20th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

Today’s readings presents two images of leadership, one good and another bad, and tries to show the qualities of a good leader. Sheep need a shephered in order to be fed, protected, and healthy; they cannot easily survive on their own. In the First Reading the Lord describes the poor leaders of Israel as bad shepherds who mistreat and exploit the very sheep they should nourish and protect. He promises to shepherd them personally instead, a promise he would keep through the Good Shepherd who’d lay down his life for his sheep.

In the Gospel Our Lord gives the example of a benevolent employer, but more to describe God’s goodness in rewarding those who enter his Kingdom, whether from the beginning of their lives or at the last minute. Whether they began in his service early or late, the employer out of his goodness and mercy provides what they need to live; he doesn’t try to squeeze more work out of them with raises that they don’t need, nor does he penalize them for being late hires. Unlike the bad shepherds of the First Reading, the benevolent employer focuses on the good of his workers, not what they can do for him. He puts people before profit.

Our Lord doesn’t need our collaboration and service, yet he blesses us when we help him. Let’s thank Our Lord for all the blessings he has showered on us by being good sheep, good workers, good shepherds, or good employers. In short, let’s do well in whatever vocation he has given us.

Readings: Ezekiel 34:1–11; Psalm 23:1–6; Matthew 20:1–16. See also Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle C, and 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord warns the rich man against becoming so enamored of his wealth that he grows conceited, with delusions of divinity and becoming an island with regard to others. The reality faced in Exekiel’s time was that the wealth and security of the “prince of Tyre” were under threat and easily destroyed, along with the man’s very life, and all the money in the world wouldn’t spare him.

Our Lord in today’s Gospel is not exagerating when he says it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye that it is for someone rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. With wealth it seems like you have everything you could ever want, yet wealthly people many times are miserable even though they are surrounded by opulence. Their wealth can make them into islands, separating them from family and friends. Wealth is not bad on its own, but it always bears the risk of making you stop searching for the needs that money cannot buy.

Any business person will tell you it’s not a question of having money that determines success, but how wisely it is invested. Like any other creature it can separate you from God and from others or it can help you to draw closer to them. Ask Our Lord to help you review your balance sheet and see whether you’re investing in a good and holy life. The returns are out of this world.

Readings: Ezekiel 28:1–10; Deuteronomy 32:26–28, 30, 35c–36b; Matthew 19:23–30. See also 20th Week in Ordinary Time,Tuesday, 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II, and 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C

Today’s First and Second Readings show the two extremes in which a believer be found in serving Our Lord by sharing his message: alone and abandoned in the mud at the mercy of evil and injustice, or spurred on by the example and help of a “cloud of witnesses” who show that the path of belief is the right one. We all experience moments in the mud and moments enthused by our faith and that of our fellow believers.

Jeremiah in today’s First Reading was the victim of the very division that Our Lord would later forewarn his disciples, yet Jeremiah in the end was rescued through the intercession of just men. When we face division and strife over transmitting the Gospel we should not become discouraged, because Our Lord suffered such things first, as well as many believers who came before us. In moments of enthusiasm we mustn’t forget that there will be moments of the Cross, but in moments of the Cross we should be bolstered by memories of our moments of enthusiasm.

In all circumstances we need Our Lord’s help, just not in the same way. Let’s ask him to help us in fair weather or foul.

Readings: Jeremiah 38:4–6, 8–10; Psalm 40:2–4, 18; Hebrews 12:1–4; Luke 12:49–53. See also 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II29th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, and 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

 

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord makes an admonition to the disciples that for us has become a basic rule of thumb: practice what you preach. All believers are brothers because they all share one Father in Heaven, and they are all disciples because they follow the teachings of one Master, Christ. Through baptism we’ve all received an equal dignity in the eyes of God, and when any member of the Church forgets that, other members of the Church suffer through their bad example.

At the same time, Our Lord does not deny that the scribes and Pharisees whom he is criticizing actually have an authority that comes from Moses that is to be respected. Today there are some who are tempted to discard the preaching because certain preachers do not practice it. That’s not what Jesus teaches us. It’s sad when the preacher gets in the way of the message by putting himself first, but if he is preaching what has been handed down to us from Christ through the apostles and their successors, it is still a teaching that is necessary for us.

The core lesson today to bishops, priests, and deacons is to not let themselves get in the way of communicating the message: it’s not about ego, titles, or honors, but, rather, about communicating the message Our Lord has entrusted to the Church’s pastors through the centuries. It’s a lesson to every believer as well: through our bad example we can hinder the spread of the Gospel. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us be good brothers and disciples who share his message with those who need it without ego trips, so that they welcome the message and don’t get hung up on the messenger.

Readings: Ruth 2:1–3, 8–11, 4:13–17; Psalm 128:1b–5; Matthew 23:1–12.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds the Pharisees, and us, that if we truly want to understand the ways and desires of God we need to see things through the lens of love. Love for God and love for neighbor are intimately linked, which is why extremists of any religion who claim to harm their neighbor in the name of God are about as far from the truth as can be imagined. Some people try to project themselves on God, and paint him as aloof, distant, cruel, self-absorbed. Others in the face of suffering and evil question whether God loves us at all, or why he would allow bad things to happen.

If we want to truly understand who God is, we must look at him from the perspective of love and imitate him in his love for us. If we contemplate God on the Cross, the Son nailed to the Cross, depicted on every crucifix, wounded our of love for us, as Christians we need no further answer. God loved us so much that he sent his son to save the world, and his son saved the world through submitting to the worst cruelty that evil and sin could inflict: injustice, torture, and death. He subjected himself to that out of love for us. Yet he doesn’t throw that in our face: he is silent on the cross, but he speaks volumes to our hearts: he doesn’t say, “how dare you,” but “I love you.”

Love is not just something we try to live; it is a grace–the theological virtue of charity–poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Let’s try to see things through the lens of charity today in order to grow in love for God and love for others.

Readings: Ruth 1:1, 3–6, 14b–16, 22; Psalm 146:5–10; Matthew 22:34–40.

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