20th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Ezekiel has a vision of the glory of the Lord returning to the Temple. Earlier he had a vision of that same glory leaving the Temple when it and Jersusalem were about to be conquered by the Babylonians. The Lord promises to dwell among the children of Israel forever. This promise goes beyond the building; the Temple would be rebuilt, but after it was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans it was never rebuilt. The Lord meant something more in this vision.

When we are baptized the most Holy Trinity comes to dwell in our hearts. The Lord is always with us, and St. Paul reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and should act accordingly. Just like Ezekiel’s visions, when we commit grave sin the Lord doesn’t just leave our hearts; we kick him out. Even in those sad moments he is just waiting for us to reconcile with him and welcome him back. He wants to be with us forever and he will be, if we let him.

Communion with the Lord means you are never alone. He is always with you. Let’s thank him today for this precious gift, and if we do feel like we’ve kicked him out of our hearts, let’s not be shy about putting out the “welcome mat” again through the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Readings: Ezekiel 43:1–7ab; Psalm 85:9ab, 10–14; Matthew 23:1–12. See also 2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday20th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision depicting the degree of Israel’s hopelessness in the face of its present situation. We all have moments where we say to ourselves, sarcastically or not, “I’m dead. It’s hopeless.” The plain of bones shows a degree of death so vast that there is not even anyone left to bury the dead: it’s complete death. Yet the Lord invites Ezekiel to speculate whether such total death can be reversed, and he, as we, respond that only the Lord, the Lord of life, would know.

Ezekiel prophesies at the Lord’s command and, in the first two prophesies, something happens even as he speaks. The bones have their flesh returned to them, and then the spirit of life is breathed back into them. The prophesies that follow are phrased as promises: that the Lord would raise them from the grave itself, restore them in a stable way in the Promised Land, put his own spirit into him, and they would know that he was the Lord. These promises would be fulfilled in the future, beginning with his Son: some day we will be raised up from the grave, settled forever in the Promised Land, be filled with the Spirit of the Lord, and, with the veil of faith withdrawn, know the Lord as he is, face to face.

Even in the face of certain death we have nothing to fear. The Lord is faithful to his promises if we are faithful to him.

Readings: Ezekiel 37:1–14; Psalm 107:2–9; Matthew 22:34–40. See also 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C3rd Week of Lent,Friday,  9th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, and 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

Salvation history is a history of promises fulfilled, and a promise that in the future all the Lord’s promises will be fulfilled. In today’s First Reading the Lord promises to show once again the holiness of his name after his people sullied it through the sins, and he did so through Jesus Christ. He promises to show his holiness through bringing his people home again. He describes how he’ll sprinkle water on them to cleanse them from their impurities and idolatry, a promise fulfilled through Baptism, which not only initiates sinners into Christian life, but also represents turning from other gods to serve the Lord through an act of faith.

He promises us a new heart, a compassionate one to replace the hardened stone heart that only led to misery and sin, and through Baptism we receive the theological virtue and grace of charity. He would put his own Spirit into us, the Holy Spirit, that is poured into our hearts in Baptism and strengthened through the sacrament of Confirmation. Through the Spirit we are empowered to do good and bei holy, so that we may be seen to be God’s People and, one day, reach the definitive Promised Land in eternity.

Ask Our Lord to help you see all the promises he has fulfilled in your salvation history.

Readings: Ezekiel 36:23–28; Psalm 51:12–15, 18–19; Matthew 22:1–14. See also 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday and 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

Today’s readings presents two images of leadership, one good and another bad, and tries to show the qualities of a good leader. Sheep need a shepherd in order to be fed, protected, and healthy; they cannot easily survive on their own. In the First Reading the Lord describes the poor leaders of Israel as bad shepherds who mistreat and exploit the very sheep they should nourish and protect. He promises to shepherd them personally instead, a promise he would keep through the Good Shepherd who’d lay down his life for his sheep.

In the Gospel Our Lord gives the example of a benevolent employer, but more to describe God’s goodness in rewarding those who enter his Kingdom, whether from the beginning of their lives or at the last minute. Whether they began in his service early or late, the employer out of his goodness and mercy provides what they need to live; he doesn’t try to squeeze more work out of them with raises that they don’t need, nor does he penalize them for being late hires. Unlike the bad shepherds of the First Reading, the benevolent employer focuses on the good of his workers, not what they can do for him. He puts people before profit.

Our Lord doesn’t need our collaboration and service, yet he blesses us when we help him. Let’s thank Our Lord for all the blessings he has showered on us by being good sheep, good workers, good shepherds, or good employers. In short, let’s do well in whatever vocation he has given us.

Readings: Ezekiel 34:1–11; Psalm 23:1–6; Matthew 20:1–16. See also Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle C, and 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord warns the rich man against becoming so enamored of his wealth that he grows conceited, with delusions of divinity and becoming an island with regard to others. The reality faced in Ezekiel’s time was that the wealth and security of the “prince of Tyre” were under threat and easily destroyed, along with the man’s very life, and all the money in the world wouldn’t spare him.

Our Lord in today’s Gospel is not exagerating when he says it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye that it is for someone rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. With wealth it seems like you have everything you could ever want, yet wealthly people many times are miserable even though they are surrounded by opulence. Their wealth can make them into islands, separating them from family and friends. Wealth is not bad on its own, but it always bears the risk of making you stop searching for the needs that money cannot buy.

Any business person will tell you it’s not a question of having money that determines success, but how wisely it is invested. Like any other creature it can separate you from God and from others or it can help you to draw closer to them. Ask Our Lord to help you review your balance sheet and see whether you’re investing in a good and holy life. The returns are out of this world.

Readings: Ezekiel 28:1–10; Deuteronomy 32:26–28, 30, 35c–36b; Matthew 19:23–30. See also 20th Week in Ordinary Time,Tuesday, 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II, and 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I.