18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that the cross is a part of our life whether we want it or not, and what matters is how we face it and why we face it. No matter how often we try to accumulate things in order to ensure  comfort, something prevents it from happening. Some people are wealthy, or healthy, or in charge of their lives, yet they feel something is missing. Our Lord reminds us today that we can have the whole world, yet not possess what is truly important: an enduring and fulfilled life. That enduring and fulfilled life doesn’t exist in this world, yet this world is the path to it. It depends on how we live in this world.

Our Lord teaches us today that the only way to achieve what we truly desire is to take up our cross for the sake of a higher cause: his cause. It’s no coincidence that in this same reading he speaks of the impending arrival of the Kingdom of God: with his very Incarnation the Kingdom has arrived, and on the Cross it begins to achieve fruition as the “conquered” becomes the conquerer of sin and death. Nahum in today’s First Reading describes the point of arrival: peace for the People of God, security forever, and the destruction of evil. He describes Israel (Jacob) as a vine that was damaged by ravagers, but not destroyed: it was pruned by sufferings, yet it endured. Our Lord was ravaged on the cross, but not defeated, and from that Tree of Life an enduring and fulfilling life is made possible, if we take up his cause and imitate him. The alternative is the ravaged world described by Nahum in the second part of today’s reading: the more we seek fleeting things, the more we flee from our crosses and suffer lasting misery, because if we put our stock only in the things of this world,. they will, sooner or later, pass away.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us see our crosses not as burdens, but as opportunities to help construct a better world in his name. Through our crosses, in his service, we can achieve a better life for ourselves and for others. Let’s take up our cross and take up the cause of Christ.

Readings: Nahum 2:1, 3, 3:1–3, 6–7; Deuteronomy 32:35c–36b, 39a–d, 41; Matthew 16:24–28. See also Thursday after Ash Wednesday18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

The Lord promises the Israelites through Jeremiah in today’s First Reading that the next covenant he forges with them will be different. The first covenant he made with them was on Mt. Sinai after he had led them out of Egypt, and even as he was writing it on stones for Moses up on the mountain the Israelites were violating it down below in the camp. The new covenant would be written on their hearts, not on a piece of stone.

Our Lord brought about this new covenant in his blood, as he himself said in the Last Supper and we remember in every celebration of the Eucharist. We renew this covenant every time we participate in the Eucharist. It is a covenant born from a profound encounter with God in Jesus Christ. That inner intuition that makes us strive to please him and chides us for displeasing him is the covenant written on our hearts. It is not just our conscience, but the Holy Spirit also working within our hearts.

Let’s show our love for the Lord today by making an extra effort to listen to that voice in our heart that leads us to please and serve him.

Readings: Jeremiah 31:31–34; Psalm 51:12–15, 18–19; Matthew 16:13–23. See also 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, and Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

chastity

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel shows a lot of courage in the quest to free her daughter from being afflicted by a demon. Canaanites and Jews had a long history, and they did not get along. Our Lord was a Jew, but also a miracle worker, so she decided to try. In her first attempt to greet Our Lord she even used the Messianic title, “Son of David”: for the people of the time it was not clear that the Messiah would be a good thing for anyone who was not a Jew. Perhaps she was trying to butter him up a little.

Our Lord responds as she probably expected: the cold shoulder. However, we know Our Lord can read hearts, so this was not a simple brush off; something more profound was going on. When the disciples press him regarding the matter, he tells them it’s not time yet for his ministry to go beyond the children of Israel. Israel had a special role in the plan of salvation and Our Lord was sent to attend to them; the rest would be attended to later. In a sense, the Canaanite woman was trying to skip the line.

When Our Lord rebuffs her again she is not shy about acknowledging that she is not entitled to what she is requesting. Sometimes we forget that Our Lord doesn’t have to give us anything. Yet Our Lord rewards her faith and humility in the end. Let’s ask Our Lord for what we need, thankful that he’ll consider our petition and humble that we aren’t entitled to it.

Readings: Jeremiah 31:1–7; Jeremiah 31:10–12b, 13; Matthew 15:21–28. See also 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

Today’s readings remind us that the theological virtues are a gift from God that are meant to grow as we grow, bolstered by grace and our effort. Just like a muscle, resistance is required in order to strengthen and grow. In today’s First Reading the Lord is telling the Israelites of Judah that without the Lord’s help their situation is terminal: their sins are self-inflicted terminal wounds. On their own there is no remedy and no hope. The Lord is inviting them to regain hope in him again in order to be restored to peace and security.

In today’s Gospel the disciples have seen a sea of miracles: Our Lord has multiplied the loaves and fishes, healed the multitudes, and brought many back to our Heavenly Father. Now he walks on water. Peter takes it as an invitation to test the strength of his faith. He’s unsure, but Our Lord encourages him to try. A fisherman like him would never have imagined stepping out of a boat onto sea just like stepping onto a dock. He manages to take a few steps, but his faith is not strong enough yet to stay walking amid miracles. Despite this, he has formed a faith instinct to ask Our Lord for help when his faith doesn’t keep him afloat.

Impossible and hopeless situations are only impossible and hopeless when we lack faith and trust in Our Lord. The history of Church is a history of miracles too, whether miracles that help us walk on water or just stay afloat. The people in today’s Gospel received grace and healing by touching a tassel of Our Lord’s cloak; we touch Our Lord whenever we receive him in Holy Communion. Let’s believe and trust so that he can work miracles in our lives and in the lives of those he loves.

Readings: Jeremiah 30:1–2, 12–15, 18–22; Psalm 102:16–23, 29; Matthew 14:22–36. See also Wednesday after Epiphany and 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading we’re reminded that there are prophets and there are false prophets. False prophets often tell you something you want to hear, because they want to get something out of you. Jeremiah knew the only proof to confirm or discredit Hananiah was whether his prophecy came true or not. Jeremiah knew that he was sent from the Lord to warn Judah about its actions and the disaster that was going to result. Judah needed to change its ways; Hananiah told them everything would work out.

We don’t know why Hananiah misled the people; perhaps he didn’t believe in the Lord at all, and was just trying to tell the people something to bring them over to his point of view. In the religious age in which they lived speaking falsely in God’s name, since it was difficult to prove, was a grave offense, and Hananiah didn’t fool the Lord. The true measure of a prophet is whether he is speaking the truth in the name of the Lord. Hananiah forfeited his life.

Today we have the grace of knowing many prophets were true because their prophecies and promises were fulfilled in Our Lord. His victory over sin and death was prophesied for centuries, and came to fulfillment in him through his Incarnation and sacrifice on the Cross. His message remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. Let’s trust his message in order to conquer sin and death in our lives as well.

Readings: Jeremiah 28:1–17; Psalm 119:29, 43, 79–80, 95, 102; Matthew 14:13–21. See also 2nd Week of Easter, Friday (2)Tuesday after Epiphany1st Week of Advent, Wednesday17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 2nd Week of Easter, Friday.