32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord responds to the question that all the Jews at the time hand on their mind: when would the Kingdom of God come? For some it had meant the coming of a religious nation, purified from its sins; for others, the political autonomy and dominion of Israel over all its enemies. When Our Lord began his public ministry, he preached that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Now he tells us that the Kingdom of God is already present. How?

Just like the Jews we hope that something definitive will come with the Kingdom of God: that the evil that has plagued the world since the Fall will be definitively overthrown, and peace and justice restored to all of creation. We hope for an end to suffering, hunger, and illness, but it’s also evident that these things have not yet occurred. Our Lord reminds us today that the Kingdom is already present: it is active, just not easily seen. God is acting: hearts are being won back to him, and those hearts are going out and spreading his love among others and trying to be a force for positive change in society. Sometimes we may feel outnumbered and overwhelmed, but in hope we know the victory is already won, and it’s just a matter of spreading the Good News.

Our Lord teaches us today not to waste time looking for it on the horizon or seeking some prophet who supposedly has it already figured out. It’s going to be a long haul by everyone’s standards and he prepares us for that. We just have to persevere in faith, hope, and love, confident that through living a virtuous life we are welcoming the Kingdom into our hearts and helping others to reap its benefits as well.

Readings: Wisdom 7:22b–8:1; Psalm 119:89–91, 130, 135, 175; Luke 17:20–25.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel a group of lepers ask for pity from Our Lord. Under Mosaic Law, lepers were outcasts and required not to draw near anyone not afflicted by their condition. They would also have to warn people who drew near, often shouting, “unclean, unclean.” The lepers in today’s Gospel are maintaining their distance out of respect for the Law (and to avoid the trouble they’d be in if they didn’t–people in general aren’t very warm to someone with an infectious disease). When Our Lord tells them to go show themselves to the priests, he is inviting them to make an act of faith: the Law also proscribed that when a leper was healed he should present himself to the priests, who’d certify the healing and allow him back into the community. They hadn’t been cleansed yet, but receive the miracle on the way to the priests.

The ten lepers have faith, but only one of them has the faith that goes the distance in terms of pleasing God: the Samaritan who returns to Jesus to thank him upon realizing that he’s been cured, a Samaritan, unlike the Jews, who didn’t even have all the spiritual resources at the time that a Jew would. Our Lord is merciful, so the other nine don’t get their healing taken away for not being grateful, but Our Lord’s reaction shows he was expecting something more. The nine lepers had a life of faith, but it was a little routine, and dulled to the sense of wonder when the Lord intervenes more forcefully in our lives. A vibrant faith, like that of the Samaritan formerly known as leper, responds with praise and thanksgiving when it realizes God has blessed it.

As believers we’ve received countless spiritual healings from God: through our baptism, through our sacramental life, and through our prayers. Grace sustains and restores us. Let’s get out of any spiritual rut we might find ourselves in today and praise and thank God for all his blessings, big and small.

Readings: Wisdom 6:1–11; Psalm 82:3–4, 6–7; Luke 17:11–19.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

Everyone likes recognition for the work they do; some people even crave it, but Our Lord in today’s Gospel encourages us to be content with the fact that we’ve been able to serve another and perform our duties. There are many people in the world who’ll never get Employee of the Month, but who have done their work well. If that moment of recognition comes, Our Lord tells us what our attitude should be: humility. If recognition is the motivation for our service, it’s no so much service as trying to climb the social or career ladder, and that can lead to a false sense of entitlement that makes us frustrated when we should just be focusing on doing our job.

Sometimes service without recognition is hard. In the First Reading Our Lord reminds us that the souls of the virtuous suffered trials, sometimes apparent disaster, but in the end they were in the hand of God and shined, full of grace and mercy. We shouldn’t worry so much about receiving recognition; in the end Our Lord will give us the recognition we deserve as the good and just God that he is.

Let’s focus today on being useful servants who do their duty and not so much on being Employee of the Month. If we do, maybe we’ll get both. It’s in the Lord’s hands.

Readings: Wisdom 2:23–3:9; Psalm 34:2–3, 16–19; Luke 17:7–10.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s readings we see a parallel between the First Reading and the Gospel: the generosity of a widow who shows faith and hope. In the First Reading Elijah asks for a handout while Israel is suffering an extended drought. The widow doesn’t disagree, she simply thinks she’d have to choose between her, her son, or Elijah: one would starve to death for the sake of another, and ultimately as well. Elijah gives her an opportunity in faith to trust in the Lord’s Providence: she’ll be provided for until the drought ends for her generosity. She provides for her son and helps the Lord through helping Elijah and everything works out.

In the Gospel Our Lord is moved by the generosity of a poor widow who gives all she has to the Temple treasury. She sacrifices her livelihood for the sake of giving alms, and no one notices her, because the amount seems so insignificant. It’s not insignificant to her, which is why it is so generous. She’s not doing it for good public relations, as the rich men are doing out of their surplus. She’s not even negotiating like Elijah and the widow in the First Reading. Little does she know that God himself is looking upon her sacrifice with contentment through the eyes of the Son, and making it an example for the disciples to follow.

We all know the expression “give ’til it hurts”; if we put a little of our comfort and livelihood on the line in giving, whether time, talent, or treasure, Our Lord sees and will bless us, even if the world doesn’t. Let’s be generous today in sharing what we have with others, knowing if we take care of others Our Lord will take care of us abundantly.

Readings: 1 Kings 17:10–16; Psalm 146:7–10; Hebrews 9:24–28; Mark 12:38–44. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.