4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

In the First Reading today Jeremiah receives a mission to be a bearer of a message to his own people that they don’t want to hear. The Lord encourages him not to be discouraged and to be firm. The Kingdom of Judah, due to its infidelities, is going to be conquered by the Babylonians, and Jeremiah is told to deliver that message and to have Judah surrender so that their punishment is more lenient due to their repentance. Due to his message he is imprisoned, branded a traitor, and threatened with death multiple times. In the end Babylon conquers Judah the hard way and Judah suffers all the more for it.

In today’s Second Reading Paul describes love as something that can take a lot of punishment. Jeremiah loved the Lord and he loved Judah: the Lord was administering tough love to an obstinate people, and Jeremiah needed to be the messenger of that tough love, despite the hatred he received from his people as a result. Our Lord in today’s Gospel probably had Jeremiah’s mission in mind when he said a prophet was without honor in his own country. His childhood friends and loved ones wanted a stage show. Like Judah, they expected a miracle from the Lord that they didn’t deserve. When Jesus’ love gets tough, they show how poor their love is in comparison, but Jesus’ doesn’t diminish a bit.

Today’s readings speak to those on both sides of this conversation: those trying to communicate a hard truth to those they love, and those who spurn that hard truth. Let’s pray to be strong in truth and love when we’re called to share it with those we love, and let’s also accept with humility and love those messengers who help us try to see the truth more clearly as well.

Readings: Jeremiah 1:4–5, 17–19; Psalm 71:1–6, 15, 17; 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:13; Luke 4:21–30. See also 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B17th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, and Thursday after Epiphany.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s First Reading the Lord sends the prophet Nathan to David to see how sound David’s moral reasoning is, only to “hang him” with it. David sizes up perfectly the scenario of the rich man who takes the poor man’s only lamb instead of using one of his own to entertain a guest. In David’s time polygamy was practiced, and he had multiple wives, but Uriah the Hittite only had one. In committing adultery with Uriah’s wife David took what did not belong to him, and he didn’t give a thought to Uriah, except to murder him in order to cover up his sin, as we saw yesterday. David was fully aware of what he was doing, which made his sin even more serious.

Unlike Saul, who made an effort to justify his sin, David knew all his schemes to cover up what he had done were now revealed to be futile, and acknowledged his sin before the Lord. He was repentant for what he had done, but, as the First Reading also reminds us today, the effects of sin remain even when sins are forgiven. In Catholic teaching we call this the temporal effects of sin: Uriah is not coming back from the dead, nor the men that died alongside him in the battle, and now David’s child by Uriah’s wife is struck mortally ill as well.

Sin leaves its mark, even when we’re repentant for it. Even hardened sinners will admit to that. Let’s continue to detest sin in our lives, not just because of what it does to us, but because of what it does to others as well.

Readings: 2 Samuel 12:1–7a, 10–17; Psalm 51:12–17; Mark 4:35–41. See also 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B13th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, and Wednesday after Epiphany.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday

Today’s First Reading reminds us that if, as we saw yesterday, we’re expected to shine before Our Lord, sin makes us want to keep things in the dark, but our conscience keeps a blazing spotlight on the wrong we have done. David should have been out on the military campaign with his troops, but instead he stays back and fools around with another man’s wife. Maybe he thought it would just stay as a one time fling, but she becomes pregnant. He tries to cover it up by making her husband Uriah go visit home when Israel is at arms, but Uriah doesn’t go. So instead of coming clean and bringing things to the light, he has Uriah killed in combat as another way to cover up what he has done.

Uriah, without saying a word or knowing anything about what happened, filled David with shame. Uriah had been faithful to his wife and his king. He had gone out in campaign when Israel had needed it, and he did not think of himself when visiting home. He wanted to show David his loyalty and fidelity by not going home to be with his wife when David and Israel needed him ready for battle. He probably did it also out of solidarity with all his brother soldiers who didn’t have an opportunity to be with their loved ones. His noble example screamed at David showing him everything he was supposed to be as king. Uriah’s reward was being murdered.

We’ve all had moments when our conscience has tried to be our guide, but we have ignored it. We’ve all had moments when someone’s good example has reminded us of how bad we’ve been. When we sin we betray our conscience, and it reminds us as we keep sinning that we’re only digging a deeper hole for ourselves until we come clean. Ask Our Lord for the grace to come clean and seek his mercy in the sacrament of Confession and your shame turn into peace of soul.

Readings: 2 Samuel 11:1–4a, 5–10a, 13–17; Psalm 51:3–7, 10–11; Mark 4:26–34. See also 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B and 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

Today’s First Reading shows the difference between how David lived his mission as king of Israel (and succeeded) and how Saul did (and failed): David sought to make the Lord shine in the presence of Israel by building a Temple for him, and Saul tried to make himself shine at the Lord’s expense by disobeying the Lord to score political points with Israel and giving the impression that the Lord approved. David was rewarded, as we saw yesterday, with the Lord’s promise of a house that would endure forever, in contrast the Saul being told by Samuel that his house was to end (and so it did).

David in today’s First Reading shows that he realizes his purpose is to second whatever the Lord asks of him as the key to a successful and happy life for him and for Israel. The Lord sees whether our hearts shine or not; appearances can only go skin deep. David realizes that the Lord took him from being nobody and made him king for the benefit of Israel, in service to the Lord; Saul became enslaved to public opinion and in so doing did not serve the Lord or Israel. In David’s prayer today he acknowledges how blessed Israel is to be the Lord’s people, not how lucky they are to have king David. If David asks that his house endure forever, it is only because the Lord promised it first; he would never have asked for it out of ambition. David didn’t seek for his house to endure forever, but the Lord promised it to him. Saul did a lot of bad things to try and make his house endure, and his house ended.

Let’s learn today from David’s prayer and attitude. Sometimes Our Lord in prayer helps to see what we should pray for and what we should not. That requires not just speaking in prayer, but listening as well. If we ask him to help us do whatever makes him shine in the eyes of men in service to them we know we’re on the right track. Let’s examine our lives today and see if there’s anything in them where we’re making ourselves shine at the Lord’s expense and to the disservice of our brothers and sisters. If we make him shine, if we give glory to him through our life, we will shine as well and serve others.

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:18–19, 24–29; Psalm 132:1–5, 11–14; Mark 4:21–25.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s First Reading David wants to build a Temple for the Lord, the first Jewish Temple, and the Lord in return promises to build a dynasty that will usher in Israel’s peace and security for all eternity. The initiative to build the Temple was David’s alone: as the Lord explains today, he didn’t ask for it or expect it from David. We know we should not displease God, but we should also strive to please him. He has blessed us with freedom so that we can spontaneously please him. We can’t surprise him with our initiative, since he is all-knowing, but we can please him with our initiative.

Jesus, the Messiah descended from David, would be the King whose reign would usher in peace and security for all eternity. The way we build our lives is the way we build our eternity. If we build our lives in a way pleasing to God he will not be outdone in generosity and will build an eternity of happiness for us and for those we love. The Lord did not just reward David for his thoughtful gesture; he blessed Israel forever. We too, when we build our lives in a way that pleases God, don’t just gather blessings for ourselves, but for many. That desire to simply please God and win blessings for others, expecting nothing for ourselves, is the greatest expression of selflessness.

Let’s strive to make our life something we build in appreciation for all God has done for us, and for the sake of others. That’s the best way to please God.

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4–17; Psalm 89:4–5, 27–30; Mark 4:1–20. See also 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and Friday, and 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.