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.

Image result for poison berry bush

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

Today’s Gospel recalls a miracle, but with a bit of a yuck factor. Why does Our Lord have to put spittle in the eyes of the blind man in order to heal him? In that moment of history the spittle of a holy man was believed to have healing properties. It shouldn’t shock us that healing sometimes requires distasteful things: visiting a doctor’s office or a hospital when you’re ailing is rarely fun.

The path to spiritual healing also often involves distasteful things. We have to be nice to unpleasant people. We have to ask forgiveness. We have to cut down on the things we enjoy that are coming between us and our loved ones. We have to be more caring and concerned for everyone. We have to make more time for Our Lord. Like the blind man in today’s Gospel these things open our eyes, little by little, to the bigger picture and help us see that they’re means to an end. Things are not as distasteful if we see them as having a purpose: they can be a medicine for our soul.

The cure is not worse that the disease. Let’s embrace the cure Our Lord offers for whatever spiritually ails us.

Readings: Genesis 8:6–13, 20–22; Psalm 116:12–15, 18–19; Mark 8:22–26.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

Today’s First Reading, a recap of the creation of man and the Lord’s first counsel to him, is in stark contrast to the debates regarding ritual purity in today’s Gospel. At the beginning of history man enjoyed a paradise of God’s design, filled with a life that came from God himself, and the only request in return was to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From its phrasing it is more of a warning of what would happen if Adam did: the Lord was counseling him.

Centuries later man had come up with hundreds of ways to wash himself clean of what we know comes after the story in today’s First Reading. Our Lord makes them remember the garden, the beginning, when everything was good; if Creation made them impure it was because they used Creation impurely. In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament we’re reminded, and Our Lord reiterates in today’s Gospel, that God didn’t create anything evil (Wisdom 1:14–15). Our Lord encourages us to remember that it is in our hands to turn evil back toward good.

We may not restore the beauty of Eden in our earthly lifetime, but we can morally beautify our world. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us turn back the clock on sin through using his Creation to do good.

Readings: Genesis 2:4b–9, 15–17; Psalm 104:1–2a, 27–28, 29b–30; Mark 7:14–23.

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

In yesterday‘s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews describes Christian life as a race to be run, and today the Letter continues by describing the Lord as a loving and demanding parent who tries to bring the best out of us, even when we don’t appreciate it until later on. A coach demands the best from you, even when you don’t feel up to it or able to achieve. A coach who is also a parent knows you inside and out, knows the moment to insist, the moment to praise, the moment to correct.

Sometimes we think the Lord engineers events to make us miserable; it’s as if he’s out to ruin us. The Lord, like a parent, knows that sometimes we have to face trials and difficulties or we’ll never mature: he may not cause a trial or a difficulty, but sometimes he permits it for a greater good.

The little trials we face in life prepare us for greater ones. Let’s ask Our Lord to be the coach today we need.

Readings: Hebrews 12:4–7, 11–15; Psalm 103:1–2, 13–14, 17–18a; Mark 6:1–6. See also Thursday after Epiphany, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday17th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.


2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews presents Melchizedek as someone modeled after Our Lord and his priesthood. Melchizedek is an enigmatic figure in the Old Testament who seems to come out of nowhere, the king of Salem and “priest of God Most High” (see Genesis 14:18). Melchizedek is literally translated as “king of righteousness,” and Salem is translated as “peace” (see Hebrews 7:2). So we’re faced with a king of righteousness and peace who is also priest. Is that starting to sound familiar? In the Letter to the Hebrews a connection is observed: “[Melchizedek] is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever” (Hebrews 7:3). Notice that Melchizedek is like Christ, not the other way around. Unlike the priesthood established with Levi, there’s no need for blood lineage, because heirs only need to take up the mantle when their predecessors pass away, and Our Lord never passes away. He is not only full of life; his life is eternal, so he exercises his priesthood forever.

The Gospel reminds us today that Our Lord wants to give life in season and out of season. The Pharisees want observance; Our Lord wants to heal. What’s worse, he reads their hearts and knows they want to condemn him for healing on the Sabbath. Mark notes that Our Lord observes their attitude with anger, but then grieves at their hardness of heart. He not only wants to restore the withered hand of a man; he wants to restore the hearts of the Pharisees as well. The hand is restored, but the hearts are not.

Our Lord is full of life, and he wants to give that life to us. Let’s open our hearts to his blessing so that he can fill us with his life and transform us.

Readings: Hebrews 7:1–3, 15–17; Psalm 110:1–4; Mark 3:1–6. See also 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.