17th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

Having a life-changing experience of faith is much like taking a journey: you learn so much, but those who haven’t made the journey and haven’t had the same experience don’t share the same enthusiasm. With our family and friends we’ve journeyed together for years; for some it’s been a journey of faith, for others just lives shared along the way. So when we make this sudden “journey” and experience of faith and conversion it’s understandable that they may be skeptical, even incredulous, when we change our life and suggest they change theirs. We should all be headed in the same direction–Heaven–and we need to help each other get there on the best path possible. If we think we know a shortcut, of course we’re going to try to share it. In the case of sharing the faith, it’s not just a question of faith in God, but our friends and loved ones having faith in us as well: a lack of faith in either will be an obstacle for them.

In today’s Gospel Jesus, who’s not only been to Heaven and back, but started there before he came here, is trying to share the faith with those he’s known and loved the most in his earthly life. They didn’t believe he was any more than the carpenter’s son they’d known for years. They’d heard he’d done amazing things, but they didn’t believe. His message was to repent and believe in the Gospel, and they were offended that someone they thought they knew since he was little should suggest something like that to them, independently of whether his words were true or not.

If this happened to Our Lord we shouldn’t be discouraged if we received the same skepticism from our family and friends when we try to share our faith with them. They may see us as arrogant, judgmental, even weird, but we must continue with patient endurance to help them see how much God means to us and wants to mean to them. Let’s ask Our Lord to open the hearts of those we love who are not living the Gospel so that they can make the journey of conversion and faith as well.

Readings: Leviticus 23:1, 4–11, 15–16, 27, 34b–37; Psalm 81:3–6, 10–11b; Matthew 13:54–58. See also 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord describes the “Kingdom of heaven” with regard to the end game. If we understand the Kingdom as not only the work of salvation, but all the other natural goods that in some way result from that work–a healthy society, solid families, true concern for the spiritual and material needs of others, etc.–we can understand how it is not just identified with the people who are actively working to be a part of it and to extend it. All kinds of “fish” end up in the “net.” Like any society there are good members and bad members, and part of society’s duty is to help all its members be good members of society, even, when necessary, through penal measures applied to those who are bad with the hope of helping them to reform themselves and to not present a danger to themselves or to society.

At the end of history, when the work of the Kingdom has definitively run its course and reached everywhere Our Lord wants it to be (and that, in the end, is everywhere and everyone), no one will remain unaffected or beyond its reach. That could be a chilling thought if we didn’t remember that the Kingdom equates to salvation and a good and just order of things that spreads and takes hold forever. Each person in the end chooses how they’ll end up in the Kingdom, in that “net”: the bad will have squandered all their opportunities to be good and will be cut off from the goods of the Kingdom forever. The good, through their efforts and God’s aid and mercy, will enjoy a beatific life: they will possess God and receive all the promises Our Lord made on the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5:1–12) in full. We must work for the good of others, not just our own good, but in the end each person will stand or fall on his or her own merits and no one will be able to ride on another’s coat tails at the moment of Judgement.

Let’s thank Our Lord for all those opportunities he gives us daily to be good, and let’s pray and work for the conversion of sinners so that we may all one day be found worthy to be a part of the the Kingdom forever.

Readings: Exodus 40:16–21, 34–38; Psalm 84:3–6a, 8a, 11; Matthew 13:47–53.


St. Martha

In today’s Gospel the story of Martha reminds us that faith is not just an action; it is a journey, and that journey can take us to unexpected and unimaginable places. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of a faith that is fixed on a specific desired outcome: I believe, and I want this to happen. Faith has to always be exercised with a spirit of openness to the will of God: there are certain outcomes we’d like, but God is free to act as he chooses and in a way we may not expect.

Martha today shows a faith that is open to whatever Our Lord can do. When Jesus reminds her that her brother Lazarus will rise, she thinks Our Lord is consoling her with the Jewish belief in a resurrection at the end of time. She had placed her faith in Jesus coming and healing Lazarus before his death, but she also believed Our Lord could ask anything from God. She didn’t imagine that “anything” would be raising Lazarus from the dead then and there, after he’d been in the grave for three days. Imagine her surprise and delight when Our Lord ordered the tomb to be opened and called Lazarus out. Her faith led her to something unexpected and unimaginable: her dead brother restored to her, alive and healthy.

Faith is not just an action; it is a journey. Let’s ask Our Lord to help us always to ask for what we need, but also to go from there along whatever path of faith he reveals to us.

Readings: John 11:19–27.

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In order to understand the parable being explained in today’s Gospel (the parable is presented in Matthew 13:24–30, just after the parable of the sower), of weeds being sown by an enemy among someone’s wheat crop, it’s important to understand that a certain kind of weed, the bearded darnel, looked very similar to the wheat sown in the time of Our Lord in Palestine and could be mistaken for wheat. Therefore the man in the parable decides to wait until harvest time to separate them when it’s more easy to distinguish them.

With the parable of the sower that we considered a few days ago we saw some potential obstacles to God’s word bearing fruit in our lives. If we let his word take root in us, we become those wheat stalks in today’s parable that grow and bear fruit. Sadly the Devil, the fallen angels who rebelled with him, and sinful people tempt and corrupt others, and those who succumb to it are like the weeds explained in today’s parable: they grow by feeding off of others and choking those trying to grow around them, and, in the end, their lives are fruitless. Perhaps some of them don’t even realize until the end that they’ve lived their lives as weeds, not as wheat, and some evils can appear to be good. Our Lord teaches us today that evil is present and active in the world, sometimes not easily detected, and it will not be definitively overcome until he returns in glory. In the meanwhile, we must persevere in hope and virtue and not become discouraged when it seems evil is widespread and winning.

Let’s pray today for the conversion of all those “weeds” in the world today, for the courage to persevere in the face of evil, and for the wisdom to tell between the weeds and the wheat in our world.

Readings: Exodus 33:7–11, 34:5b–9, 28; Psalm 103:6–13; Matthew 13:36–43.

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s Gospel one of the images Our Lord uses to describe the Kingdom of heaven is a women mixing yeast with flower to make sure the whole batch is  leavened. As bakers know, if there’s not yeast, the bread does not rise. In some recipes when the yeast is not mixed well with the flour the result is something tough and chewy. Wherever Christianity is found we know the Kingdom of God is very active, provided those believers are living their faith. Christianity has spread throughout history and had a great influence on Western and Eastern culture, independently of the spiritual benefits it has brought. It may not be always identified with society, but it elevates society and culture, much like that leaven helps the bread to rise, but also needs to spread out in order to be effective. God-willing it will help society and culture to “rise”all the way to the Resurrection.

The benefits of the Kingdom of God go beyond benefiting believers spiritually even today: good things happen as a result of good spiritual things happening, even among non-believers. When secularizing trends attempt to relegate Christianity to individuals almost in the privacy of their own home, that leaven is staying clumped together and not really helping society to its full potential. As Christians we are called to go everywhere and proclaim the Gospel; by doing so we are spreading the “leaven” throughout society that helps all of society to “rise,” spiritually and culturally.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to show us how to be better leaven in our social and cultural circles, and ask him to help us have to courage to take the Gospel out into the streets and into the world in which we live.

Readings: Exodus 32:15–24, 30–34; Psalm 106:19–23; Matthew 13:31–35. See also 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.