Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Being the Salt of the Earth

 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

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.” Matthew 5:13

Do not become “salt” that loses its taste!  The end of this kind of salt is that it is thrown out and trampled underfoot.  So how is it that we lose our taste?

First of all, let’s start with the purpose of salt.  It’s an amazing seasoning that adds flavor to food.  Salt by itself is not that tasty.  But when added to a variety of food, it enters in and adds much.

We are called to be the “salt of the earth.”  And just like salt, we are not made to simply be the star and center of attention.  We are not made only for ourselves.  Instead, it is our Christian duty to enter into our world and add to it, helping to transform it into a world of grace and mercy, full of the “flavor” of God’s Kingdom.  This is done, especially, by the building up of relationships.  It’s done by striving to touch one person at a time so as to enhance their lives and help them to be closer to Christ.  The love of God that we bring into our world, and into the lives of those whom we encounter, can be seen analogously as salt entering into food and enhancing it.

Now back to our first question.  How do we lose our taste?  In other words, how is it that we fail to be the “salt of the earth?”  We do this when we enter into our world, encounter various people, and fail to truly enhance their lives.  When our presence in the lives of others has little or no effect upon them for the good, then our actions are like tasteless salt that is only good to be thrown away and “trampled underfoot.”  This reveals to us that we have a duty to have an effect on the lives of others.  We have a duty to enhance the goodness and faith of those whom we encounter on a regular basis.  If we fail to make a difference in the lives of others, we are missing the point of those relationships and we are failing to be the salt of the Earth.

Reflect, today, upon this duty that you have been given by Christ.  Reflect upon the calling you have been charged with to make a difference in the lives of others.  When others grow in faith and love as a result of your presence in their lives, you are fulfilling this most basic command of Christ.  Commit yourself to being the salt of the Earth so that this world of ours will be a better place, filled with the flavor of the Kingdom of God.

Lord of all goodness, I offer myself to You for Your service and for Your glory.  I pray that You will use me to transform our world into a holy place and a place where Your goodness dwells.  I thank You for the privilege of being used by You and pray that You will use me in any way You desire.  Jesus, I trust in You.


When Life is a “Drudgery”

 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.  Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again. Job 7:1, 6-7 

The funny thing is, as soon as that reading is concluded at Mass, the entire congregation will respond, “Thanks be to God!”  Really?  Is this reading worth thanking God for?  Do we really want to thank God for an expression of such pain?  We most certainly do. 

Job was clearly expressing feelings that we all face at times. He speaks of a sleepless night.  Feelings of a loss of hope.  Months of misery.  Et cetera.  Hopefully these feelings are not an everyday occurrence.  But they are real and everyone experiences them at times.

The key to understanding this passage is to look at Job’s whole life.  Even though he felt this way, it did not direct his decisions.  He did not give in to ultimate despair, he did not give up, he persevered.  And it paid off!  He stayed faithful to God through his tragedy of losing everything precious to him and never lost faith and hope in his God.  In his darkest hour even his friends came to him telling him he is being punished by God and that all was lost for him.  But he wouldn’t listen.  

Remember his powerful words, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”  Job praised God for the good things he received in life, but when they were taken away he continued to bless and praise God.  This is the most central lesson and inspiration of Job’s life.  He did not give in to the way he felt in the reading above.  He did not let the despair he was tempted with deter him from praising and worshiping God.  He praised Him in ALL things!

The tragedy of Job took place for a reason.  It was to teach us this essential lesson of dealing with the heavy burdens life can throw at us.  Interestingly, for those who carry heavy burdens, Job is a real inspiration.  Why?  Because they can relate to him.  They can relate to his pain and learn from his perseverance in hope.  

Reflect, today, upon Job.  Let his life inspire you.  If you are finding a particular burden in life weighing you down, then try to praise and worship God anyway.  Give God the glory due His name simply because it is due His name and not because you do or do not feel like doing it.  In this, you will find that your heavy burden leads to your strengthening.  You will become more faithful by being faithful when it’s very difficult to do so.  Job did it and so can you!

Most worthy Lord, when life is hard and the burden is great, help me to deepen my faith in You and my love for You.  Help me to love and worship You because it is good and right to do in all things.  I love You my Lord and I choose to praise You always!  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Deep Waters of Faith

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”  Luke 5:4

It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not simply tell Peter and the Apostles to put out into the water; rather, He told them to put out into the “deep water.”  This is significant.

At the close of the great jubilee year of 2000, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte in which he began by quoting this Gospel passage.  This passage set the tone for the rest of his letter in which he called for a new evangelization for the coming millennium.

