28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C (2)

In today’s readings we have two people who’ve received healing from God and recognize the need to thank him, and nine who should know better and don’t. Naaman washed in the river Jordan, reminding us of the spiritual cleansing from sin we received at Baptism. Miraculous healings from leprosy in today’s readings remind us of the miracle of Our Lord in his mercy healing us of sin’s effects. When’s the last time you thanked Our Lord for all that he has done for you?

In today’s First Reading Naaman is so grateful for being healed of his leprosy in Israel by following Elisha’s instructions that he wants to take some of the Promised Land back home to Syria with him. We too were spiritually unclean before our Baptism. It was not our fault, like all lepers, but, nonetheless, we were spiritually sick and rotting. Just as Naaman washed himself in the Jordan we washed ourselves at the Baptismal fount and were made spiritually clean, our sins washed away. Just as Naaman took a little of the Promised Land with him to always remember to whom he owed his healing, our Promised Land, the seed of eternal life, is sown in Baptism and remains with us as long as we don’t forget and act against the gift we received.

The Samaritan in today’s Gospel went back to Our Lord when he realized he was clean. The fact that he is a Samaritan makes it even more astounding: Jews wanted nothing to do with Samaritans, and vice versa. The Samaritans had their own worship and he would have probably returned to his own people to be certified clean, just as the other nine, if they were Jews, would go to the Temple so that the priests, as required by Mosaic Law, certified their healing. The ten lepers have faith, but only one of them has the faith that goes the distance in terms of acknowledging God: the Samaritan who returns to Jesus to thank him upon realizing that he’s been cured, a Samaritan, unlike the Jews, who didn’t even have all the spiritual resources at the time that a Jew would. Naaman hadn’t either.

Yet the nine, despite all they’d received, didn’t thank Our Lord. Ingratitude hurts, and those men had as much for which to be thankful as the Samaritan and Naaman did. The Lord in his mercy did not reverse his miracle, but he expected and deserved more. Just as the Rich Young Man turned away from Our Lord and drifted from anonymity to oblivion in the Gospel account, so these nine are only remembered for what the Lord did for them, for their lack of gratitude, and for the grace of God that they let pass by: friendship with Christ.

Every year those who participate in the Easter Vigil renew their baptismal promises. Parents and godparents do it too when children are baptized. Meditating on and renewing your baptismal vows can be very helpful in gauging your fervor:

  • “Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?”
  • “Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?”
  • “Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?”
  • “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?”
  • “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?”

Readings: 2 Kings 5:14–17; Psalm 98:1–4; 2 Timothy 2:8–13; Luke 17:11–19. See also 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (2)

In today’s Gospel Our Lord gazes upon the Rich Young Man with love before he asks something of him that he knew would be difficult. The Second Reading today reminds us that God’s word has the sharpness of a sword, and, we can add, the precision of a scalpel: it finds exactly where the tumor is, knows where to make the necessary incision that makes our delusions fall away, but we must choose to go under the knife.

We too need to contemplate the words of today’s First Reading. The Wisdom of God is what we need; everything else is an investment in that for which we’re truly searching. The Wisdom of God is described like discovering the love of your life; everything else pales in comparison. Wisdom is more valuable than political power. Wisdom is more valuable than material wealth. Wisdom is more valuable than physical health or beauty. Wisdom is the true path to success.

In today’s Second Reading the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that nothing is hidden to the eyes of the Lord, and he can reveal things within us to which even we are blind. If the Wisdom of God in the First Reading is described as a splendor with which light itself can’t compare, the Word of God in the Second is described as a sharp sword that cuts through any pretensions or illusions we may have about ourselves or others. The Word of God is always meant to reveal something, expressing the Wisdom of God so that we see ourselves, the world, and others in its light.

Our Lord doesn’t see himself offering the Rich Young Man in today’s Gospel pain and sacrifice; he is offering him the path to a deeper love for God in exchange for the love he’s already received and shown. When the Rich Young Man tries to flatter Our Lord a little Jesus is quick to chide him about his motives for such praise, and redirects his thoughts to God. Our Lord is telling him that it doesn’t matter how rich he is, or whether he is good or bad; God’s love for him is constant.

If success and moral living don’t help us grow in our love for God, they don’t go far enough; they will not satisfy us. If the Rich Young Man had taken today’s First Reading (which did exist in his time) and replaced the expressions “prudence” and “Wisdom” with “the love of God,” everything would have snapped into clarity. The wisdom he was truly seeking from Jesus was an awareness of the love God had for him, in which every other good thing would pale.

He may have seen Our Lord as asking a costly sacrifice, but Jesus was asking him to invest the fruits of his success and goodness into something greater and for something greater. Our Lord looks upon us with love no matter what we do, but he also invites us to follow him, draw closer to him, and love him more. Many times we see that through a filter of losing something, sacrificing something. We too need to contemplate the words of today’s First Reading. The Wisdom of God is what we need; everything else is an investment in that for which we’re truly searching.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that if we try to please God and seek eternal life a moment will come when we ask a potentially scary question, like the Rich Young Man did today, “What do I still lack?” If the spiritual life is easy, it’s a moment to ask, like the young man, what we are lacking. We know Our Lord teaches us that we must lose our life in order to save it, and to take up our cross every day and follow him. The cross implies that tough choices for the sake of Our Lord must be made. If something separates us from God, it separates us from eternal life and any true happiness we could have achieved. Under the weight of this idolatry it’s no wonder that the Rich Young Man went off sad when he didn’t opt for Christ: deep down he knew eternal life was at stake, and he blew it.

Don’t be afraid to ask Our Lord the question today in your own spiritual life: “Lord, what do I lack?” No matter how costly it appears, it will lead to eternal happiness for you and for others. Take the next step and trust in Our Lord’s help.

