14th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord counsels us to be “shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” Sharing is the Gospel must be done kindly, but intelligently. People are more receptive to something a kind and gentle person has to say, and in the context of the persecutions that he also describes today, public opinion will also be less inclined to condemn someone who leads a kind, simple, and humble life. If people see us as sheep, harmless, humble, and not complicated, it will be easier for them to see our adversaries for what they often are: wolves who are cunning and predatory.

However, being kind and gentle is not enough. If what we do and what we share lacks substance, if it doesn’t strike a chord in our listeners, we’ll be wasting our time and theirs as well. Christianity started with a few disciples called by Christ and conquered the world, not with a militarily, but armed with a love that was not just skin deep. We’ve received love from Our Lord, a love that is profounder and more lasting than any love we could experience in this world, and it’s from the profundity and stability of this love that we share the Gospel with kindness and a desire to share the gift, no matter what the cost. The Gospel message is a message of true and lasting love, and everyone is seeking that, whether they’re aware of it or not.

Even the first apostles like Paul knew they had to be strategic: he traveled to places in the Roman empire that were the crossroads for all the cultures found within its borders, and in sharing the Gospel there he knew those passing through would take it everywhere. He also had to face difficult pastoral situations with wisdom and love: in many of his letters the passion for his communities shine through and still provide guidance for us today. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us be neither superficial or mean in sharing his Gospel, his love, with others.

Readings: Genesis 46:1–7, 28–30; Psalm 37:3–4, 18–19, 27–28, 39–40; Matthew 10:16–23.

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord commissions and empowers the Twelve to continue the mission that he has begun in the way he has taught them. They receive not only authority from Jesus, but also power: to heal and to cast out unclean spirits. They receive a message to communicate–Jesus’ message–and a place to start: the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We know that in the end they received a commission to go to the whole world and carry out what we call today the apostolic mission, but in today’s Gospel we see them beginning to take an active part in that mission. The Church is considered Apostolic because she can never deny, nor should she, to have been founded on the generosity and work of these men in communion with Jesus, with the sad exception of Judas. We can’t think of Rome or the Holy Father without thinking of Peter and Paul who watered that Church with the blood of their martyrdom, of India without thinking of St. Thomas, of Spain without thinking of St. James, or the very Gospel we’re considering today, written by St. Matthew. How many of us bear the name of these generous men.

The apostolic mission continues and will continue until the end of time. The Church is also Apostolic because we have to be apostles. We have a moral and religious authority in a world that has lost its moral and religious compass. We are empowered by the sacraments to be a source of healing for so many people, and to drive away the bad influences of our society from ourselves and from others; these same sacraments help us to persevere in a challenging world. We are bearers of the Gospel message, and our place to start is our families, our workplaces, and our countries. The work is abundant and everyone is called to live this apostolic spirit within the duties and obligations of their state of life: clergy, consecrated persons, and laity.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to adopt an apostolic outlook on our life and circumstances, and to help us be apostles in his service, inspired by his example and that of the Apostles who persevered in the faith.

Readings: Genesis 41:55–57, 42:5–7a, 17–24a; Psalm 33:2–3, 10–11, 18–19; Matthew 10:1–7.

14th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s readings we see some subtle but importance differences between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel in how prayer, faith, and expectations interact in our relationship with Our Lord. Jacob sleeps at a shrine in the First Reading and God renews the promise he’d made to Jacob’s father and grandfather: the inheritance of the Promised Land. Jacob’s reply shows an immaturity of faith and expectation that will eventually be resolved just before his confrontation with his older brother Esau (see Genesis 32:22–32): God made him a promise, and Jacob puts conditions on whether he’ll accept the Lord as his God. Only if God accompanies him and cares for him on the remainder of his journey will he accept the Lord as his God; God promised him one thing and he wanted another. God in his mercy did grant the things Jacob had requested, so Jacob accepted him as his God, but just as his grandfather Abraham had a test of faith and detachment regarding Isaac, so Jacob would need his faith to be tested as well.

Today’s Gospel takes place in that very Promised Land the Lord had promised to Jacob. Jacob’s little expectations had been fulfilled, and the people of Israel had proof that God’s big promises were fulfilled as well, and had no reason to doubt that they would be fulfilled in the future. When the official and the hemorrhagic woman approach Our Lord, they know he’ll help them: the official tells Jesus that he knows Jesus “will” heal his daughter from death itself, and the woman knows even something as simple as touching his cloak “shall” cure her. This is not a language of you scratch my back, I scratch yours: they believe firmly that Our Lord can do what they ask. In our prayer we have to pray with the faith that Our Lord is listening and can answer our prayers. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out as we’d expect, but we experience moments of grace where we know we must ask him for something big and he delivers: we experience a moment of inner spiritual conviction where our desire and God’s is the same in some concrete circumstance. The important thing is not to fall into a mentality of “if God does this, only then will I do that”: he’s free to help us or not.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us grow in a life of faith where our prayer, faith, and expectations are mature and solid.

Readings: Genesis 28:10–22a; Psalm 91:1–4, 14–15b; Matthew 9:18–26. See also 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s Gospel Jesus describes the reception of his message in his home town as like that of a prophet: unwelcome. In Jesus we find the mission of priest, prophet, and king combined. As prophet he is the bearer of God’s message; in fact, he, as the Word, is the message of God himself. In sharing the faith we as Christians also have a mission to bear God’s message and make it known. That happens through sharing our faith, through teaching the faith, but also by the very fact of being Christian. Secularizing trends in modern society try to relegate Christianity to the private sphere, but the only way to really do that would be to lock away Christians, as sadly happens in some cultures today. In other cultures they’re culturally isolated: prophets in their time were seen as crazy, even weird, and definitely counter-cultural, because when God sends a prophet it usually means someone needs to receive a message they don’t want to hear, which is why prophets bore the message all the way to martyrdom, especially in Our Lord’s case. That conviction, combined with the fact that their message was true, ultimately stands the test of time, independently of whether the message is welcomed or not: as the First Reading reminds us, they’ll reject the message, but they’ll know a prophet has been among them.

Christian prophecy bears a cross: the cross that those we love and care about the most often seem the most incredulous when we try to share the faith with them. They might see us as holy rollers, or remember our times together with them before we started taking our faith more seriously and see us now as not really being sincere about what we’re preaching. It’s important to keep in mind something that’s fundamental to being a prophet: God is sending a message that people don’t want to hear. In being a prophet we can sometimes question whether if we’d said something more eloquently, done something better, that message would have been welcomed. Today’s readings remind us that even if we do everything perfectly, as Jesus did in today’s Gospel, because he can’t act any other way, there’ll still be incredulous people. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that God’s power shines through our weakness: we just have to keep trying and not get discouraged when it seems there are no results.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to be bearers of his message in our words and our example, and to help us not get discouraged in our mission of sharing his Word with everyone we meet, especially the ones we love.

Readings: Ezekiel 2:2–5; Psalm 123:1–4; 2 Corinthians 12:7–10; Mark 6:1–6.