5th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s Gospel Our Lord takes one of his few trips outside of Palestine into Gentile territory. It seems he is trying keep a low profile, perhaps counting on some anonymity to have some quiet time to teach his disciples. However, as the arrival of the woman shows, news of his miracles has even reached Gentile territory. For us, this is nothing surprising, since we know the Gospel is for everyone, but in that moment it was not time yet. We’re faced with a situation similar to Mary at the wedding feast at Cana: the hour for the Gentiles had not yet come.
The Jews called the Gentiles “dogs”: if seems this woman is asking for a favor and receiving a rejection and a racial slur instead. However, in the original Greek the Lord uses the expression, “little dog,” perhaps to show that the example he was using was not meant to insult her, but to explain that what he had to do right now did not involve her: this party, this “food,” was not meant for her.
In her response we find her faith and her humility. She acknowledges that it’s not for her, but also that she’s not asking to take something away from the “children” that they need: a scrap will not starve them, but it’ll mean everything to her.
Our Lord is so generous with us that sometimes we think we’re entitled to what he gives us. Let’s learn from the Syrophoenician woman today to appreciate even the “scraps.”

Readings: 1 Kings 11:4–13; Psalm 106:3–4, 35–37, 40; Mark 7:24–30. See also 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II, and 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

7th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I

A few weeks ago we recalled how Adam and Eve somehow convinced themselves they’d not get “caught,” yet right after they ate of the fruit they hid at the first sign of God. Did it work? Sirach in today’s First Reading reminds us that God sees everything and he is the only one on which we can rely. If we convince ourselves that money, power, or cleverness will enable us to get away with whatever we want, Sirach reminds us today that the Lord watches over us as closely (and more) as a loving Father, and a loving father rewards or punishes accordingly. Sometimes we see him as a police officer, an authority against which we want to prove our autonomy, but in the end, he only wants the best for us.

Sirach also reminds us that God ultimately decides when to be merciful, so we must not abuse of his mercy. When you knowingly sin, for example, but tell yourself, “I’ll just go to confession afterwards,” you are abusing of God’s mercy. In early Christianity some notorious pagans, including the emperor Constantine, put off their Baptism until their deathbed so that they could “enjoy” themselves before taking on the demanding commitments of being a Christian. If Constantine had been instantly killed in battle or an accident, his opportunity for mercy would have died with him. If we live as if we’ll be held accountable for what we do, we’ll treat ourselves and others better.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us of the merit of even a small act of kindness, and also the need to be radical to avoid a life of sin and its consequences. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to tweak our consciences whenever we think we can get away with something.

Readings: Sirach 5:1–8; Psalm 1:1–4, 6; Mark 9:41–50. See also 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Lord make a second covenant with Noah and all living beings after the waters of the Flood subside, a covenant marked forever by the rainbow, symbolizing that the Lord has hung up his bow (and arrow, so to speak) and will no longer wage war on the living via flood. Even today the dove, the olive branch, and the rainbow are symbols for peace, all images taken from Genesis.

The Lord reminds us today that all plants and animals are given to us as sustenance, but also that we must use and treat them responsibly. Shedding blood simply for its own sake is an abuse of life, and the Lord says we’ll be accountable for it. Food is a gift to us from God. Like Noah, we should acknowledge that with thanksgiving. The Lord also puts the blood of mankind on a different level: mankind has been made in the image of God, therefore striking down man is an offense to God as well as man.

Let’s say grace at meals today with a renewed spirit of Thanksgiving for the gift of sustenance.

Readings: Genesis 9:1–13; Psalm 102:16–23, 29; Mark 8:27–33. See also 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Lord teaches us that it is not good for us to be alone. We were born into a family, a web of relationships forged by blood and by love, along with a responsibility to care for one another. With the creation of Eve in today’s First Reading Adam finally finds some who does not only keep him from loneliness, but who makes him complete. This interrelationship is meant to become a communion of life and love, an image of the communion of Persons whom we worship as the Most Holy Trinity.

For those blessed with children this communion grows and extends to the entire family, but it doesn’t just stop there. United and loving families are the building blocks of society, and the Lord also gathers believers together into communion with him and with their fellow believers in the Church. A communion of life and love helps each person to realize that they’re never truly alone, and never completely unloved.

Say an extra prayer today for the lonely and marginalized, so that they experience the love of God and the love of others. If you know someone who is struggling with loneliness, today’s the day to extend the hand of friendship and help them realize they’re not alone.

Readings: Genesis 2:18–25; Psalm 128:1–5; Mark 7:24–30. See also 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II and 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I

In today’s Gospel the Our Lord’s fame at healing and casting out unclean spirit has spread so far and wide that people come from far and wide only hoping to touch him and be healed. Back then it was the world of Palestine and its neighbors; today it is the whole world, and Our Lord, in Heaven, as high priest offers the gift and sacrifice of himself to our Father for our benefit forever. Through every celebration of the sacraments he acts, and we encounter him. If we open our hearts to the sacrament he heals us and fortifies us spiritually until one day we worship with him in eternity.

The Letter to the Hebrews is addressed to a group of converts from Judaism who are tired and thinking of falling back on the Jewish worship and Levitic priesthood (described in today’s First Reading as the “law” and arranged by Moses), which is still active in their time. The author encourages them to realize how much more perfect and eternal the priesthood of Christ in Heaven is. Christ is not only a holy and pure priest, but he is one forever. He focuses full time on his ministry (us) without any baggage or weakness. Jewish worship was a foreshadowing of the Heavenly worship inaugurated and continued in eternity by Our Lord.

In his earthly ministry he needed a boat to prevent being crushed by all those who sought him. Now he provides plenty of “space” through our faith and through the sacraments. Let’s draw closer to him through our faith and the sacraments so that he can heal us too.

Readings: Hebrews 7:25–8:6; Psalm 40:7–10, 17; Mark 3:7–12.