“Put out into the deep!”  What should we take from this?  What should we hear Jesus speaking to us?  We should hear Him calling us to “lower our nets” in a tireless and committed way so as to draw many others to the Gospel.  When Peter and the Apostles did this in the boat, they caught so many fish that their nets were tearing and they were greatly astonished.  This is a prophetic action given to us to tell us that we must evangelize with the utmost enthusiasm and zeal, searching far and wide for God’s lost sheep.

The world we live in can be brutal at times.  So many people are lost and confused.  Sin is rampant and despair is prevalent.  Our world is in desperate need of a Savior and we are the ones Jesus desires to use to gather a huge catch and to find those in greatest need.  Jesus desired the Apostles to catch the fish that were in the deep waters as a way of saying that there are countless souls in our world who are far from God.  There are many people “swimming” in an ocean of confusion and pain.  It is these people, in particular, that Jesus wants to draw in.  It’s our responsibility to heed the command of our Lord and to seek them out.

Reflect, today, upon these words of Jesus: “Put out into the deep water.”  In what way is Jesus asking this of you?  How is it that He is calling you to go out of your comfort zone and “lower your nets?”  What is it that He wants of you and how does He desire to use you to further the mission of evangelization.  Heed His command and you, too, will be amazed at the good fruit that is born!

Lord of infinite mercy, I desire to give myself to You for Your service and glory.  I desire to go forth, at Your command, looking for the souls in most need of Your abundant mercy.  Give me the grace I need to be faithful to the calling You have given to me so that Your loving mercy will reach those most in need.  Jesus, I trust in You.

“Scurrying” for Jesus

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.  They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.  Mark 6:54-55

Jesus caused the people to “scurry.”  That’s an interesting word to use and an interesting response from the people.  What does “scurried” mean and what does it tell us about the people?

To “scurry” means one moves quickly and intentionally with short and hurried steps.  It’s a very specific word identifying a very specific action.  The people are not just moving toward Jesus in a quick way, they are scurrying.

When you think of this image of scurrying, it seems to reveal a certain intensity with which people were seeking out Jesus.  The description of them hurrying to Him with these short and rapid steps reveals that they were intent on getting to Him while they seemed to have something else on their minds.  What was on their minds?  Healing.  They knew that Jesus would be a source of true healing for those who were sick and so the people, with great intensity, brought them to Jesus wherever He was.

In a sense, this must be our approach to Jesus in regard to our life of faith.  We must recognize Him as the source of all healing, especially spiritual, and we must keep our minds focused on Him as the Divine Physician.  Our longing and intensity with which we seek Him out must consume our full attention. 

Reflect, today, upon this interesting image given to us in these Holy Scriptures.  Try to put yourself into this scene of the Gospel, pondering whether you need to be more intentional and intense in your desire to be with Jesus.  He is the source of all grace and mercy, and He is the Divine Physician who waits for you to come to Him with your every need.  Scurry toward Him and let Him pour forth His grace.

My healing Lord, increase my longing for You and my desire to be with You.  Help me to know that You are the Divine Physician my soul desires.  Help me to trust in You always, coming to You for the fulfillment of all my needs and longings.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Danger of Hypocrisy

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”  Mark 7:6-8

Once again, Jesus spoke the hard truth that the Pharisees needed to hear.  He told them directly that they were hypocrites and that they were the ones of whom Isaiah spoke in the quoted passage.  It most certainly was a tense scene.

Setting aside the drama of the encounter, let’s look more clearly at the actual quote from Isaiah.  It says four things: 

  1. This people honors me with their lips.
    2. Their hearts are far from me.
    3. They worship in vain.
    4. They present their own human laws as if they were God’s.

What would the ideal transformation of these hypocritical errors look like?  If the Pharisees were to completely change, what may Jesus say of them?  Perhaps He would say the following:

1. Your worship of me is holy because you truly embrace my divine will in your life.
Therefore, the honor you give me with your lips flows from your pure heart of faith and love.

So what is the key message we should take from this for our own lives?  We should take from it two simple facts.  First, the will of God must take hold of our lives and become the basis and foundation of everything.  His will, His law, His precepts are our rock foundation.  God has established His truth as the basis of human life and we must strive to humbly embrace His law.  

His law includes all publicly revealed teachings of our faith, found in Scripture and in the Church, and it includes all that we hear God speaking to us in our own lives.  The Pharisees, in their lack of humility, could not see these truths.  Instead, they held onto their own ideas and convictions alone.  God chastised them harshly for this out of love.

