Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
This line reveals an essential duty that we all have regarding the good of the Church. It reveals a call to pray for vocations to the priesthood.
It’s interesting that Jesus set up the Church using ordinary men to act in His very name. Priests are sinners like everyone else, but Jesus calls them, nonetheless, to minister in a very sacred role of being shepherds. These two points are essential for us to understand.
First, Jesus calls sinners to the priesthood. This is not a harsh or critical statement, it’s simply a statement of fact. All we have to do is to look at the first bishops, the Apostles, and we are immediately made aware of their weaknesses. Priests most certainly have a sacred calling to holiness and should strive to be saints. But we should not be surprised when they are not as saintly as Jesus was. This is all part of the permissive will of God; namely, that sinful men act in the very Person of Jesus the Son of God. Amazing.
Second, priests are called to be our shepherds and we should treat them as such. If we can humbly look beyond their weaknesses, we will come to realize that God does shepherd us through them. On account of their sacred ordination, the Holy Spirit is able to shepherd our souls to Heaven in a very direct and profound way through the priesthood. But sometimes it takes a humble sheep to actually see the shepherd in the priest.
Reflect, today, upon the great gift of the holy Priesthood. We must love and honor our priests, and especially pray for them and support them. We must also heed the command of our Lord to pray for more laborers in the vineyard. Our world is always in need of shepherds and it is the duty of every member of the Church to pray that God raise up many priests for this sacred ministry.
Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, please do send many laborers into Your vineyard. Give those whom You call to serve in this sacred ministry the courage they need to say “Yes” to You and to embrace a life of great holiness. Please bless our Holy Father, the Pope, our bishop, pastor and all who serve within Your Church in a unique way. Help us, Your people, to always show proper love and support to our shepherds. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Wonders of God’s Kingdom
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” Mark 4:26-27
What a beautiful image of the sprouting, growing and coming to fruition of the Kingdom of God in our midst!
God wills that His Kingdom come. We pray this in the Lord’s Prayer. What does it mean when we pray for His Kingdom to come? First, it means that God wants to come and dwell within us, establishing His Kingdom within our hearts and souls. We must become living members of His Kingdom and He must be our Ruler and Guide.
Second, we understand this to be the establishment of His laws and will in our world. This means that the social, political and cultural order must be transformed by God’s grace so as to participate in and bear the fruit of His Kingdom. We have work to do!
Third, it means that we anticipate the final and glorious coming of His Kingdom when Jesus returns in splendor and majesty. In the end, all things will be transformed and God will bring forth His final judgment upon the world making all things new.
But this passage above especially reveals to us “how” this will happen. It reveals that God’s Kingdom will slowly, gently, and miraculously take hold. This will happen in our lives, it will happen in our world as we Christians commit ourselves to this work, and it will miraculously happen at the end of time when Jesus returns.
Think about this image Jesus gives us. The farmer plants the seed and slowly it sprouts, grows and produces fruit. As this happens, the farmer “knows not how.”
Reflect, today, upon the mysterious ways that God establishes His Kingdom. He is in charge of it first and foremost. But you must do your part. You must make your heart and world around you fertile ground. You must plant the seed, water it as needed but then let God do His part. God wants to bring forth His Kingdom in your life and in the world far more than any of us. But if you do your part, you also will be amazed as you watch grow His glorious handiwork of grace.
My divine King, help my heart to be fertile soil for Your Kingdom. Help me to allow You to grow Your Kingdom in my heart and help me to be an instrument of that Kingdom in our world. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Mercy of God
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:37b-39
This is an interesting statement from the Pharisee. It’s interesting because Jesus was a prophet (The Prophet of all prophets) and He did know what sort of a woman this was who was touching Him. He knew all her sins and knew what sort of a woman she truly was to a far greater extent than the judgmental Pharisee. In fact, it was for these reasons that Jesus treated her as He did.
What sort of a woman was this? It was a woman who was a heartfelt repentant sinner. It was her sorrow over her sin that opened the Heart of Jesus to pour forth His abundant mercy. Sadly, the Pharisee could not see beyond the surface, but Jesus could see into her heart.
