22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

In today’s Gospel we are introduced to the potential and to the poverty of St. Peter. Throughout the Gospel we see faith and fear mixed in the man who would become, after Jesus’ Resurrection, the leader of the Apostles and the vicar of Christ on earth. After a long night of fishing an itinerant rabbi asks to use his boat in order to take advantage of the natural acoustics of being out on the water, and also to give his listeners a better view. Was Peter hoping Jesus would give him something? Was he performing an act of charity? The Gospel account isn’t clear, but he let Our Lord into his boat and, in a certain sense, into his world. As Peter soon found out, Jesus expected something much greater from him.

We don’t know if he listened to much of Our Lord’s teaching as he sat in his boat, since he was tired after a long night of fishing, but Jesus encouraged him to cast out the nets and Peter responded with trust, even if maybe he was just humoring him. The amazing catch was a response to Peter in a language he could understand. In that moment he realized Our Lord was asking him for far more than a shuttle service, and that he was not just another itinerant rabbi. Suddenly Peter knew that Our Lord understood his world too. Disciples usually asked their rabbis if they could be disciples, but Jesus came looking for his disciples in order to teach them to catch something far more elusive: men. Peter knew his weakness, but Our Lord knew it too. In the end, even though it presented a few more hurdles, Peter’s weakness did not prevent either of them from accomplishing their mission.

Our Lord wants to step into your world. He wants to build the bridge between yours and his. However he invites you, and no matter what your anxiety and concerns, accept his invitation and he will help you to succeed.

Readings: Colossians 1:9–14; Psalm 98:2–6; Luke 5:1–11.

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

Today’s Gospel reminds us that Our Lord intended to spread his Gospel from the beginning. The miraculous healing of Peter’s mother-in-law draws attention: instead of just a fever breaking and the need for more rest, she is completely restored and able to attend to the needs of others. Soon others are bringing their sick, and Our Lord casts out more demons who, like yesterday, continued to try to spoil the surprise that Our Lord was gradually revealing to the people of Israel.

After a night of excitement, Our Lord withdraws to pray, alone and quiet. People are coming to him, and news is starting to spread. The people want him to stay with them and go looking for him for fear he might leave. They soon learn that the Gospel is meant to spread; Our Lord cannot just remain in one house or one town–he wants to personally deliver the message. As the First Reading reminds us, the Gospel continues to bear fruit and grow throughout the entire world.

The Gospel is meant to spread. Let’s examine ourselves today to see whether we’re keeping it all to ourselves or sharing it.

Readings: Colossians 1:1–8; Psalm 52:10–11; Luke 4:38–44.

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

The first spin doctor in salvation history was the serpent, later identified as the Devil, in the Garden of Eden, and in today’s Gospel we see one of his buddies also trying to put some negative spin on Our Lord’s mission by sowing confusion about Our Lord and his mission. Jesus’ listeners are impressed by how authoritatively Our Lord speaks; he does not couch his expressions in disclaimers and qualifiers as the scribes often did, nor tries to put a spin on them. Things seem to be going well when the demon uses its possessed prey to make some noise.

Why does Our Lord silence it before casting it out of the possessed man? Not just because it is making a racket, but probably also because it is trying to identify who Jesus is at an importune moment–it is trying to ruin the surprise Our Lord wants to reveal in his time. Referring to Jesus as the “the Holy One of God” could be interpreted as being the Messiah or even God the Son, and the people were not ready for either of those revelations: there were many expectations about the Messiah that Our Lord had to address, and often correct, throughout his earthly mission, and in today’s Gospel he is barely starting. If the people in that moment realized that God the Son was standing before them, they would have become overwhelmed by fear. However, to be fair, it’s not clear whether the demon recognized Jesus to be anything more than the Messiah in that moment. In any case, the demon does not manage to frustrate Our Lord’s plans (as if it could), and casting it out becomes another sign testifying to the authority and power of Jesus.

There are many things in life that try to frustrate a deeper knowledge of and love for Our Lord in our lives. Let’s examine ourselves today by asking ourselves the question Our Lord once addressed to Peter and the disciples (see Matthew 16:15): “who do you say that I am?”

Readings: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6, 9–11; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13–14; Luke 4:31–37.

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord, by explaining that the prophecy of Isaiah that he had just read for them refers to him, tells his family and friends in the synagogue of his home town that he is the Christ (which literally means “the anointed one”). They weren’t just impressed by his eloquence; they were amazed, and they had heard of the signs that he had performed away from home. In the end they wanted to rely on seeing a miracle to really believe it: they remembered that he is Joseph’s son, therefore descended from the line of David (an important characteristic of the Messiah), but, as the Gospel of John recalls, people were also confused that the Messiah should come from Nazareth instead of Bethlehem (see John 7:42). They didn’t seek to understand and take Jesus’ words on faith; they wanted some flashy proof, or maybe just something to gossip about.

Jesus, using the model with which they were the most familiar, explains in terms of the prophets. He mentions two of the most flashy prophets in terms of miracles–Elijah and Elisha–but he also reminds them that those prophets worked their miracles far from home, when Israel was in dire need and also being punished for its sins. Gauging from their reaction they interpreted Jesus’ words as saying that they weren’t entitled to a miracle, that they weren’t in bad enough a shape to deserve it, and possibly that they needed to repent if they really wanted to improve their situation. As the account goes, they were not happy.

Our Lord reminds us today that faith is always the first step. He is free to affirm our faith however he wishes, because he reveals himself when and how he wishes. Let’s not get locked into expecting a certain thing from him in order to believe; rather, let’s listen in faith to whatever he wants to reveal to us and be grateful that he has revealed himself.

Readings: 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Psalm 96:1, 3–5, 11–13; Luke 4:16–30. See also 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Today’s First Reading reminds us that the purpose of the Law is to enable us to grow closer to God and to show our intelligence and wisdom. In Jesus’ time the Pharisees had derived over six hundred rules and regulations from the Law, but had lost sight of the fundamentals: love for God and neighbor, not just ritual cleanliness. As St. James describes it in the Second Reading, in order to please God we should strive “to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” The world today believes that if something feels good, you should do it, but the world is also witness to how much destructive behavior comes from following that principle. We are wounded by original sin and our own sins; not everything as a result feels good that is good–addicts destroy themselves by trying to feel good. Lots of behavior turns into compulsive behavior that we can’t control: this is a stained heart that Our Lord wants to make clean again through love and mercy.

The Pharisees were focused on externals and had lost sigh of the bigger picture. Our Lord reminds in Today’s Gospel that defilement comes from hearts and endangers other hearts, and we should strive to maintain purity of heart, not just cleanliness. He gives a long list of things that come from defiled hearts and endanger other hearts, and they can all be traced back to someone going overboard in trying to feel “good” and dragging others into their behavior, even through their bad example. St. James in the Second Reading may have spoken of charity toward widows and orphans, but acting in this disordered way is also a lack of charity toward others, since it can lead them to spiritually ruin themselves.

Let’s ask Our Lord to practice charity with all our heart, not only caring for others, but treating them with purity of heart and encouraging them to do the same. In that way we’ll please God and remain close to him.

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:1–2, 6–8; Psalm 15:2–5; James 1:17–18, 21b–22, 27; Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23.