Secondly, we should realize that when we embrace the divine law, and His particular will for our lives, we will be pure of heart and will be freed to love Him with outward expressions.  We will worship Him from our hearts and this will flow through our words and actions.  But this will never happen if we do not start with His divine law.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are willing to humbly embrace all of the truths that God has revealed and whether you are willing to make them the foundation of your life.  If you do this, all else will flow forth in love and worship.

Lord of all Truth, help me to love Your holy and divine law.  Help me to embrace it with my whole heart.  I do believe in You and in all that You have spoken through the ages.  I believe in what You speak to my heart regarding my own life.  Give me the grace to embrace Your holy will and, in that embrace, to be transformed both interiorly and exteriorly.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”  Mark 7:15

Conversely speaking, that which comes from within is what makes a person holy!

Often, we are more concerned about that which is on the outside than that which is on the inside.  We often worry excessively about how we are perceived by others, how we look, or what our reputation is in the eyes of the world.  This Gospel specifically addresses the charge of the Pharisees that eating certain foods defiles someone.  Jesus isn’t buying that.  He is pointing our attention to our hearts.  What is there in our hearts?  And what is it that comes forth from the heart?  This is what makes us who we are.

Though this deals with the worries that certain foods will defile, it also deals with much more.  It addresses the tendency of purely external observances of God’s law. Thus, it addresses the tendency of the Pharisees to be excessively worried about how they are perceived by others.  Their external observance of the law reveals the fact that they seem to be overly concerned about what others think about them and what others say about them.  They want to look holy.  They want to look like they are beyond the smallest of indiscretions.  But it’s all an appearance and not reality.

For that reason, Jesus puts the attention on the internal.  God sees what is in our hearts.  Even if no one else sees this we should never forget the fact that God sees all. That’s all that matters.  That which is in our hearts can either do great damage to us or do great good.  There are those who, in the public perception, are way off base.  But from God’s perspective they are right on target. Conversely, there are those in public opinion who are shining stars, but from God’s perspective are way off base.  There is only one thing that matters: What does God think?

Reflect, today, upon that which is inside your heart.  This introspection should also challenge you to look at your motivations.  Why do you do what you do and why do you make the decisions you make?  Are they choices that come from an honest and sincere heart?  Or are they choices that are based more on how you will be perceived?  Hopefully your motives are pure.  And hopefully those pure motives come from a heart that is deeply united to the heart of Christ.

Lord of all purity, please make my motives pure.  Help me to live only out of a pure heart.  Help me to always realize that holiness is found only in serving You and not in serving my public image.  I love You my Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You!

A Manifestation of Faith

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Mark 7:25-27

Why did Jesus talk to this woman that way?  She comes to Him, probably in fear and trembling, falls down at His feet, and begs Him to help her daughter.  At first, one might expect Jesus to reach out in gentleness and compassion, ask her about her daughter, and say to her, “Oh, most certainly I will help your daughter.  Bring me to her.”  But that’s not what He says.  He tells her, that “it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  Ouch!  Really?  Did He really say that?  Why would He say such a thing?

First of all, we have to know that whatever Jesus says is an act of love.  It’s an act of the greatest kindness and mercy.  We know this because this is who Jesus is.  He is love and mercy itself.  So how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

The key to understanding this interaction is to look at the final result.  We must look at how this woman responded to Jesus and how the conversation ended.  When we do this, we see that the woman responds with incredible humility and faith.  What Jesus says is true.  In a way, we can interpret what He says to mean that no one has a right to His grace and mercy.  No one, including her and her daughter, “deserve” to have God act in their lives.  Jesus knows this and, by saying what He says, gives this woman a wonderful opportunity to manifest her deep faith for all to see.  His words allow her to shine forth as a beacon of faith, hope and trust.  This is Jesus’ goal and it worked.  It worked because, when she came to Him, He was immediately aware of the fact that she did indeed have a deep faith.  He knew that she would respond with humility and trust.  The woman did and thus we are able to witness the manifestation of her faith and humility.

Reflect, today, upon the beautiful faith of this humble woman.  Try to put yourself in her shoes and hear Jesus speak these same words to you.  How would you respond?  Would you respond with anger or agitation?  Would your pride be wounded?  Or would you respond with an even deeper humility, acknowledging the fact that all God gives is a gift which we have no right to receive.  Responding this way is most likely the act of faith God is waiting for from each of us and is the key to that outpouring of His mercy we so need.

