Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

The Discovery of God

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  Matthew 13:44

Here are three things to reflect upon in regard to this passage: 1) The Kingdom of God is like a “treasure;” 2) It’s hidden, waiting to be found; 3) When discovered, it’s worth giving up everything we have to obtain it.

First, it’s helpful to reflect upon the image of the Kingdom of God being like a treasure.  The image of a treasure brings with it various lessons.  A treasure is often considered enough to make one rich if found.  If it were not of such great value it would not be considered a treasure.  Thus, the first lesson we should take is that the value of the Kingdom of God is great.  In fact, it’s infinite in value.  Yet so many people see it as something undesirable and choose many other “treasures” in its place.

Second, it’s hidden.  It’s hidden not in the sense that God does not want us to discover it; rather, it’s hidden in the sense that God does want us to discover it.  It’s waiting for us, waiting to be discovered and rejoiced in when found.  This also reveals the great excitement one has in making this authentic discovery of the Kingdom of God in our midst.  

Third, when someone discovers the riches of the Kingdom of God and the riches of the life of grace, the experience should be so awe-inspiring that there is little hesitancy in making the choice to give everything up so as to obtain that which was found.  What joy there is in coming to an awareness of the life of grace and mercy!  It’s a discovery that will change one’s life and lead one to abandon all else in pursuit of the new treasure that has been discovered.  

Reflect, today, upon your own experience of discovering the Kingdom of God.  Have you allowed yourself to be drawn into amazement at the value of this treasure?  If so, have you also allowed the discovery of this life of grace to so deeply attract you that you are ready and willing to give up everything to acquire it?  Put your eyes upon this gift of infinite value and allow the Lord to direct you in its pursuit.

My Lord and my greatest Treasure, I love You and I thank You for the treasure of the Kingdom that You have prepared for me.  Help me to make this hidden discovery each and every day in a more complete and awe-inspiring way.  As I discover this treasure, give me the courage I need to abandon every other selfish endeavor in life so that I may seek this one and only gift.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Facing the “Impossible?”

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”  John 6:9-10a

Have you ever been faced with what seems to be an “impossible situation?”  Jesus was, but He proved He could overcome any apparent obstacle He wanted to.  Sure, He is God, but the fact remains that He can do all things He wills.  And He can do so in our lives, too!

This passage above reveals His confidence in His ability to feed many thousands with only five loaves and two fish.  Humanly speaking this is not possible, but divinely speaking, it’s easy.

Jesus’ miracle speaks to His commitment to “feed us” in every way.  Yes, this was a feeding with food, but it’s symbolic of Him being able and willing to feed our souls with His grace to face whatever hardship or challenge life throws at us.  His grace is enough!

The problem is often twofold.  First, we face some challenge in our lives and we see it as something we do not know how to overcome.  This can lead to despair and disillusionment.  But when this happens we must reflect upon miracles like this one and realize that all things are possible for God.

The second problem we often face is the ability to distinguish between God’s will and our own limited ideas.  Too often we come up with our own ideas of what we think is good and right and we start praying for that.  But what if God’s idea and will is much different and, of course, much greater?!  What if God has a plan that we never could have come up with on our own?  The truth is that He does have a far more perfect plan for our lives than we could ever dream up.  He knows what is best for us and He can bring that plan to fruition.  For our part, we must seek that plan, surrender to it and have faith in His perfect love, mercy and power.  

Reflect, today, on your future.  What is it that seems to worry you the most?  What is it that seems to fill you with anxiety?  God has a perfect plan for that situation.  Your job is to seek out that plan and trust it will be brought to fruition.

Lord of perfect wisdom, I know You can do all things and that You will the good in all things.  Help me to turn and to surrender to Your perfect divine will.  As I surrender to it, help me to have perfect faith that You will bring Your will to fruition.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Praying for the Will of God

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Luke 11:9

If we were to take this statement of Jesus in a very literal way we could easily conclude that Jesus will give us anything we ask for in a prayerful way.  But we know this is not what happens.  Perhaps everyone has prayed hard for this or that and the request was not answered in the way we wanted.  Why is that?  Did we simply fail to pray with faith?  Will Jesus do whatever we ask of Him when we pray for it with all our might?  Certainly not.

