8th Ordinary Sunday, Cycle C

Today’s readings remind us that if we truly want to recognize, do, and praise the good that we and others do we need Our Lord’s help and the wisdom to not judge a book by its cover.

In today’s First Reading Sirach teaches us that the truth worth of anyone, including ourselves, is when a trial by fire shakes us up and makes us show who we truly are and how we live. He focuses on a person’s words being the true measurement of their faults or virtue. Appearances are not enough. He gives three examples of a process for evaluating the worth of a “fruit.” With the sieve you sift out the undesirable, which remains in the sieve and lets the desirable pass through. With the firing of pottery it adopts its definitive form and strength, or its definitive deformation and flaws. With cultivating a fruit tree it’s easy to see whether you’re successful or not: good and abundant fruit, or a withered tree with little to no fruit. In all three of these processes it is the result that matters. The process doesn’t automatically produce a good outcome, just like we or others aren’t automatically good or evil.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that it is thanks to Our Lord that this process of telling good from evil, even among the well-intentioned, is not in vain. Our corruptibility and mortality due to Original Sin would lead to spiritual as well as physical death if left to their own devices. Original Sin disfigured us, but also disfigured our view of good and evil. We need help to correct it. Paul encourages us to see that Our Lord will clothe that corruptibility with incorruptibility: the grace that transforms us and heals us from the wounds of Original Sin, although we still are subjected to weakness and temptation in this life, in eternity we will be purified of it, once and for all. Our Lord clothes our mortality with immortality by sowing the seed of eternal life in us from the moment we believe and are baptized. His victory over death swallowed it up for himself and for us. If we persevere in Christ we will share in his victory over sin and death.

Our Lord in today’s Gospel reminds us that we must try to see and live clearly before helping others, or it will be a case of the blind leading the blind. He also warns us that being a “bad boy,” despite how culture today paints it, is never a good thing. If a blind man were to offer to help you cross the street you would either charitably decline, think he was crazy, or maybe convince yourself he had super powers. We live in a society where people seek the virtuous thing to do, the logical thing to do, or the craziest thing to do, and are willing to get advice from or give advice to anyone. We have to invest time, prayer, and reflection to determine the solid foundation on which to live and to be guided. We can’t just invent this on our own: we need help from Our Lord, and we need help from solid people and solid traditions. If someone recognizes something to be evil, they avoid it; that is Ethics 101. That is why evil often tries to masquerade as good, to appear glamorous. Our Lord teaches us not to judge people, but he does teach us to judge actions: evil people do evil things, just as good people do good things.

Sirach teaches us this week that the just are tried by fire. Assess how you faced your last trial (if you’re currently undergoing a trial, put that on hold, since it is not resolved yet—the aftermath is just as important). Evaluate that trial starting outward with all the others involved or affected, as well as the circumstances, and then move in to yourself, all the way into your heart and your conscience. Today’s readings give you several ways to assess your handling of the trial. Did you profit from the wisdom of others or their foolishness in facing the trial? Did wisdom or foolishness come out of your mouth as a result? Did this trial end up making others better, nobler, holier? Did make you better, nobler, holier? Did it help you identify the good and evil in your life and in others’ lives?

Readings: Sirach 27:4–7; Psalm 92:2–3, 13–16; 1 Corinthians 15:54–58; Luke 6:39–45. See also 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and Saturday.

Image result for ancient sieve

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s readings remind us that God has not only created us, but he wants to help us to grow and to thrive in a way that he has envisioned for us. This concern and care of God for his creation, big and small, is called divine Providence, and we, as creatures gifted with freedom and responsibility, can not only benefit from God’s Providence, but also help him usher creation toward the perfection that he desires for all his creatures, big and small.

In today’s First Reading we’re reminded that God’s care and concern for us goes beyond the care and concern of the creature who represents one of the greatest blessings of Providence in our lives: our mothers. Mother’s Day is rightly one of the biggest days we celebrate, sometimes overshadowing even Father’s Day. The bond between mother and child is so strong that newborn children need physical contact with their mothers in order to ensure later development. Every one of us spent our first years of life defenseless and completely dependent on our mother. Yet God’s love and concern goes beyond even the maternal: he enabled us to exist and sustains us in our existence. He created us, and our parents wouldn’t have been able to bring us unto the world without him. He wants our happiness as much as our parents and, as Isaiah reminds us, even if our parents were to forget us, God will never forget.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that our belief in Providence and our efforts to help it along will be judged by God. Paul describes himself as a servant of Christ and a steward of God’s mysteries. A servant is not an owner, and despite our mortgages and deeds and pink slips we’re ultimately accountable to the Owner-in-chief regarding how we’ve used the possessions with which he has blessed us. A steward is entrusted with the care of something and trust is essential in a steward. God wants us to cooperate in his plan of Divine Providence: “God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ cooperation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306).

