15th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord works quietly and does not draw attention to himself out of concern for reprisal from the Pharisees. Nevertheless, he knows his mission must continue and hiding is not an option. Even today Christians experiencing persecution quietly risk their lives or their reputations practicing their faith, and even behind closed doors Our Lord is working through His Spirit and winning over souls. Even today Our Lord works quietly through His Spirit in the hearts of those who are broken, desperate, or thirsting for some meaning in life in the face of an emptiness that they experience in the world and in themselves. Our Lord may have been in danger from the Pharisees, but like his disciples today, the work must continue and he wants our help.

In a world that prides itself on making a lot of noise in order to be heard we must take to heart the prophecy of Isaiah in today’s Gospel that Matthew applies to Jesus and his mission (Isaiah 42:1–4; 41:9): no matter what adverse circumstances arise, Christ wants to bear hope and justice to everyone. When the prophecy speaks of the “Gentiles” it goes beyond the Jews to all the nations, just as today we don’t just focus on concerns “in-house.” Believers may be soft-spoken and not seek a lot of fanfare, but they are called to go out into the world, not just stay at home and hide. Through their efforts they help the Lord save that person whose faith, hope, or love is about to be extinguished, and those broken people who seem about to break completely. Those people don’t need scolding, condemning, or bullying but mercy and compassion. If the goal is hope, they should be encouraged and accompanied as that flickering flame is stoked once again and the damage in their lives starts to mend. There’s not a lot of recognition in this mission, and sometimes, sadly, criticism, but we must help Christ continue his work.

Our Lord is working in hearts that are weak and broken through His Spirit even today. Let’s help him in this mission through our courage, compassion, and hope.

Readings: Exodus 12:37–42; Psalm 136:1, 10–15, 23–24; Matthew 12:14–21.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that the true measure of a rule, law, or precept is whether it serves the Lord and serves man, especially our fellow man, but also us. Specific laws are given for specific circumstances, and sometimes it can be challenging to determine how a law is to be applied, or whether it is to be applied at all. The Pharisees saw the disciples’ behavior as a violation of the law, plain and simple. Jesus responded that if the disciples were breaking the law, so did David when he was fleeing King Saul, and so were the priests every Sabbath who attended to the things of the Temple on a day when no work should be done. In these two example we find one instance where the law doesn’t apply (priests serving in the Temple on the Sabbath), and another whether circumstances required that the law not be followed for the sake of a greater good (David needing food because he was fleeing Saul–see 1 Kings 21:1-6).

In the case of the disciples they needed to eat, because they were doing the Lord’s work, and their “Rabbi” required them to work on the Sabbath. The “Rabbi’s” interpretation of the rules regarding the Sabbath were not as strict and inflexible as the interpretation the Pharisees had followed. We know too that the Lord was providing the authoritative and authentic interpretation, because he was God. However, in responding to the Pharisees he describes the “Son of Man” as Lord of the Sabbath, and usually when he refers to himself by that title he is speaking of a human criteria being established. That is why even in the case of David we mentioned above the priest had to allow that David and his men eat the bread that was normally not reserved for them. When we are discerning in prayer whether circumstances call for the application of a certain rule, precept, or law, Our Lord has established authorities to help us make the right decision based on all the goods, greater and lesser, that are at play. The most basic criterion is whether we are serving the Lord and serving others by our actions.

Let’s ask Our Lord to foster in us a spirit of prayer and discernment in following any laws that oblige us, and to help us see the best way to serve God and serve our fellow man by following them.

Readings: Exodus 11:10–12:14; Psalm 116:12–15, 15, 16bc, 17–18; Matthew 12:1–8.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord invites us to rest by taking up his yoke and learning from him. It seems like a strange way to rest: not many people associate taking a break with taking on more work. Our Lord is trying to be encouraging while being realistic: the burdens of life do not go away by being a good Christian. Some may argue that being a Christian is more of a burden. Jesus is teaching us today that it is not so much a question of getting rid of burdens as learning to manage them in a Christian way and with a Christian attitude.

Adam and Eve decided to take all the “burden” upon themselves, and we all know how that turned out, not just for them, but for all of us. We take burdens upon ourselves for fleeting and passing things–success, pleasure, power–and then we’re surprised when life just becomes a grind because we’re looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places. Our Lord wants to teach us the burdens of life that are really worth taking on, and how to handle them better: a yoke is an aid to supporting a load and directing it more easily, so taking on the yoke Christ offers us will help us bear the loads of life with more virtue and less frustration.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us distinguish between the burdens that are self-inflicted and those that help us achieve the things for those we love that are really worthwhile. Let’s not be shy about taking up his yoke to help us handle life’s trials better.

Readings: Exodus 3:13–20; Psalm 105:1, 5, 8–9, 24–27; Matthew 11:28–30.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that certain mysteries of life are not going to be understood on the basis of brainpower and doctorates. God chooses to reveal himself and a profounder understanding of the world, of him, and of ourselves. Many of those insights would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve by the power of our reasoning alone. When we don’t understand a truth of the faith, like a child who trusts a parent, we communicate it and live it without concern for being duped or understanding it completely. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to connect the dots and understand the things Our Lord reveals to us, but, like a child, we know Our Father can give us some good advice and teaching for working things out.

Jesus reminds us today that we never stop being children of God, and, like good children with loving parents, we gratefully accept and communicate the truths Our Father reveals to us through His Son, Our Big Brother, who has testified to them all the way to the Cross and beyond. Since we never stop being God’s children we should never lose a childlike attitude: being loving, trusting, grateful, and always open to new wonders and discoveries, confident that Our Father will work out the details.

Let’s ask Our Lord to help us re-discover today the wonder of being his children.

Readings: Exodus 3:1–6, 9–12; Psalm 103:1b–4, 6–7; Matthew 11:25–27.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

It’s not often that the Lord becomes angry in the Gospels. Like a concerned parent faced with a misbehaving child who doesn’t entirely understand the consequences of his actions, Our Lord expresses his displeasure for the good of others, not out of hate. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had seen many miracles and received special attention from Our Lord, yet they didn’t take the first step of conversion: repentance for their sins.

In using the examples of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, Our Lord is telling them how much more attention and preparation Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had received. Tyre and Sidon were pagan cities that had negatively influenced Israel in the past and had led the people of God to idolatry. Sodom was destroyed for its iniquity and perversion. The first step in repentance is acknowledging that there is something for which you should repent: in contrasting the two sets of cities Our Lord is warning his audience that they needed to repent for their sins and that they risked a similar spiritual destruction if they didn’t.

Our Lord didn’t cast off his human nature when he rose from the dead: he can still be displeased with us, but for our own good. Let’s examine the blessings he’s given us in our lives to see whether we need to do something more or something differently in order to please him and to ensure our own spiritual well-being.

Readings: Exodus 2:1–15a; Psalm 69:3, 14, 30–31, 33–34; Matthew 11:20–24.