23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

Today’s First Reading has something you don’t see very often: Paul giving his opinion instead of a commandment from Christ. The question is regarding celibacy and whether Our Lord commanded it for everyone. Paul’s response is that everyone is called to chastity, just not in the same way. Celibacy is refraining from the intimate relationship between a man and a woman normally done between two people married to each other. Chastity is a virtue for everyone, married or not: it means living your sexuality in accord with God’s plan.

In our highly sexualized culture chastity is a challenge to live today, and it is a challenge both married and unmarried people have to face. For the unmarried it means either awaiting that special someone with whom they’ll marry before living the intimacy that, God willing, will help them become parents as well as strengthen their love, or being sexually continent for love of the Lord. For the married it means fidelity to your spouse and honoring your spouse and the Lord in the way you live your sexuality.

Let’s pray for everyone, whatever their state and condition in life, to live chastely and in so doing to honor themselves, others, and Our Lord.

Readings: 1 Corinthians 7:25–31; Psalm 45:11–12, 14–17; Luke 6:20–26. See also 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul is lamenting that the Christians at Corinth are going to civil courts to resolve “domestic” disputes. Christians are called to be witnesses to love, especially with their fellow believers, and when they quarrel before an unevangelized public it makes the Gospel life they have committed to live ring hollow. The civil courts are unqualified to judge these disputes “in house” between believers because they haven’t experience the love they live in Christ.

Paul uses the striking example of the unjust becoming judges to make his point. Would you accept a death row inmate as a judge? Every Christian who has received baptism has become justified, become just, and that gives them an authority the unjust could never have with regard to Christians. This is not a cause for arrogance on the part of Christians, because, as Paul reminds us, before baptism we were all unjust as well and it is only by the Lord’s mercy that we have been rendered just again.

If we’re going to make a spectacle of ourselves with regard to one of our fellow believers, let’s make it a “spectacle” of the charity and mercy we show him, not another legal drama.

Readings: 1 Corinthians 6:1–11; Psalm 149:1b–6a, 9b; Luke 6:12–19. See also 2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday14th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday and Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles.


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

At first glance it may seem that in today’s Gospel Jesus is asking his disciples to burn his bridges, but if we look a little more closely we can see he’s inviting us to “do the math.” It seems so illogical that he would ask us to abandon our family, our health, our security, and our comfort to follow him – he tells us to follow him bearing our Cross. In the second part of the Gospel he invites us to do the math: to think about what we’re trying to build in our life, like the tower builder, and what battle we’re ready to wage against the challenges that come in life, like the king

When we read the words of the First Reading, we see the math just breaks down. When we try to find the answers to the big questions – life, death, love, our calling in this life, we see that the cut and dry business or scientific approach doesn’t work. The big questions escape our categories, experience, and observation, and with such big mysteries looming over our heads, mysteries that seem to decide our fate, our hearts yearn for freedom. Christ in today’s Gospel is offering us those answers and that freedom. He asks us to have faith and trust in Him

Onesimus, the slave whom Paul mentions in the Second Reading, sought that escape to freedom from his master, Philemon, to whom Paul was writing, but he found a far greater freedom. In the time of ancient Rome, slaves were a big percentage of the population: due to debts or being on the wrong end of a war, and such a need to Roman society that they were a social class of their own. Rome took escapees very seriously, and Onesimus got caught, but Christ let him get caught so he could experience a true freedom, with the help of St. Paul, whom he met in prison. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with the letter we read a part of the second reading to be Christ’s instrument of liberation: a liberation of love. Paul urges Philemon to see Onesimus now as more than a servant, more than a piece of property, to see him as Christ wants him to be seen: as a brother. We can hope that Philemon accepted Onesimus back as a brother.

When we follow Christ, he will do the same thing through us. Our families, our sufferings, our very selves will experience this liberation of love, and when we follow Christ, those we love will seek him as well as the answer to the big questions of life that go byond their math as well. However, we must put Christ first in our lives. That can hurt us and our family a lot, but when we put our calculations aside, when we face the unknown trusting in Christ, we show him we are following him.

Let’s ask Our Lord for the grace to put him first:  to put him first by receiving him frequently in the Eucharist, by telling him we’re sorry in Confession, by helping the spiritually or materially poor around us, and by loving our family as Christ taught us and showed us.

Readings: Wisdom 9:13–18b; Psalm 90:3–6, 12–14, 17; Philemon 9–10, 12–17; Luke 14:25–33. See also 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday and 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul reminds us that the mission of the apostle is to put others first, and that invariable leads to the frustration of being put last. He describes the Christian communities he founded as his spiritual children, and every good father strives to give the best to his children. How many parents have worked overtime and given up opportunities for the sake of those they love? The apostle’s mission is very similar.

Whether we are on the receiving end or the giving end of this process, the correct response is humility. Humility helps us not lament our lot in life when it seems hard and thankless, and it also helps us remember that we are beneficiaries of everything, including our very existence. When everything is a gift from the Lord and acknowledged as such there’s no room for an attitude of entitlement. The Corinthians were put in first place by Paul and Apollos, but that should be a motive for thanking Our Lord, not boasting.

Take some time today to take stock of all you’ve received and all those who’ve put you in first place, and try returning the favor by putting others in first place in your own life.

Readings: 1 Corinthians 4:6b–15; Psalm 145:17–21; Luke 6:1–5. See also 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, and  15th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Christians of Corinth are reminded by Paul that as a steward of the Lord and his mysteries he is accountable to the Lord, not the flock. This may concern us today when most organizations require some sort of oversight that comes from the group in general, but it is important to see here that this does not give Paul the license to do whatever he wishes. Every minister answers to the Lord for what he does, Paul included.

Paul himself says he doesn’t think he has done any wrong, but the Lord is the ultimate judge of his actions. This is not just true for ministers, but for everyone. If we can help someone to see that their behavior is displeasing to the Lord, we should try to help them see it, but ultimately they will answer to the Lord for what they’ve done or not done.

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians is addressing criticisms regarding him and his ministry that he has been receiving. Let’s pray for our ministers today and give them the benefit of the doubt. If we experience the human weakness of one of the Lord’s ministers, let’s help him however we can.

Readings: 1 Corinthians 4:1–5; Psalm 37:3–6, 27–40; Luke 5:33–39. See also Friday after Ash Wednesday22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, and 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.