12th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

In today’s Gospel the Lord puts us on guard against prophets who seem innocuous, even helpful, but actually have ulterior motives, none of them good. Travelers have lamented getting sick on seemingly delicious wild berries and mushrooms, only to find out that they’re poisonous. It takes knowledge to test a prophet and to avoid disaster. We all know that actions speak louder than words, and it is through actions that we can evaluate whether someone is being good or evil.

This is complicated today by a society that can be very “gray” when it comes to determining moral values. Sometimes saying someone is “bad” is really watering down the fact that their actions are evil. The ancient Greek philosophers formulated a simple moral principle: do good and avoid evil. That bears the test of time: a prophet who does evil is a false prophet, because a true prophet comes from the Lord, who’d never order evil.

All Christians are prophetic to the degree that they give witness to truth and good in their lives. Let’s all take stock today of the fruits of our actions so that we are true prophets and known to be so by our good actions.

Readings: Genesis 15:1–12, 17–18; Psalm 105:1–4, 6–9; Matthew 7:15–20. See also 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s readings remind us that no matter how in the dark, surrounded, or outnumbered we feel in the face of evil, death, and sin, the Father will stand with us if we stand with him and his Son.

In today’s First Reading Jeremiah describes his former friends conspiring against him, but also his confidence that with the Lord at his side all their scheming would fail. Jeremiah had most of the ruling class of Israel against him as the Lord’s prophet because they didn’t like what the Lord was trying to tell them. Imagine when your friends and countrymen seek your downfall more than your companionship, even when you have their best interest in mind. They have their eyes on Jeremiah, waiting for him to slip up, and that is their mistake. If they’d kept their eyes on the Lord, as Jeremiah did, they would have been spared their fate. Instead they suffered death or exile at the hands of the Babylonians, and Jeremiah was vindicated.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that even though sin had a head start and plenty of time to spread it was nothing compared to the grace that would flow from one man standing up to it: Our Lord. Because of Adam, the “one man” mentioned at the start of today’s Second Reading, sin and death entered the world and spread to everyone, everywhere, throughout human history. The dire effects of that Original Sin still rage unchecked in many ways, and no one has a problem seeing the evil that plagues the world even today. It became so bad that it was not even recognized as sin at one point, until the Lord, through Moses, shared the Law (built upon the Ten Commandments) to show mankind how they could turn from sin and back to God and tell good from evil again. Even with the Law as a blueprint for life death still ravaged the world due to sin. Adam could have never made amends for the evil and death he’d caused. Yet the Father did not leave him, or us, to our fate. He sent his Son, who wiped away the sins of the world in Baptism and brought the grace of God to us again.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds the Apostles that they only need to stand with him and not be afraid. If we stand with Christ bodily death should not frighten us, because, like him, eternal life awaits us. The only fear we should have is spiritual death: a life separated from him and separated from the Father, which makes life a living death from here to eternity. Trust in Our Lord should embolden us, more than evil and disbelief in the world should intimidate us. We all have moments where we question whether the Lord really knows what is going on or truly cares about what will happen to us. His son is the response to those doubts. He came to show us how precious we are in his eyes and in the eyes of Our Heavenly Father. He’s also our lifeline to the Father. St. Paul reminds us today that the grace we need comes through him, and that grace not only sustains us in communion with him, but with the Father as well.

We stand with the Father by standing with Christ, just as we fall if we don’t.

Readings: Jeremiah 20:10–13; Psalm 69:8–10, 14, 17, 33–35; Romans 5:12–15; Matthew 10:26–33.

12th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

Today’s First Reading captures the sentiments of the Israelites undergoing the Babylonian Captivity, recalled two days ago. They’re trying to come to grips with why the Lord handed them over to their enemies. What a great contrast with today’s Gospel, when a Roman centurion, part of the people who are occupying Israel centuries after their return from the Babylonian Captivity, is showing more faith in Our Lord and his power to heal than the Lord’s Israelite contemporaries.

Today we live a far different type of “conquest” and expansion. Today, thanks to Our Lord, all of us, whatever our ethnic background, are invited to form a part of the Kingdom of heaven, Christ’s Kingdom, and we pray with every Our Father that it come. That centurion foreshadows all of us with no drop of Jewish blood who met and became disciples of Our Lord and children of God through baptism. The Jews are not excluding from this opportunity, but as Our Lord taught them in today’s Gospel, faith is what will usher them into a lasting Kingdom that is secure from their true enemies: sin and death. Even the healing today of the centurion’s servant is a foreshadowing of the power of Christ the King.

Let’s thank Our Lord today for inviting us to form a part of his Kingdom, and help him to make his kingdom come and reconquer hearts for God.

Readings: Lamentations 2:2, 10–14, 18–19; Psalm 74:1b–7, 20–21; Matthew 8:5–17. See also 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

12th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Southern Kingdom of Judah also succumbs, just as the Northern one did, due to its infidelities. Its young, new king, instead of being a force for change and zeal, was just as wicked as the kings who had preceded him. Jeremiah warned Judah about relying on the Lord to always intervene, even when they were not doing his will, and, as Our Lord warns us in today’s Gospel, they built their lives on sand, generation after generation, king after king, and when the storm of Babylon came Judah was easily swept away: the best and brightest of Judah were led captive into Babylon to begin what Israel remembered forever after as the Babylonian Captivity.

Today’s Gospel concludes a series of teachings by Our Lord, teachings that we’ve been considering in recent weekdays. He reminds us that if we want to build our life on something solid we need to put his words into practice and, in so doing, do his will and the will of Our Heavenly Father. Things can be done in the Lord’s name, but they have to be things that the Lord desires, not just us, or else we too will hear those dreaded words one day: “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.”

We have nothing to fear if we rely on the Lord. Let’s ask him for the grace of a deeper knowledge of him so that, whatever he asks of us, we will strive to do his will as our will.

Readings: 2 Kings 24:8–17; Psalm 79:1b–5, 8–9; Matthew 7:21–29. See also 1st Week of Advent, Thursday and 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

12th Week of Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

Today’s First Reading reminds us that despite all the good intentions in the world we need help to be objective in seeking and doing good. Josiah, the unnamed king in today’s First Reading, was trying to reform and restore worship in Israel, and in renovating the Temple the “book of the law” was rediscovered (books from the Old Testament, probably the first at least), and Josiah realized how fare Israel had drifted from what their Lord had expected of them.

Imagine a world where the Bible itself was lost and re-discovered. Many of the good cultural inroads that Christianity has made, to the benefit of not just believers, but all of society, have been lost or have been forgotten. As in the case of the First Reading, it is not any one person’s fault: an entire people had forgotten their identity and their heritage and just drifted into whatever the prevailing public fashion dictated. Our Lord in today’s Gospel warns us against false prophets and bad trees; it takes scratching beneath the surface to see them for what they truly are. As believers we must shape our opinions and our lives based on the Christian faith and the teachings of the Church, not on the whims of a society often fickle and superficial.

I invite you to take the “Josiah” challenge: Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are readily available online. Crack or click them open and examine your life to see whether your covenant with the Lord needs renewing. You may be surprised.

Readings: 2 Kings 22:8–13, 23:1–3; Psalm 119:33–37, 40; Matthew 7:15–20. See also 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.