30th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

Is doing good and glorifying God ever inappropriate? In today’s Gospel the leader of the synagogue seems to think so. He’s become so disconnected from the common sense the members of the synagogue show in the face of a miracle that it makes us wonder in what his idea of religion consists. He seems to have the attitude more of a swimming pool monitor than a religious leader, and he’s not along: Our Lord responds in the plural. They’re so off base that when Our Lord presents them with common sense they’re humiliated before the very people they’re supposed to be serving.

We run the same risk when our faith becomes a bunch of rules and regulations and we lose sight of what all those rules and regulations are for: doing good and glorifying God. Our common sense doesn’t get put on hold when living a life of faith: it is enriched by faith. It’s all built on loving God and loving others. If either of those two priorities are lost, we can rightfully question whether we are doing any good or glorifying God.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to give us that dose of Gospel common sense that wards off living our faith like swimming pool monitors.

Readings: Romans 8:12–17; Psalm 68:2, 4, 6–7b, 20–21; Luke 13:10–17.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s First Reading Jeremiah describes the gathering of the scattered Israelites in exile as a sort of new Exodus, a new pilgrimage, where even the weak, sick, and helpless will not be left behind. It is a return to the Promised Land for everyone, despite their failings and limitations, with the Lord guiding and leading them, leaving the tears of exile and separation behing in order to return to joy.

In today’s Gospel we see Our Lord starting to gather together everyone and lead them. Crowds are starting to follow him, and in Biblical symbolism moving away from Jericho is often considered as moving away from sin, especially when heading from there to Jerusalem. In the midst of all the excitement we find poor and blind Bartimaeus, who is stuck. He ekes out an existence begging and knows with his blindness that going anywhere is difficult if not impossible. He hears the commotion and doesn’t know it is Jesus of Nazareth passing by, but when he does, he starts to beg Our Lord for mercy. The people in the crowd try to silence him, probably thinking he’s giving the same old line he uses for begging from others, but, as the Second Reading reminds us, our High Priest is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring: Jeremiah said no one would be left behind, and Our Lord is fulfilling that prophecy and curing the crowds from a spiritual blindness toward another’s needs. Jesus restores Bartimaeus’ sight and Bartimaeus joins the pilgrimage too: the Lord is leading him to a more joyous life.

When we are stuck in life, especially spiritually, struggling with our faults and failings and unsure how to get out of the rut we’re in, we too can ask the Lord for help. He will help us see a way forward, but not just a few directions to get us down the road: he will help us see so that we can follow him to where we truly need to go. Let’s follow him and also imitate him, not leaving anyone behind.

Readings: Jeremiah 31:7–9; Psalm 126:1–6; Hebrews 5:1–6; Mark 10:46–52.

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord is addressing and correcting a common misconception that has plagued the Israelites for a long time: the belief that bad things only happen to bad people, therefore they are always the punishment of God for being bad. This tendency is seen throughout the Old Testament, but the debate comes to a head in the book of Job where a just man is afflicted by misfortune and has to convince his “friends” that he’d done no wrong. Various psalms are those of a just man questioning why it seems the wicked are successful and healthy while the just are poor and afflicted. The question of evil and why God allows it is not just theological, but philosophical: we’re quick to blame God for every bad thing that happens to us and to others, or see evil as a reason for denying God’s existence at all.

The irony of this is that we blame a remote God for inflicting these things on people when God the Son has become flesh, preached mercy and salvation, worked miracles, suffered, and died on the Cross for our sins. God is involved, but he is involved in trying to rescue us from the true peril Our Lord reminds us of today: sin, the consequences of which lead to a result more horrible than being slaughtered by a corrupt leader for your political views or having a tower collapse on you: separation from God forever and eternal failure in life. Our Lord today bursts the bubble of those who think it’ll never happen to them because things seem to be going fine in life: good job, good health, etc. Sin and salvation operate on a different level and are not so easily identified without his help and his grace.

It’s no coincidence that Our Lord includes the parable of tending the fig tree along with this warning: it’s a reminder that God is not waiting for us to fail, but trying to help us to succeed in what really matters. Bad things happen to good people, and it is unpleasant; it stinks. Misfortune helps us to evaluate our life and make the necessary course corrections when we can: that applies to sinners as well as saints. We are that fig tree, Our Lord is the gardener who is willing to keep trying to nurture us in order to produce the fruit that is expected of us, and the master is Our Heavenly Father who comes back over and over again and is not quick to give up and easily convinced to keep giving another chance. Let’s respond today by examining our life and getting it on track, trusting that Our Lord is not waiting to bust us, but is at our side, helping us to succeed in what really matters.

Readings: Romans 8:1–11; Psalm 24:1–4b, 5–6; Luke 13:1–9.

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

Our Lord invites us in today’s Gospel to seek the deeper signs of our world, good and bad, and act on them. When he uses the example of rain or hot weather he is chiding us for focusing on things that are often fleeting and superficial–a weather report is almost obsolete as soon as it’s presented–but he is also encouraging us to see that we can perceive greater and more important trends in our lives and in our culture, good trends (like rain for good crops) and bad (like hot weather that withers and dries up crops), and do something about them.

In the First Reading St. Paul describes signs of a battle being waged in each of us: a battle between doing what we know to be right and overcoming that tendency in us to do what is evil, even when we know it to be wrong. Paul invokes Our Lord as the only force able to help break this interior stalemate. We can feel stormy moments and we can feel the heat of our actions, but we know Our Lord will help us to overcome them. At the same time Our Lord in today’s Gospel reminds us that we have to be proactive: we can’t put off reconciling with him or with others unless we want to face justice after squandering many opportunities to come to terms.

Our Lord tells us today that the signs are there if we want to look. Let’s ask him to help us recognize them and act on them for the good.

Readings: Romans 7:18–25a; Psalm 119:66, 68, 76–77, 93–94; Luke 12:54–59.

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

Taking our faith more seriously and making the commitment to live it often means becoming a sign of contradiction, not just for today’s culture, but even for our family and friends. Accepting Christ’s invitation to repentance and belief is accepting Christ into your life as your best friend and more. For those who knew you before, it may seem like instead of your life being turned around by Christ, it has been turned upside down: they may see Christ as a rival for your affections, and that puts many converts into the difficult situation of having to choose between their loved ones and God. With your change in lifestyle they may see a condemnation of their own and blame the messenger (you), not the message, or simply not understand what has happened.

Our Lord doesn’t promise an easy solution to this dilemma. Everyone has to choose their path in this life, and conversion can imply a radical change in direction that others are unwilling or, at their moment of life, unable to do. All those paths are meant to converge in Christ, and for many people there are no shortcuts, or wrong turns that require time to recover from. This does not mean questioning our commitment to Christ; rather, it means patience and charity toward those we know and love, tactfully helping them where we can and entrusting them to the Lord where we can’t, knowing that the goal is help everyone where they’re at to advance along the path that Christ wishes to show them.

Let’s pray today that everyone may trust in the Lord, knowing, as today’s Psalm reminds us, that it’s the path to a blessed life.

Readings: Romans 6:19–23; Psalm 1:1–4, 6; Luke 12:49–53.