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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9
Matthew would have been a very unpopular person. He would have either been a private contractor of the Roman government or a tax collector of Herod Antipas, the Jewish leader of Galilee. Either way, tax collectors were disliked because it was common knowledge that they often extorted more than permitted and pocketed some of the money. Essentially, they were seen as thieves who stole from the people with the permission of the civil rulers.
Matthew would have also been somewhat wealthy, at least wealthier than most. So when Jesus walked up to him and said to him, “Follow me,” this would have caught the attention of many. And when Matthew got up, left his customs post and followed Jesus, the people watching would have been surprised, to say the least.
What was it that inspired Matthew to leave his former life behind, his wealth and position of power, and follow this humble man from Nazareth? It was the simple fact that this man was also the Son of God.
Though we do not know the internal stirrings of Matthew’s soul, we certainly can speculate. Most likely, Matthew had discovered that his tax collecting was dissatisfying. Yes, he had money and power. Yes, he could buy material comforts with that money. But most likely he was dissatisfied with life and was searching for more. As a result, he was open, searching and waiting. Then, when Jesus called to him, this call went further than his ears. It entered his soul, and somehow he knew that Jesus’ call was what he was looking for.
We can presume this to be the case because it is a law of human nature that applies to each and every person. No one will find deep peace and satisfaction in life from the material things of this world. Though they may offer a certain amount of comfort, the things of this world are incapable of fulfilling anyone in the truest way. Fulfillment is first and foremost a spiritual reality because we are spiritual beings. And the only way to find satisfaction on that level is by hearing and responding to the will of God. That’s what Matthew did.
Reflect, today, upon this scene of Matthew being called by Jesus and leaving everything behind to follow him. If you were there and knew Matthew, what would your interior response be? Would you have been surprised that he left his money and position to become a humble follower of Jesus? Would you have been critical of him, laughed at him or ridiculed him? Or would you have been grateful that Matthew finally found the truth? Matthew’s discovery is a discovery that is also offered to you. God is calling you to follow Him more fully every day. As you hear this call, do not hesitate to leave every hindrance behind so that you can fully follow the plan God has for you.
Lord, You and You alone are the source of all satisfaction and fulfillment in life. You are glorious beyond description and worth following always. Please free me from the many deceptive satisfactions in life so that I can follow You, no matter where You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
“Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28–30
Jesus spoke these words to the crowds who had gathered around His home in Capernaum because two groups of people had just spoken very critically of Him in a public way. First, some of His extended family arrived and said to everyone, “He is out of his mind.” And then some of the scribes from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul.” Thus, Jesus states clearly that their blasphemy is a sin against the Holy Spirit and will have everlasting consequences.
Why is it that certain sins will never be forgiven? What exactly is a sin against the Holy Spirit? Traditionally, our Church has identified this sin in a couple of ways. First, it is a sin of final impenitence, that is, the sin of obstinately persisting in grave sin. Obstinacy, or the refusal to repent, is a sin that cannot be forgiven, simply because the person committing it never seeks forgiveness. They become so entrenched in their sin that they refuse to change. Thus, the mercy of God is incapable of entering into them. Second, it has also been identified as presumption, meaning a person sins while expecting God to forgive. Presumption is more subtle; however, it also has the effect of keeping a person from the sincere repentance that is needed for forgiveness. The presumptuous person never fully repents and amends their life as long as they remain in their sin.
Of all the many sins you struggle with or might struggle with in the future, pay special attention to the sins against the Holy Spirit. Though we should never think we have a right to God’s forgiveness, we must always believe that God’s mercy is so great that the moment we humbly acknowledge our sin and sincerely repent of it, God will forgive. But the key is “sincerity.” In order to be forgiven, the repentance within us must be sincere, authentic, real and complete. We cannot fool God. We can certainly fool ourselves, but not God.
One of the best ways to regularly be certain that you are not guilty of any sin against the Holy Spirit is by going to the Sacrament of Confession and confessing your sins with openness, thoroughness and humility. Own your sin. Acknowledge it. Experience sorrow for it. Resolve to change. Then confess it and trust in God’s mercy.
Reflect, today, upon any way that you lack sincerity and thoroughness in your repentance from sin. Are you honest with yourself about the sins you have committed? Have you taken ownership of those sins? If so, have you also confessed them to God and firmly resolved never to commit them again? Take repentance seriously so that you never even begin to fall down the slippery slope that leads to any sin against the Holy Spirit.
