1st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews describes the word of God as being like a two-edged sword, a sword that has the edges and finesse to get to the vital spots of its opponent. Yet this “sword” goes even deeper: it can pierce even the spirit and the soul, leaving its adversary (an obstinate soul) defenseless and exposed. Depending on your state of soul the word of God may feel like jabbing an already raw wound or exposed nerve, but, as Our Lord describes in today’s Gospel, he is trying to perform surgery, which requires pain, a pain with the goal of healing a greater wound.

In today’s Gospel the word of the Our Lord strikes to the heart of Levi (St. Matthew) as he sits at his post, collecting customs, and simply says, “follow me.” Levi does it without question; following Our Lord is the answer to what he has been seeking in life, and what he thinks his friends and acquaintances have been seeking as well, which is why he invites them to dine with the man who has given newfound meaning to his life. The scribes who criticize Our Lord for associating with tax collectors and sinners are also disarmed by the words of Our Lord in a master stroke: do not the sick, even the spiritually sick, need a physician? In a few words he changes our attitude regarding sinners: from condemned to wounded in need of our compassion and care.

The word of God has something to say every time we listen to it. Let’s allow the physician to perform his surgery on our souls today. If he has to cut deep we know it is with greater healing in mind.

Readings: Hebrews 4:12–16; Psalm 19:8–10, 15; Mark 2:13–17. See also Saturday after Ash Wednesday and St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

We can fall at times into the trap of thinking that there are never fairy tale endings or living “happily ever after,” but in today’s First Reading John paints that happy ending and at the end of his Revelation says, repeating what he was told, “These words are trustworthy and true.” There will come a day when there’ll be no more night, no more want, no more evil, no more mysteries. Forever.

The light of God in today’s First Reading is not just physical illumination; it is full “disclosure.” The mysteries of God will be revealed, and we will see him as he is. In that knowledge we’ll see ourselves as we truly are: children loved by Our Heavenly Father forever, cherished, safe, and secure.

That day may be at the end of history, but we shouldn’t relegate it to that moment. The thought of it should bring a little warmth and light to us even in today’s world still struggling against sin. Let’s ask Our Lord to let just a ray of that future light shine on us today to encourage us and help us continue to strive for living happily ever after.

Readings: Revelation 22:1–7; Psalm 95:1–7b; Luke 21:34–36. See also 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

Today’s First Reading is a part of John’s Revelation that is difficult to decipher, because John communicates many things in the same set of symbols. John is speaking in symbols to the Christians of his time regarding the persecution of Rome; the “beast” here refers to Nero as much as it refers to the antichrist. The two prophets, in a context of Roman persecution, could be Saints Peter and Paul, who were both martyred there during the persecution of Nero. The symbolism of the olive tree and lamp stands means that they are martyrs (in Zechariah 4:8-14, olive trees refer to the anointed witnesses Joshua and Zerubbabel), not to mention their fate at the hands of the people’s incredulity and the beast who didn’t accept their message. Yet the passage is full of symbolism taken from the most miraculous prophets (Elijah), Moses (pronouncing plagues upon “Egypt”), and Enoch (who was taken up into Heaven). Rome is branded as “Sodom” and “Egypt” for its immorality and oppression of God’s people. Some scholars believe it refers to the Church as a whole, and Saint Peter and Paul are co-patrons of Rome and could easily represent the whole Church.

The fire that comes from their mouths could also be seen as a purifying fire: if you’re impure, you’ll simply be burned away, but the purity in you will be refined. This could represent the fire of truth: the Gospel. Everyone appreciates a fiery preacher, and they epitomize that quality because they’re preaching the unadulterated truth of the Gospel with fire and conviction. The two prophets seem to share the fate of all prophets: they rub their incredulous listeners the wrong way, and, eventually, are killed to silence the message they’re bearing. However, in this case it takes the epitome of lies and evil, the beast, to bring them down. It brings something new: the greatest calamity that could befall them (evil and death) are powerless in the light of eternal life. They’re not only restored to life, but taken up into Heaven. Until this point of salvation history being taken up was something either shrouded in mystery (as in the case of Enoch) or only witnessed by a faithful few (for example, Elijah and Our Lord himself at his Ascension). Now the wicked as well as the righteous see it, an allusion to the revelation of God’s designs now being manifest for all, something that will only happen in the end times.

When we’re faced with evil and death as the ultimate deterrents of this world we must follow the example of the two prophets in today’s readings and not shy away from preaching the Gospel with conviction. We are all those witnesses, and we’ll be rejected, scorned, and even killed for our belief, but in faith we know that evil and death will not have the last word

Readings: Revelation 11:4–12; Psalm 144:1–2, 9–10; Luke 20:27–40.  See also 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, and 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading John commends Christians for offering hospitality and support to itinerant missionaries. In John’s time Christian communities were still small and spread out over wide distances; missionaries needed a place to stay while they preached the Gospel, and where better than their spiritual family?

Even today missionaries leave home and comfort to share the Gospel, often enduring want, hardship, and even indifference. Young missionaries put their studies or career on hold for something nobler than just making a buck. We should support our missionaries not only materially, but spiritually. Not all missionaries do their work in far off countries; every missionary is sent by Our Lord to share the Gospel, and even in our own societies the work of sharing the Gospel depends on people willing to dedicate time and talent.

Let’s support our missionaries spiritually, materially, and by considering how we too can be missionaries in the Lord’s service.

Readings: 3 John 5–8; Psalm 112:1–6; Luke 18:1–8. See also 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

30th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

Christians sometimes get accused of spiritual egotism because they seem to only be concerned with their own salvation. Pope Benedict XVI addressed this in his encyclical Spe Salvi (n. 28) when addressing a conception of hope that saw salvation as nothing more than striving for “my” salvation:

Our relationship with God is established through communion with Jesus—we cannot achieve it alone or from our own resources alone. The relationship with Jesus, however, is a relationship with the one who gave himself as a ransom for all (cf. 1 Tim 2:6). Being in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into his “being for all”; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become possible truly to be there for others, for the whole.

Paul in today’s First Reading is torn between just wanting to die and be with Jesus or remaining on earth for the sake of his flock, and he makes the noble choice because he knows well that he’s not going to be saved on his own, nor should he expect others to be. His flock needs him. Would it be beautiful, full of Christian hope, to die and to be with Our Lord forever? Yes, but since we won’t get there alone we should also focus on helping others to get there as well first.

Our life should be suffused with a hope that fills us with a joy no one can dampen. Let’s ask Our Lord to help us to help others to believe and hope as well so that we can all enjoy Heaven one day together.

Readings: Philippians 1:18b–26; Psalm 42:2–3, 5c–f; Luke 14:1, 7–11. See also 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.