28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (2)

In today’s Gospel Our Lord gazes upon the Rich Young Man with love before he asks something of him that he knew would be difficult. The Second Reading today reminds us that God’s word has the sharpness of a sword, and, we can add, the precision of a scalpel: it finds exactly where the tumor is, knows where to make the necessary incision that makes our delusions fall away, but we must choose to go under the knife.

We too need to contemplate the words of today’s First Reading. The Wisdom of God is what we need; everything else is an investment in that for which we’re truly searching. The Wisdom of God is described like discovering the love of your life; everything else pales in comparison. Wisdom is more valuable than political power. Wisdom is more valuable than material wealth. Wisdom is more valuable than physical health or beauty. Wisdom is the true path to success.

In today’s Second Reading the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that nothing is hidden to the eyes of the Lord, and he can reveal things within us to which even we are blind. If the Wisdom of God in the First Reading is described as a splendor with which light itself can’t compare, the Word of God in the Second is described as a sharp sword that cuts through any pretensions or illusions we may have about ourselves or others. The Word of God is always meant to reveal something, expressing the Wisdom of God so that we see ourselves, the world, and others in its light.

Our Lord doesn’t see himself offering the Rich Young Man in today’s Gospel pain and sacrifice; he is offering him the path to a deeper love for God in exchange for the love he’s already received and shown. When the Rich Young Man tries to flatter Our Lord a little Jesus is quick to chide him about his motives for such praise, and redirects his thoughts to God. Our Lord is telling him that it doesn’t matter how rich he is, or whether he is good or bad; God’s love for him is constant.

If success and moral living don’t help us grow in our love for God, they don’t go far enough; they will not satisfy us. If the Rich Young Man had taken today’s First Reading (which did exist in his time) and replaced the expressions “prudence” and “Wisdom” with “the love of God,” everything would have snapped into clarity. The wisdom he was truly seeking from Jesus was an awareness of the love God had for him, in which every other good thing would pale.

He may have seen Our Lord as asking a costly sacrifice, but Jesus was asking him to invest the fruits of his success and goodness into something greater and for something greater. Our Lord looks upon us with love no matter what we do, but he also invites us to follow him, draw closer to him, and love him more. Many times we see that through a filter of losing something, sacrificing something. We too need to contemplate the words of today’s First Reading. The Wisdom of God is what we need; everything else is an investment in that for which we’re truly searching.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that if we try to please God and seek eternal life a moment will come when we ask a potentially scary question, like the Rich Young Man did today, “What do I still lack?” If the spiritual life is easy, it’s a moment to ask, like the young man, what we are lacking. We know Our Lord teaches us that we must lose our life in order to save it, and to take up our cross every day and follow him. The cross implies that tough choices for the sake of Our Lord must be made. If something separates us from God, it separates us from eternal life and any true happiness we could have achieved. Under the weight of this idolatry it’s no wonder that the Rich Young Man went off sad when he didn’t opt for Christ: deep down he knew eternal life was at stake, and he blew it.

Don’t be afraid to ask Our Lord the question today in your own spiritual life: “Lord, what do I lack?” No matter how costly it appears, it will lead to eternal happiness for you and for others. Take the next step and trust in Our Lord’s help.

Readings: Wisdom 7:7–11; Psalm 90:12–17; Hebrews 4:12–13; Mark 10:17–30. See also 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Monday8th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, and 20th Week in Ordinary Time,Tuesday.

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s readings remind us that Heaven awaits us as a party, not a chore. Everybody has to prepare for the party if they don’t want to miss out on the fun.

In today’s First Reading Isaiah describes our future as the ultimate party where shadows and tears are banished and there’s only room for celebration. Everyone, “all peoples,” are invited to this celebration. No expense is spared on the food and the wine. Everything that could sour the party is not just put on hold; it is banished forever. It’s not just a moment to forget worries, but to leave them and the tears they cause behind forever more. The Lord is the life of the party on a deeper level than we could possibly imagine.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that moments of famine help us appreciate even more the moments of feast. If you want just one list of all the ups and downs of St. Paul’s missions, just read 2 Corinthians 11:21–33: prisons, beatings, shipwrecks, “in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” The Philippians were worried about his hardship, but St. Paul responds that he can live in feast or famine because it is the Lord who strengthens him. There are a few lines omitted in this dialogue, where St. Paul recalls how the Philippians supported him materially in his missionary endeavors, even at times when no other church did. Paul assures them that the Lord will provide for them whatever they need as well.

In today’s Gospel the wedding feast reminds us of Heaven, but also that although everyone is invited to the party, some in the end will not be found worthy to participate in it, and some won’t want to participate in it at all. Some had already been invited to the feast, and now servants were sent to tell them it was ready. Obviously these invitees had a closer relationship with the king: they were invited to come, and didn’t feel obliged to come. The invitees ask to be excused, but really just gave excuses not to come: they’d known when the great dinner would be held and had made other plans. Some didn’t even make excuses and just killed the messengers. They either didn’t want to go or were simply indifferent about going: that showed what they thought of their king, both as their ruler and as their friend. Something or someone else came first.

