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.

Image result for crucifix painting

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

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. After receiving a lot of rejection and hostility from those who were first on the list of invitees, the king broadened his invitation and, as the parable says, the good and the bad arrived. If this parable speaks to us of Heaven it’s also a reminder that God is merciful and good, but in the 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.

Let’s thank Our Lord today for inviting us to his Heavenly Banquet by welcoming his invitation and getting ready for the party through a holy life.

Readings: Judges 11:29–39a; Psalm 40:5, 7–10; Matthew 22:1–14.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that it doesn’t matter when we start to help to extend the Kingdom of heaven, but that we extend it. We’ll be rewarded fairly, even generously, for our labors, and we shouldn’t fall into envy if it seems someone has had an easier time of it or came late to the party. In Jesus’ time a day’s wage was exactly that: it enabled the worker to live for a day. There was not much surplus wealth, and charging someone interest for borrowing something was a sin known as usury.

The workers who came late to the vineyard needed a full day’s wage in order to provide for themselves and for their families. Anyone who is trying to support their family through a part time job knows it is not the same as a full time job. The landowner is helping people who really need it. An attitude of envy sees someone else’s gain as our loss. We should be thankful for the ability to earn a living for ourselves and our families, and also be grateful when someone else in difficulty receives a little help too.

Let’s count our blessings today and be thankful to Our Lord not only for the blessings we receive, but for those he has given to others as well. That’s the best remedy to envy.

Readings: Judges 9:6–15; Psalm 21:2–7; Matthew 20:1–16.

20th Week in Ordinary Time,Tuesday

Today’s Gospel must be understood in the aftermath of yesterday’s regarding the young man who did not want to give up his possessions. The disciples were taken aback by what happened: in the mentality of the time, material wealth was a sign of having the blessing of God, and Our Lord told the young man that it was an obstacle to attaining eternal life. We can succumb to the same mentality today: we think that if we are successful, healthy, and worry-free, God is blessing us. Those are gifts to be thankful for, but problems and difficulties are gifts as well, because they help us to imitate Christ through taking up our cross to follow him. That’s the lesson Our Lord is trying to teach us today.

If Our Lord asks us to separate ourselves from our loved ones, our possessions, or our country for his sake, he promises that we will be blessed a hundred fold and inherit eternal life. This is not just an investment with a promise of a good return; it is a promise that those people and places that we love will also be blessed through our sacrifice. We becomes part of a larger family that does not exclude the biological family from which we must spend time apart, and we are promised a greater home than we could have ever imagined, our true home: Heaven.

Let’s not be shy about separating from the people we love if Our Lord asks it of us, knowing that it will not only be an act of love for him, but a blessing for our loved ones as well.

Readings: Judges 6:11–24a; Psalm 85:9, 11–14; Matthew 19:23–30.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

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 young man did today, “What do I still lack?” It’s no coincidence that today’s First Reading speaks of idolatry and the misfortunes of Israel when they chose other gods and, when God delivered them through the judges, lapsed back into their old ways. 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 take up our cross every day and follow him. The cross implies that tough choices for the sake of Our Lord have to be made.

The young man today made the wrong choice. He had tried to live the commandments, but he was attached to his possessions. Our Lord made him choose, and that revealed an idolatry we can suffer from today: putting people, situations, and things before God. 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 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: Judges 2:11–19; Psalm 106:34–37, 39–40, 43ab, 44; Matthew 19:16–22. See also 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I