Things can be done in the Lord’s name, but they have to be things that the Lord desires, not just us, or else we too will hear those dreaded words one day: “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.”

We have nothing to fear if we rely on the Lord. Let’s ask him for the grace of a deeper knowledge of him so that, whatever he asks of us, we will strive to do his will as our will.

Readings: 2 Kings 24:8–17; Psalm 79:1b–5, 8–9; Matthew 7:21–29. See also 1st Week of Advent, Thursday and 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

12th Week of Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

Today’s First Reading reminds us that despite all the good intentions in the world we need help to be objective in seeking and doing good. Josiah, the unnamed king in today’s First Reading, was trying to reform and restore worship in Israel, and in renovating the Temple the “book of the law” was rediscovered (books from the Old Testament, probably the first at least), and Josiah realized how fare Israel had drifted from what their Lord had expected of them.

Imagine a world where the Bible itself was lost and re-discovered. Many of the good cultural inroads that Christianity has made, to the benefit of not just believers, but all of society, have been lost or have been forgotten. As in the case of the First Reading, it is not any one person’s fault: an entire people had forgotten their identity and their heritage and just drifted into whatever the prevailing public fashion dictated. Our Lord in today’s Gospel warns us against false prophets and bad trees; it takes scratching beneath the surface to see them for what they truly are. As believers we must shape our opinions and our lives based on the Christian faith and the teachings of the Church, not on the whims of a society often fickle and superficial.

I invite you to take the “Josiah” challenge: Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are readily available online. Crack or click them open and examine your life to see whether your covenant with the Lord needs renewing. You may be surprised.

Readings: 2 Kings 22:8–13, 23:1–3; Psalm 119:33–37, 40; Matthew 7:15–20. See also 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

12th Week of Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, emboldened by his victories, makes the mistake of not just taunting and calling out King Hezekiah of Judah, but the Lord himself. As we saw yesterday, the Assyrians had completely conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and now they had invaded the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Any general will tell you that expanding your war is foolish. Sennacherib declared war on the Lord, obviously to demoralize Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem. Unlike the Northern Kingdom, King Hezekiah took it to the Lord and entrusted his kingdom to the one who could save it and would save it, because it was the Lord’s Kingdom, and Hezekiah was simply its steward. Just as the prophet Isaiah brought a word of encouragement to Hezekiah, the Lord sent a message to Sennacherib by striking down a huge portion of his army and forcing his retreat.

The moral of this story is that if you wage war on the Lord, you will lose. If you ally yourself with him, no matter how dire the odds, he will defend you. Entrust yourself to him. He gave you life itself, and he will defend and bless it if you let him.

Readings: 2 Kings 19:9b–11, 14–21, 31–35a, 36; Psalm 48:2–4, 10–11; Matthew 7:6, 12–14. See also 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.