32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul gives his protege Titus a laundry list of qualities that a good bishop should have in order to be a good steward of his people. A steward knows that he has been entrusted with something that does not belong to him; he’ll be held accountable for how he cares for his charge. When that charge is a portion of the People of God, he needs to be “blameless”: without fault.

This entails a great responsibility not only for the people the bishop serves, but for bishop himself: Our Lord in today’s Gospel warns of the dire consequences of leading another to sin. He also encourages a constant willingness to forgive, provided the sinner asks for forgiveness. Many bishops today face difficult circumstances in their flocks, but, as Our Lord reminds us today, with just a little faith they’ll be able to accomplish great things in the Lord’s service.

Let’s pray for our bishops today to be blameless, forgiving, and steadfast in their ministry.

Readings: Titus 1:1–9; Psalm 24:1b–4b, 5–6; Luke 17:1–6.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

In today’s Gospel the Sadducees, sympathetic to the Hellenization of Jewish culture and, as a result, skeptical about the resurrection, are presenting Our Lord with what they see as proof that the resurrection, a teaching held by the Pharisees of the time, is absurd. In today’s First Reading we see an attempt to violently Hellenize the Jews by forcing them to abandon Jewish practices. The Jews who aided in Hellenization and the Jews who fought back are the predecessors of the Sadducees and the Pharisees respectively. In Our Lord’s time the battle had shifted from outright persecution to ideology.

Believers today are in both situations: outright persecution or intellectual ridicule. So we have to turn to Our Lord to see how the face the injustice of attacks on our belief. Today’s readings don’t paint a portrait of combat or dialectic debate; Paul in the Second Reading teaches us that no matter what we suffer for our belief: “the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” Our faith will help us endure. The enemies of our faith have none, which is why they’ll never see beyond their ideologies or selfish scheming. Our Lord reminds us today that even if we don’t have justice in this earthly moment of our life, we will have it in eternity. Faith in eternal life is what led the young men in the First Reading to embrace martyrdom, and eternal life was the outlook that confounded the Sadducees arguments in today’s Gospel as well.

As Our Lord shows us today, you have to know your faith in order to effectively defend it; it has to shape your outlook on life. Reason without faith is seriously stunted; reason with faith can take us to new heights of insight. Ask Our Lord today for a strong faith that resists its detractors and shapes our outlook on life.

Readings: 2 Maccabees 7:1–2, 9–14; Psalm 17:1, 5–6, 8, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5; Luke 20:27–38. See also 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.


31st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul’s gratitude toward the Philippians shows the difference between material poverty, a situation, and spiritual poverty, a virtue. Paul acknowledges that he has experienced moments of plenty and moments of want, and those moments have not driven him to consider himself important or to consider himself victimized; what he has at his disposal is what he has. We can easily fall into the pitfall of not being content with the home, vehicle, or gadgets that we have, even if they were the latest model six months ago. We can also fall into an attitude of resentment when we’re struggling just to pay the bills and provide for those we love, or grow up in poverty when it seems that others always live in luxury. Both attitudes can spread to more spiritual goods, such as our relationships, if we let them. We can get attached to our things or the things of others and lose sight of the fact that everything we have has been given to us.

Paul shows the secret to facing prosperity or poverty: to see that Our Lord can work with both, if we work with him. Paul praises the Philippians as his benefactors because of the fruits of evangelization he has been able to reap through their material support. It not only helps them live spiritual poverty, but it helps advance the cause of the Gospel as well. If we seek to help and serve others, whether poor or rich, we are growing in spiritual poverty and seeking higher goods.

Take stock of what you have today and ask Our Lord to help you see what you truly need and what you can use to help and serve others.

Readings: Philippians 4:10–19; Psalm 112:1b–2, 5–6, 8a, 9; Luke 16:9–15. See also 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

31st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul laments those who have not only turned their backs on the Cross of Christ, but have become its enemies. The Cross implies sacrifice, but a sacrifice made with a higher and nobler purpose in mind. When Paul refers to those who consider their stomach their god he may be referring to the same Judaizers who obsess with dietary strictures and laws, or simple gluttony, but when we turn our backs on the Cross, or become its active opponents, we are putting ourselves first and ridiculing anyone who doesn’t do so.

“Stomach worship” today doesn’t just refer to those who overindulge in double cheeseburgers; it refers to any number of body worshipers, from those seeking six-pack abs to those so worried about perfect health that they are a source of suffering for themselves as well as others when they’re wishes aren’t fulfilled. Goals become more and more petty the less noble they are. When we strive for a comfortable life the little discomforts just become more pronounced. If we accept our crosses, even the little ones, even the small discomforts have meaning and are easier to bear.

Let’s ask Our Lord to bear our crosses, big and small, and let that “stomach” grumble once in a while.

Readings: Philippians 3:17–4:1; Psalm 122:1–5; Luke 16:1–8. See also 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul speaks of belonging to the People of God, old and new, through the concept of circumcision. By describing Christians as “the circumcision” he reminds us that we all inherit the promises that the Lord first made to Abraham and continued to keep throughout salvation history, culminating in the Incarnation of God the Son for our redemption, through faith in Christ.

When Paul speaks of “confidence in the flesh” he is referring to counting on Jewish ancestry and observance alone for salvation. Christians who have neither, along with those who have had it, worship in the Spirit of God and put their confidence in Our Lord for salvation. Paul reminds us that he had both, but the latter, knowing Jesus Christ, made the former pale in comparison.

Many of us don’t have any Jewish ancestry to be concerned about, but we can see a concerning trend in society to de-Christianize things, leaving us with social or cultural support in staying connected to the promises the Lord has kept throughout salvation history or to Christ himself. Just as Paul described Christians as “the circumcision,” alluding to this practice of admission into the People of Israel, we have to remember that we are the baptized, and that means not only gifts from above, but responsibilities. Let’s ask Our Lord to help us live up to what he has given us as baptized Christians, counting everything else as loss.

Readings: Philippians 3:3–8a; Psalm 105:2–7; Luke 15:1–10. See also 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle C, 4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, 2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, and 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.