7th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

Everyone has a moment where they question the purpose of life, often a moment of depression or discouragement. Sirach today presents a list of wonders from the Lord today in the First Reading that helps us see our life as one big gift basket:

The gift of life. Our Lord created us, and he was not obliged to create us. As the most reasonable being ever, he had some idea in mind when he created us, which means we have some purpose in life to discover and enjoy.

The gift of being made in God’s image. God is pretty amazing, and he decided to make us like him. We’re a work of art depicting something wonderful.

The gift of time. We’re not living on borrowed time, but gifted time. Life is full of milestones, and we all have a deadline. Deadlines can make us amazingly productive, and the big deadline at the end of our earthly life will be the biggest milestone of all: it catapults us from here to eternity. Time is a gift, and each moment is a treasure.

The gift of his creations. The Lord has blessed us with all sorts of things in order to live, to grow, and to be happy. He’s given us so many choices of pets, but also many choices of menu. He’s given us wool sweaters, guide dogs, and hamburgers with all the trimmings.

The gift of understanding and creativity. He’s given us scientific knowledge that amazes us, movies, novels, paintings, and sculptures. He’s given us great things to discover and to share with others. He’d made us creative like him, and also made us inquisitive so that we seek him through his creatures and always strive to unravel mysteries.

The gift of knowledge beyond our immediate perceptions. We know, thanks to him, that there is a whole spiritual world underpinning our material one and also going beyond it. A world that makes life more than just a rat race of eat, sleep, strive, die. A world beyond the ordinary happenings of everyday life and any one life.

The gift of wisdom regarding good and evil. He’s given us a conscience to learn and to know right from wrong, not just because of the satisfaction or guilt it might bring, but as a path to true growth and happiness. He’s given us freedom to choose, but also the responsibility to choose wisely, the rewards that come from living a good life, and the consequences of living a bad one.

The gift of knowing and respecting God. He’s revealed himself to us, as we know from the first chapters of Genesis, and he’s shown us throughout history that he is amazing, loving, and worthy of our respect.

The gift of a relationship and covenant with him. He’s made the deal of a lifetime with us that he never rescinds. He never shortchanges us, and he shows us how to live a worthy life. He also warns us about living an unworthy life, and, like a loving Father, is always watching over us to keep us out of trouble.

The gift of a relationship and covenant with others. He’s also given us others like us so that we never need to be alone. He’s given us the gift of family, friends, society, and culture so that we can love and enrich one another. In the Gospel today we’re reminded about the gift of children, who teach us simplicity in striving for the Kingdom of God and the joy and purity of innocence.

Take stock of your gift basket today and give thanks to God. You’ll find at least one gift that makes your life worth living.

Readings: Sirach 17:1–15; Psalm 103:13–18; Mark 10:13–16. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II and 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

The first verse of today’s First Reading is a definition of faith that Pope Benedict XVI considered in his encyclical Spe Salvi on the virtue of hope (nn. 7-8):”Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” A realization is when something dawns on you, but it can also mean that something has been brought about. Pope Benedict sees this “realization” of faith, connected to hope, as some that occurred when the Lord had worked something in your soul, a first deposit on the eternal goods to come, which is why it also fosters hope.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews presents a simple thing to believe: that God exists and rewards those who seek him. If you don’t believe in God at all you’re certainly not going to seek him, and if you believe he’s indifferent regarding you, you’re not going to seek him either. Faith comes through realization: God reveals himself to us and invites us to believe in him, to believe even in the things he teaches and promises that have not yet fully come about, and in faith we believe him and that impacts our lives and decisions.

Many people today, if they believe at all, go through the motions of faith, but it has never really dawned on them that God exists and takes them into account. However strong or weak your faith is, ask Our Lord today to reveal himself to you. You will not be disappointed.

Readings: Hebrews 11:1–7; Psalm 145:2–5, 10–11; Mark 9:2–13. See also 2nd Week of Advent, SaturdayTransfiguration of the Lord, Cycle CTransfiguration of the Lord, Cycle B, and 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

Today’s First Reading reminds us how horrible it is to lose a home, and how much more horrible it is when it is our fault. The Lord sets an angel to guard against Adam and Eve eating of the tree of life after they’re expelled from Eden due to their sins. Their life has taken a turn for the worse, and there’s no going back without help. They’re cast out, but the Lord doesn’t cease to care for them completely; he makes real clothes for them, and the earth still provides for their needs. It’s just going to be much harder than before, much like the hardship of a family that takes an economic fall and can no longer enjoy the lifestyle it had.

If Adam and Eve ate of the other tree in that moment they would have lived forever, but in misery. They would remain estranged from the Lord and never be able to turn back, much like a person who dies in mortal sin, separated from God forever. This passage of Genesis is also called the “proto-Gospel” because even as the Lord is condemning the serpent for what he’d done, he also foretells that the offspring of the woman would crush him. That offspring would be Our Lord, who would make the life of mankind worth living again.

We live in a post-Fall world, but Our Lord has already come to make it something better. Let’s ask him to help us see how we can make it a preparation for our future Eden: Heaven.

Readings: Genesis 3:9–24; Psalm 90:2–4c, 5–6, 12–13; Mark 8:1–10. See also 1st Week of Advent, Wednesday and 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

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.

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews recalls the faith of Abraham. When Abraham was already advanced in years and a nomad with nowhere to call home the Lord promised him that if he set out he would be blessed with a land to call his own and progeny. We know how the story ends: he enters the Promised Land and through his son Isaac becomes the patriarch of a great nation. Abraham’s faith was put to the test, and he thrived.

Abraham’s story teaches us too that in this world we too are waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promise and lead us to the Promised Land. It’s not a condominium on a beach, but Heaven, our true home. No matter how long or how hard it seems, in faith we continue traveling in this world in order to get home. Our faith helps us to not get too comfortable and settle for squatter’s rights.

Abraham’s old age made his faith remarkable, and, spiritually, we can sometimes feel worn and tired in living our faith. Let’s follow Abraham’s example today and press one, confident that the Lord delivers on his promises.

Readings: Hebrews 11:1–2, 8–19; Luke 1:69–75; Mark 4:35–41. See also 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II13th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, and 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.