5th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s Gospel we see another example of Our Lord performing a healing and asking for secrecy and not getting it. Why does he keep healing if people don’t respect his wishes? Because he loves us no matter what we do, and will continue to love us, even when we cause him problems. When we contemplate him on the cross we contemplate someone who has taken our problems onto his own shoulders.

The miracle of healing the deaf and mute man is now commemorated by an optional rite in the celebration of Baptism: the minister performing the Baptism touches the ears of the new Christian and says, “Ephphatha!” (“Be opened!”). Our Baptism shows that we and our parents have listened to the Word of God, not just heard him, and that opens our world to hearing good news we’d never have imagined before. With his speech restored we can’t entirely blame the man healed today from going out and sharing the Good News; we too are called to share the Good News.

Have we become deaf to Our Lord’s voice? To his wishes? Let’s ask him to help us listen again in order to better spread the Good News as he wishes.

Readings: 1 Kings 11:29–32, 12:19; Psalm 81:10–11b, 12–15; Mark 7:31–37. See also 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s Gospel Our Lord takes one of his few trips outside of Palestine into Gentile territory. It seems he is trying keep a low profile, perhaps counting on some anonymity to have some quiet time to teach his disciples. However, as the arrival of the woman shows, news of his miracles has even reached Gentile territory. For us, this is nothing surprising, since we know the Gospel is for everyone, but in that moment it was not time yet. We’re faced with a situation similar to Mary at the wedding feast at Cana: the hour for the Gentiles had not yet come.
The Jews called the Gentiles “dogs”: if seems this woman is asking for a favor and receiving a rejection and a racial slur instead. However, in the original Greek the Lord uses the expression, “little dog,” perhaps to show that the example he was using was not meant to insult her, but to explain that what he had to do right now did not involve her: this party, this “food,” was not meant for her.
In her response we find her faith and her humility. She acknowledges that it’s not for her, but also that she’s not asking to take something away from the “children” that they need: a scrap will not starve them, but it’ll mean everything to her.
Our Lord is so generous with us that sometimes we think we’re entitled to what he gives us. Let’s learn from the Syrophoenician woman today to appreciate even the “scraps.”

Readings: 1 Kings 11:4–13; Psalm 106:3–4, 35–37, 40; Mark 7:24–30. See also 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II, and 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

In today’s Gospel, using the example of dietary laws, Our Lord is teaching us that the “Devil made me do it” as an argument has no merit. The problem of evil has plagued man and philosophy almost since Creation, and a trend has always tried to blame God or other things as the cause of sin when all man needed to do was look in the mirror. The Lord created everything good and for the good, but his creatures freely chose to do evil instead: the fallen angels, staring with the Devil, and humanity, starting with Adam and Eve. If the world is a mess it is because we, sinners, made it so.

The dietary laws in Jesus’ time believed certain foods brought ritual contamination and, therefore, defiled a man, Mark makes a point of saying in his account that Jesus is teaching that there are no ritually impure foods. It’s a teaching that even the first disciples would struggle with as they realized that Christianity was meant to go beyond the Jewish world and culture. The Original Sin of Adam and Eve robbed us of something we, their descendants, couldn’t do without, and it is only thanks to the Redemption that their sin didn’t condemn us all to spiritual death. However, Adam and Eve aren’t to blame for all of it: we too have sinned and continue to sin.

This sobering reality is not meant to discourage us; rather, it makes us realize that not only do we need Savior, but have one: Our Lord. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also called Confession. Let’s come clean and confess what we’ve done so that Our Lord can heal and liberate us from the sin plaguing the world since the Fall.

Readings: 1 Kings 10:1–10; Psalm 37:5–6, 30–31, 39–40; Mark 7:14–23.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Today’s readings remind us that if the Gospel is really good news to us we should share it.

In today’s First Reading Job is in desperate need for some good news after being so afflicted. He’s lost property, family, and health. Life has become pure drudgery for him with the rest or reward that should follow still far from sight. How many of us mid-week have a similar attitude? It seems the next break, the next paycheck is too long in coming in the face of the daily grind. Yet we have to admit that when that lunch break or paycheck comes it doesn’t satisfy us for very long, and we go right back to the drudgery. In a hopeless life there’s little good news to share. Yet even Job knows his redeemer lives. Life is not entirely hopeless.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that the Gospel is good news that is meant to be shared. He lived in a world of Job’s, and so do we. People need something to lift them up from their drudgery. Spreading the good news for Paul is not just something he wants to do, but something he felt obliged to do. There’s no catch. He’s not trying to sell anything. He’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the Gospel is received as good news. Paul’s example teaches us that if we don’t share the good news it could be because for us it is not good news. If it’s not good news for us, then what is it?

In today’s Gospel we see the first moments of Our Lord’s earthly ministry continuing to take shape. After an impressive demonstration of authority and power in the synagogue, he comes to Simon Peter’s house and heals his mother-in-law. Soon people are coming from all over the village, bringing the sick and those afflicted by demons so that Our Lord can heal them and liberate them from evil.Despite this success, he knows he can’t just stay in one village, but bring his teaching and power everywhere.

