Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Do Not Worry About Money

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  Matthew 6:34

If we could only heed these words!  Do not worry about…  The three dots after that phrase should be filled in by you.  What is it that you worry about?

The entire passage from today’s Gospel offers a list of things we worry about that we shouldn’t.  It especially points to concerns about our material well-being.  Jesus is very direct in saying that we should not worry about money and all that money provides.  He cares more for us than the birds of the sky or flowers of the field, yet He takes perfect care of them.  Will He not also take care of us?  He certainly will.

In this Gospel, Jesus directly states that you cannot serve both God and money.  In other words, you cannot make both of them the object of your desire and longing. 

Making money a central focus in life deters us from trust in the providence of God.  We certainly should not go about life carefree in regard to providing for ourselves and our loved ones.  We have a duty to work and earn a living and provide for ourselves and our family.  But it’s one thing to be diligent and responsible in accord with the will of God.  It’s another thing to worry excessively or to make money the central focus of our lives.

The simple answer to being worry free in regards to money is trust.  Trust God enough to take care of you.  Pray, listen to Him, let Him show you His will in regard to the way you will earn a living, and then confidently do what you hear Him calling you to do.  At times, money may be tight.  These moments can either be a cause for worry and anxiety, or a cause for greater trust and surrender to God.

God certainly does not promise to make you rich in material things.  This may or may not happen and, in fact, it matters little to God.  The key is that, rich or poor, you trust God and entrust your finances to Him.  If you have much, make sure that it is daily given over to God and that you daily ask Him to direct you in the use of your wealth.  If you have little, do not give in to fear but trust that the Lord knows your needs and will show you how to meet those needs.

Reflect, today, upon how regularly you surrender your finances over to God.  Are you willing to give Him complete control of this area of your life?  If so, you will be freed of much distress.

Lord of all providence, I entrust to You my finances and my material possessions. I entrust them to Your care and to Your providence.  Please free me from useless anxiety and worry and help me to keep You at the center of my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The New Life of Grace

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”  Mark 2:22

This teaching of Jesus is clearly not simply a lesson in winemaking.  It’s a lesson calling us to a new life in Christ and a calling to embrace the newness of His Gospel.  First, let’s look at the more literal interpretation of this passage and then see how it applies to our lives.

The image of the “old wineskins” is a reference to the Old Testament Law of Moses and the Prophets.  The “new wine” is a reference to the new life of grace in Christ, introduced in the New Testament.  This passage states that we cannot try to fit the newness of the Gospel into the old and limited practice of the Old Testament Law.  It’s not that the Old Testament Law was in error; rather, it’s that it was only a preparation for the fullness of revelation and truth that was to come.  Therefore, any attempt to limit the full revelation of the New Testament Gospel and all that the Gospel calls us to, is insufficient.  It’s not possible to live the full life of grace under the constraints of the Old Law.

When we apply this teaching to our lives, we will discover that Jesus is not calling us to live in contradiction in any way to the Old Law; rather, He is calling us to live it to a much greater extent.  The New Law of love, presented in the teachings of Jesus, calls us to the heights of holiness.  It calls us to a level of divine communion that is not possible by a mere external observance of the law.

Practically speaking, we should know that a life lived in Christ Jesus is a life that is continually new and glorious.  It’s a calling to reach for the Beatitudes.  The embrace of this new life in Christ is beyond what we can choose for ourselves.  It must be a response to the invitation from Christ to live on a level of love that is beyond our imagination.  The “new wineskins” refers to the new life we have been given. 

Reflect, today, upon the fact that you have been called to a new and glorious height of holiness of life.  It’s not possible to “figure this life out.”  It’s not possible to choose this life by your own will and intention.  Rather, it’s obtainable only by the humble acceptance of an invitation from our divine Lord.  Accept His invitation to this new life and then sit back and watch as He does glorious things in and through you.

Lord of all holiness, I thank You for the new life You have called me to live.  I thank You for all that You revealed through the Old Testament, and I thank You for the fulfillment of this law in Your teachings.  May I accept all that You invite me to live and, in that acceptance, discover the glorious heights of holiness You have in mind for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Bearing Good Fruit

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.”  Luke 6:43

Conversely, it should be said that a good tree does bear good fruit.  This must be our goal.  By saying that “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,” Jesus is teaching us the supernatural effect of living a holy life.  When we live a life grounded in Christ, the effect will be that good fruit is born from our lives.  This is an important spiritual principle to understand.

