Saturday after Epiphany

Today’s Gospel is an apt conclusion to the Christmas Season, since it’s always the last Gospel before Ordinary Time resumes with the Baptism of the Lord. John’s disciples are concerned that Jesus’ ministry is gaining more traction than his, and John reminds them that he was always called to pave the way for the Christ, not to be his competition. John is happy to “decrease,” even to martyrdom, so that Our Lord may increase. During Advent the readings focused many times on John the Baptist; with the Baptism of the Lord tomorrow we see John’s work concluding and him “passing the baton” to Our Lord.

As believers we are all called to pave the way for Our Lord to come into the lives of others. As the First Reading reminds us today, we have a spiritual responsibility to them, to pray for them to receive the gift of conversion and turn away from sin to embrace Our Lord. Even today, as John warned in today’s First Reading, there are idols that try to take the place of Our Lord, and the Evil One is happy to let us stumble into idolatry out of ignorance, putting money, power, or pleasure in first place. Our Lord has come into the world to show us who we should truly follow: him. John knew, and we know too.

Let”s examine ourselves on this last day of the Christmas season and see whether we’re putting anything before Our Lord. If we put him first, others will see the importance of putting him first too.

Readings: 1 John 5:14–21; Psalm 149:1–5, 6a, 9b; John 3:22–30.


5th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

Today’s First Reading recalls a division between the Northern and Southern Kingdom, a division of the people of Israel after King Solomon’s passing due to a dispute about taxation between Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam, and the king of the new Northern Kingdom, Jehoboam. The Lord told Rehoboam when he tried to intervene militarily and force reunification that the Lord had willed the division, a punishment due to King Solomon’s infidelity.

Jehoboam has received a mandate from the Lord. However, he does not trust the Lord, and is worried that the people will seek to reunite with Rehoboam because they still must go to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to worship at the splendid Temple David had commissioned and Solomon had finished. He decides to establish new places of pilgrimage and worship in his territory, but also to abandon the worship of the Lord in those places. Therefore, as today’s account concludes, Jehoboam’s lineage, initially sanctioned by the Lord, will end, due to his iniquity: he led his entire people into idolatry for political motives.

Our Lord when pressed about taxation said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s (see Mark 12:17, Matthew 22:21, Luke 20:25). Let’s learn today from Jehoboam’s fate to never try to use religion or God to serve our own selfish interests.

Readings: 1 Kings 12:26–32, 13:33–34; Psalm 106:6–7b, 19–22; Mark 8:1–10. See also 1st Week of Advent, Wednesday and 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.


21st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

In today’s parable Our Lord teaches us to unearth our talents and make at least a minimal effort to put them to good use. It’s true that in the parable the servants receive their talents and one decides to bury them, but in real life Our Lord has created us with many talents that we can employ if we discover them. In the Last Supper he reminded his disciples that they were to bear fruit as the best way of glorifying the Father (see John 15). How do we give the Lord a return on his investment in us?

We mustn’t let fear keep us from taking risks in Our Lord’s service. As the unfortunate servant found out today, he was so rattled about what he thought were his master’s expectations that he made the wrong move. He was so foolish that the simple steps he could have taken were far from his thoughts. Who knows how things would have turned out if he had simply asked his master for suggestions.

We too must ask the Lord to help us unearth our talents and teach us the best way to use them. As he reminds us today, everyone has talents and is expected to use them. Let’s get to work. Even a little effort goes a long way in Our Lord’s service.

Readings: 1 Thessalonians 4:9–11; Psalm 98:1, 7–9; Matthew 25:14–30. See also 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

Today’s First Reading is a concluding testament of Joshua as the Israelites settle in the Promised Land. When they renew their commitment to serve the Lord and leave other gods behind, including the gods of the peoples the Lord displaced on their behalf, Joshua sets up a stone in memorial of the pledge the people of Israel made to serve the Lord. Imagine the years passing by as they saw that stone and remembered how faithful or unfaithful they were. Joshua warned them before they pledged their devotion to the Lord that it would not be easy.

Have you ever returned to the fount where you were baptized? Like the Israelites it is thanks to generations of Christians who preceded us, especially our family, that we were baptized and became members of the People of God, set on the path toward our Promised Land in Heaven. Not only the Church’s monuments and cultural achievements remind us of what the Lord has done for us, but the existence of the Church herself, not just as buildings and institutions, but as a People of believers.

In an ever-secularizing society we need these reminders of what the Lord has done for us, and for those we love. Let’s make Joshua’s pledge today our own: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Readings: Joshua 24:14–29; Psalm 16:1–2a, 5, 7–8, 11; Matthew 19:13–15. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II.

5th Week of Lent, Saturday

In today’s First Reading the Lord promises to gather together all of his people into one land, as one nation, in peace and security, under the rule of “David”: the Messiah. His people had been divided politically into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, exiled, and dispersed throughout the world in what became know as the diaspora. He promises them not only a political reunification, but a purification as well: sin was the cause of their woes, and sin had to be conquered for them to become a nation at peace, with no enmity between them and God, their fellow man, and their very selves.

In today’s Gospel the chief priests and Pharisees received news of the greatest sign worked yet by Our Lord: raising Lazarus from the dead. However, their interpretation of events was far from God’s; they saw Our Lord as threatening the unstable security the nation had under the Romans, and were convinced that Our Lord, whom they thought was a false Messiah seeking to become a king, would bring the destruction of the Romans down upon their heads. Therefore the high priest decided it was time for Our Lord to go, for the good of the nation. As John recalls these deliberations he also sees that the death of Jesus, a despicable act, in fact would lead to the good of the nation, but a good far beyond the conceited political aspirations of those seeking his death for worldly reasons. The chief priests and Pharisees had no idea what good God would make come out of their evil.

Through Our Lord’s death the words in today’s First Reading will be fulfilled. The stage is set for tomorrow’s celebration of Our Lord’s Passion and the beginning of Holy Week. Let’s renew our Lenten resolutions and prepare ourselves for the final push from suffering and death into eternal life.

Readings: Ezekiel 37:21–28; Jeremiah 31:10–13; John 11:45–56.