There are two lessons we should take from this scene. First, we should realize that Jesus sees our hearts. He looks into them and is aware of what we hold there far better than anyone else can see, far better than we can even see. Jesus knows if there is obstinacy or sorrow. He knows if there is contrition or indifference. He knows all and will act accordingly. There is no fooling our Lord.
Second, we should use this scene to check our own tendencies toward being judgmental toward others. It’s easy to look at the surface and arrive at conclusions based on what we can see. But when we enter into this form of judgment, we judge without having all the facts. When we do this, our judgment will always be misguided.
Reflect, today, upon the Heart of perfect love in the Person of our Savior. Reflect, also, upon His perfect knowledge of your own heart. Let Him in and let Him reveal your sin and weakness. He will do it with much tenderness and mercy, calling you to honest repentance. If you respond, He will welcome you just as He welcomed this sinful woman.
Lord of perfect mercy, I know I am a sinner and I beg for Your abundant mercy. I repent of my sin and ask You to forgive me. Help me also, dear Lord, never to fall into the trap of being judgmental and condemning of another. Free me from this form of pride and help me to offer others the mercy that You offer me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Turning the Other Cheek
Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” Matthew 5:39
This is a hard teaching to embrace!
Did Jesus really mean this? Often, when put in the situation where someone wrongs us or hurts us we can tend to immediately rationalize away this Gospel passage and presume it doesn’t apply to us. Yes, it’s a hard teaching to believe and an even harder one to live.
What does it mean to “turn the other cheek?” First, we should look at this on a literal level. Jesus did mean what He said. He is the perfect example of this. Not only was He slapped on the cheek, He was also brutally beaten and hung on a cross. And His response was, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Therefore, Jesus does not call us to do anything that He Himself was not willing to do.
Turning the other cheek does not mean that we need to cover up another’s abusive actions or words. We ought not pretend that they have done nothing wrong. Jesus Himself, in forgiving and in asking the Father to forgive, acknowledged the grave injustice He received at the hands of sinners. But the key is that He did not allow Himself to be drawn into their malice.
Often times, when we feel like another flings mud at us, so to speak, we are tempted to fling it right back. We are tempted to fight and push the bully back. But the key to overcoming the malice and cruelty of another is to refuse to be drawn down into the mud. Turning the other cheek is a way of saying that we refuse to degrade ourselves to foolish bickering or arguing. We refuse to engage irrationality when we encounter it. Instead, we choose to allow another to reveal their malice to themselves and to others by peacefully accepting it and forgiving.
This is not to say that Jesus wants us to perpetually live in abusive relationships that are more than we can handle. But it does mean that we will all encounter injustice from time to time and we need to handle it with mercy and immediate forgiveness, and not become drawn into returning malice for malice.
Reflect, today, on any relationships that are difficult for you. Especially reflect upon how ready you are to forgive and to turn the other cheek. Doing this may just bring you the peace and freedom you seek in that relationship.
Love Your Enemies
Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:44-45a
This is not an easy command from our Lord. But it is a command of love.
First, He calls us to love our enemies. Who are our enemies? Hopefully we do not have “enemies” in the sense of those who we have willfully chosen to hate. But we may have people in our lives who we are tempted to have anger toward and who we have a difficult time loving. Perhaps we can consider anyone we struggle with as our enemies.
To love them does not necessarily mean we must become best friends with them, but it does mean we must work toward having a true affection of care, concern, understanding and forgiveness toward them. This can be hard to have toward everyone but it must be our goal.
The second part of this command will help. Praying for those who persecute us will help us grow in the proper love and affection we need to foster. This aspect of love is quite straightforward even though it is also quite difficult.
Think about those whom you have a very difficult time loving. Those toward whom you have anger. It could be a family member, someone at work, a neighbor or someone from your past with whom you have never reconciled. It is in keeping with this Gospel passage to honestly admit that there is at least someone, or perhaps more than one person, with whom you struggle, either externally or internally. Admitting this is simply an act of honesty.
Once you identify this person or persons, think about whether you pray for them. Do you spend time regularly offering them to God in prayer? Do you pray that God pours forth His grace and mercy upon them? This may be hard to do but it is one of the healthiest acts you can do. It may be difficult to show love and affection toward them, but it is not hard to consciously choose to pray for them.