This passage goes on to say, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13).  Within this context, and within the context of everything that Jesus has taught us, it’s important to know that there is one thing and one thing only for which we ought to pray.  And when we pray for this one thing, we can be assured of obtaining it when we pray for it in faith.  What is that one thing?  It’s the will of God.

If we sincerely and wholeheartedly ask for and seek the will of God, we can be certain that our Lord will give us the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit will, in turn, lead us into the will of God for our lives.  The problem is that too often we end up praying that “MY will be done” rather than “THY will be done.”  This is an important difference.

True prayer is ultimately about trust and surrender to God.  We trust in His perfect plan and surrender to that perfect plan in our lives.  When we do this, we can be assured that the Lord will hear and answer this perfect prayer.

Reflect, today, upon that simple prayer in the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done!  Strive to trust in God’s perfect plan for your life and do all you can to surrender to it.  With this form of prayer we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will come to us, leading us into His holy will.

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.

Can You Make a Difference?

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”  Matthew 13:31b-32

Too often we tend to feel as though our lives are not nearly as important as others.  We can often look to others who are far more “powerful” and “influential.”  We can tend to dream about being like them.  What if I had their money?  Or if I had their social status?  Or if I had their job?  Or was as popular as they are?  Too often, we fall into the trap of the “what ifs.”  

This passage above reveals the absolute fact that God wants to use your life for great things!  The smallest seed becomes the largest bush.  This begs the question, “Do you feel like the smallest seed at times?” 

It’s normal to feel insignificant at times and to wish we were “more.”  But this is nothing more than a worldly and erroneous daydream.  The truth is that each one of us is capable of making a HUGE difference in our world.  No, we may not make the nightly news or receive national awards of greatness, but in God’s eyes we have potential beyond what we could ever daydream about.

Put this in perspective.  What is greatness?  What does it mean to be transformed by God into the “largest of plants” as the mustard seed is?  It means we are given the incredible privilege to fulfill the exact, perfect and glorious plan God has for our lives.  It is this plan that will produce the best and most abundant eternal fruit.  Sure, we may not get the name recognition here on Earth.  But so what?!  Does that really matter?  When you are in Heaven will you be depressed that the world did not recognize you and your role?  Most certainly not.  In Heaven all that will matter is how holy you became and how completely you fulfilled the divine plan for your life.

Saint Mother Teresa often said, “We are called to be faithful, not successful.”  It is this fidelity to the will of God that matters.

Reflect, today, upon two things.  First, reflect upon your “littleness” before the mystery of God.  By yourself you are nothing.  But in that humility, reflect also upon the fact that when you live in Christ and in His divine will you are great beyond measure.  Strive for that greatness and you will be eternally blessed!

Lord of all greatness, I know that without You I am nothing.  Without You my life has no meaning.  Help me to embrace Your perfect and glorious plan for my life and, in that plan, to achieve the greatness to which You call me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Final Victory!

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Matthew 13:40-43

Imagine that day!  Imagine if that day were tomorrow.  If Jesus were returning tomorrow and executing all justice upon the world, would you worry about any injustice today?  Probably not.  Instead, there would be an ability to sit back and be at peace knowing that justice was coming.  

Well, that day is coming soon.  That’s what Jesus said.  Granted, that was said almost 2,000 years ago, but for Him it is still soon.  Time, for God, takes on an eternal perspective.  Therefore, the end of the world is as real for God today as it is when it actually happens.

This is a good thing to keep in mind when we see evil thrive and injustice grow.  It’s so very easy to get angry and upset about the daily victories of the evil one.  But fear not and worry not.  God truly is in control.  He knows what He is doing and He will have the final glorious victory over all things.  