In today’s Gospel Our Lord directs our attention to the signs of God’s Providence in the present in order to not worry about the future. He could have provided for the oxygen we need to breathe by creating lots of molds and fungi, ugly green splotches, but instead he created magnificent trees, flowers and meadows that receive the sun and rain they need to grow and fulfill their purpose in the grand scheme of things in a beautiful way. Thinking about the future can be a source of anxiety and uncertainty if we lose sight of the signs around us every day of how God has created all things to be good and arranges them to help them achieve good ends and often in a beautiful way. He knows what we need before we even ask. He has also traced out a path to goodness and beauty for our lives, but, unlike plants and animals, he has given us the gift of freedom and responsibility for our actions. We can work with him to help goodness and beauty grow and endure in a lasting way: not just the necessary needs of life that people sometimes worry about too much, but the sum of all noble dreams and aspirations in God’s loving and saving plan that he calls his Kingdom. Goodness and beauty for humanity are justice and love for all who choose to welcome them and strive for them in their lives.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us get with the program. His program.

Readings: Isaiah 49:14–15; Psalm 62:2–3, 6–9; 1 Corinthians 4:1–5; Matthew 6:24–34. See also 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

8th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In the doxology, a prayer of praise at the end of today’s First Reading, Jude describes the Lord as the one who is “able to keep you from stumbling.” It evokes the image of a loving father staying close to his toddler trying to take his first steps. The father remains close, and steps in when needed to avoid a tumble. Jude encourages us to keep in mind that the Lord is always close, ready to help us get our footing should we start to totter.

Paul teaches that whoever thinks he is standing secure should take heed, lest he fall (see 1 Corinthians 10:12). Before the doxology Jude shows how important it is for us to help others who waver, helping them regain their footing or saving them from falling. We’ve all wavered or stumbled at some point of our lives, and the Lord has taken us by the hand in his mercy and guided us back onto our feet. We’re expected to do the same as well when our footing is sure. We don’t rely on our own footing, but on the Lord who, like a loving father, stands at the ready to help keep us from tottering.

Let’s ask Our Lord today for the grace to stand firm by abiding in him and to help others stand firm as well.

Readings: Jude 17, 20b–25; Psalm 63:2–6; Mark 11:27–33. See also 3rd Week of Advent, Monday and 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I.

8th Week of Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

Peter in today’s First Reading invites us to consider how we would live if we knew the world was ending soon. With the coming of Christ, as many of the writers of Sacred Scripture attest, we’re in the last days, and age of fulfillment when he comes again. We await the Lord’s return in glory and a fundamental change in things for the better. If we are prepared and vigilant we will rejoice in that better world. Some people prepare for the end of the world as survivalists, digging in, closing themselves off, prepared to eke out an existence in a world that they foresee as even less forgiving than the world in which they live. Others simply follow the daily routine, hoping to not make waves or be caught up in anyone else’s. Some prefer to burn out rather than fade away, in Spirit of Mardi Gras debauchery before oblivion.

Peter invites us today to not face that thought with paranoia, denial, or superficiality, but with dedication and service. We don’t know the day or the hour, so it is as much as question of attitude as it is one of preparation. It will not be easy; there will be trials, and we will feel tested, but the results will make it all worthwhile. Christians live striving to outdo one another in charity and service, identifying and using the unique gifts God has given them to help edify their brothers and sisters, knowing that helps pave the way to the better world inaugurated by Christ.

Let’s ask the Lord today to help leave the old world of sin and futility behind us, and strain toward the new world of justice and love that will continue to unfold with the help of our dedication and service.

Readings: 1 Peter 4:7–13; Psalm 96:10–13; Mark 11:11–26. See also 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year I.

8th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Peter reminds us that through Baptism we have been incorporated into the Church, and are now living stones in an edifice constructed with a spiritual and priestly purpose. Our Lord described himself to the Pharisees and scribes as the stone rejected by the builders that would become the corner stone (see Matthew 21:42). They had rejected him, but the Father build the Church on him and the Apostles, and the Lord continues to build the Church through us, on the solid foundations of those living stones who have preceded us and our own efforts at holiness.

A living stone is not just edified, but edifying. We are inserted into this spiritual and social structure and helped to support it and remain solid, but Peter also reminds us of the importance of being edifying to others, even those who do not share our faith. If our works are edifying it will attract even those who don’t know Our Lord to see where that special something we have comes from and to seek it out as well.

A dead stone doesn’t edify; eventually it crumbles and the whole structure suffers. Let’s ask the Lord to edify us today so that we can be edifying to others.

Readings: 1 Peter 2:2–5, 9–12; Psalm 100:2–5; Mark 10:46–52. See also 1st Week of Advent, Friday, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I.