Praying for those with whom we have a hard time is key to letting God foster a true love and concern in our hearts toward them. It’s a way of letting God reform our emotions and feelings so that we will no longer have to hold on to feelings of anger or even hate.
Commit yourself this day to prayer for the person you struggle with the most. This prayer will most likely not change your love for them over night, but if you commit to this form of prayer every day, over time God will slowly change your heart and free you of the burden of anger and hurt that may keep you from the love He wants you to have toward all people.
Lord of perfect love, I pray for the person for whom You want me to pray. Help me to love all people and help me to especially love those who are hard to love. Reorder my feelings toward them and help me to be free of any anger. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Hidden Life for God
Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” Matthew 6:1
Very often when we do something good, we want others to see. We want them to be aware of how good we are. Why? Because it feels good to be recognized and honored by others. But Jesus tells us to do the complete opposite.
Jesus tells us that when we do a work of charity, fast or pray we should do it in a hidden way. In other words, we should not do it so as to be noticed and praised by others. It’s not that there is anything wrong with others seeing our goodness. Rather, Jesus’ teaching goes to the heart of our motivations for our good actions. He’s trying to tell us that we should act in a holy way because we want to grow close to God and serve His will, not so that we can be recognized and praised by others.
This offers us a great opportunity to look deeply and honestly at our motivations. Why do you do what you do? Think about the good things you try to do. Then think about your motivation in doing those things. Hopefully you are motivated to do holy things simply because you want to be holy and want to serve the will of God. Are you content with God and God alone seeing your good actions? Are you OK with no one else recognizing your selflessness and acts of love? Hopefully the answer is “Yes.”
Holiness is especially found in your hidden life. There, where you are seen only by God, you must act in a way that pleases God. You must live a life of virtue, prayer, sacrifice and self-giving when only God sees. If you can live this way in your hidden life, you can also be certain that your hidden life of grace will affect others in a way that only God can orchestrate. When you strive for holiness in a hidden way, God sees that and uses it for good. This hidden life of grace becomes the foundation for who you are and how you interact with others. They may not see all you do, but they will be affected by the goodness within your soul.
Lord of holiness, help me to live a hidden life of grace. Help me to serve You even when no one sees. From the solitude of those moments, bring forth Your grace and mercy for the world. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Lord’s Prayer
Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
“This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven…” Matthew 6:9
The following is an excerpt from the My Catholic Worship! book, Chapter Eleven, on the Lord’s Prayer:
The Lord’s Prayer is indeed a summary of the entire Gospel. It is called “The Lord’s Prayer” in that Jesus Himself gave it to us as a way of teaching us to pray. In this prayer, we find seven petitions to God. Within those seven petitions we will find every human longing and every expression of faith found within the Scriptures. Everything we need to know about life and prayer is contained in this wonderful prayer.
Jesus Himself gave us this prayer as the model of all prayer. It is good that we repeat the words of the Lord’s Prayer regularly in vocal prayer. This is also done in the various sacraments and liturgical worship. However, saying this prayer is not enough. The goal is to internalize each and every aspect of this prayer so that it becomes a model of our personal petition to God and an entrustment of our entire life to Him.
The Foundation of Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer begins not with a petition; rather, it begins with us acknowledging our identity as children of the Father. This is a key foundation for the Lord’s Prayer to be prayed properly. It also reveals the foundational approach we must take in all prayer and in the entire Christian life. The opening statement preceding the seven petitions is as follows: “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Let’s take a look at what is contained in this opening statement of the Lord’s Prayer.
Filial Boldness: At Mass, the priest invites the people to pray the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching we dare to say…” This “daring” on our part comes from the foundational understanding that God is our Father. Each Christian is to see the Father as my Father. We must see ourselves as God’s children and approach Him with the confidence of a child. A child with a loving parent is not afraid of that parent. Rather, children have the greatest trust that their parents love them no matter what. Even when they sin, children know they are still loved. This must be our fundamental starting point for all prayer. We must start with an understanding that God loves us no matter what. With this understanding of God we will have all the confidence we need to call on Him.
