7th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I

A wise person is someone who has everything figured out, and a source of advice for making good decisions. Sirach in today’s First Reading reminds us that wisdom itself comes from God, and it abounds throughout creation to help us to make good decisions. The Lord didn’t just create everything with intelligence; something can have an ingenious design and function, yet be horrible in its uses. The Lord created things with wisdom: not just designed well, but reflecting a good purpose.

The Lord encourages us not only to use things correctly, but wisely. Wisdom is drawing from the Lord’s “blueprint” in order to be, to make, or to do something in harmony with his greater purpose. Sirach today teaches that the Lord lavishes wisdom upon his friends. Being at odds with the Lord is foolish, and the foolish close themselves off from wisdom.

The Lord’s friends have an edge: Jesus Christ is not only wise, but the Wisdom of God, and the Holy Spirit still pours out wisdom on those who seek it. Let’s ask Our Lord today to reconnect us with his wise blueprint for creation.

Readings: Sirach 1:1–10; Psalm 93:1–2, 5; Mark 9:14–29. See also 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II and 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

In today’s First Reading we’re reminded of one characteristic of holiness, in imitation of the Lord, that boils down into not let anger take hold of the heart. The teaching is framed in the command of the Lord to be holy in imitation of him. The Lord has something to teach us, even in the Old Testament, way before the Incarnation, of how to be holy. He doesn’t say not to get angry. Anger is an emotion you cannot control. He says not to let the anger into your heart. Holiness is not letting something upsetting seep into your heart and, therefore, into your love for the person who is upsetting you. If you need to tell someone that they’ve acted wrongly it should be in a spirit of fraternal correction. Fraternal correction is helping your brother or sister see the wrong of something they’ve done for their good. Grudges and a desire for revenge are a sign that you have let something upsetting creep into your heart and taint your love toward the person responsible.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that hatred not only seeks destruction and harm to the person we hate, but brings destruction upon us too. God dwells in us as long as we remain in communion with him through living a holy life. In that way we are his temples. Paul warns those who would destroy these temples out of envy or resentment that if they have God within them such actions will drive him out of their heart. The glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines anger as “An emotion which is not in itself wrong, but which, when it is not controlled by reason or hardens into resentment and hate, becomes one of the seven capital sins.” A capital sin is a mortal sin: that means spiritual death. How many movies and television programs have depicted two bitter enemies glaring at each other with disgust and saying, “I’ll see you in Hell!” That thought should chill us to the bone: it is a lose-lose situation.

In a world that’s often focused on vendettas, avenging wrongs, trampled rights, and payback, Our Lord reminds us today of what has been a trademark of Christianity throughout the centuries: turning the other cheek. Meekness is often considered weakness, but it actually involves a very virtuous effort to not strike, or even dislike, the one who’s struck you, to give your time and possessions when someone doesn’t have a right to them, or to go out of your way beyond what any reasonable person would expect.

Our Lord has set the standard. How many blows did he receive? Being God, he didn’t have to sacrifice himself for our salvation. When Adam and Eve sinned God could have left us to the mess they’d made of our lives, just as he could every time we sin and continue to sin. With all that baggage anything we ask, or sometimes demand, of Our Lord is something he is under no obligation whatsoever to to fulfill. And yet he does and continues to do so.

We often focus on the receiving end of the slights and offenses that he describes in today’s Gospel, but what he also teaches, through example, is how we should not be on the giving end of them either. Even today we have an eloquent testimony in so many Christians suffering persecution and death. When evil stares us in the face, not some nebulous force or Hollywood B movie caricature, but real evil done by real people and to real people, we must combat it for the sake of others, but we must not lose our concern for the people who are on that path to misery and failure by their misdeeds.

That is the sign of genuine love, a perfect love, like our Heavenly Father’s love. It’s not a love conditioned by the love we expect in return or have received; otherwise we’d only care about those who care for us. That is the secret to overcoming the damage any lack of love on the part of others may have caused in our lives. Love can triumph if we let it. Society, a difficult family situation, an evil done to us can only conquer our love if we let it.

Let’s love one another as Our Lord loves us. It makes so many problems fade away.

Readings: Leviticus 19:1–2, 17–18; Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10, 12–13; 1 Corinthians 3:16–23; Matthew 5:38–48. See also 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday11th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, and 1st Week of Lent, Saturday.

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

The first verse of today’s First Reading is a definition of faith that Pope Benedict XVI considered in his encyclical Spe Salvi on the virtue of hope (nn. 7-8):”Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” A realization is when something dawns on you, but it can also mean that something has been brought about. Pope Benedict sees this “realization” of faith, connected to hope, as some that occurred when the Lord had worked something in your soul, a first deposit on the eternal goods to come, which is why it also fosters hope.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews presents a simple thing to believe: that God exists and rewards those who seek him. If you don’t believe in God at all you’re certainly not going to seek him, and if you believe he’s indifferent regarding you, you’re not going to seek him either. Faith comes through realization: God reveals himself to us and invites us to believe in him, to believe even in the things he teaches and promises that have not yet fully come about, and in faith we believe him and that impacts our lives and decisions.

Many people today, if they believe at all, go through the motions of faith, but it has never really dawned on them that God exists and takes them into account. However strong or weak your faith is, ask Our Lord today to reveal himself to you. You will not be disappointed.

Readings: Hebrews 11:1–7; Psalm 145:2–5, 10–11; Mark 9:2–13. See also 2nd Week of Advent, SaturdayTransfiguration of the Lord, Cycle CTransfiguration of the Lord, Cycle B, and 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C.

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year I

The story of the Tower of Babel teaches us in today’s First Reading that communication leads to communion, and where there is a lack of one, the other is soon to disappear. The people constructing the tower today shared the same language, but, ultimately, their plans reflected pride and egotism: they wanted to make a name for themselves. No society built on pride and egotism will last, because it never truly sets aside an unhealthy individualism as the expensive of others. The people at Babel had communication, but they didn’t truly have communion, and the world, plagued by the effects of Original Sin, had lost communion with its deepest source: God.

We can learn from this in today’s world, still wounded by sin, that communion is necessary for true progress, and communication is needed for that. It’s no coincidence that at Pentecost the Apostles receive the gift of tongues: it was a reversal of the disharmony brought at Babel. The Church seeks to unite humanity with its true source and foundation: God.

This teaching doesn’t just hold true on the macro-level of society and humanity; it holds true on the micro-level of family and friends. Let’s take stock of any Babel in our life today in order to restore communication and communion with the Holy Spirit’s help.

Readings: Genesis 11:1–9; Psalm 33:10–15; Mark 8:34–9:1. See also Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Lord make a second covenant with Noah and all living beings after the waters of the Flood subside, a covenant marked forever by the rainbow, symbolizing that the Lord has hung up his bow (and arrow, so to speak) and will no longer wage war on the living via flood. Even today the dove, the olive branch, and the rainbow are symbols for peace, all images taken from Genesis.

The Lord reminds us today that all plants and animals are given to us as sustenance, but also that we must use and treat them responsibly. Shedding blood simply for its own sake is an abuse of life, and the Lord says we’ll be accountable for it. Food is a gift to us from God. Like Noah, we should acknowledge that with thanksgiving. The Lord also puts the blood of mankind on a different level: mankind has been made in the image of God, therefore striking down man is an offense to God as well as man.

Let’s say grace at meals today with a renewed spirit of Thanksgiving for the gift of sustenance.

Readings: Genesis 9:1–13; Psalm 102:16–23, 29; Mark 8:27–33. See also 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C.