Hopefully, we all want to live good lives.  We all want to make a difference in our world and in the lives of others for the good.  But the fundamental question to ask is how do we do this?  The answer is that it’s not so much a matter of choosing the good actions we do; rather, on a more basic and fundamental level, we must choose to live a life grounded in Christ, thus becoming a “good tree.”

If you want to bear good fruit and make a holy and positive difference in the world, then you need to do one primary thing.  Work at becoming holy.  To use the image that Jesus gives, see yourself as a tree that is planted in the ground.  See your roots stretching far and wide.  See yourself being nourished and basked in the Sun.  And see yourself growing and flourishing. 

This is the life of grace and the effect is that good fruit automatically comes forth.  The life of grace is accomplished by focusing upon your own health and spiritual well-being.  You become this “good tree” by doing the basics well.  First, pray, pray well and pray hard.  Let your life be centered in prayer.  Second, learn your faith.  Listen to the Gospels, learn all that God has revealed through the Church, read the teachings of the saints, and learn from other holy people.  Third, live a good sacramental life.  Go to Mass, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, understand the grace of your Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, etc.  Know that the Sacraments nourish you in powerful ways and embrace that nourishment with your whole heart.

Reflect, today, upon the important mission you have been given to go forth and to bear an abundance of good fruit in our world.  This mission can be accomplished only as a result of a life of holiness.  This holiness is only accomplished when your roots are firmly grounded in the life of grace.  Embrace this life of grace through the many means that God has set before you, and know that the commitment you make to holiness will bring health not only to your own soul, but also to the souls of those whom God will touch through you.

Lord, I love You and I give my life to You.  I pray that I may be planted in the fertile soil of Your abundant love and mercy.  Help me to be nourished by the life of grace You have lavished upon me and, as I grow in holiness, bring forth an abundance of good fruit in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Cost of Discipleship

Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  Mark 10:21-22

There are two important things to point out in this Scripture passage.  The first is Jesus’ reaction and the second is the rich young man’s reaction.

Jesus, it says, looked at him and “loved him.”  It’s important to be aware of this line as a precursor to what Jesus calls this young man to do.  He calls him to give up everything he has, give it all away, and come follow Jesus.  And Jesus invited him to do this out of love.  

Jesus is inviting this young man to gain much more than he currently possesses.  That’s why Jesus looked at him with love before He invited the young man to follow Him in a total and radical way.  But, in this case, loving Jesus was going to hurt.  It was going to hurt in the sense that his following of Jesus required a total sacrifice of everything.  It was total and radical.  It was hard, at least from a purely human and worldly standpoint.  But Jesus’ love for this young man was so perfect that He was willing to invite him to endure the sacrifice of everything so that the rich man could gain so much more.

We are invited to do the same.  No, we may not be called to follow Jesus in the unique and radical way of giving up all our physical possessions.  But we are called to follow Jesus to the same degree of trust and abandonment to His divine will.  And that will inevitably require sacrifice.  Sacrifice to the greatest degree.  

Our reaction to Jesus’ call to discipleship is key.  How will we respond to this invitation to give completely of ourselves?  The rich young man reacted at first with sorrow.  He did not accept the invitation Jesus offered.  We do not know if he eventually did follow Jesus in this radical and total way, but we do know his first reaction.  

Often times this is our first reaction also.  We want to be faithful and we want to follow Christ no matter what He asks.  But when given a concrete invitation to answer His call, we turn away in sadness thinking that the invitation is too demanding.

Reflect, today, upon this rich young man.  Look at your own life and ponder the question of how ready and willing you are to say “Yes” in a total way to whatever Jesus asks of you.  Saying “Yes” in a sacrificial way is the best decision you can make.  It is, in reality, a willing acceptance of the most glorious life you can live.

My demanding Lord, following You at times can seem hard and radical.  It can seem as though it’s too much.  Help me, especially in those moments, to trust You more than the many attachments I have in this world.  Jesus, I trust in You.

What is God Calling You to Give Up?

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Mark 10:28

Some are called to give up much and follow Christ.  For example, there are those called to the monastic life or a cloister as a religious sister.  They truly give up everything of this world to seek out and follow the invitation of Christ to follow Him in this radical way.  

All of us, however, are called to give up “everything” to follow Christ in our own unique way.  By giving up everything, we are called to completely surrender our own will and preferences in life to serve Christ in accord with His divine plan.  This may take on many forms but, in the end, it’s always a call to give up everything.

