15th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

Many people today view the world through a dark lens, and paint it with a dark palette: darkness and death are the way they see the world. Isaiah in today’s First Reading brings justice into that metaphor as the light of dawn. Vigils in the darkness can seem the loneliest at times; it seems that instead of being sleep everything is dead, and there’s a nagging fear that the dawn may never return. In a world plagued with evil, injustice, and death it can seem that those trying to do justice are keeping watch for a dawn that some think will never come.

The dawn is that breath of fresh air when justice has accomplished something. A somber palette of shadows, little by little, gives way to a palette of colors as the sun starts to rise, and what seemed dead in the night is seen to be alive in the light of day. In today’s First Reading the Lord promises that setting out on the path of justice will make life easier for everyone. It will bring peace. It will shed light on the circumstances of daily light to improve them for ourselves and for others.

Nevertheless, Our Lord describes following him and seeking this justice as a yoke to bear. It requires our effort. Let’s persevere in hope as we strive to make justice dawn in our lives and in our world.

Readings: Isaiah 26:7–9, 12, 16–19; Psalm 102:13–14b, 15–21; Matthew 11:28–30. See also 2nd Week of Advent, Wednesday and 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.


15th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord warns Assyria about forgetting why it has had military successes. The Lord explains through Isaiah that it was chosen to be an instrument of punishment toward a wicked Israel and that was the reason for its military victories and expansion. However, Assyria gives itself the credit and falls into pride. The Lord’s revelation would be somewhat shocking to the Assyrians, since each nation thought it had its own gods that attended to its own affairs. Here the Lord, the God of Israel, was showing he was greater than any one nation and greater than the gods of Assyria.

Due to their arrogance the Lord warns that misfortune is headed their way. We can all be instruments of God’s will if we seek his help and guidance; it is a way of repaying him for all that he has done for us, but it is also the best path we can take for our own growth and fulfillment. The Lord warned Assyria today that it was taking the wrong path; Our Lord warns us too when a direction we’re taking in life is not in our best interest. We’re free to choose to do his will or not. The consequences are a fruit of our choices.

Ask the Lord today if your life needs to take a new direction.

Readings: Isaiah 10:5–7, 13b–16; Psalm 94:5–10, 14–15; Matthew 11:25–27. See also 1st Week of Advent, Tuesday, 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, and 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Kingdom of Judah, the southern part of Palestine, is facing a threat from the Kingdom of Israel, the northern part of Palestine, which has allied with Aram (Syria) to invade Judah. The Lord sends Isaiah to the king of Judah, Ahaz, to ensure him that the kings who seek to invade are “stumps of smoldering brands”: they’re like matches that are about to burn out, flash with little substance. However, the Lord does ask for Ahaz’s faith or else his kingdom would not stand. In the end, Aram would conquer the Kingdom of Israel and Judah would not fall in Ahaz’s time, despite his weak faith.

The Gospel reminds us today what the Lord insisted on through Isaiah: “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm.” Our Lord chastises those towns who had received the grace of him and his miracles for their lack of faith: the fate they’d incur was worse that some of the worst cities in the Old Testament. Why so harsh? Because now ignorance was not an excuse. The towns Our Lord scolds had received a visit from God himself; they’d received the Gospel and had not believed. Due to their disbelief them would not be firm and that’s a recipe for disaster.

This pattern continues even today. Society in many sectors, culture in many areas, is not what it should be. Let’s ask Our Lord to bolster our faith and through a life of faith help keep society solid. The faith is not just good for believers; it helps everyone.

Readings: Isaiah 7:1–9; Psalm 48:2–8; Matthew 11:20–24. See also 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord teaches us that devotion to him is pointless when we don’t show a level of devotion to others and their needs: he wants us to treat others justly and compassionately when they are in need. In the Gospel Our Lord takes it a step further by reminding us that devotion to others at the expense of devotion to the Lord is also a losing proposition. In the First Reading the Lord reminds us of our obligations in general; in the Gospel we consider those whom we owe the most: our family.

If the Gospel talks about “hating” your loved ones it must be understood in the context of the entire discourse: family members who do not welcome the Lord through his prophets or through righteous people. In short, loved ones who have fallen into sin and present a danger of leading us into sin as well. Not all family members are an obstacle to our devotion to the Lord, but if our devotion to our family exceeds our devotion to the Lord, we’re on the path to perdition, despite the best of intentions. We owe the Lord and our family everything, but the Lord comes first.

Let’s pray that our loved ones grow in devotion to Our Lord, confident that following the Lord, even when it implies the cross, will be a blessing to our family.

Readings: Isaiah 1:10–17; Psalm 50:8–9, 16b–17, 21, 23; Matthew 10:34–11:1. See also 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, and 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C

In today’s First Reading Moses, as part of his parting words to the Israelites, encourages them to see that what the Lord expects of them is not hard to know or achieve: it is turning to God with all their heart and soul. The Lord has made this even easier by sending us his Son, the image of the invisible God, as Paul describes in today’s Second Reading. Through the Son we are aided in turning to God with all our heart and soul; he not only leads by example, but empowers our charity through his act of love on the Cross.

In today’s Gospel the scribe shows wisdom in seeing that love for God and for neighbor are the path to fulfillment in life. He just wants to know one point of fine print: who should we consider our neighbor? The answer is not hard: everyone is our neighbor, as the parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates. The man waylaid on the way to Jericho was heading from a “good part of town” to a “bad one” (Jericho often symbolized turning your back on Jerusalem and heading into sin); anyone could have rationalized that when you head to a bad part of town you deserve what you get. The Samaritan was overcome with compassion at the sight of his neighbor bleeding and half dead alongside the road.

In Luke’s Gospel the scribe asks in the context of asking what he needs to do in order to inherit eternal life. That Samaritan’s goodness and compassion, by extension, despite all the bad blood between Jews and Samaritans, won him eternal life. It’s not complicated. We make it complicated. Strive to love God and every neighbor and you will accomplish something in life and achieve everything truly worthwhile.

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:10–14; Psalm 69:14, 17, 30–31, 33–34, 36, 37; Colossians 1:15–20; Luke 10:25–37. See also 3rd Week of Lent,Friday,  9th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, and 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.