Abba: Calling God “Father” or, more specifically, “Abba” means we cry out to God in the most personal and intimate of ways. “Abba” is a term of endearment for the Father. This shows that God is not just the Almighty or the All-Powerful. God is so much more. God is my loving Father and I am the Father’s beloved son or daughter.
“Our” Father: To call God “our” Father expresses an entirely new relationship as a result of the New Covenant that was established in the blood of Christ Jesus. This new relationship is one in which we are now God’s people and He is our God. It’s an exchange of persons and, therefore, deeply personal. This new relationship is nothing other than a gift from God to which we have no right. We have no right to be able to call God our Father. It’s a grace and a gift.
This grace also reveals our profound unity to Jesus as the Son of God. We can only call God “Father” in so far as we are one with Jesus. His humanity unites us to Him and we now share in a deep bond with Him.
Calling God “our” Father also reveals the union we share with one another. All who call God their Father in this intimate way are brothers and sisters in Christ. We, therefore, are not only deeply connected together; we also are enabled to worship God together. In this case, individualism is left behind in exchange for fraternal unity. We are members of this one divine family as a glorious gift of God.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Jesus, I trust in You.
Your Treasure and Your Heart
Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Matthew 6:19-21
So where is your heart? The answer to that question is answered above. Your heart is wherever your treasure is. So, that begs the question, “What is your treasure?”
This particular passage points to the danger of becoming overly attached to material wealth. But the same goes for anything in this life we can tend to become attached to. What is it you are attached to? What is your treasure?
Ideally, our hearts are attached only to that which God wants them attached. If that’s the case, then the things we love are the treasures that God wants us to love. And by loving those things, we are loving the God who gives them and calls us to love them.
Our treasure should certainly include our family and those others who we are called to love and care for with a special affection. Our treasure should also be our life of prayer and worship. That’s the most direct way we love God in this world. Our treasure could also be particular acts of service we are inspired to do, or anything that makes up the will of God.
Do you love these things? Are they your treasure? The problem is that way too often we tend to love much more than that which God calls us to love. We become deeply attached to the idea of getting rich and having many things. But our unhealthy “loves” can extend even beyond wealth and material things.
Reflect, today, upon those things that you may have made far too much of a “treasure” in your life. What is it that you are overly attached to in this passing world? Is it money? Or is it something else? Allow God to show you and then allow Him to free you from it. That is the first step toward a life of the greatest of riches!
Do Not Worry
Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?…seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” Matthew 6:27 & 33-34
This is advice that we all need to hear. But, as the saying goes, “It’s easier said than done.”
Worrying can become for some people just a normal part of life. The things we worry about each and every day can include a myriad of concerns. Finances, relationships, work, family, health and many other things in life can be the cause of much worrying, fear, anxiety and even depression. Excessive worrying can truly become a heavy burden if not handled properly.
So what is the proper way to deal with the things you worry about? Trust. Trust in God, in His fidelity, in His all-consuming love for you, and in His providence. He loves you and is concerned about you more than you will ever know. And He is aware of every detail and problem you may face.
If we truly understood the love of God and His infinite wisdom, we would not worry about a thing. We would be able to trust and surrender all to Him every day and we would allow Him to enter in and to direct us in hope according to His perfect plan for our lives. But, as mentioned above, this is easier said than done.
Another key factor in overcoming the worries and anxieties of life is to seek the Truth. Knowing the truth frees us and it enables us to see the hand of God at work even in the most difficult of situations. God never abandons us even though it may feel like that at times. If we can seek out His voice, His will, His wisdom and His truth, it will be much easier to place our trust in Him. And when we place our trust in Him, we find peace in our soul and feel the heavy weight of our worry lift away.
Reflect, today, upon that which you worry about the most. It may be an extremely heavy and burdensome fear. Or, it may just be this constant thought in the back of your mind. Whatever the case may be for you, try to identify that which seems to burden you the most and is the greatest source of concern. Then try to seek God’s truth as it applies to your situation so that you can then surrender in trust to His perfect plan for your life.
Lord of perfect wisdom, I do trust in You, but I also fail to trust enough. When the burdens and worries of life weigh me down, help me to surrender those concerns over to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
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