So think about that.  When Jesus does return in all His glory and sets all things right, will the evil we now endure even matter?  In fact, from the eternal perspective, the evil we endure should only serve to give us holy endurance.  It has all potential to be used by God to manifest His grace and strength in our lives.  

Reflect, today, upon the eternal perspective.  If you persevere through all things now, and you strive to do so with patience and grace, you can be certain that all the struggle and all you have to endure will be worth it in the end.  In the new glorious Kingdom of God you will be at peace, and joy will fill your life forever.  Every wrong will be made right and God will be victorious.  Make sure you have “ears to hear” this truth and hold on to it through all things.

My eternal Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You and Your final victory.  Help me to patiently await Your final victory and to endure the evil of this world with the grace and strength You give me.  May I never forget the final promise that You have spoken to me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Pearl of Great Price

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”  Matthew 13:45-46

There are many beautiful insights we can take from this passage.  Certainly we can see the Kingdom of Heaven as analogous to that “Pearl of Great Price!”  But the passage actually states that the Kingdom of Heaven is analogous to the “merchant searching for fine pearls.”  This is a revealing fact.

One insight this offers us is that the Kingdom of Heaven is found in our diligent search.  We search the mystery of Heaven and it is this search that, in and of itself, presents to us God’s Kingdom.  

Speaking of the “search for God” is another way of saying that God is a profound Mystery of Faith, a Mysterium Fidei as we say in Mass.  As a divine “Mystery” it’s important to understand that we can never fully “find” God.  We certainly can find Him, understand Him, come to know Him and give our lives to Him.  But we can never do so fully.  The truth is that the more we come to know God, the more we seek Him and the more we seek Him the more we realize we do not fully know Him.  But this revelation draws us ever more deeply into the life of God and the acquisition of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The discovery of the beauty, value, mystery, power, and glory of God and His Kingdom is what life must be about.  We must spend this life searching, finding, and searching more.  This is what we will do in Heaven.  Heaven will be a moment of the full revelation of the Kingdom and the inner life of God, but we will discover in this revelation that we will eternally enter more deeply into God and His glorious presence.

Reflect, today, upon the search that you embark on in your life.  Is it a diligent search for God?  Or do you grow slack in this endeavor?  Recommit yourself to a wholehearted search for God and you will find that this search is actually a discovery of the glories of the Kingdom of Heaven.

My eternal King, I love You and desire to love You all the more.  Please fill me with zeal and hope as I seek You.  May my wholehearted search for You reveal to me the mystery of Your glorious inner life.  As I discover You, help me to seek You all the more.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Justice of God

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  Matthew 13:49-50

Not all that inspiring of a statement at first read, is it?  But it should be inspiring in the way that it was intended.  It was intended to put a certain “holy fear” in us as well as reassure us of God’s justice.  This is inspiring, just not in the usual way we think of being inspired.

But sometimes we need a little holy fear of God and His justice in our lives.  In our day and age sin is becoming continually more accepted and “normal.”  Our worldwide culture seems to be growing steadily more secular.  Immoral living of many types appears to be on the rise.  As a result, it is easy for us to start seeing sin as normal and even acceptable.  In fact, when we name sin as sin, our world often calls us judgmental and hateful.  

If you find yourself at times feeling pressured to give in to the immorality all around you and just “accept it,” then perhaps the passage above will inspire you to do just the opposite.  The absolute truth is that Jesus has named some things as sin and committing those sins brings grave consequences.  

It could be the very subtle cultural practice of turning the Lord’s Day (Sunday) into anything but a day of rest.  Or it could be grave violations to the sanctity of married and family life through the redefinition of marriage.  Each of us will certainly notice various ways in which we feel our faith is challenged and even attacked.  If that’s you, then this Scripture is for you.  Jesus is serious about sin and the consequences of sin.  That should inspire us to not only live holy lives, but also to do all we can to assist those caught up in the disordered cultural tendencies to change their lives.

