29th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel Peter asks Our Lord to explain the teaching we heard in yesterday‘s Gospel: was the teaching about vigilance only for the Twelve, or for everyone? Our Lord repeats the need for vigilance, and then explains the fate of servants who do not their master’s will. As believers we are servants of God and servants of others, but that doesn’t take away our freedom: we can be faithful servants or rotten ones. The choice is ours, but with that freedom comes responsibility.

Our Lord presents three bad examples of servants: a servant who acts out of malice and disqualifies himself, a servant who knows what is expected and doesn’t do it, and a servant who doesn’t know what is expected and doesn’t do it. All these servants are punished, but each according to the degree of their mistake. Malicious servants are completely cast out: they’re numbered among the “unfaithful”–these are the slaves of sin that Paul refers to in the First Reading who think they’re are free in their actions, but are only heaping sorrow upon themselves. Servants who know what to do, but don’t are seriously punished–like the servant who buried the talent (see Luke 19:11–27 and Matthew 25:18,24-30) entrusted to him by his master when he was expected to invest it, the master condemns him for his timidity and lack of simple effort. Lastly, servants who didn’t know what to do also receive punishment: ignorance is not bliss. They may have been hindered by their ignorance, but Our Lord is clear that they too should have known what to do and done it.

Our Lord at the end answers Peter’s question: Peter really wants to know what’ll happen to him and the apostles if they’re unfaithful, and Jesus speaks to that point. Every believer has been entrusted with a mission to serve God and spread the Gospel, but not all of them in the same way and to the same degree. What every believer has in common is that, for them, the mission will be demanding. Let’s examine today whether we consider following Christ to be demanding. If we don’t, Our Lord teaches us the ways today to examine our lives and make any necessary corrections: to see if we’re serving self-interest and sin more than him, whether we’re doing what he expects of us, or whether there’s something that he expects of us and we don’t realize it. In prayer the Holy Spirit will help you find out, ask the Spirit to shed light on your life.

Readings: Romans 6:12–18; Psalm 124:1b–8; Luke 12:39–48.

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord starts to shift to encouraging his disciples regarding his return at the end of time: the “wedding” of the Lamb is fulfilled in Heaven after his Ascension. He exhorts them to vigilance: ready to serve at any time, and under any conditions, day or night (hence the lamp), at home or travelling (hence girded for a trip). He tells them his return could be quick or be long, but that they should be ready, whether late at night or early in the morning.

He also describes how pleased he’d be to find them ready: can you imagine someone after a long trip making his servants sit down and waiting on them instead of the other way around? That shows even he considers himself the servant-in-chief. He wants his servants to share in the joy of a job well done.

Our Lord will return at the end of time, but for each of us, at the end of our life, we can expect an encounter with him as well. Ask yourself today how you’d react if Our Lord showed up right now on your doorstep. Is there anything to which you should have attended, but haven’t? Are you excited at the thought of his return? Persevere in hope and trust.

Readings: Romans 5:12, 15b, 17–19, 20b–21; Psalm 40:7–10, 17; Luke 12:35–38.

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord is teaching and someone from the crowd suddenly asks him to be a mediator in a dispute between him and his brother. When inheritances divide families it is never a good thing. Our Lord, rightly, points out that he’s teaching, not holding court, and warns the man not to make possessions the purpose of his life. As he reminds us in the parable today, and we all know, you can’t take it with you. Amassing a fortune for yourself, and just yourself, is an exercise in futility. The rich man in today’s parable doesn’t think of family, or friends, or community: he just wants a big barn of grain to provide for himself. Whether he was thinking of a long retirement, early or otherwise, God had other plans and expectations.

Today’s First Reading reminds us that as believers in Christ we have become heirs to the only fortune that really matters. We receive a pledge of it in this life, and, after our death, we come into our full inheritance, an inheritance that lasts forever: the justification and righteousness Paul describes is a communion of life and love with God. We begin it in this life through faith and baptism. We amass its wealth through leading a holy life and seeking to help others to inherit it as well, and we enjoy its fruits together with those we love in eternity. It reminds us that we are sons and daughters of the greatest Father imaginable, with the greatest big brother to boot, a brother who is not shy about sharing his inheritance with us, even when we don’t deserve it.

Let’s focus today on the true inheritance for which we’ve already received a deposit: life in communion with God and with others. Let’s ask Our Lord to show us how we can share this inheritance with others as well.

Readings: Romans 4:20–25; Luke 1:69–75; Luke 12:13–21.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s Gospel James and John are seeking glory, but they don’t entirely understand the path to it or the kind of glory to be won. Our Lord works with them; he doesn’t simply tell them they’re being ambitious and should focus on other things. Followers of Christ will be glorified if they persevere in the faith, but it’s the Lord who sets the terms as to what that glory consists of and how to get there. We can contemplate earthly glories and they pale in comparison to what awaits us in eternity. James and John think they know exactly what they want, but it is a vision of glory tainted by their ignorance and by visions of earthly glory.

When Our Lord asks them if they’re prepared to do what it takes to achieve glory, he speaks of a cup to drink and a baptism to receive. At Gethsemane we see that the cup is the Passion: it is suffering, just as it was foretold in today’s First Reading, which speaks of the Suffering Servant. Suffering has a purpose in this case: through Christ’s suffering, his “descendants” will receive a long life, the Lord’s will is accomplished, and many are justified. He too shall “see the light in its fullness.” In the Second Reading we see the glory that Our Lord received for drinking the cup of suffering: our High Priest in Heaven, a reward for enduring the trials that were sent his way. Suffering and trials are the path to glory for a disciple of Christ, but not senselessly: through suffering and trials we too serve others and give our lives for them to be “ransomed” from sin.

James and John were bold in seeking glory, and we have an advantage over them: we have seen the path to glory that Our Lord has traced out for us. Let’s seek the glory that not only benefits us, but others as well: a glory only won through suffering and trials for the sake of others in imitation of Christ.

Readings: Isaiah 53:10–11; Psalm 33:4–5, 18–20, 22; Hebrews 4:14–16; Mark 10:35–45.

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord continues to encourage the disciples and warn them not to fall into the mistakes of the Pharisees and scribes who don’t believe in him, as in yesterday‘s Gospel. Today he speaks of the protagonism of the Holy Spirit in helping us all to be a “Church which goes forth,” as Pope Francis encourages us to be in Evangelii Gaudium. It’s true that we can’t do it on our own, but we’re not on our own. As Our Lord reminds us today, when we’re put on trial for our faith, whether in a court or in the public square, we shouldn’t be afraid of becoming tongue-tied: the Holy Spirit will help us get our message across.

In the first generations of Christianity non-believers were amazed that even Christian children, by repeating the catechism they’d received, showed an amazing solidity in their arguments that reflected a sound philosophy and way of living. The first chronicles of martyrs show them to express conviction and radiate peace in the face of impending torture and death. The Holy Spirit helps the Word take root in our hearts and become virtue and conviction, but only if we are open to what the Spirit invites us to do, even in little things. Jesus warns us today about the fate of those who ignore or insult the Holy Spirit in big things. A Christian under fire will invoke the Holy Spirit for help, but that shouldn’t be the only moment he or she does: the Holy Spirit is always working in our hearts, in little and hidden ways, and by listening to the Spirit and letting the Spirit shape our lives, we’ll become those witnesses to Christ that the world needs.

Let’s thank the Holy Spirit for always being with us and working in our souls, and ask the Spirit to keep helping us to be a “Church which goes forth.”

Readings: Romans 4:13, 16–18; Psalm 105:6–9, 42–43; Luke 12:8–12.