18th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C

In today’s First Reading the meaning is questioned of striving to accumulate property when, in the end, all the time, effort, and worry that he invests in it will not keep it in his possession forever. Ecclesiastes asked the question, but Paul in today’s Second Reading gives us an answer: to set our sights and work for what is truly important: Heaven. The things for which we strive here below, including our own health, are not going to last. Wealth here below is gone the minute we’re six feet underground.

Our Lord explains today in the parable of the rich man deciding to start early retirement what is the flaw in that logic: the only treasure we truly have, and we don’t know how much, is time. Some live long lives, some lives are tragically cut short, but every life is an opportunity to invest in the treasure that truly lasts: love for God. Love is the only thing that matters to God, not our net worth according to the balance sheets of this world.

Ask Our Lord to help you do an “audit” today of what you are working for in order to invest in the future that truly matters.

Readings: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21–23; Psalm 90:3–6, 12–13; Colossians 3:1–5, 9–11; Luke 12:13–21. See also 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

Jeremiah and John the Baptist in today’s readings have a lot in common: they’re both prophets, and they’re both surrounded by people who do not like what they have to say, yet are hesitant about doing something about it because they sense deep down that it is the truth.

Jeremiah convinced the people and the princes that he was innocent and sent by the Lord. The priests and prophets did not agree, but they respected or feared the people. Herod was afraid of the people too, because he knew they considered John the Baptist a prophet. Everyone would have been happy if both prophets had kept their mouths shut, but they needed the truth, whether they accepted it or not. We know what happened to John in the end; Jeremiah was eventually taken by force into Egypt with the remnants of Judah and it’s not know clearly how he died.

Are you willing to stick your neck out for the truth? To save another from himself? Let’s not be shy about being counter-cultural for the sake of the Gospel.

Readings: Jeremiah 26:11–16, 24; Psalm 69:15–16, 30–31, 33–34; Matthew 14:1–12. See also 4th Week in Ordinary Time, FridayPassion of St. John the Baptist, 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, and 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

St. Martha (2)

Today St. Martha reminds us that if we have faith in Our Lord he will not only meet our expectations, but often exceed them. Our problem is often that we want proof of that before we try. Martha had a greater faith; she was a friend of Our Lord. He stayed with her, her sister Mary, and Lazarus when he was in the area. It’s unclear whether she went out as his disciple and accompanied him but, as we saw in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:38–42), she probably didn’t pray as much as she should, and maybe even suffered a little from activism, even though in the hustle and bustle she served others.

Today’s Gospel showed her faith was right on target: she professed her faith that Our Lord was the Christ. She simply didn’t have a frame of reference yet for the extent to which Our Lord was meant to save us: from death itself. Therefore she accepted Our Lord’s words regarding her brother as pious consolation and was unprepared for having her brother restored to her alive and well.

Until we really try to believe our frame of reference will also be off. Let’s ask Our Lord for a deeper faith in him. When we believe he not only responds, but reveals to us how limited our frame of reference can be. Let’s put no limits on what we ask of him.

Readings: John 11:19–27. See also 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle CSt. Martha, and 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord presents Israel to Jeremiah as if it were clay being molded. Wet clay can be spun into all sorts of shapes until it is fired into it’s final shape; then it hardens and will shatter if you try to shape in into something else. The Book of Genesis describes man as being molded from dust and into God’s image and likeness (see Gen 1:26, 2:7), much like wet clay. When man does good he reflects the image of God in him and makes God praiseworthy in the eyes of others; when he does bad, he disfigures it and makes others question the “artist.” The more man is disfigured, the more society is disfigured, because evil makes its mark, and peoples’ conception of God becomes disfigured too.

In today’s First Reading the Lord describes his patient and repeated efforts to shape Israel again into what it should be, just as a potter keeps working the clay until the shape he desires is formed. Christ is the image of the invisible God (see Col 1:15): in becoming man he shows us the pattern for being and living the image and likeness of God. We present a very interesting project; imagine a  clay that is always trying to shape itself, even as the potter is trying to help it take form. Our choices always shape us, but Our Lord also always shows us the choices we should make to form ourselves into something that gives glory to God. He also shapes us with his grace, if we let him.

Let’s pray for a greater docility to what the “potter” wants to shape of us and our lives.

Readings: Jeremiah 18:1–6; Psalm 146:1b–6b; Matthew 13:47–53. See also 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

17th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

In today’s Gospel Our Lord presents two parables to help us understand what the Kingdom of heaven is like. The first (like a treasure hidden in a field) reminds us that its worth is something that takes us by surprise and is found in the most unexpected of places. Someone hid that treasure and you’ve received the good fortune of finding it. It doesn’t come free, and it doesn’t come cheap: if you’re willing to spend everything on obtaining it, it must be of more value that what you already have. This first comparison teaches us that the Kingdom of heaven should put everything we have, everything we are, into perspective. When we invest ourselves completely the returns will be unimaginable.

In the second comparison we’re reminded that the Kingdom of heaven, like finding a great pearl after a lifetime of smaller ones, is something comparable to all the things we value in this world, but much greater in comparison. The Kingdom of heaven is not going to be something totally different from the “treasures” we hold and experience in this life. When we seek the true, the good, and the beautiful in this life, we are paving the way for the Kingdom, already present in those things, to come to full fruition.

Let’s ask Our Lord to help us evaluate what we treasure in this life and to keep an eye out for the hidden treasure he wishes to reveal to us.

Readings: Jeremiah 15:10, 16–21; Psalm 59:2–4, 10–11, 18; Matthew 13:44–46.