5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

In today’s First Reading Isaiah describes the importance of helping the poor and being just in the way we treat each other. As Christians we’re expected to practice the corporal works of mercy described by Isaiah today. We are called to materially help those in need and not turn a blind eye to them or their needs. Justice is giving each person their due, and they’re not only due our support when they are in need. They are also due our respect, even when well fed, clothed, sheltered, and free from persecution.

This dignity is not only owed to the needy, but toward everyone. Everyone should be taken into consideration and respected, whether rich or poor, lovable or detestable. This concern for justice has an incredible healing power in our own lives as well. Isaiah connects this light with “vindication”: vindication means being cleared from blame. He also connects it with our own healing. Acting justly brings us out of the darkness of indifference and sin that often afflicts this world and doesn’t just bring us into the light, but transforms us into a source of light.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that what we accomplish is not due to how slick we are, but to how powerful God is. This light comes from God. Paul doesn’t take credit for the fruits of his work of evangelization among the Corinthians. He knows his mission, just like ours, is to make the power of God shine through. If the Lord wasn’t at work, nothing would happen. Proclaiming a mystery is challenging, which is why we need the Lord himself through his Spirit to show that power at work. When we share the Gospel we shouldn’t be concerned about our qualifications, but being the Lord’s instrument for bringing light to the lives of others.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that it’s not enough to have this light, or to use it for ourselves. We have to make that light shine and illuminate others as well. Christians are not just meant to glow; they’re meant to shine, to provide so much illumination that they light up the world. Yet, just as not every lighting is the same, the light of Christians lights the way back to that source of light: to Christ. When a Christian shines people don’t just praise them; they praise God who made them shine.

Don’t just glow today in your faith. Shine!

Readings: Isaiah 58:7–10; Psalm 12:4–9; 1 Corinthians 2:1–5; Matthew 5:13–16. See also 3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I and 10th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

The Letter to the Hebrews is one of the most priestly writings in the New Testament, and in today’s First Reading the letter concludes by describing Our Lord as the “great shepherd of the sheep.” There is a vital connection between priest and pastor. Bishops and priests are shepherds of souls, but the sheep are Our Lord’s, and even the pastors are his sheep.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord listens to his pastors-in-training tell of their work with souls, and then he invites them to a place apart to rest and receive the pastoral care they need too. The needs of souls don’t let them dally for long, but the Great Shepherd takes time to lead every sheep to greener pastures.

Let’s pray for our pastors today.

Readings: Hebrews 13:15–17, 20–21; Psalm 23:1–6; Mark 6:30–34. See also 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us to practice fraternal charity in a variety of situations. First, by practicing hospitality: making someone welcome. Whether they’re sent by the Lord or not, you are loving Our Lord through loving them. Second, by visiting those who at a low point in life: there’s no distinction between the guilty and those who got a bum rap when it comes to showing concern and kindness. Third, by honoring someone’s family as much as you honor them: not doing anything to break up a family, especially not for self-interest. Fourth, by not worrying about what you have and what you don’t: there’s no need to “keep up with the Jones,” just to trust Our Lord to help you with what you need.

Lastly, we need to consider everything our leaders have done for us. Authority can be a thankless job at times, and our leaders in the faith do so often making great sacrifices. Even leadership in the Church is a way of practicing fraternal charity. In following his advice we’re imitating Christ, who shows us that fraternal charity never goes out of fashion.

Herod in today’s Gospel failed in fraternal charity on so many levels, even though the Lord tried to reach him through John’s preaching. John may have been behind bars, but Herod’s prison was worse: he was trapped in doubt, immorality, distorted self-interest, and enslaved by his friends’ opinion of him. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help be more like John and less like Herod.

Readings: Hebrews 13:1–8; Psalm 27:1, 3, 5, 8b–9c; Mark 6:14–29. See also 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year IIPassion of St. John the Baptist, and 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.


4th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

In yesterday‘s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews describes Christian life as a race to be run, and today the Letter continues by describing the Lord as a loving and demanding parent who tries to bring the best out of us, even when we don’t appreciate it until later on. A coach demands the best from you, even when you don’t feel up to it or able to achieve. A coach who is also a parent knows you inside and out, knows the moment to insist, the moment to praise, the moment to correct.

Sometimes we think the Lord engineers events to make us miserable; it’s as if he’s out to ruin us. The Lord, like a parent, knows that sometimes we have to face trials and difficulties or we’ll never mature: he may not cause a trial or a difficulty, but sometimes he permits it for a greater good.

The little trials we face in life prepare us for greater ones. Let’s ask Our Lord to be the coach today we need.

Readings: Hebrews 12:4–7, 11–15; Psalm 103:1–2, 13–14, 17–18a; Mark 6:1–6. See also Thursday after Epiphany, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday17th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.