Most merciful Lord, You offer forgiveness to all who come to You with humility and sincere sorrow. Please fill me with these virtues and give me the resolve to change as I open myself to Your unfathomable mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Intervention of God
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
“Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, crying out “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” Luke 7:14–16
Many of the miracles that Jesus performed were done at the request of either the person who was sick or some of their family and friends. However, the miracle in today’s Gospel was done spontaneously by our Lord at no one’s request. A young man from the city of Nain had died. Jesus happened to be walking through that city, with a large crowd following Him, at the same time that the dead young man was being carried out. He was already in a coffin, which implied that he had been dead for some time. When Jesus saw the young man’s weeping mother, He was moved with compassion for her, approached her, told her not to weep and then raised the boy to life.
One thing this miracle teaches us is that God is always aware of our every need and will intervene in the lives of those who love Him when doing so is for their good. This woman must have been a woman of deep faith, and Jesus must have sensed it. And though she never asked Jesus to intervene and perhaps didn’t even know of Jesus, her pure heart, love of God and genuine goodness did not escape our Lord. Thus, He intervened and raised her son out of love for her. Since this young man was “the only son of his mother,” he would have had the responsibility of caring for his mother as she aged. So the loss of her son was not only deeply personal because of her love for him, but his passing would also make her life more difficult. Jesus was aware of this and intervened.
Sometimes we can think that unless we ask God for certain favors and blessings, He will not give them. But that’s not true. The truth is that when we put God first in our lives, seek to love Him and serve His holy will, God will take care of us always. His providence is perfect. He will never abandon us and never forsake us. That does not mean that He will miraculously heal our loved ones just because we love Him, but it does mean that God knows what we need and will never fail to meet those needs in a way that is far beyond our expectations.
Reflect, today, upon the duty you have in life to love God with all your heart. If that is your focus and mission in life, then everything else will fall into place. Do not worry about your future. Do not worry about the difficulties that befall you. Trust that God knows what you need and what is best for your eternal salvation and that He will always intervene when it is best for you. And don’t be surprised if you do see Him do glorious things in your life, even though you never asked for them.
Most attentive Lord, You are aware of every part of my life. You know all things and know what is necessary for my holiness and salvation. May I learn to love You with all my heart and trust that You will always provide for me and care for me in accord with Your perfect plan of love. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Heights of Holiness
Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1–3
Today we are given the incredibly high calling of the Beatitudes to ponder. These lessons were taught by Jesus on a hill just north of the Sea of Galilee. Many were coming to Jesus to listen to Him preach and to witness His many miracles. They flocked to Him in this remote location, and Jesus had them recline as He preached what is now referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” This sermon is found in Chapter 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel, and it takes place shortly after Jesus began His public ministry.
What a way to begin His public ministry! This teaching of Jesus was brand new and must have left many people mesmerized. Jesus no longer taught only the precepts of the Old Testament, such as the Ten Commandments; He now elevated the moral law to a level never conceived of before.
As the people listened to this new teacher speak with new authority and wisdom, they may have been excited and confused at the same time. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful and clean of heart, and to be a peacemaker could have been accepted. But why was it that being poor, mournful, and meek were considered blessings? And even more challenging, why was it good to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness or insulted and falsely accused because of Jesus?
When Jesus’ new and radical teaching is clearly understood, it is not only His first disciples who may have been confused and excited at the same time. You, too, if you truly listen to His teachings and understand what He means, will find that you may be challenged to the core of your being. Jesus’ teaching must be embraced, fully, and without hesitation.
The Beatitudes are our call to perfection. They lay out for us the path by which we travel to the heights of holiness and obtain the glory of Heaven. They are our fine-tuned and detailed road map to the fullness of happiness and joy. But they also call us to a radical transformation of our minds and in our actions. They are not “easily” embraced, in the sense that they require that we turn from every selfish tendency we have and choose to live free of every earthly temptation, attachment and sin. Perfection awaits those who listen to, understand, and embrace the Beatitudes.
Reflect, today, upon the beginning of this challenging Sermon on the Mount. Try to find time to take each Beatitude to prayer. It is only through prayer and meditation that the full meaning of each of these invitations to holiness will be understood. Start with the call to interior poverty of spirit. This Beatitude calls us to complete detachment from all that is not part of God’s will. From there, consider the importance of mourning over your sin, of seeking purity of heart and humility in all things. Ponder each Beatitude and spend time with the one most challenging to you. Our Lord has much to say to you through this sermon. Don’t hesitate to allow Him to lead you to the heights of holiness through it.
