Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Relating to the Sinner

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.  The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Matthew 9:10-11

One of the worst sins one can be guilty of is self-righteousness and judgmentalness toward others.  This is the sin of the Pharisees.  It’s refreshing to note that Jesus had no problem spending time with the tax collectors and others whom society deemed as “sinners.”  This would certainly include many categories of sin but especially sins that come through human weakness.  However, as we see countless times in the Gospel, Jesus is very harsh toward those who judge another and act in a condemning way.

This sin is especially common among “churchy” people.  By “churchy,” we mean those who are deeply involved in their faith, the devotional life, parish life, and even those involved in Church governance.  It’s certainly not applicable to everyone since there are many deeply involved in the Church who are true saints of God.  Nonetheless, we should be attentive to this sin and humbly look into our own hearts to see if it is present.

What does this sin look like in our day and age?  Often times it takes on the form of inner church gossip, criticism and ridicule, and results in division among members of the Church.  This latter mentioned effect of this sin, that of causing division, is a sign we should look for as a way of pondering any struggle we may have with this pharisaical sin.

Reflect, today, upon anyone within the Church with whom you are at odds.  Is there anyone, or any group of persons, with whom you are divided?  Do you find yourself criticizing others?  If so, realize that Jesus’ harshness toward the Pharisees may also apply to you.  Do not hesitate to quickly and humbly admit to this fault and allow our Lord to free you from these temptations.

Lord, help me to be freed from a critical and judgmental heart.  Give me the grace I need to turn from my own self-righteousness and to humbly seek the good of others.  May I welcome all people into my life just as You did, dear Lord.  Fill me with a heart of compassion and true mercy, especially for those who struggle with sin.  Jesus, I trust in You.


A Stubborn and Obstinate Heart

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Mark 3:22

The scribes were guilty of a nasty sin called “calumny.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that someone is guilty of this sin when the person, “…by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.”  The Catechism also speaks of a lesser sin called “rash judgment” and states a person is guilty of this, “who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor” (Catechism #2477).  It appears quite clear that the scribes were gravely guilty of these two sins.

What’s important to note in these blasphemous words spoken against Jesus is that the scribes would not have spoken such things unless they were fully committed to these sins of calumny and rash judgment.  It’s not possible to sin in these ways to a minor degree.  These sins require much malice,obstinacy and determination.  For that reason, these sins can be very damaging and, for most of us, they can become overwhelming. 

If you were the object of such harshness from another, it would most likely make you sit back and be overwhelmed with shock, hurt, anger and confusion.  It’s very difficult to remain indifferent to such an attack.

But what did Jesus do?  He addressed their condemnation and then pointed out that what they spoke was a “sin against the Holy Spirit.”  This form of sin cannot be forgiven because of the obstinacy and refusal to repent on the part of the sinner.  The one who sins against the Holy Spirit is so given over to their sin that they are not open to change.  This is frightening and results in eternal damnation.

Perhaps one essential lesson we should take from this passage is to be reminded that we must never allow ourselves to become obstinate in our sin.  We should never become so entrenched in our sin and, especially, in our own self-righteousness that we are not willing to listen, reason, and humbly change when we realize we were wrong.  The scribes were not open to change and this is the worst part of their sin. 

Reflect, today, upon whether you, also, struggle with being obstinate and stubborn.  Do not fall into this trap since it is a sin against the Holy Spirit.  Reflect upon how open you are to change and commit yourself to the path of humility.  This is a path you will never regret walking down.

Lord, when I sin, help me to be open to seeing my error.  Free me from the tendency of obstinacy and hardness of heart.  Help me to always remain humble and make me willing to change.  I love You dear Lord.  Help me to love all Your people with a sincere and humble heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Newness of Life

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”  The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Luke 7:13-15

This powerful story of Jesus raising a dead man back to life would have left the witnesses to this miracle in absolute awe.  The mother, in particular, would have been forever grateful to Jesus for receiving her son back after all hope had been lost.  She was weeping over the loss of her son, which was certainly an early and untimely death, and all of a sudden everything changed.  Her sorrow was transformed into unbelievable joy.  It’s especially helpful to reflect upon the contrast of emotions in this case.  The joy and gratitude she would have felt for the days, weeks, months and even years to follow would have been overwhelming.

