6th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

Today’s readings teach us the right things to ask from Our Lord, and the right way to ask them, as well as the wrong ones. The Pharisees in today’s Gospel are arguing with Our Lord and demanding a sign to test him. Mark says in the face of this that Our Lord “sighed from the depth of his spirit.” They could have studied his teachings. The could have taken the many miracles he had already performed as signs. Instead they demanded a sign from him on their terms. In short, they didn’t believe in Our Lord, what he was doing, or what he was teaching.

James in today’s First Reading teaches us what we should ask for and how: we should ask for wisdom, an insight into the bigger picture that helps us understand, in the light of God, the world, man, and ourselves. We always need wisdom, and Our Lord is happy to give it if we ask in faith. The Pharisees demanded a sign and showed neither wisdom nor faith. James also teaches the wisdom Our Lord wants to share: to help the poor see how blessed and loved they are, and to help the rich to see how fleeting their pursuits can be if they are not in the service of God.

Our Lord is willing to share all the wisdom we could ever want or need, if we believe in him. Let’s humbly turn to him in faith and ask for just that.

Readings: James 1:1–11; Psalm 119:67–68, 71–72, 75–76; Mark 8:11–13.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

Today’s Gospel has a strong admonition regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. An unforgivable sin should give pause to anyone, but in this case the Evangelist explains what the Lord is condemning: calling the Holy Spirit an “unclean spirit.” Jesus works his miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, but the scribes claim the demon Beelzebub is powering his works. A clearer blasphemy is not possible. Our Lord refutes their absurd logic: why would demons cast out demons? What would it benefit them? The scribes are so paranoid about Our Lord that their theories are increasingly absurd.

Let’s pray today that everyone receive the gift of faith to see the Holy Spirit at work and acknowledge it.

Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1–7, 10; Psalm 89:20–22, 25–26; Mark 3:22–30. See also 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.


31st Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I

Today’s First Reading is a little confusing if it is not seen within the context of whom Paul has been speaking about: Israel. In the Acts of the Apostles we see Paul going to the Jews first to proclaim the Gospel, only to receive hostility. Paul then tells them they’ve rejected what Our Lord was offering them and would, therefore, share it with the Gentiles (see Acts 13:44–49). In today’s reading Paul describes the Jews’ loss as the Gentiles’ gain.

If the Jews had not rejected the Word, “disobeyed,” the opportunity of mercy would never have been presented to the Gentiles, who did accept the Word, becoming reconciled with God as a result. The wonders the Gospel did among the Gentiles gave the Jews an opportunity to re-think their disobedience and receive God’s mercy through the Gospel as well.

Many people who have returned to God tell the tale of how many twists and turns the path to mercy took in their lives. That’s not God’s fault, but ours. John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah, encouraged us to “Make straight the way of the Lord” (see John 1:23). Let’s embrace his mercy and his way with all our heart.

Readings: Romans 11:29–36; Psalm 69:30–31, 33–34, 36; Luke 14:12–14.

24th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I

In Luke’s account of Our Lord healing the Centurion’s servant it’s interesting to note that Jesus and the Centurion never met personally. Everything was done through men of good will (the elders of the Jews, who acknowledged the Centurions good will and kindness in helping them build their synagogue), and the Centurion’s friends, who came to meet Jesus even as he was about arrive at the Centurion’s home. This last detail also shows the good will and respect of the Centurion: devout Jews would consider themselves ritually defiled if they entered the home of a Gentile.

Nevertheless, it was Our Lord alone who could help the Centurion’s servant. As the First Reading reminds us today, God wants everyone to be saved and to learn the truth, but he wants to do it through the Son, the one mediator between God and men. In this moment of his ministry Our Lord was focusing on the Jews, but, one day, another Centurion would receive baptism along with his family (see Acts 10:1-48), the first Gentiles to be welcomed into the budding Church after an initial focus on the Jews.

Friendship and good-will may not always help others to connect with Our Lord, but they certainly go a long way toward bringing others closer to Christ. Let’s not shy away from sharing our best friend with others and helping them make a connection of faith.

Readings: 1 Timothy 2:1–8; Psalm 28:2, 7–9; Luke 7:1–10. See also 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I

Moses in today’s First Reading reminds the Israelites as they prepare to enter the Promised Land how privileged they are to have been chosen and blessed by the Lord. Everything in creation belongs to the Lord, yet the People of Israel are a prized possession. In other moments of the Old Testament the Lord has promised to be as a father to Israel, and we know now that in the Lord’s eyes we are far more than a prized possession; we are his cherished sons and daughters.

The Lord is not only perfectly impartial, he is also perfectly compassionate, and Moses invites the Israelites to do the same, reminding them of everything the Lord has done for their ancestors to lead them to this moment. Long before the new Pharaoh enslaved them in Egypt they were a small group invited by their brother Joseph to settle in Egypt, and now, at the threshold of the Promised Land, they are a numerous nation, just as the Lord had promised to the Patriarchs. Through Baptism we form part of the new People of God, a people of faith, hope, and charity spread throughout the world for no other reason than Our Lord’s compassion toward us.

It’s salutary to count your blessings once in a while. Ask the Lord to help you today to see all the blessings he has given you.

Readings: Deuteronomy 10:12–22; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; Matthew 17:22–27. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II.