Good News spreads fast. Today we live in a society where the Good News has been spread far and wide, yet people don’t come to Our Lord for healing and liberation from the evil afflicting their lives. Why? We have a duty to spread the Good News, but that’s not just quoting the bible chapter and verse, but by giving testimony to the impact Our Lord has had on our own lives. Those crowds in the Gospel today would not have heard anything if Our Lord had not taught, healed, or exorcised someone they knew.

It’s very easy to gossip, and gossip these days is usually corrosive, not constructive. Sometimes people giving up cigarettes take up sucking on a lollipop instead. Everyone knows gossip is wrong, but quitting cold turkey can be especially hard. Make a resolution to swap out that gossip with good news instead. Spread some hope and encouragement instead of negativity and cynicism.

Readings: Job 7:1–4, 6–7; Psalm 147:1–6; 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22–23; Mark 1:29–39.

5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

On the Fifth Sunday of Easter Our Lord reminds that that we are called to continue his work, and to achieve even greater things than he accomplished during his earthly ministry. He built his Church with growth in mind, generation after generation, founded on him and the Apostles.

In today’s First Reading the Twelve are faced with more work than they can handle, and people are starting to complain. The Twelve cannot take care of everyone. This is no surprise. Our Lord didn’t just appoint one person to carry on his work; he appointed Twelve, and, soon after, the Twelve needed helpers, and other apostles, like Paul and Barnabas, to continue the work in the face of the Church’s explosive growth. The Twelve asked for candidates, but they were also clear that those who would help them in the ministry needed to be “filled with the Spirit and wisdom.” These men would become known as the Seven, and, according to tradition, may have been the first deacons in the Church. The Church’s mission is not just for the clergy. Everyone is called to help according to their possibilities and state of life. As needs increase, each member of the Church must be dedicated to doing his or her part: bishops shepherding their dioceses, helped by priests and deacons; consecrated persons contributing according to their charism; and laity, ordering the world’s affairs in accordance with the Gospel and helping the Church in matters where they may have more expertise. The Holy Spirit kept the apostles faithful to the work Christ wanted them to do, and the Spirit continues to do so for all of us.

In today’s Second Reading St. Peter reminds us that through Baptism we have been incorporated into the Church, and are now living stones in an edifice constructed with a spiritual and priestly purpose. Our Lord described himself to the Pharisees and scribes as the stone rejected by the builders that would become the corner stone (see Matthew 21:42). They had rejected him, but the Father build the Church on him, and he made the Apostles the foundation for his Church. The Lord continues to build the Church through us, on the solid foundations of those living stones who have preceded us and our own efforts at holiness. A living stone is not just edified, but edifying. We are inserted into this spiritual and social structure and helped to support it and to remain solid. If our works are edifying it will attract even those who don’t know Our Lord to see where that special something we have comes from and to seek it out as well.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord, at the Last Supper, prepares his disciples for the moment when he’ll be separated from them on earth and they’ll be expected to carry on his mission. He reminds them that they have a place waiting for them in Heaven, just as they have a place in his Church. He tells them today that they know where he is going. They know the way to the Father’s House too and don’t need him to show them. When the moment was right Our Lord returned and led every one of them to the Father’s House, just as he will lead us one day. In the meanwhile, we have to stay the course he has taught us, and, if we get turned around, ask for directions to get back on track. Helping people get back on track to the Father’s House is what we’re all called to do as Christians, but to do that we must know how to get to the Father’s House.

Christ describes himself as the “way”: we show others the way to the degree that we imitate him. Our Lord became flesh and put some believers on the right track, and those believers have helped him guide us ever since. He sent apostles to the four corners of the world, and they still carry out their mission through us. This is the work he said would be even greater than his own ministry on earth. It spread to the entire Roman empire, then beyond its borders to the whole world. We’re called to continue these “greater works” that he encouraged his first disciples to do. The key is having faith in him.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord describes Heaven not just as his home, but as a place for us to call home as well. Thinking of home evokes so many warm sentiments–rest, security, peace–and it also invokes the memory of the people there waiting to be with us. Many people today live a difficult situation at home, if they have a home at all, but they all dream of that peaceful place where they can be together with their loved ones. A simple family dinner, where everyone sets aside work, school, etc., to spend time together becomes a glimpse of Heaven as each enjoys the company and there are no worries to dampen the evening.

Our Lord has prepared a place for each of us with Our Father in Heaven. How often do we dream of that? How often do we dream of the day in which life’s journey, with all the fatigue and trial, will be over and we’ll finally and permanently be home with the ones we love? How often do we see the need to remind others of our true home as well so that one day we’ll all be there together?

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us always keep our true home in mind. If we know he’s shown us the way, no burden or obstacle of this life will rob us of our hope in getting there.

Readings: Acts 6:1–7; Psalm 33:1–2, 4–5, 18–19; 1 Peter 2:4–9; John 14:1–12.