St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (2)

When a grain of wheat is planted and dies, it doesn’t stop being wheat. It becomes something greater through fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. When the grain is not planted, it remains small and insignificant, and it doesn’t achieve all its potential. Our Lord in today’s Gospel uses this example when he is told that some Greeks would like to meet him. His Passion is close, and even those beyond the confines of Israel would benefit from it, like the Greeks, but it would require that he be planted on the Cross and die in order to achieve salvation.

If a grain of wheat could feel it’s destruction in order to provide new growth and purpose, it would be an agony. Our Lord also chooses this process to describe what spiritual growth is like, not just in the case of martyrdom. Mortification is a process of “deadening” yourself to the things of this world in order to become detached from them and able to focus and use them for greater spiritual goods. However, everyone knows that this process of deadening, especially at the beginning, feels like dying: detachment means un-attaching yourself to something you’ve been stuck on for a long time, and that’s not easy. In the very moment you try to pull away you achieve a greater insight into how enslaved you really are and how much you are in need of liberation.

This process is not necessarily always done for spiritual reasons: many people sacrifice themselves for a higher purpose, even a noble one. St. Lawrence and Our Lord remind us that martyrdom is a supreme sacrifice for love of God and of souls. It is not just death; it is service and transformation. Even if we’re not called to martyrdom, let’s resolve to live less for the world and more for God and for others.

Readings: 2 Corinthians 9:6–10; Psalm 112:1–9; John 12:24–26. See also St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr and 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In multiple Gospel accounts the disciples debated among themselves who is the greatest and how to become so, but today they have the openness to ask Our Lord, and he tells them that if they don’t have the attitude of children they won’t even make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. Through Baptism we are adopted as sons and daughters of God; we become his children, and a good child seeks to please his or her Father in everything, and counts on his or her Father to provide everything he or she needs.

If acting like a child of God is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Our Lord reminds us today that having the humility of a child is a measure of greatness in the Kingdom. Humility is one of the most precious virtues in the eyes of God: it flies in the face of earthly ambition and vainglory. Alongside humility greatness in the Kingdom is measured by our dedication to even its smallest member. Children were accepted in Our Lord’s time, but not often appreciated. It’d be easy to argue that writing off one sheep out of hundred is okay, but Our Lord invites the disciples to show a greater level of dedication, letting no one be lost.

Let’s ask Our Lord to help us not only form a part of his Kingdom, but to be great in his eyes through our humility and dedication.

Readings: Ezekiel 2:8–3:4; Psalm 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131; Matthew 18:1–5, 10, 12–14. See also The Guardian Angels25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

After a dire reminder to his disciples of his impending Passion a conversation on taxation and a miracle pay-off seems somewhat banal, but if we scratch below the surface we see something a little deeper. The translation used in liturgy speaks of the king’s “subjects” being exempt from paying taxes, but the more literal translation of the original Greek is “sons.” Our Lord shouldn’t be expected to pay the Temple tax because it is the House of his Father. However, he knows that those asking for the tax probably don’t believe that he is the Son of God, so he accedes to their request.

The miracle to pay the tax is almost comical, but it shows that not only the Temple, but all of Creation is the Lord’s house. Our Lord knows his home down to a coin in a fish in hidden in the sea because he knows his Creation and he has made it his home. It makes the tax collectors’ request even more insignificant, but it also underscores the grandeur of Our Lord who is not shy about condescending to such a simple request.

Our Lord is so simple and humble that in his closeness to us he rarely needs to remind us of how majestic he is. Let’s not lose sight of that and adore him as he deserves.

Readings: Ezekiel 1:2–5, 24–28c; Psalm 148:1–2, 11–14; Matthew 17:22–27.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C

Today’s Gospel ends with a warning, but it doesn’t begin with one. Our Lord is inviting us today to be magnanimous in our service, not miserly and calculating. Our Lord encourages us today by reminding us that the Kingdom is ours: he describes the moment when the master actually waits on the servants because they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty and he is so pleased with them. Our Lord wants to give us all we need and more. The key is to be a faithful and prudent servant. We have to remember that we’re not the owner; we’re stewards entrusted with something that doesn’t belong to us, and we have to account for our stewardship.

We can never forget that we’re servants and stewards. We don’t control it all: flat tires, food poisoning, bad weather remind us that not everything is under our sway. We don’t own it all: even when we have the latest iPod there’s always a better model on the way, a newer car, but also a new and unpaid bill. Our Lord teaches us today that true freedom comes from letting go. The Kingdom is true freedom, if we seek it first, everything else will work out, because our treasure, the treasure for ourselves and those we love, is in Heaven.

Let’s resolve to be faithful and happy servants today, because Our Lord’s servants become his friends, and he promises those friends a joy that no one will take from them. Ask Our Lord today to help you see where your heart lies so that you can keep it fixed on the treasure that never fades.

Readings: Wisdom 18:6–9; Psalm 33:1, 12, 18–19, 20–22; Hebrews 11:1–2, 8–19; Luke 12:32–48. See also 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle C

In today’s Second Reading Peter reminds the first generations of Christians (and us) that the Transfiguration was not a myth, but, rather, an event. It was an event to which he was an eye-witness as well as a participant. In the ancient world myths were attempts to articulate religious beliefs and sentiments. In the case of the Greeks, they themselves eventually stopping believing in those myths as real events when they came under rational and philosophical scrutiny. In the language of today myth means invented.

Christianity is not a myth. Jesus Christ was born, lived in Palestine two thousand years ago, and died. Even if you don’t believe in him as the Christ history testified to his earthly life. However, he also rose from the dead and ascended into glory, and a “cloud of witnesses” testify to that fact (see Hebrews 12:1). Some have accused us of embellishing historical events to give them mythic proportions, and tales of the Transfiguration and Resurrection seem to them to be myths, but a myth never transformed history as much or as profoundly as Christianity and its founder. There’s nothing “clever” about testifying to the Risen and Glorified Christ to the point of martyrdom, as St. Peter did, if it was all invented or embellished.

Christianity is an event, even today, that spans eternity and history, just as the Transfiguration did. Inspired by Our Lord’s history as well as his glory let’s not be shy about testifying to the events of salvation history.

Readings: Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14; Psalm 97:1–2, 5–6, 9; 2 Peter 1:16–19; Luke 9:28b–36. See also 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C and Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle B.