Readings: Wisdom 7:7–11; Psalm 90:12–17; Hebrews 4:12–13; Mark 10:17–30. See also 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Monday8th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, and 20th Week in Ordinary Time,Tuesday.


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s readings remind us that Heaven awaits us as a party, not a chore. Everybody has to prepare for the party if they don’t want to miss out on the fun.

In today’s First Reading Isaiah describes our future as the ultimate party where shadows and tears are banished and there’s only room for celebration. Everyone, “all peoples,” are invited to this celebration. No expense is spared on the food and the wine. Everything that could sour the party is not just put on hold; it is banished forever. It’s not just a moment to forget worries, but to leave them and the tears they cause behind forever more. The Lord is the life of the party on a deeper level than we could possibly imagine.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that moments of famine help us appreciate even more the moments of feast. If you want just one list of all the ups and downs of St. Paul’s missions, just read 2 Corinthians 11:21–33: prisons, beatings, shipwrecks, “in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” The Philippians were worried about his hardship, but St. Paul responds that he can live in feast or famine because it is the Lord who strengthens him. There are a few lines omitted in this dialogue, where St. Paul recalls how the Philippians supported him materially in his missionary endeavors, even at times when no other church did. Paul assures them that the Lord will provide for them whatever they need as well.

In today’s Gospel the wedding feast reminds us of Heaven, but also that although everyone is invited to the party, some in the end will not be found worthy to participate in it, and some won’t want to participate in it at all. Some had already been invited to the feast, and now servants were sent to tell them it was ready. Obviously these invitees had a closer relationship with the king: they were invited to come, and didn’t feel obliged to come. The invitees ask to be excused, but really just gave excuses not to come: they’d known when the great dinner would be held and had made other plans. Some didn’t even make excuses and just killed the messengers. They either didn’t want to go or were simply indifferent about going: that showed what they thought of their king, both as their ruler and as their friend. Something or someone else came first.

Abandoned by his friends, the king invited other members of his kingdom, but not on the basis of friendship, just on the basis of a benevolence a king owes his people. In the end he also invites his subjects who are complete strangers to him, perhaps people not even a part of his kingdom at all, “good and bad.” They benefit from the great dinner, but they cannot take the place of those the king wanted to partake of it, his invitees, those he wanted to acknowledge as his friends.

If this parable speaks to us of Heaven it’s also a reminder that God is merciful and good, but in the end we have to do our part, even a little, if we want to be saved. Salvation is not automatic. The man with no wedding garment had no answer for the king’s question: there was no excuse he could offer, and if the king was displeased, it means something was expected of that man that he didn’t do. That wedding garment symbolizes having done something to partake and appreciate the marriage feast. This poor man shows no signs of celebration whatsoever. Maybe he represents that Christian who goes through the motions all their life, but never really seeks to help himself or others to get to Heaven. We have to give Our Lord something to work with. The man with no wedding garment managed to get to the banquet hall, but he didn’t go far enough to stay.

When you talk to some people about Heaven they just roll their eyes. When you talk to some believers about Heaven, their attitude is more, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Ask anyone on Friday afternoon how he feels about the great party coming up that weekend. He can’t wait. He is humming and tapping his feet everywhere he goes, thinking about the celebration to come. Visualize the ultimate party this weekend: not a kegger, but Heaven, celebrating in eternity with those you love. If we stop and truly contemplate Heaven how can it not bring a smile to our face and put us in a “partying” mood?

Are you going to pass up the greatest party of all time?

Readings: Isaiah 25:6–10a; Psalm 23:1–6; Philippians 4:12–14, 19–20; Matthew 22:1–14.

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Paul praises the faith and charity of the Ephesians and encourages them to grow in theological hope. Faith and charity help us to see things as Our Lord sees them and as he wills them. They help us see things from his perspective, and that perspective helps us to know him better. However, this is not just a rational process; Our Lord reveals himself to us, and if he hadn’t chosen to do so we’d never have really known him well. It is not just information; it’s also grace.

The more we know Our Lord, the more we trust in him and in what our Heavenly Father has done in him and through him, giving us cause for theological hope. That “first installment” we spoke about yesterday is solid and a harbinger of good things to come for those who trust in God. Our Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, attested to by many witnesses in the faith, is the reason for our hope. All things are submitted to him, as Paul teaches, so we only have cause for hope, not fear.

Faith, hope, and charity are meant to grow throughout our earthly lives and work together to achieve that end. Let’s put our faith, trust, and love in Our Lord and he will reveal to us the glorious things yet to come.

Readings: Ephesians 1:15–23; Psalm 8:2–3b, 4–7; Luke 12:8–12. See also 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II28th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, and 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In yesterday‘s First Reading Paul, addressing the Ephesians, reminded us that we’ve been chosen to be holy and blameless in God’s sight since before the foundation of the world. Today he expounds on how we are chosen in Christ and for what we are chosen: we exist in order to praise God, and Our Lord helps us to do that. Praising God may not seem all that exciting a vocation, but how many people do we applaud when they simply entertain us, and how much more has God done for us to merit praise?

The Lord doesn’t expect praise in a vacuum, just as we normally applaud someone who has accomplished something, whether noble or entertaining. We praise the Lord here on earth because we’ve already received the “first installment,” as Paul describes it, of our redemption. When we believe and are baptized our redemption begins, right here, right now, and Jesus was a hero to make it happen. That merits our praise now, and we can only imagine how much more we’ll want to praise God in eternity when our redemption is complete, free from sin, death, and fear.

Let’s meditate on the “first installment” we’ve received in our life today and give Our Lord a round of applause.

Readings: Ephesians 1:11–14; Psalm 33:1–2, 4–5, 12–13; Luke 12:1–7. See also 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.