This miracle was most certainly an act of love for this mother so as to alleviate her sorrow, but it was also a powerfully prophetic action by which Jesus chose to reveal to us the promise He offers all who have holy sorrow in life and those who suffer on account of their love.  Suffering and sorrow are a part of life, but those who suffer and are sorrowful on account of their holy love of God and others should also anticipate the transforming power of God to enter their sorrow and bring forth newness of life in a way that only God can do.

This newness of life may not be the physical raising of a loved one from the dead in this life, but the joy and peace God wants to give us is just as fulfilling and rewarding as such an action.  How does this happen?  It happens by God lifting our heavy burdens in a way that only His wisdom can fathom.  But what we must know is that this promise from God is real and is an invitation that we are offered every day.

If it is good for us and good for our holiness, God can and will bring forth a miracle in our lives.  Sometimes His miracles are tangible and awe-inspiring, and sometimes they are subtle and interior gifts by which He infuses a special grace of faith, hope or charity.  But this gift is real and we should look for it and hope in it.

Reflect, today, upon any sorrow or suffering that you endure.  As you do, seek to unite that suffering to the Cross of Christ.  Trust in Him and surrender to Him.  As you do, be open to the unique ways that God wants to bring forth newness of life for you.  Be open to the way He chooses to do this and allow Him to offer you the consolation that you need.  The Lord’s mercy and compassion are beyond what you can fathom and He will truly never let you down if you but trust.

Lord, I do surrender all to You.  I entrust my life and all my suffering and sorrow to You.  Please take me and transform my life in accord with Your perfect plan.  I love You, dear Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Beatitudes

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

…for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

…for they will be comforted.

…for they will inherit the land.

…for they will be satisfied.

…for they will be shown mercy.

…for they will see God.

…for they will be called children of God.

…for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

…for your reward will be great in heaven.

(See Matthew 5)

Listed above are all the rewards of living the Beatitudes.  Read them slowly and prayerfully.  Do you desire these good fruits?  These rewards of the Beatitudes?  Of course you do!  It’s a good spiritual practice to start with the reward, the effect of something, and to let the desire for that reward grow.  The same is true of sin.  It’s a good practice, especially when one struggles with a habitual sin, to start with the effect of that sin (the negative effect) and ask whether or not you desire it. 

But today we have the Beatitudes.  And as we ponder the fruits of the Beatitudes, we can’t help but conclude that we deeply desire them.  This is a good and healthy realization to come to. 

From there, we only need to add one extra step.  Once we’ve concluded, with a deep conviction, that we desire the fruits of the Beatitudes, we then only need to add the first step.  We insert the Beatitude into this desire so that we can understand and believe that the Beatitude is good and desirous.  But what about the Beatitudes?  Do you desire…

To be poor in spirit,

to mourn,

to be meek,

to hunger and thirst for righteousness,

to be merciful,

to be clean of heart,

to be a peacemaker,

to accept persecution for the sake of righteousness,

and to be insulted and persecuted and to have every kind of evil uttered about you falsely because of Jesus?

Hmmm, perhaps or perhaps not. Some seem desirous while others seem burdensome.  But if these Beatitudes are properly understood in the context of their fruits (i.e., the blessings they produce), then our desire for the means to that good fruit (the Beatitude) should grow as well.

Perhaps, today, you can look at which Beatitude is most difficult for you to want and desire.  Once you find it, look at the fruit it produces and spend time looking at that Beatitude within that context.  It will help you grow in blessedness!

Lord, help make me humble and meek, pure of heart and merciful, a peacemaker and one who accepts any persecution that comes my way.  Help me to receive all with joy and with a longing for Your Kingdom.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Making a Difference

Tuesday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.”  Matthew 5:13a&14a

Salt and light, that’s us.  Hopefully!  Have you ever pondered what it means to be salt or light in this world?