Reflect, today, on how strongly you are opposed to sin.  Sin is evil and destructive.  You must always love the person who commits sin, but you ought never offer support or approval for their actions that are contrary to the law of God.  Standing strong in the face of cultural opposition is a great act of love and may free some, one day, from the “wailing and grinding of teeth” of which Jesus spoke.

My gracious Lord, where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.  Your grace is so needed today in our world and in my life.  Help me to stay strong in my opposition to evil and sin so as to be among those who are gathered into Your Kingdom.  Give me courage to do all I can to help those on the path of destruction.  Jesus, I trust in You.

God’s Mightiest Deed

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.  Matthew 13:58

What are “mighty deeds?”  What was Jesus limited in doing in His hometown because of a lack of faith?  The first thing that obviously comes to mind are miracles.  He most likely did not do many healings, or raise anyone from the dead, or multiply food so as to feed the multitude.  But are these the mighty deeds described?

The right answer would be both “Yes” and “No.”  Yes, Jesus was limited in doing miracles and it appears He did very few in His hometown.  But there were deeds that Jesus regularly did that were far more “mighty” than physical miracles.  What are those?  They were the deeds of transforming souls.

What does it matter, in the end, if Jesus does many miracles but souls are not converted?  What is more “mighty” as far as lasting and meaningful action?  Certainly the transformation of souls is of the highest of importance!

But sadly, the mighty deeds of the transformation of souls could not take place either, due to their lack of faith.  The people were clearly obstinate and not open to letting the words and presence of Jesus penetrate their minds and hearts.  For that reason, Jesus could not do the mightiest of deeds in His hometown.

Reflect, today, on whether or not Jesus is doing mighty deeds in your life.  Are you letting Him transform you daily into a new creation?  Are you letting Him do great things in your life?  If you hesitate in answering this question, it is a clear sign that God wants to do much more in your life.

Lord God Almighty, I pray that my soul be fertile ground for Your most magnificent work.  I pray that my soul be transformed by You, Your words and Your presence in my life.  Come into my heart and transform me into Your masterpiece of grace.  Jesus, I trust in You.

The Sad Fruit of Hate

Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”  Matthew 14:8

What a bad day to say the least.  St. John the Baptist was beheaded at the request of Salome, the daughter of Herodias.  John was in prison for speaking the truth to Herod regarding his marriage, and Herodias was filled with hate toward John.  So Herodias had her daughter dance in the presence of Herod and his guests.  Herod was so impressed, he promised Salome up to half of his kingdom.  Instead, her request was for the head of John the Baptist.

Even on the surface this is a bizarre request.  Salome is promised up to half of the kingdom and, instead, she asks for the death of a good and holy man.  In fact, Jesus said of John that no one born of woman was greater than he was.  So why all the hate by Herodias and her daughter?

This sad incident illustrates the power of anger in its most extreme form.  When anger brews and grows it causes deep passion, so much so that it clouds a person’s thinking and reason.  Hate and revenge can consume a person and lead to complete foolishness. 

Herod is also a witness of extreme irrationality here.  He is pressured to do what he does not want to do because he is afraid of doing the right thing.  He is overwhelmed by the hate in the heart of Herodias and, as a result, gives in to the execution of John whom he actually appeared to like and enjoyed listening to.

Normally we seek to be inspired by the good example of others.  But, in this case, we find we can be “inspired” in a different way.  We should use the witness of John’s execution as an opportunity to look at any struggles we have with anger, resentment and especially hate.  Hate is an ugly passion that can sneak in and cause much destruction in our lives and the lives of others.  Even the beginnings of this disordered passion should be confessed and overcome.

Reflect, today, upon whether you see any hate in your heart.  Have you held on to some grudge or bitterness that is not going away?  Is that passion growing and causing damage to your life and the lives of others?  If so, resolve to let go of it and forgive.  It’s the right thing to do.

My freeing Lord, give me the grace I need to look into my heart and see any tendencies of anger, resentment and hatred.  Please purify me of these and set me free.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Feasts and Solemnities in Ordinary Time: Weeks 1-17

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