9th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul encourages Timothy to proclaim the word, and not just in favorable conditions. Timothy would face adversity; people would prefer easier, apparent truths to the truth they needed for their salvation.

This mission is a question of attitude as much as it is duty. In today’s Gospel one person gets it right: the widow, who is generous and gives her very livelihood. The scribes do things for the prestige involved, and the rich to a certain degree as well, since they are only giving out of their surplus. We may not have the same mission as Timothy, but we can have the same attitude as the poor widow: sharing our talents with sacrifice and devotion to those who need them.

Let’s ask Paul and Timothy to intercede for us today so that we can use out talents boldly for the cause of the Gospel.

Readings: 2 Timothy 4:1–8; Psalm 71:8–9, 14–15b, 16–17, 22; Mark 12:38–44. See also  34th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.


Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle C

In today’s Gospel today Our Lord reminds us that he doesn’t want to leave even one soul unturned. He encourages us to go out from the ninety-nine sheep even to find one lost sheep. When someone is conducting a search, as the expression goes, they leave no stone unturned. Our Lord is telling us that we must leave no soul unturned. The word “conversion” literally means, in the original Latin, “turning around.” Every soul that turns back to him causes a celebration in Heaven, because, as Our Lord describes it in the words of the Prodigal Son’s father: “your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

The First Reading reminds us that this is so important to God that he personally takes charge of leaving no soul unturned. The first part of the prophecy of Ezekiel laments that the shepherds of Israel (the kings), had watched over their stomachs more than their flocks, so the Lord takes charge. A little later in this prophecy the Lord says, “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.” When we put this into New Testament language, we are talking about a Father and Son operation. The Holy Spirit is involved too, inspiring Ezekiel, and pouring God’s love into our hearts, as the Second Reading reminds us today.

The Second Reading also reminds us that there is only one motivation for being our shepherd and laying down his life for us: love. The hired hands run for it when the wolves start showing up. Vigilantes leave no stone unturned and take personal charge of justice when they search for a criminal, but Our Lord does something incredible with the “criminal” instead: he dies for that criminal to be reconciled to God. He takes the penalty, the scourges, the death sentence. If the sheep is far away from the flock, Jesus throws himself right into the jaws of the wolf so that someday that sheep may live. If a soul doesn’t turn after that, nothing will turn it.

The Song of Songs reminds us, “love is strong as death, … Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned” (Songs 8:6-7). You cannot put a price on love—no paycheck, no bounty. Knowing this makes the words of the Psalm our own: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Even if we have a part in helping lead sheep back to the head Shepherd, we remain sheep and he remains our Shepherd. That should fill us with gratitude and trust in him. Even when we walk in the dark valley filled with fear of evil. We must lead others to him, and let ourselves be led by him in everything we do. Conversion is a life-long process for us all. Jesus doesn’t just come running by to give us directions when we’re lost and then speed off to the next lost sheep. He gathers us together and leads us to rest and greener pastures and through those dark valleys, so we have to let him continue to turn our souls toward him. Let’s help him leave no soul unturned.

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11–16; Psalm 23:1–6; Second Reading Romans 5:5b–11; Luke 15:3–7. See also 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


9th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul reminds us that while you can imprison bearers of the truth, the truth itself can never be contained. The truth that remains free in Paul’s mind, even while he sits in prison, is to remember Jesus Christ, that he has risen from the dead, and that he is the Messiah, descended from King David. In these few words he reminds us of the truth on which we should focus and to which we should bear witness: Jesus Christ is the Savior and has conquered death. No prison can diminish that truth. Paul endures everything because of that truth, because it translates into his mission as well, and his mission continues even in chains when he offers his sufferings for others, just as we can.

Due to this truth we are the beneficiaries of promises. If we die in Christ, we will live in him too. Through fidelity to the truth in his service any trials and difficulties we face will one day draw to an end. Our core mission is to give witness to him; he watches over and cares for his own, even when they fall away from caring about him. The Gospel message is simple. It can be difficult, but by adhering to its core we will help spread the Good News and not get bogged down in debates. The measure of that is recalled in today’s Gospel: love for God and love for neighbor.

Examine your life today and see whether you’ve denied Christ in some way or lost your Gospel focus. He is always faithful and will welcome you back on track with open arms. Trust in his promises.

Readings: 2 Timothy 2:8–15; Psalm 25:4–5b, 8–10, 14; Mark 12:28–34. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

9th Week of Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul encourages Timothy to stoke up the fire he received through ordination, a gift to enable him to fulfill his vocation. As Paul reminds us, Christ saved us and called us to a holy life, and that desire stemmed not from something we earned, but from his saving designs and the gift of his grace. Paul is speaking not only to his colleague, but to his successor; in prison it is easy to see the day when someone else has to take up your work, and Timothy would be understandably concerned if his friend and mentor was imprisoned and the work of spreading the Gospel was left to him. Yet it would be soon, and Paul encourages Timothy to not let his concerns defeat him, but instead to stoke up the fire of love that conquers all in order to embolden him in his noble calling and mission.

Our Lord calls us all to help him spread his Good News, each according to his condition or state of life. This is not something we do out of a strained sense of obligation, a narrow-minded attitude reflected in the limited understanding of marriage and its obligations that the Sadducees try to present today to Jesus as a problem discrediting the possibility of the Resurrection. Rather, it is something that stems from the new life that we have received in Christ. We may not all be called to be priests, but we are all called to stoke up the fire of the gifts we’ve received from Our Lord in order to share the Gospel with zeal and enthusiasm.

If you consider the gifts you’ve received from God to just be obligations piled upon more obligations, ask Our Lord today to stoke up in you the fire of his love so that you see a life of holiness and evangelization as a mission, not just a burden. It will pave the way for an unexpected joy.

Readings: 2 Timothy 1:1–3, 6–12; Psalm 123:1b–2f; Mark 12:18–27. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday and 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.