Lord of all holiness, You are perfect in every way. You lived every virtue and Beatitude to perfection. Give me the grace to open myself to You so that I may hear You call me to perfection of life and so that I may respond generously with my whole life. Make me holy, dear Lord, so that I will find the happiness and fulfillment You wish to bestow. Jesus, I trust in You.
Salt and Light for the World
Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:13–14
Every Christian has two primary duties in life. First, we must strive for personal holiness. And second, we must work to help others achieve this same degree of holiness. This is what it means to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”
Consider salt. Salt is a preservative, and it also adds flavor to food. It does so by entering the food and, in a sense, disappearing. So it must be with us. First, our Lord must enter our lives and preserve us from the corruption of sin. But as He does so, He will also bring out our goodness in a way that the “flavor” of holiness is evident to others. In this way, we will be used as salt for others. This is especially done by our works of charity.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said in her autobiography, “I see now that true charity consists in bearing with the faults of those about us, never being surprised at their weaknesses, but edified at the least sign of their virtue.” She believed that this was especially the way we act as salt and light to others. We help to preserve others from sin by being merciful to them when they are weak. We enrich their lives by seeing their goodness and rejoicing in it. And we do so in a hidden way. By our gentleness and compassion, our kindness and mercy, we preserve others and help them to grow in God’s abundant grace. And we do so, many times, without them even realizing how God used us.
Consider, also, light. The world in which we live is oftentimes quite dark and despairing. There is corruption all around us and temptations abound. Thus, the light of Christ must be made manifest far and wide. Those all around us need to see clearly the path to holiness and happiness. Again, this is possible if we first work to become light itself. Christ, the true Light of the World, must so permeate our lives that we find it almost automatic to shine brightly in a fallen world. When Christ is alive in us, we will radiate joy and peace, calm and conviction, moral goodness and determination. And when we live this way, we will not have to “impose” the Gospel on others; rather, God’s light will simply shine and be a beacon of hope to those who come into our presence.
Reflect, today, upon these two missions in life. First, ponder your call to holiness. How does God want to bring light into your own life, preserve you from all sin and add spiritual flavor for holy living? Second, who does God want you to love with His love? Who needs hope and joy, mercy and kindness, words of wisdom and encouragement? Be holy and then allow that holiness to shine forth to others and you will indeed be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
My Jesus, the true Light of the World, please shine brightly in my life so that I will see clearly and will be preserved from the darkness of sin. As You fill me with Your light, please use me as an instrument of Your love and mercy to a world filled with chaos and confusion. Dispel the darkness, dear Lord, and use me as Your instrument as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.
The New Law of Grace
Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Matthew 5:17–18
The law and the prophets, as found in the Old Testament, consists of three types. First, there are the moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments, that are primarily based on the natural law of God. By “natural law,” we mean that our human reason can understand their truthfulness, such as with “Thou shall not kill, steal, etc.” Second, there were many liturgical precepts that were laid down and practiced as a preparation for and prefiguration of their ultimate liturgical fulfillment. The fulfillment is now found in the sacramental life of the Church. Third, there were various legal precepts that gave specific directions on daily living. These laws include instructions on food, relations with others, how to treat foreigners, cleansings, purifications of utensils, tithing, and much more.
In our Gospel today, Jesus essentially says two things. First, regarding the legal and liturgical precepts, He says that He came to “fulfill” them. Thus, Christians are no longer bound by these Old Testament legal and liturgical laws, in that we are now called to a much higher fulfillment of them all. But as for the moral laws, especially those found in the Ten Commandments, not a single precept taught is abolished. Instead, these Commandments are deepened, and the call to moral perfection is now much clearer. It is for this reason that Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
It’s important to understand that those who lived before the time of Christ were not held to the same standard as we are today. That’s because they did not enjoy the gift of grace that was won by the Cross and is bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Today, we have so much more and, for that reason, are called to a much greater life of holiness. For example, we no longer celebrate the Passover as a mere remembrance of what God did by setting the Israelites free from slavery to the Egyptians. Today, we celebrate the New Passover through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, and our “remembrance” goes beyond the simple recalling of a memory of old. Our remembrance is one that enables us to actually participate in the saving sacrifice of Christ. We share in the actual event and are partakers of the grace won on the Cross each time we celebrate the Holy Mass. And as for the moral laws of the Old Testament, they become the bottom line of morality. The upper limit is now much higher. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to lay down our lives for others and take up our crosses daily to follow Jesus. We are called to the perfection of sacrificial love, and that is only possible by our sharing in the very life, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.
