13th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

In today’s readings we see two reminders that power and authority come from God, not from men. If we do any good work on the Lord’s behalf it is because the Lord empowers us to do so. In today’s First Reading the priest Amaziah trash talks the prophet Amos and implies that he has come to Bethel as a prophet as a career change, not a mission from the Lord. Even if the Northern Kingdom did not have faith in Amos, events would show that he had been sent by the Lord: everything he prophesied in today’s First Reading came to pass.

In today’s Gospel the main wonder is not that Our Lord could heal a paralytic. The healing of a paralytic is a sign ratifying the true teaching of the day: that the ministry and power of forgiveness could be entrusted to a man. When Our Lord uses the expressions “Son of man” and “authority on earth” he is not referring to his divine power to forgive, but his human authority entrusted to him by his Father as part of his mission on earth. The crowds understand perfectly: they glorify God for giving “such authority to men.” This ministry of reconciliation continues in the Church even today, but through the power and authority given by the Lord.

Our Lord has blessed us with many means to know his will and to be reconciled with him and with others. Let’s glorify him today for all the good he has done for us through his ministers.

Readings: Amos 7:10–17; Psalm 19:8–11; Matthew 9:1–8. See also 1st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday2nd Week of Advent, Monday, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.

13th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us not to worry about where we’re going to stay or our family when we follow him and help him extend his Kingdom. Everything we seek, God willing, will be awaiting us at the end of our journey: true rest and everyone we love in Heaven.

Readings: Amos 2:6–10, 13–16; Psalm 50:16b–23; Matthew 8:18–22. See also 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C, 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II and 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

13th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C

A superficial reading of today’s First Reading and Gospel may give us the impression that Elijah is easier on his disciple than Our Lord is with his, but the Second Reading can shed a little light on the apparent difference. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that life is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit; the Christian life presents a new way of living, living in a way that you are not enslaved to things and situations, but alive in the Spirit and focused on the spiritual goal. Even good things, if sought for the wrong reasons, can oppose a life of the Spirit.

A common denominator in today’s First Reading and Gospel is that the disciple asks to do something before following his master. The subtle difference is that, unlike Elijah, Our Lord can always read hearts and see whether that heart is speaking from the flesh or from the Spirit. Elisha is “liquidating his assets” and doing one last gesture of love for his family before departing; the hearts of disciples in today’s Gospel are only known to Our Lord, and it is in his response to them that we see a potential conflict between Spirit and flesh that he is trying to help them address.

The first disciple in today’s Gospel perhaps doesn’t understand that following Our Lord is a something lifelong: he’s not just headed to the Rabbi’s house instead of his own, he is committed to permanently follow Jesus, just as every Christian is called to do. The second wants to attend to important family business, but sometimes following Our Lord requires sacrifice and self-denial: in telling the dead to bury their dead Our Lord perhaps is telling him too that the family business he is concerned about can already be attended to by another member of his family. The last potential disciple wants to go home and say goodbye first: Our Lord sees something in that request that would put flesh over Spirit. Perhaps the disciple would go home and stay there. Following Christ is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our family, and we must never lose sight of that.

Whatever path Our Lord calls us to walk, not just priesthood or consecrated life, it is a path where we follow him. Let’s ask him today to show us the path we should take and how we should take it.

Readings: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19–21; Psalm 16:1–2, 5, 7–11; Galatians 5:1, 13–18; Luke 9:51–62. See also 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II and 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

13th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that in the Christian life there are Lenten moments and there are Easter moments. The Pharisees and disciples of John the Baptist don’t completely realize that the Messianic time of liberation for which they’d been doing penance for millenia was now at hand, a cause for rejoicing. Jesus makes it clear too that everything is not going to be Easter from that point forward: his disciples would fast and be sad when his Passion was at hand. A Church that is all Lent is not in God’s plan, nor a Church that is all Easter in this life. The important thing is to live the moment as God would have us live it, and to celebrate every mystery of Christ’s life, both suffering and rejoicing.

He also reminds them, and us, of the importance of maintaining traditions and watching over them and adapting them with prayer and prudence as new situations arise. If a tradition seems to no longer completely apply to circumstances, adaptations should be done carefully in order to respect those aspects of its original purpose that are still sound. If we don’t use a tradition for it’s true purpose, instrumentalizing it to force something we want, we’ll ruin the tradition, just like the old wineskins in today’s Gospel. Traditions have history and we have to keep that history in mind in order to understand what they bear for us and how we can transmit them to future generations.

Let’s ask Our Lord today for the wisdom and prudence to live each moment as he would like us to live it, and to understand and use well the traditions he and the Church have handed down to us over the centuries.

Readings: Genesis 27:1–5, 15–29; Psalm 135:1b–6; Matthew 9:14–17.

13th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

In today’s Gospel we’re reminded that sometimes we get stuck in life, or see our friends stuck, and no one can go it alone. How many times have we helped our friends or been helped by them in one of those moments? In today’s Gospel the paralytic is stuck both physically and spiritually. Sin drains us and paralyzes us to the point that we can’t get out of it alone. One of the saddest things of being a sinner is that sense of being alone and helpless. As believers, following Christ’s example, we try to help everyone who is stuck in life, especially our friends, but also by being a friend to the friendless when they really need someone. Sin also isolates, and sometimes the sinners themselves try to isolate themselves from others, but they can only get so far before they get stuck.

Jesus teaches us today to bring them to him, because he’s the only friend who can help us definitively get unstuck. The scribes and the crowds couldn’t believe that a man could be an instrument of forgiveness, since God alone forgives sins. They didn’t know yet that Jesus was God, but he himself in referring to himself as the Son of Man alludes to what we experience today in priests and bishops as ministers of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick: God has given them the authority to spiritually heal on his behalf and as his istruments. Through these sacred ministers the sick and sinners are brought to Jesus to receive healing, spiritual, physical, or both, and the grace to face their trials in faith and trust.

If you’re struggling with illness, spiritual or physical, seek out Our Lord in the sacraments and don’t be afraid to ask your friends for help. If you’re blessed with good spiritual health, ask Our Lord to be that friend with the tact, prudence, and wisdom to bring those paralytics in you life to him.

Readings: Genesis 22:1b–19; Psalm 115:1–6, 8–9; Matthew 9:1–8.