8th Week of Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Peter reminds us all that we have been ransomed from a pointless life by the blood of Christ. It became pointless because after the Original Sin of Adam and Eve our lives became “futile”: there was no way we could escape death or sin on our own, and this evil held us captive with no one to pay for our release. The price was too high for any reasonable person: it was a ransom of not just blood, but death, and not just any death, but the death of someone worthy to make proper expiation.

That someone was Our Lord. He became man and paid our ransom. What we received through an outpouring of water and an invocation of the Trinity at Baptism gave us not only a new lease on life, but a new life. We’ve not only been rescued, but reborn. In today’s Gospel Our Lord warns the disciples about what is about to happen (his Passion), but some of them are still thinking of potential glory and not of the cross that it takes to get there. We’ve died in Christ, and now we need to live by not making the same mistake.

There’s no glory that compares to a new life. Let’s live a life worthy of the price Our Lord paid for it to be holy and happy.

Readings: 1 Peter 1:18–25; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; Mark 10:32–45. See also 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I,  St. James the Apostle, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday.

8th Week of Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Peter speaks of salvation as a grace in store for us, one worth working toward and waiting for. The disciples in today’s Gospel, the aftermath of Our Lord’s encounter with the rich young man yesterday, hear what is in store for them in terms they can understand: everything they imagine as good in this life, but in abundance. Our Lord doesn’t say it will be easy, but it will be worth it.

The disciples, at this point of the story, did everything the rich young man didn’t, but that didn’t guarantee them eternal life or its rewards. Judas was still among them and he took a wrong path that made his salvation uncertain. Salvation requires effort, and we are rewarded for our effort, but it is also a gift. Grace is not so much a wage as it is a gift, since we never merit the first grace we receive that sets us on the path to salvation, the grace that comes to us through Baptism and heals and restores us from the effects of original sin. Peter’s First Letter is considered by many to be a catechetical letter addressed to those who have just received Baptism.

Let’s continue on the path Our Lord traces out for us today. It will imply hardship and effort, but, as today’s readings promise us, it will all be worth it.

Readings: 1 Peter 1:10–16; Psalm 98:1–4; Mark 10:28–31. See also 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I and 20th Week in Ordinary Time,Tuesday.

8th Week of Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

The rich young man in today’s Gospel reminds us that Heaven doesn’t accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal, or Bitcoin. It’s not a question of dollars and cents, but of how much we want to be with God forever. He doesn’t want our money; he wants our love. That love implies detaching ourselves from other, fleeting, loves, and putting love for him first. In the Old Testament the Lord was described as a jealous God, but he is far from petty. He simply helps us see what we truly love and what we truly don’t.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Our Lord looked at the rich young man and “loved” him. He helped him see what he truly loved: his lifestyle and wealth. The young man left, and he didn’t leave happy. He was torn between two loves, and he opted for the love that seemed more substantial and satisfying, but lost sight of that fact that the object of his love would be gone sooner or later.

What do you have to do to gain eternal life? Ask Our Lord and be prepared to do whatever it takes. It will engender a new hope in you because you’ll know, by the grace of God, that one day you’ll have an inheritance that’s “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, [and] kept in heaven for you” just as St. Peter reminds us in today’s First Reading.

Readings: 1 Peter 1:3–9; Psalm 111:1–2, 5–6, 9–10c; Mark 10:17–27.  See also 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I, 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, and 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

8th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

In today’s Gospel the chief priests, scribes, and elders try to throw their weight around, but Our Lord asks them a simple question that shows where their real center of gravity lies. They try to corner him with the question akin to “Who do you think you are doing these things?”, and he responds by asking them who they though John was. He’s not intimidated by their position, influence, or even their threats. Even when someone is in authority over us there is a level of dignity that no position or influence can take away, and that dignity is shaped by our conformity to the truth and to the just thing to do. They have a bankrupt position on their side; Jesus has the truth, and the truth is what sets us free.

From their narrow-minded interest in self-preservation they have a dilemma with no good outcome: to acknowledge that John’s work came from God, which would be to acknowledge that’s John’s testimony to Jesus before his death shows from where Jesus’ own work and authority comes, making their question to Our Lord pointless, or to acknowledge that John’s work did not come from God, which in the sphere of public opinion would be political suicide (maybe material suicide too). Although the passage doesn’t spell it out it’s likely that they thought John was just another effective political player. John sacrificed his life in the defense of an uncomfortable truth; the chief priests, scribes, and elders fear the consequences of publicly acknowledging what they believe to be true, and that shows their true center of gravity. As a result they choose to appear ignorant before the crowds in order to ensure their safety, and at the same time show that self-preservation is their greatest truth.

What’s our attitude before uncomfortable truths? Do we play them close to the vest so as not to get burned? Our Lord has promised that the truth will set us free. Let’s not be afraid of seeking the truth or testifying to it, especially when it means our discomfort or the discomfort of others in order to achieve a greater good.

Readings: Sirach 51:12c–20; Psalm 19:8–11; Mark 11:27–33.

8th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year I

In today’s Gospel it may seem that Our Lord is expressing his frustration with a fig tree that doesn’t satisfy his hunger, much like you’d kick a vending machine that took your money and didn’t give you anything, but Jesus is expressing something to keep in mind in the events that follow: if the Creator finds something in his creation that does not produce fruits, in the end it will never produce fruit again and ultimately be fruitless in any meaningful way. The First Reading recalls the godly ancestors of Israel’s past, and how their glory lives on through their progeny: they have produced fruit, and their fruit has endured in the holy generations that have descended from them, just as Our Lord has asked the disciples to do (cf. John 15:16). At the same time who can forget Our Lord’s chilling words about Judas, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mk 14;21).

It is Jesus’ actions that communicate this truth in today’s Gospel, not so much his words. When Jesus enters the Temple and drives out the money changers and other merchants, if we cast the scene like a movie, we could also see the story cutting back to the fig tree withering even as Jesus is driving out those who are in his Father’s house seeking their own interests instead of the interests of God. Their activity maybe profitable, may be a shortcut to get from point A to point B, but, in the eyes of God, something fruitless and ultimately leading to a fruitless life in the things that matter. Our Lord was doing the right thing, driving out those who’d not come to the Temple for the right reasons, in contrast to the chief priests and scribes who were plotting to kill him and concerning themselves with public relations instead of ensuring the Temple area was treated as a house of God.

The verdict Jesus pronounces using the fig tree today is not a verdict that we’d hear until the end of our earthly life, but it is a reminder to consider what fruits our lives are producing. Let’s ask Our Lord to help us seek to bear fruits that are pleasing to him, and ultimately to make our entire life fruitful.

Readings: Sirach 44:1, 9–13; Psalm 149:1b–6a, 9b; Mark 11:11–26.