The good news is that “giving up everything” is nothing other than giving up our own selfish ideals and preferences in life.  The even better news is that the life God has in store for us is far better than we can dream of or imagine.  So, by saying “No” to our own will and doing things our own way, we are in fact saying “Yes” to doing things in the perfect way of God.

Why wouldn’t we want to seek only His will each and every day of our lives?  Why wouldn’t we want to serve Him and His perfect plan? This may take on the form of service to our families.  Giving to them when we do not feel like doing so.  It may mean striving to find joy in small acts of service and love.  It may mean, for some, giving up all normal attachments in life so as to seek His will in a more radical way.  Whatever the specific calling in life may be for you, it’s worth embracing God’s will.  

Reflect, today, on how ready and willing you are to say “Yes” to Christ no matter what He asks of you.  Are you willing to say “Yes” even to that which He has not yet revealed to you?  Say “Yes” today to whatever your future holds and God will bless you in abundance.

My trustworthy Lord, no matter what it is You call me to do in life, the answer is “Yes.”  I want to serve Your will selflessly and completely.  Help me to live that calling with generosity and love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

True Authority

Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.”  Mark 10:42-43a

It has been said that “absolute power corrupts absolutely!”  This means that when one is entrusted with power and authority, there is a great temptation for that person to let it go to his or her head.  Having authority, especially over others, is difficult to exercise in charity and humility.  Very difficult.  The passage above points out that the “rulers over the gentiles lord it over them, and that their great ones make their authority over them felt.”  This acknowledges a tendency among rulers and those in authority to make sure others know who is in charge!  

But Jesus gives this illustration because He wanted to point out to His disciples that they had to act in the opposite way.  Soon, they would be given great authority.  Not authority in a worldly sense.  They would not take on civil leadership and govern the country with power.  Rather, the authority they would receive was much greater.  It was the authority of changing lives for all eternity.  They were being entrusted with the task of spreading the Word of God in such a way that people’s hearts would change and remain changed.  But to do this effectively, they could not follow the example of worldly leaders.  They could not force or impose the Gospel on others.  Rather, they had to enter into the depths of humility and serve out of love.  This was the only way that the Gospel could effectively change lives.

There are many lessons here for us.  One that stands out is in regard to the way we relate to one another, especially those closest to us.  Often, there is a tendency to impose our way and our will on others just as a powerful and selfish king may do.  We want to be in charge and dictate others’ actions.  But if we want to be true leaders, exercising true authority, we must come to realize that we are called to serve with humility.  Otherwise, we may “win” the argument or get our way, but we will not change hearts, minds and souls.  But that is what our constant goal in life must be! 

The exercise of Christ’s authority is glorious and is what we should all strive for.  Think about it.  Is it better to take delight in the fleeting pleasure of being the boss here and now, or is it better to enjoy the knowledge that you were able to help transform another person for eternity?  In Heaven, it will not matter who was “in charge.”  But what will matter is whose lives were changed because we acted on the authority of humility and service.

Reflect, today, on this tendency you may have to be in charge and lord authority over others.  Then think of the ideal of this Gospel passage.  Pray that our Lord will give you the humble gift of being a servant.

My most humble Lord, I do want to serve.  I want to serve You in others.  I pray for humility so that You can use me to be an instrument of Your divine authority of love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Cry of Bartimaeus

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”  Mark 10:47b-48

Little did this blind beggar realize that his act of faith and perseverance would be recorded in Scripture as a witness to countless millions for inspiration throughout the ages.  Bartimaeus simply did his part, God then took his faith, healed him and used him as this glorious witness.

The progression of this story is very insightful for our life of faith and prayer.  First, we begin with the situation of Bartimaeus being blind, poor and a beggar.  He is in a state of much need.  In that state he hears Jesus walking by and he takes advantage of the situation by crying out to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”  It’s significant that Bartimaeus is rebuked for his prayer by those around him.  It’s as if they were telling him that he is unworthy of the Master’s time and attention.  

An important lesson we can take from this passage is that of perseverance.  Bartimaeus ignores the rebukes of others and cries out all the louder.  He doesn’t allow the negativity and the erroneous judgments of others to get in the way of his faith and trust in Jesus.  In fact, when the opposition grew, he cried out all the more.  This lesson should teach us how to deal with the hardships of life.  We are often tempted to curl up and get discouraged when faced with some struggle.  What we should do when things get hard is trust in Jesus all the more.  We need to turn to Him in our need and believe with a deep conviction that He hears us and wants to take control.

