19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

When faced with difficulties and turmoil the believer seeks out the Lord, but many today only resort to faith and prayer as a last resort when all other avenues are exhausted. Today’s readings remind us that seeking God’s presence should be our instinct in all matters, big and small.

In today’s First Reading Elijah has made a long and tiring pilgrimage to Mount Horeb to consult God when his life is endangered by the evil Jezebel. Forty days and nights before reaching Horeb Elijah had worked a powerful sign showing the Lord was God, had overthrown a veritable army of false prophets, and witnessed a long punitive drought that was imposed on the unfaithful Israelites ended. Despite this, his life was in danger and it seemed the evil and infidelity in Israel was as strong and powerful as ever, spearheaded by Jezebel, who pledged to kill after he’d humiliated her prophets and pagan religion.

He considered himself a failure and just wanted to sit beneath a tree and die. Yet the Lord’s messenger urged him to make the long pilgrimage to mount Horeb, the “mountain of God.” Upon arrival the Lord invites Elijah to explore his motivations for coming and then orders him to leave the cave in which he’d taken refuge and stand in his presence. Elijah knows the Lord is not to be found in the earthquake, the fire, or any other pyrotechnics or “special effects.” He reacts at the quietist of noises, knowing the Lord is there. When we’re faced with turmoil we too need to ignore the pyrotechnics of the situation and seek a moment of quiet. That’s where we’ll find the Lord. It may take time and sacrifice, but the Lord will reveal himself.

In today’s Second Reading Paul laments that Israel had received so much from the Lord but failed to recognize the Messiah when he came to them. The Messiah, their Savior, was their own flesh and blood, yet they didn’t recognize him when he finally came. John in the prologue to his Gospel said, “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:10-12).

Many Israelites did not recognize him as Messiah or as God. This should be a cautionary tale for us. We have so much in the Church, and have inherited so much from the Jews, but we must always remember who is behind them: Our Lord. They are ways of connecting or reconnecting with him. We’re adopted as sons and daughters of God through Christ. We receive glory through him, worship him, and follow his teachings, and trust in his promises. Let’s not squander the gifts by forgetting their Giver.

In today’s Gospel the disciples were sent by Our Lord into what soon became stormy waters, and when he approached them, they thought they were doomed, because they didn’t recognize him. The disciples saw a ghost and thought it was a sign that they’d soon be ghosts too. After all the miracles Our Lord had already performed you’d think walking on water would not have been that shocking to them. Our Lord has to encourage them: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter takes a risk and takes a step out of the boat and into the storm because he believed Our Lord was there and would help him. He takes one step…two steps…three steps…then the wind starts to howl and his feet start to sink in the water. Our Lord did not let him drown, and he will not let us drown either if we turn to him in faith.

As long as we’re on good terms with Our Lord (a life of grace), the Lord dwells inside us. Even when we’re not, he is near, always ready to reconnect. If you want to be able to seek out the Lord in stormy moments, foster the habit of seeking him out in calm ones as well. When things are going well, thank him. When life is not full of earth-shattering events, talk to him. Friends talk about everything no matter what the circumstances. Take a moment sometime this week to foster an awareness of Our Lord’s presence in your soul and speak with him. If you’re burdened by some sin that has distanced you from Our Lord, seek him in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Readings: 1 Kings 19:9a, 11–13a; Psalm 85:9–14; Romans 9:1–5; Matthew 14:22–33.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord scolds those who believe children are simply the victims or beneficiaries of their parents’ actions and nothing more. The Israelites had adopted a “born to lose” mentality that was not the plan of the Lord. Parent and child would be responsible for their own actions. Sadly today for many parents children are seen as the fruit of mistakes they’ve made: children are lucky to be born in a society that only wants them when convenient and tries to prevent them from coming to term when they’re not.

Our Lord wants to bless children to show us that they are a blessing. He wants them to be born, to come to him in Baptism, and to lead holy and happy lives. We must not be an obstacle to that, nor should we permit society to do so. We help them approach Our Lord by letting them live their childhood in innocence and not letting society rob them of it.

Let’s pray and work so that every child is born, is loved, and is helped to know and experience Our Lord.

Readings: Ezekiel 18:1–10, 13b, 30–32; Psalm 51:12–15, 18–19; Matthew 19:13–15.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord describes his relationship with Israel as that of discovering an infant abandoned at birth and marrying her when she came of age and showering every finery on her, only to have his love rejected by her adultery and insensitivity to all he had done for her. The Lord responds to this infidelity by promising to take her as his spouse not just while she lives, but forever: his response to her lack of love is an everlasting and forgiving love, a love so unbelievable that it would throw her into shame and confusion over how she had mistreated him.

In today’s Gospel the Pharisee’s are looking for ways to send away a wife, not how to save a marriage. Sadly today for many divorce seems to be the only option because what your spouse has done or failed to do seems unforgivable. That is the moment to show your love. While the Lord promised this forgiving and everlasting love in the First Reading, Jesus showed it on the Cross. We have a love to imitate and a love to strengthen us when love and forgiveness seems impossible: the love of God.

Every spouse promises unconditional love the day of their wedding. Let’s pray that when that unconditional love is put to the test can be kindled again with Our Lord’s help for both spouses through forgiveness.

Readings: Ezekiel 16:1–15, 60, 63; Isaiah 12:2–3; Matthew 19:3–12. See also 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B and 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.


19th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that math and mercy should not mix. You either forgive someone or you don’t. Peter’s question is really asking how much mercy is too much, and Our Lord responds that mercy is measured by whether it is from the heart, not by how much is forgiven. If you continue to measure mercy you are straying into the field of justice, and justice is exacting and unforgiving. The Heavenly Father is pleased by our mercy, but he also respects our decision when we want to follow the path of justice instead.

The servant in today’s parable was offered mercy, but chose the path of justice instead. In showing a desire for justice from his neighbor for a much smaller debt he showed that justice, at least when it involved him, was more important than mercy, and as a result every penny of an impossible sum would be exacted from him. Peter would deny knowing Our Lord three times, but Our Lord forgave him completely.

Let’s forgive and seek forgiveness from the heart, not from mental math.

Readings: Ezekiel 12:1–12; Psalm 78:56–59, 61–62; Matthew 18:21–19:1. See also 3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday and 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In multiple Gospel accounts the disciples debated among themselves who is the greatest and how to become so, but today they have the openness to ask Our Lord, and he tells them that if they don’t have the attitude of children they won’t even make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. Through Baptism we are adopted as sons and daughters of God; we become his children, and a good child seeks to please his or her Father in everything, and counts on his or her Father to provide everything he or she needs.

If acting like a child of God is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Our Lord reminds us today that having the humility of a child is a measure of greatness in the Kingdom. Humility is one of the most precious virtues in the eyes of God: it flies in the face of earthly ambition and vainglory. Alongside humility greatness in the Kingdom is measured by our dedication to even its smallest member. Children were accepted in Our Lord’s time, but not often appreciated. It’d be easy to argue that writing off one sheep out of hundred is okay, but Our Lord invites the disciples to show a greater level of dedication, letting no one be lost.

Let’s ask Our Lord to help us not only form a part of his Kingdom, but to be great in his eyes through our humility and dedication.

Readings: Ezekiel 2:8–3:4; Psalm 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131; Matthew 18:1–5, 10, 12–14. See also The Guardian Angels25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.