Reflect, today, upon the very high calling you have been given by our Lord. It’s not enough to simply do the bare minimum in our worship and moral life. Doing so may permit you to be “least in the Kingdom of heaven,” but God wants you to share in His greatness. He calls you to be among the “greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” Do you understand your high calling? Do you have the perfection of holiness as your goal? Commit yourself to the full participation in the New Law of Christ and you will be eternally grateful that you did.
My most glorious Lord, You came to bring our lives to the fullness of grace and holiness. You call us to the heights of Heaven. Help me to see my high calling, dear Lord, and to work diligently to embrace all that You now command by Your New Law of grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Burden of Anger
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” Matthew 5:21–22
The passage quoted above gives us three deepening levels of sin that we commit against another. These sins were new teachings not contained in the Old Testament. By this teaching, Jesus’ call to radical holiness and love of neighbor is made very clear.
The first level of sin is simply to be “angry” interiorly. The sin of anger is an interior attitude of disgust toward another. Jesus says that the consequence of having anger toward another is that you will be “liable to judgment.” The second level of sin is when you say to another “Raqa.” This Aramaic word is difficult to translate but would include some form of expression of one’s anger toward another. It would be a derogatory way of saying to another that they are unintelligent or inferior. The third level of sin Jesus identifies is when you call another “fool.” This word is an even stronger expression of Raqa and would be a verbal criticism of them, indicating that the person is a lost soul in a moral sense. It’s a strong moral condemnation of another that is expressed.
So, do you struggle with anger? Jesus’ calling to freedom from all levels of this sin is a high one. There are many times in life when our passion of anger is stirred up for one reason or another, and that passion leads to one of these levels of sin. It’s a common temptation to want to condemn another with whom you are angry in the strongest way possible.
It’s important to understand that this new teaching of Jesus is truly not a burden when understood and embraced. At first, it can seem that these laws of our Lord against anger are negative. That’s because lashing out at another gives a false sense of satisfaction, and these commands of our Lord, in a sense, “rob” us of that satisfaction. It can be a depressing thought to think about the moral obligation to forgive to the point that disordered anger disappears. But is it depressing? Is this law of our Lord a burden?
The deep truth is that what Jesus teaches us in this passage is, in many ways, more for our own good than that of others. Our anger toward another, be it interior, verbally critical or all-out condemning, can be hurtful toward the person with whom we are angry, but the damage these forms of anger do is far worse for us than them. Being angry, even interiorly, even if we put on a happy face, does great damage to our soul and our ability to be united to God. For that reason, it is not this new law of our Lord regarding anger that is the burden, it is the anger itself that is a heavy burden and a burden from which Jesus wants you free.
Reflect, today, upon the sin of anger. As you do, try to see your disordered anger as the real enemy rather than the person with whom you are angry. Pray to our Lord to free you from this enemy of the soul and seek the freedom that He wants to bestow.
My merciful Lord, You call us to perfect freedom from all that burdens us. Anger burdens us. Help me to see the burden that my anger imposes upon me and help me to seek true freedom through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation. Please forgive me, dear Lord, as I forgive all who have hurt me. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Love of Friendship
Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. Matthew 5:29–30
This imagery of tearing out your eye and cutting off your hand is clearly meant to get our attention. Though we can be certain that Jesus is not actually suggesting we mutilate our bodies, we should not hesitate to prayerfully ponder this imagery so as to understand the truths Jesus is speaking.
Saint Augustine, in reflecting upon this passage, states: “By the eye we must understand our most cherished friend…” Augustine further points out that Jesus specifically mentions the “right eye” as a way of denoting those friendships that have a “higher degree of affection” (Serm. in Mont. i. 13.). Thus, although friendship—especially very close friendship—is a gift, sometimes those close to us can become a source of sin or an occasion of sin. In that case, they are not truly friends, and it might be better to limit or even end that relationship rather than to allow it to lead us into sin.