Let’s start with this image.  Imagine you cook some wonderful vegetable soup with all the best ingredients.  It slowly simmers for hours and the broth looks very tasty.  But the one thing you are out of is salt and other spices.  So, you just let the soup simmer and hope for the best.  Once it’s fully cooked you try a taste and, to your disappointment, it’s somewhat tasteless.  So, you search until you find the missing ingredient, salt, and you add just the right amount.  After another half hour of simmering you try a sample and are greatly delighted.   It’s amazing what salt can do! 

Or imagine going for a walk in the forest and getting lost.  As you search for your way out, the sun sets and it slowly becomes dark.  It’s overcast so there are no stars or moon.  About a half hour after sunset you find yourself in complete darkness in the middle of the forest.  As you sit there, you suddenly see the bright moon peek through the clouds.  It’s a full moon and the overcast skies are clearing up.  Suddenly, the full moon sheds so much light your way that you are able to once again navigate the dark forest.

These two images provide us with the importance of just a little salt and a little light.  Just
a little changes everything! 

So it is with us in our faith.  The world we live in is dark in so many ways.  The “flavor” of love and mercy is also quite void.  God is calling you to add that little flavor and produce that little light so that others can find their way. 

Like the moon, you are not the source of light.  You only reflect the light.  God wants to shine through you and He wants you to reflect His light.  If you are open to this, He will move the clouds at the right time so as to use you in the way He has chosen.  Your responsibility is to simply be open. 

Reflect, today, upon how open you are.  Pray each day that God will use you in accord with His divine purpose.  Make yourself available to His divine grace and you will be amazed at the way He can use the small things in your life to make a difference.

Lord, I do want to be used by You.  I want to be salt and light.  I want to make a difference in this world.  I give myself to You and Your service.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Love is in the Details

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”   Matthew 5:18

This is an interesting statement from Jesus.  There are many things that could be said about it regarding the law and Jesus’ fulfillment of the law.  But one thing worth reflecting upon is the great lengths Jesus goes to identify the importance of not only one letter of the law, but more specifically, the smallest part of a letter. 

The ultimate law of God, as brought to fulfillment in Christ Jesus, is love.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.”  And, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the ultimate fulfillment of the law of God.

If we look at this passage above, in light of the perfection of the law of love, we can hear Jesus saying that the details of love, even the smallest detail, is of grave importance.  In fact, the details are what makes love grow exponentially.  The smaller the detail one is attentive to in love of God and love of neighbor, the greater is the fulfillment of the law of love to the greatest degree.

Think, today, about those whom God has put in your life to love.  This would especially apply to family members and especially to spouses.  How attentive are you to every small act of kindness and compassion?  Do you regularly look for opportunities to offer an encouraging word?  Do you make an effort, even in the smallest of details, to show you care and are there and are concerned?  Love is in the details and the details magnify this glorious fulfillment of God’s law of love. 

Lord, help me to be attentive to all the big and many small ways I am called to love You and others.  Help me, especially, to look for the smallest of opportunities to show this love and thus fulfill Your law.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Paying the Last Penny

Thursday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  Matthew 5:25-26

That’s a scary thought!  At first could be seen as a complete lack of mercy.  “You will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  But in fact, it’s an act of great love.

The key here is that Jesus wants us reconciled to Him and to one another.  Specifically, He wants all anger, bitterness and resentment removed from our souls.  That’s why He says to “Settle with your opponent quickly on the way to court with him.”  In other words, apologize and be reconciled before you find yourself before the judgment seat of divine justice. 

God’s justice is completely satisfied when we humble ourselves, apologize for our faults, and sincerely seek to make amends.  With that, every “penny” is already paid.  But what God does not accept is obstinacy.  Obstinacy is a serious sin and one that cannot be forgiven unless the obstinacy is let go of.  Obstinacy in refusing to admit our fault in a grievance is of the greatest concern.  Obstinacy in our refusal to change our ways is also of great concern.