Abandoned by his friends, the king invited other members of his kingdom, but not on the basis of friendship, just on the basis of a benevolence a king owes his people. In the end he also invites his subjects who are complete strangers to him, perhaps people not even a part of his kingdom at all, “good and bad.” They benefit from the great dinner, but they cannot take the place of those the king wanted to partake of it, his invitees, those he wanted to acknowledge as his friends.

If this parable speaks to us of Heaven it’s also a reminder that God is merciful and good, but in the end we have to do our part, even a little, if we want to be saved. Salvation is not automatic. The man with no wedding garment had no answer for the king’s question: there was no excuse he could offer, and if the king was displeased, it means something was expected of that man that he didn’t do. That wedding garment symbolizes having done something to partake and appreciate the marriage feast. This poor man shows no signs of celebration whatsoever. Maybe he represents that Christian who goes through the motions all their life, but never really seeks to help himself or others to get to Heaven. We have to give Our Lord something to work with. The man with no wedding garment managed to get to the banquet hall, but he didn’t go far enough to stay.

When you talk to some people about Heaven they just roll their eyes. When you talk to some believers about Heaven, their attitude is more, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Ask anyone on Friday afternoon how he feels about the great party coming up that weekend. He can’t wait. He is humming and tapping his feet everywhere he goes, thinking about the celebration to come. Visualize the ultimate party this weekend: not a kegger, but Heaven, celebrating in eternity with those you love. If we stop and truly contemplate Heaven how can it not bring a smile to our face and put us in a “partying” mood?

Are you going to pass up the greatest party of all time?

Readings: Isaiah 25:6–10a; Psalm 23:1–6; Philippians 4:12–14, 19–20; Matthew 22:1–14.

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul praises the faith and charity of the Ephesians and encourages them to grow in theological hope. Faith and charity help us to see things as Our Lord sees them and as he wills them. They help us see things from his perspective, and that perspective helps us to know him better. However, this is not just a rational process; Our Lord reveals himself to us, and if he hadn’t chosen to do so we’d never have really known him well. It is not just information; it’s also grace.

The more we know Our Lord, the more we trust in him and in what our Heavenly Father has done in him and through him, giving us cause for theological hope. That “first installment” we spoke about yesterday is solid and a harbinger of good things to come for those who trust in God. Our Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, attested to by many witnesses in the faith, is the reason for our hope. All things are submitted to him, as Paul teaches, so we only have cause for hope, not fear.

Faith, hope, and charity are meant to grow throughout our earthly lives and work together to achieve that end. Let’s put our faith, trust, and love in Our Lord and he will reveal to us the glorious things yet to come.

Readings: Ephesians 1:15–23; Psalm 8:2–3b, 4–7; Luke 12:8–12. See also 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II28th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, and 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In yesterday‘s First Reading Paul, addressing the Ephesians, reminded us that we’ve been chosen to be holy and blameless in God’s sight since before the foundation of the world. Today he expounds on how we are chosen in Christ and for what we are chosen: we exist in order to praise God, and Our Lord helps us to do that. Praising God may not seem all that exciting a vocation, but how many people do we applaud when they simply entertain us, and how much more has God done for us to merit praise?

The Lord doesn’t expect praise in a vacuum, just as we normally applaud someone who has accomplished something, whether noble or entertaining. We praise the Lord here on earth because we’ve already received the “first installment,” as Paul describes it, of our redemption. When we believe and are baptized our redemption begins, right here, right now, and Jesus was a hero to make it happen. That merits our praise now, and we can only imagine how much more we’ll want to praise God in eternity when our redemption is complete, free from sin, death, and fear.

Let’s meditate on the “first installment” we’ve received in our life today and give Our Lord a round of applause.

Readings: Ephesians 1:11–14; Psalm 33:1–2, 4–5, 12–13; Luke 12:1–7. See also 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul greets the believers at Ephesus by reminding them that the have been chosen by God the Father for something wonderful and special even before their creation or the creation of the world. In cinema, television, and literature there is usually something special associated with being the “chosen one”: some great destiny, often some great responsibility. The Lord is calling us to both. God the Father calls us to be adopted in his Son, become his children, and one day stand in his presence “holy and without blemish”: holiness means we will participate in his divine life, and without blemish means that no matter what we’ve done, Our Father will forgive us, heal us, and cleanse us if we let him.

The “chosen one” in popular culture usually has to go it alone, yet we don’t have to. Our Lord has come to ensure that we live up to the wonderful calling we’ve received from God the Father, just as he has in his Incarnation. Being chosen does involve some work on our part, and if we don’t accept that we might not live up to everything God the Father wants of us, and that will rob us of a lot of happiness from here to eternity. In Christ we’re guaranteed a happy ending to our life, no matter how rocky it might get.

You’ve been chosen. Ask Our Lord to guide you to the wonderful destiny that has awaited you since before the foundation of the world.

Readings: Ephesians 1:1–10; Psalm 98:1–6; Luke 11:47–54. See also 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.