11th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord puts us on guard against treasuring things in our hearts that will not endure and will blind us to the bigger picture: the true worth of things, the ones we love, where we fit in the grand scheme of things, and the primacy of God. Golden ingots and junk bonds both pass away, just at different rates and with different risks, and the true treasure we should be striving for is Heaven, which is not only eternal life, but a life filled with joy at spending eternity with the real treasure: God and the ones we love. When our hearts and gaze are fixed on that, everything else is put into perspective: possessions, situations, and circumstances all become means of investing in a joyful eternal life for ourselves and for others. Living a life of virtue expands our horizon and keeps us focused on doing the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people out of love for God.

Our Lord puts us on guard today against the alternative to a desire for Heaven and for virtue. When someone is in the grips of vice, we describe them as blinded: blinded by pride, by greed, by ambition, by lust, by hatred, etc. That blinding process begins with a sort of vitiated myopia that fixes the heart on something secondary, blurring everything else in view, distorting our vision and blinding us to the bigger picture. People often in the grips of vice cannot see a way out of their situation: it seems impossible to them to change. The help and example of virtuous people is that ray of sunshine that they need to entertain the thought of a way out of their predicament and start bringing things again into proper focus. If vice narrows our view and our heart, virtue expands them again to all the rich possibilities of life from here to eternity.

Let’s thank Our Lord today for all the examples of virtue we’ve seen in our lives, and ask him to help us broaden our horizons again if we’re suffering from spiritual myopia.

Readings: 2 Corinthians 11:18, 21–30; Psalm 34:2–7; Matthew 6:19–23.

9th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord is having a little fun with the scribes and the crowd after having run a gauntlet of scribes trying to trip him up (with the exception of yesterday’s scribe). He presents a question from Scripture that apparently has no solution: quoting Psalm 109 (Psalm 110 in some editions of the Bible), which is attributed to David, he asks how David could have any Lord other than Yahweh, and how could the Messiah be greater than David, his father by lineage? The Messiah should call King David his lord, but it seems from the Psalm that David is doing the reverse: calling the Messiah his lord.

Jesus not only has the solution; he is the solution. He is God, and therefore he is David’s Lord, as well as being the Messiah, descended from the line of David, and therefore David’s heir. Our Lord came to help us to connect the dots and fill in the blanks for all those questions that have popped up throughout salvation history. He is the answer to so many of life’s quandaries and that’s why he became flesh and chose to dwell among us.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us fill in the blanks in our lives.

Readings: Tobit 11:5–17; Psalm 146:1b–2, 6c–10; Mark 12:35–37.

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.

7th Week of Easter, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that he wants unconditional love from us, but also realizes our weakness and failings. It is not reflected in the English translations of this passage, but in the three times Jesus asks Peter “do you love me?”, the Greek shows us Jesus is inviting Peter to profess the greatest love a man can have, and, gently, Peter responds that he is not up to that after everything that has happened between them. It passes from an invitation to ἀγαπάω (a deep and unconditional love) to φιλέω (a brotherly love or an openness to friendship).

In the first invitation Jesus asks Peter if his love is deep and unconditional, and Peter responds that he has a brotherly love for Jesus. In the second invitation, Jesus asks Peter the same thing and Peter responds the same way: not a deep and unconditional love, but a brotherly love. Finally, in the third invitation, Jesus asks Peter whether his love for him is brotherly, and Peter, hurt that he keeps asking, responds in kind. With this invitation Jesus has brought it down to Peter’s level and Peter has had an opportunity to really explore and state his level of love for Jesus after having said before the Passion that his love was until death and then denied Jesus three times (see Luke 22:33–34 and John 18:15–27).

Jesus asks us for complete and unconditional love, but when we are weak, the love we can muster is enough, if it is from the heart. As Jesus extended the invitation to Peter, who knows whether he was asking him if Peter was still so confident that His love for Our Lord was total. But in the love Peter offered, he was firm. Our love will always be imperfect, but it must be firm, and Our Lord will always ask us, “do you love me” in those trying moments so that we have a new opportunity to tell Him we love Him. Let’s keep trying to grow in our love for him.

Readings: Acts 25:13b–21; Psalm 103:1–2, 11–12, 19–20b; John 21:15–19.


6th Week of Easter, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord uses a poignant image to illustrate the interplay between Lent and Easter that every Christian experiences: pregnancy. After a first trimester of congratulations, perhaps “happy hormones,” a glowing complexion, albeit with morning sickness and strange cravings, comes the second trimester of hormonal somersaults as the body strains to support itself and the new life it is helping to shape. The weight of the new life about to be born can be a heavy cross as the joyful day draws near, but all that suffering vanishes, or at least is put into perspective, at the sight of a newborn son or daughter, and not just any newborn: your newborn.

Christian life has moments of enthusiasm, especially when we start to take it seriously, but it also has moments of the weight of the cross, of feeling burdened by adverse emotions and sentiments that make it a struggle to even take one step forward in holiness. Temptations are like strange cravings, only harmful ones, or produce an aversion to living a virtuous life. Just as anyone who looks upon a newborn, even a complete stranger, feels an inner joy upon beholding a new life, so we too in our struggles must consider the Risen Christ and the saints, who promise us that a new life will be born thanks to our efforts and a joy that will never pass away.

Let’s ask Our Lord to help us bear the burden of our crosses today and just take one step further on the path of holiness, confident that it is a step toward the birth of a new and joyful life.

Readings: Acts 18:9–18; Psalm 47:2–7; John 16:20–23.