Lord of true humility, please humble me.  Strip away my pride.  Help me to fall at Your feet.  Help me to trust You so deeply that You are compelled, by my love of You, to open Your storehouse of grace and pour it down upon me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Authority of God

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)  And immediately the man’s ears were opened.  Mark 7:34-35

How often do you hear Jesus say this to you?  “Ephphatha! Be opened!”  Or how often do you hear Him speak to you with such authority?

Did Jesus say this only because this man was physically deaf and He wanted to physically cure him?  Or is there a deeper significance?  By healing this man unable to hear physical sounds, Jesus was revealing something to us about what He wants to do for us.  Jesus is giving us a clear and deeper message in this healing.  Certainly there are many messages we can take from this passage.  Let’s look at one.

The message is in Jesus’ command: “Be opened!”  These are powerful words commanding action.  They are not optional words.  They are clear and definitive.  “Be opened” is not a question, not an invitation, it is a command.  This is significant!

These two little words reveal the fact that Jesus has made up His mind to act.  They reveal that He is not hesitant in the least in this choice.  He has made up His mind and has spoken His will.  And this action, on His part, is what makes a difference.  These two little words reveal that God is not indecisive when He speaks.  He is not shy or uncertain.  He is absolute and clear.

This understanding should give us great comfort.  Comfort in the sense that Jesus is ready and willing to exercise His all-powerful authority.  He does have all-power and He is not afraid to exercise this authority when He wants to.  Most importantly, He wants to exercise His authority when it will bring about the greatest good in our lives.

It should give us great comfort in the sense that we can trust that this all-powerful God is all-powerful and is in control.  If He is even in control of the natural world (physical hearing), then He is most certainly in control of the spiritual world, too.  He is able to do all things good.

When we find that we are in the presence of one who is not only all-powerful, but also all-loving and all-merciful, we should be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief and turn our absolute trust over to Him.  He is able and fully willing to be in control.  

Reflect, today, upon these two little words.  Let this holy and divine authority of Jesus take control over your life.  Let Him command you.  His commands are perfect love and mercy.  They are words that will direct you to your ultimate good.  And this all-powerful God is worthy of all your trust.

All-powerful Lord, I do trust You and I know that You can do all things.  I know that You desire to have perfect authority in my life.  Help me to turn my life fully over to You and to trust You enough to direct and to command every action of my life.  Jesus, I fully trust in You!

Drawn to Jesus, Drawn to Mercy for Others

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.”  Mark 8:2-3

This passage reveals some interesting points to reflect upon.  Let’s look briefly at three of them.

First, it’s important to note that the crowds were so drawn to Jesus that they were willing to spend three days with Him, listening to Him in a deserted place despite the fact that they were without food.  They chose Jesus and His teaching over food and over the comfort of their own homes.  This reveals the unwavering interest that the people had in Jesus and in His teaching.  It reveals how drawn they were to Him.  It’s as if nothing else mattered.  They simply wanted to be with Jesus.

Secondly, this passage reveals Jesus’ deep concern for the people.  His heart was moved with pity for them.  He was grateful for their presence but He was more concerned for their physical well-being than they were. 

Third, it also reveals something quite subtle but profound.  Jesus, in identifying the problem of people being without food for so long, invites the Apostles to see the problem.  Note that He doesn’t solve the problem right away.  He doesn’t immediately tell them what to do.  Instead, He simply explains the problem.  Why is that?

Perhaps one reason is that Jesus was trying to foster love and concern for the people in the hearts of the Apostles.  Perhaps it was a moment in which He was testing them and training them to think about the needs of the people.  By simply posing the question at first, the people were set before the Apostles so that they, too, could grow in heartfelt compassion for them.  Jesus may have wanted their hearts to be “moved with pity for the crowd” just as His was.

Reflect, today, upon three things.  First, are you drawn to Jesus with such intensity that He becomes the central focus of your life?  Does a longing for Him flood your heart and consume your soul?  Second, are you aware of the deep concern that Jesus has for you?  Are you aware that His heart is “moved with pity” for you every day?  Third, are you able to allow the love and compassion that Jesus offers to you, in turn be offered to others?  Can you see the “dilemma” of the needs of others?  And as you see these needs, do you seek to be there for them in their need?  Commit yourself to these three teachings.  If you do, you will also be worthy of being called one of His disciples.

All-consuming Lord, help me to be drawn to You with intensity and longing.  Help me to see You as the source of all that I long for and need in life.  May I choose You above all else, trusting and knowing that You will satisfy my every desire.  As I turn intensely to You, fill my heart with an abundance of mercy for all.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

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