The penalty is that God will exercise His justice upon us until we finally repent.  And this is an act of love and mercy on God’s part because His judgment is f
ocused especially upon our sin which is the only thing standing in the way of our love of God and others.

Paying back the last penny can also be seen as an image of Purgatory.  Jesus is telling us to change our lives now, to forgive and repent now.  If we do not, we will still have to deal with those sins after death, but it’s much better to do so now. 

Reflect upon what it is that you have to “settle with your opponent” today.  Who is your opponent?  Who is the one you have a grievance with today?  Pray that God will show you the way to being freed of that burden so that you can enjoy true freedom!

Lord, help me to forgive and to forget.  Help me to seek anything that keeps me from fully loving You and all my neighbors.  Purify my heart, oh Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Avoidance of Sin

Friday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”  Matthew 5:29-30a

Does Jesus really mean this?  Literally? 

We can be certain that this language, which is shocking, is not a literal command but is rather a symbolic statement commanding us to avoid sin with great zeal, and to avoid all that leads us to sin.  The eye can be understood as a window to our soul where our thoughts and desires reside.  The hand can be seen as a symbol of our actions.  Thus, we must eliminate every thought, affection, desire and action that leads us to sin.

The true key to understanding this passage is to allow ourselves to be affected by the powerful language that Jesus uses.  He does not hesitate to speak in a shocking way so as to reveal to us the calling we have to confront with much zeal that which leads to sin in our lives.  “Pluck it out…cut it off,” He says.  In other words, eliminate your sin and all that leads you to sin in a definitive way.  The eye and the hand are not sinful in and of themselves; rather, in this symbolic language they are spoken of as those things that lead to sin.  Therefore, if certain thoughts or certain actions lead you to sin, these are the areas to target and to eliminate.

Regarding our thoughts, sometimes we can allow ourselves to dwell excessively upon this or that.  As a result, these thoughts can lead us to sin.  The key is to “pluck out” that initial thought that produces the bad fruit.

Regarding our actions, we can at times put ourselves in situations that tempt us and lead to sin.  These occasions of sin must be cut off from our lives.

Reflect, today, upon this very direct and powerful language of our Lord.  Let the forcefulness of His words be an impetus for change and avoidance of all sin.

Lord, I am sorry for my sin and I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness.  Please help me to avoid all that leads me to sin and to surrender all my thoughts and actions to You every day.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Being Honest

Saturday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the Evil One.”  Matthew 5:37

This is an interesting line.  At first it seems a bit extreme to say that “Anything else is from the Evil One.”  But of course since these are the words of Jesus, they are words of perfect truth.  So what does Jesus mean?

This line comes to us from Jesus within the context of Him teaching us about the morality of taking an oath.  The lesson is essentially a presentation of the basic principle of “truthfulness” found in the Eighth Commandment.  Jesus is telling us to be honest, to say what we mean and mean what we say.

One reason Jesus brings this up, within the context of His teaching about taking oaths, is that there should be no need for a solemn oath regarding our ordinary daily conversations.  Sure, there are some oaths that take on solemnity such as Marriage vows or vows and promises solemnly taken by priests and religious.  In fact, in every Sacrament there is some form of solemn promise taken.  However, the nature of these promises is more of a public expression of faith than a way of keeping people accountable. 

The truth is that the Eighth Commandment, which calls us to be people of honesty and integrity, should suffice in all daily activity.  We do not need to “swear to God” about this or that.  We should not fe
el a need to convince another that we are telling the truth in one situation or another.  Rather, if we are people of honesty and integrity, then our word will suffice and what we say will be true simply because we say it.

Reflect, today, upon how honest you are in all areas of life.  Have you built a habit of truthfulness in both big and small matters of life?  Do people recognize this quality in you?  Speaking the truth and being a person of the truth are ways of proclaiming the Gospel with our actions.  Commit yourself to honesty today and the Lord will do great things through your spoken word.

Lord, help me to be a person of honesty and integrity.  For the times that I have twisted the truth, deceived in subtle ways, and outright lied, I am sorry.  Help my “Yes” to always be in accord with Your most holy will and help me to always turn from the ways of error.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

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