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, Sunday, Cycle C

In today’s First Reading the meaning is questioned of striving to accumulate property when, in the end, all the time, effort, and worry that he invests in it will not keep it in his possession forever. Ecclesiastes asked the question, but Paul in today’s Second Reading gives us an answer: to set our sights and work for what is truly important: Heaven. The things for which we strive here below, including our own health, are not going to last. Wealth here below is gone the minute we’re six feet underground.

Our Lord explains today in the parable of the rich man deciding to start early retirement what is the flaw in that logic: the only treasure we truly have, and we don’t know how much, is time. Some live long lives, some lives are tragically cut short, but every life is an opportunity to invest in the treasure that truly lasts: love for God. Love is the only thing that matters to God, not our net worth according to the balance sheets of this world.

Ask Our Lord to help you do an “audit” today of what you are working for in order to invest in the future that truly matters.

Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21–23; Psalm 90:3–6, 12–13; Colossians 3:1–5, 9–11; Luke 12:13–21. See also 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord shows a rare case of frustration with his disciples over their inability to help a boy who is being plagued by a demon. Throughout the Gospel Our Lord is preparing his disciples to continue his ministry after his death and resurrection, but on various occasions the disciples don’t seem to be up to the task. These moments in the early Church are a reminder to us of what we can improve on when it seems some challenge we’re facing is insurmountable.

In this case, Our Lord is expecting more faith from the disciples. It’s seen throughout the Gospel that Our Lord can only work miracles based on the faith of those who need them. The disciples’ faith, just like our faith, is how we connect to God, the true source of miracles, insights, and strength. We can never lose sight of the fact that God is active, but he wants to act through us. A seemingly difficult case–a boy plagued with symptoms that are like epilepsy, are chronic and life threatening, but are actually the result of a demon–to Our Lord doesn’t seem like one that requires much faith to overcome. Evil and difficulties often try to appear bigger and nastier than they actually are: with faith Our Lord helps us to put them into perspective. The enormity of God makes other things seem tiny in comparison.

Is Our Lord asking you to move any “mountains” today? A chronic problem? An enduring evil? Ask him to help you grow in faith today in order to face them and surmount them.

Readings: Deuteronomy 6:4–13; Psalm 18:2–4, 47, 51; Matthew 17:14–20.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

Today’s First Reading from the book of Deuteronomy is part of Moses’ “last testament” before the Israelites enter the Promised Land. He reminds them that all the prosperity they have enjoyed and will enjoy is a gift from God, and that God should be acknowledged as the source of all prosperity. Through no merit of their own they were liberated from Egypt and then taken to the Promised Land. Despite all their complaining Our Lord continued to be faithful to his promises, as he had throughout their history and the history of their fathers, the Patriarchs. When they lost sight of that, they got into trouble.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord encourages his disciples to practice detachment and to remember that everything they have comes from God. All things that God has created only serve us to the degree that they help us and others draw closer to God. Sometimes we lose sight of that: we want a life that does not involved self-denial and the Cross, a life where we own everything we could possibly want, not just everything we need. We seek financial security, comfort, and control, and we convince ourselves that we’ll be satisfied with having more money, more comfort, more control. But the things of this world are fleeting and we’ve all experienced that after one bill comes another, that we can’t always enjoy the health or comfort we crave, no matter how hard we try, and that there are many things that will always be beyond our control. When we get obsessed about achieving the impossible in this world–unlimited wealth (the latest and greatest and a big nest egg), complete comfort (no aches and pains, nothing unpleasant), and total control (everything arranged to our satisfaction)–those things that God created for our good become obstacles to drawing closer to him, and throw up obstacles for others as well.

Let’s take stock today of what we want in life and what we truly need, and see how we can better use the gifts God bestows on us to draw closer to him and help others to draw closer to him as well.

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:32–40; Psalm 77:12–16, 21; Matthew 16:24–28.

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel on face value it seems Our Lord is being very harsh with the Canaanite woman. The First Reading reminds us that there was bad blood in the past between the Israelites and the Canaanites: the first generation of Israelites were so scared of them that they didn’t enter the Promised Land and continued to journey in the desert for forty years. Jesus is not just being driven by the prejudices of his time: when the Centurion asked him for help, another pagan, he didn’t hesitate (see Matthew 8:5–13). Jesus during his earthly ministry concentrated on the Jewish people; later his Apostles and disciples would bring the Gospel beyond the confines of Judaism, as is narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. So the conversation with the Canaanite woman is very similar to the Wedding Feast at Cana when Mary asked him to do something about the wine situation and he said, “my hour has not yet come” (see John 2:4).

Our Lord is having this conversation in front of all his disciples so that they could see that even someone who’d not been prepared to believe could believe. Like his response to Mary in the Wedding Feast at Cana, here he was inviting the Canaanite woman to offer something more: greater faith and humility. The Canaanite woman rose to the occasion that Jesus congratulated her on her faith and healed her daughter, not only to her benefit but to that of the disciples as well.

We can easily fall into rash judgments about others and their actions. We can pigeonhole them into caricatures or stereotypes. But Our Lord wants to bring the Gospel to everyone in their situation, with their strengths and defects, and lead them to Our Heavenly Father. Let’s ask for the grace to go beneath the surface of those we meet and help them to know the Gospel as well.

Readings: Numbers 13:1–2, 25–14:1, 14:26a–29a, 34–35; Psalm 106:6–7b, 13–14, 21–23; Matthew 15:21–28.