16th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

Today’s First Reading from Jeremiah shows that a prophecy, being the Word of God, not only speaks to its first listeners, but to all its listeners. Jeremiah describes a future Jerusalem shepherded by good and holy leaders, and a future where the Ark of the Covenant would lose the prominence it had among the Israelites. Why mention the Ark? First, because in that moment of its history the Israelites were in danger of idolatrizing the Ark and the Temple as a guarantee that the Lord would be with them and defend them whether they were pleasing to him or not (he wouldn’t). Second, because the Ark was the core of their belief in the Lord being among them and the Lord interacting with them; drawing close to the Ark meant drawing close to the Lord, which is why it was kept in the heart of the Temple.

In a future renewed Jerusalem the Lord wouldn’t use an Ark; he would use all of Jerusalem as his throne, not just the top of the Ark, known as the mercy seat where the glory of the Lord used to rest while appearing to Moses. As the Ark was to Israel now the entire city of Jerusalem would be, a more majestic and imposing presence of the Lord amidst his People. The Church has been described in the Book of Revelation as the Heavenly Jerusalem. Even as Jeremiah was describing a renewed and restored Jerusalem he was also describing the Church, guided by good and holy pastors, and the Mystical Body of Christ, a presence of the Lord amidst his people unprecedented in salvation history.

The Lord has committed himself to us unconditionally. Let’s respond in kind.

Readings: Jeremiah 3:14–17; Jeremiah 31:10–12d, 13; Matthew 13:18–23. See also 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

Where there is water there is life. Any agricultural community will tell you that their livelihood depends on having a good and constant water supply. The Lord in today’s First Reading describes what he has to offer Israel in terms of an unending water supply: “living” water flows, it is not just still water stored in a cistern. Israel not only stopped drawing from the Lord as the source of life; they forgot about him completely after he had loved and protected them in the desert like a bridegroom and led them to a “garden land.”

The Lord is the source of our life. No substitutes. The Israelites in today’s First Reading tried to replace him with cisterns for holding water that didn’t even work. Anyone who has lived in a drought knows how the life simply dries up and withers with the lack of water: green plants turn to brown, livestock dies, and the earth dries and cracks, becoming inhospitable for planting. We must always stay close to the source of our life. Every bit of clean water we see should remind us of the day of our baptism when the Lord adopted us as his sons and daughters. He established a living flow of grace in us that only dries up if we distance ourselves from him, its Source.

If life seems a little dry or you are in full drought, seek out its Source. He is much closed than you think.

Readings: Jeremiah 2:1–3, 7–8, 12–13; Psalm 36:6–7b, 8–11; Matthew 13:10–17. See also 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

Today’s Gospel is the Parable of the Sower, and, as we’ll see in a few days, the seed being sown is the Word of God trying to make its way into a soul. In today’s First Reading, the beginning of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we see Jeremiah recalling when the Word of God was first “sown” into him and all the reservations he had about becoming the Lord’s prophet. This is normal. When the Lord asks something of us, something that inevitably requires the cross, we get nervous and start raising possible objections. This is simply the seed burrowing in and starting to take root.

If we use the language of today’s Gospel in considering today’s conversation between the Lord and Jeremiah we see that we shouldn’t be afraid of welcoming and nourishing the seed of God’s Word, because God has sown it for a good purpose and he will continue to watch over the soil and cultivate it. Jeremiah was young and inexperienced, but the Lord would be with him and all Jeremiah had to do was follow his commands and speak his words.

Don’t be afraid of welcoming the Word of God into your heart. He may ask for something demanding, but he’ll be with you every step of the way and he has plans for something good to grow out of your generosity and sacrifice.

Readings: Jeremiah 1:1, 4–10; Psalm 71:1–4a, 5–6b, 15, 17; Matthew 13:1–9. See also 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the prophet Micah now speaks on behalf of Israel to God instead of the other way around. Israel prays for reconciliation with the Lord and expresses trust in his mercy. They use the image of being sheep cared for by a shepherd; the language of their prayer shows their willingness to docilely submit themselves in humility to the Lord’s will knowing that he doesn’t just make demands, but cares for them, just as they recall he did with their forefathers, the Patriarchs. Israel feels the weight of their sins, which is why they describe the Lord liberating them from sin as tossing something into the ocean: a great weight will sink into the depths of the sea and be forgotten.

If there’s one thing our society frowns upon, it’s submitting to anyone. Humility is not in great demand, unless we expect others to be humble and submit to what we want. It is easier to learn humility if we concentrate on being led by the Lord. This only makes sense if we see what a Good Shepherd he has been to us in his Son. Being led by him into greener pastures is something that starts right now.

If you’ve strayed from Our Lord don’t be afraid to draw closer to him, trusting in his mercy, so that he can lead you once again to greener pastures.

Readings: Micah 7:14–15, 18–20; Psalm 85:2–8; Matthew 12:46–50. See also 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday and 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading the Lord convokes creation as a jury in the trial between him and his people. He asks Israel what grievance they have against him; this text is also used in the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday afternoon. Its reminds us that just as we judge the world, the world judges us for our actions: not just other persons, but the world itself. Each one of us can examine our world, let it put us “on trial” to see what grievance it may have against us. As a society we can measure how just society is, whether it is being responsible in the consumption and sharing of its resources, whether it lives in solidarity with other societies in the world.

However, this trial also needs to come closer to home, not just that big world out there where sometimes it is difficult to measure our own impact. How do I treat myself (health)? How do I treat my things (my home, my budget, my use of time)? How do I treat others (my family, my friends, complete strangers)? In today’s Gospel Our Lord is being put on trial; they are demanding a sign as evidence. Our Lord prepares them for the future trial of the Last Judgment instead, using two examples of potential witnesses against them: Sodom and Gomorrah, two of the most wicked towns in the Old Testament; and the Queen of the South, who came from far away to seek the wisdom of Solomon because she knew she lacked it. In short, he warns them of the future consequences of their immorality and lack of wisdom.

He also tells them of Nineveh, a town despised by the Jews that repented of its sins when Jonah warned them of their impending destruction by the Lord. The sign Our Lord will give them–the Resurrection–is a sign of their salvation if they welcome it in faith. Our “trial” is not hopeless as long as we have Our Lord in our corner. Let’s not shy away from some healthy self-examination today to see how we can better our world by bettering ourselves through morality and wisdom.

Readings: Micah 6:1–4, 6–8; Psalm 50:5–6, 8–9, 16b–17, 21, 23; Matthew 12:38–42. See also 1st Week of Lent, Wednesday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, and 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.