Think about the people in your own life. Though we must love all people with the love of God, friendship is more than love. Friendship establishes a special bond with another and opens you up to their presence and influence in your life. When you establish a friendship, you allow another a certain influence in your life. When that influence is good, then the friendship produces much good fruit. But when that influence is evil, then that friendship becomes a danger to the good of your soul. In that case, it may need to be torn out or cut off so that you are not drawn into serious sin or even the occasion of sin.
When a friend in your life becomes an occasion of sin to you, your love for them must remain, but it must also change. Love, in this case, may take on the form of a loving rebuke, a withdrawal of your own heart, or a limiting of your interactions. But this is love. By analogy, when a person sins against God, their relationship with God also changes. God withdraws His friendship. He is less present to the person, and their internal communion diminishes or even ends when the sin is serious. This is not a lack of love on God’s part; it is simply the effect of sin. So also in our relations with another, when the grace of God is not mutually given and received between two people, then friendship in the truest sense is not possible. True friendship is always centered in God’s grace and dependent upon it. Therefore, when God is excluded from a relationship, that relationship must change from a true friendship to a relationship that imitates God’s love for a sinner. Mercy, compassion and forgiveness must continually be offered, but interior communion and unity will end. But this is love.
Reflect, today, upon those in your life whom God has given you to love. First, reflect upon those relationships that do have God at the center. These relationships will become true friendships and will produce an abundance of good fruit in your life. Rejoice in these friendships and give thanks to God for them. Second, reflect upon any relationship that does not bear good fruit. As you do, prayerfully consider how you approach that relationship. Do you attempt to maintain a “friendship” even though God is not able to be the center of that relationship? If so, ponder how God is calling you to change that relationship so that it more fully reflects the love God has for you and for that other person in your life.
My Lord and true Friend, I thank You for loving me with a perfect love. I pray that I will always be open to that love so that my unity with You will ever deepen. I also pray that I will be an instrument of Your love to others. Please give me the grace to love everyone in my life in the way that You love them, nothing less and nothing more. Jesus, I trust in You.
Daily Sincerity and Honesty
Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all…” Matthew 5:33–34
The purpose of an oath was to guarantee the truthfulness of the statement made. Sometimes this can be very good. For example, many of the Sacraments involve making a public vow before God and the Church. In these cases, the vow is a form of oath that is solemnized so as to invite the grace of God to enter and strengthen it. It becomes a way of making a public witness to one’s faith and an expression of one’s need for God’s grace to be faithful to the promise that is made.
Jesus is not speaking about these forms of public vows, oaths and promises in the Gospel today. Instead, He is addressing a practice that some engaged in, whereby they regularly swore on God’s name about the truthfulness of what they were saying. The problem with this is that it takes something solemn and sacred and carelessly turns it into something ordinary. There is no need to “swear to God” about everything one says.
First of all, if one feels a need to call on God’s name regularly so as to convince another of the truthfulness of their statements, then it is most likely the case that they do so because they are struggling with dishonesty. Oath-taking on a regular basis seems to presuppose a human tendency to lie. For that reason, it is not ideal to go about one’s daily interactions with this presupposition. Instead, as Christians we must strive for a fundamental disposition of truthfulness. Jesus concludes this Gospel teaching by saying, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” In other words, work to become a person of true honesty and integrity. Be sincere in all of your dealings, and do not begin with a presupposition of dishonesty. Begin with the intention of complete honesty and sincerity, and that will suffice.
Furthermore, if one were to go about their day making one oath after another, swearing on God’s name to the truthfulness every time, this would have the effect of lessening the solemnity of those few times when this is a good and holy practice. Making public vows, such as marriage vows, or public promises, such as priests make, are unique and solemn. Publicly renewing our faith within the Church, taking an oath as one begins the responsibility of some public office, or any other more solemn opportunity for oath-taking should be seen as a special occasion. Therefore, our daily commitments must simply be the fruit of our honesty and integrity as persons.
Reflect, today, upon your own daily approach to honesty and sincerity. Do you go about your day with the goal of living in the truth, speaking the truth and seeking the truth? Are you honest with others, seeking good and clear communication with them? Ponder these questions and know that interior integrity requires these virtues of honesty and sincerity. Seek that integrity and others will benefit as they grow to trust you each and every day.
Lord, You are the source of all truth, and You are Truth Itself. Please help me to become a daily instrument of that Truth in all that I say and do. I choose You and Your holy will always, and I choose to be Your instrument for all to see. Jesus, I trust in You.
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