And that’s exactly what Jesus does.  He hears Bartimaeus, responds to him, listens to him and heals him.  It’s also interesting to see that once Jesus does hear Bartimaeus’ cry and calls to him, all the people who had just been rebuking the beggar were suddenly encouraging him.  This was the result of Jesus’ acceptance, but it was also a result of Bartimaeus’ faith and perseverance.  

Reflect, today, upon the humble prayer of this blind beggar and make it your own.  Pray it over and over and try to discover the faith in which he prayed it.  Jesus will hear your prayer, call you to Himself and offer you the healing you need.

Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.  Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.  Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Forgiveness Nourishes Our Prayer

Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

“When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.”  Mark 11:25

Prayer is something that many struggle with.  When we’ve come to a deep faith in Christ, we want to grow closer and we want to know how to pray.  But often times this can be a struggle and many can give up on it after good intentions begin to fade away.

Though there are many things that could be said about prayer, the Scripture above does highlight one of the greatest obstacles to a healthy prayer life.  The obstacle Jesus speaks of is the lack of forgiveness.  

When we come to Christ, in prayer, we need to first cleanse our hearts if we are to hear Him speak.  And if we come to Him while holding on to a grievance toward another, this is an obstacle that must be dealt with first.  In fact, if we hold on to that grievance and try to pray, our prayer will most likely not be very effective.

Just prior to this Scripture passage above, we have the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple.  He turned over the tables and drove the merchants out because they were desecrating the Temple by their greed.  We should see this story to also be a story about our own souls.  Our souls are temples of God and Jesus does not want sin in our soul.  In fact, He wants to root it out with a passion and with much zeal.  The goal is to let Him do this and to let Him cleanse our souls of sin, especially the sin of a lack of forgiveness.  Doing so will allow our souls to become places of prayer and worship.

Reflect, today, upon whether you want to grow in prayer.  If you do, then start by cleansing your heart of all sin.  Confession is the best way to do this.  Start by looking at any sin of anger or a lack of forgiveness.  By choosing to forgive and letting go of anger, you are allowing Jesus to drive this vice out of your soul.  The result will be that you are in a much better place to invite Christ to make your heart His dwelling place.  With that done, your prayer life will greatly increase.

Lord, please do forgive me.  I see my sin and I am sorry.  I also forgive those who have sinned against me.  Help me to let go of any anger I may have and to let Your love take its place.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Desire for Authority and Admiration

Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

“By what authority are you doing these things? Or who gave you this authority to do them?”  Mark 11:28

This was the question that the scribes and Pharisees put to Jesus as He entered the temple area to teach.  Jesus had been exercising His authority through His preaching and through the many miracles He had performed.  This exercise of His divine authority caused much jealousy and envy in the hearts of the religious leaders of the time.  So they came forward to trap Him with this crafty question.

The first thing to point out is that these religious leaders clearly did not ask this question because they wanted to know the answer.  They asked it because they were trying to find fault with Jesus.  But Jesus outsmarted them.

Because Jesus knew that their only intent was to trap Him, He set a sort of trap for them in return.  He asked them a question and told them that if they answered this question, He would answer theirs.  He asked them by what authority John the Baptist baptized.  The religious leaders then went to discuss this question and in their discussion it’s clear that they were not discussing the question so as to arrive at the correct answer.  Rather, they were discussing what the most politically beneficial answer would be.  In other words, they didn’t care about the truth of the question, they only cared about the outcome of the answer.  The outcome they wanted was one that benefited their agenda and their own power.

What a dangerous road to walk down!  This is, of course, an accusation made very often toward politicians.  Though not every politician falls into this trap, it is a trap that some fall into.  When we are consumed with a need to gain power and respect within the public eye, we will often be tempted to say or do that which we judge to be the most popular and that which paints us in the best light.  But this is not the way a Christian, and especially a religious leader, must act.

Our goal must constantly be the clear, unambiguous truth.  We must work hard at letting go of a desire to look good in the eyes of others.  Though it’s nice to look good, the only opinion that ultimately matters is God’s.  His “opinion” is not an opinion, it’s Truth. 

Reflect, today, upon the tendency you may face to be deceitful at times so as to present yourself in a false way.  Do you worry too much about the opinions of others?  Do you act and speak only to benefit your personal agenda and desires?  Or are you committed to honesty and sincerity?  Choose the honest path and our Lord will give you a share in His holy and divine authority of love.

Lord of all Truth, I pray that the example set by the scribes and Pharisees will help me to turn from deceitful ways and help me to daily embrace the truth.  I pray that, as I enter more fully into Your Truth, I will also share in the authority of Your holy love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

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