Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” Matthew 4:15-16
This passage from Matthew’s Gospel is quoted from Isaiah the Prophet at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. After quoting Isaiah, Jesus goes forth saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
This prophecy from Isaiah is clearly fulfilled in Jesus’ coming. Jesus is the “great light” of which Isaiah speaks. Therefore, Isaiah is prophesying this particular historical moment when Jesus appears in our world preaching His divine Word.
But Isaiah’s words should not only speak to us about this one-time historical event of the coming of Christ and His public ministry, it should also reveal to us the fact that Jesus is the “great light” who continues to shine in whatever darkness we encounter.
Sit with that image. Imagine complete darkness covering the entire land. Perhaps imagine being out in the wilderness on a very cloudy night with the stars and moon completely covered. Imagine, then, the clouds parting as the Sun immediately begins to rise. Slowly the darkness is cast aside as the rising sun sheds light across the entire land.
This is not only an image of what happened long ago when Jesus came and began His ministry, it also happens every time we sincerely listen to the Word of God and allow His Word to penetrate our minds and hearts. Jesus’ words must fill us with Himself for He is the Great Light of Truth.
Reflect, today, upon the area of your life that seems to be covered with darkness. What is it that leaves you feeling hurt, angry or confused? What is it that burdens your heart more than anything else? It is this area of your life, more than any, that Jesus desires to enter and to shed the rays of His glory upon.
Lord, come to me and enter the darkness of my mind and heart. Come and cast aside the sorrow and pain that I feel this day. Bring clarity to my confusion and replace it with the bright knowledge of Your loving presence. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jonah, the Man Who Ran From God
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’S bidding. Jonah 3:1-3
Jonah is one of the most beloved Old Testament prophets. Why? Perhaps because of the fascinating story of him being swallowed by a whale. This image lends intrigue to one’s imagination and is somewhat fairytale-like. It’s a good story and afun story!
But what we may easily forget is why Jonah was swallowed by the whale. It was because he heard God call him to a particular mission in life and he ran as fast as he could the other way. He did all he could to avoid his calling. But God was relentless. In the end, God won and Jonah went to Nineveh to preach. The best part is that the people of Nineveh listened to him and changed their lives! Jonah’s preaching was, in the end, a great success.
Imagine what would have happened if Jonah would have just listened to God from the very beginning. It may have left us with much less of that fairytale-like story but it certainly would have saved Jonah and others a great amount of stress. He would not have had to endure the great storm at sea, the wrath of the crew on that ship, the distress of being thrown over the boat and the experience of being held captive in the belly of the whale for those three days. All this could have been avoided if he would have just listened to God from the very beginning.
With that said, it’s also interesting and insightful to look at the story from another perspective. The truth is that Jonah did endure all of these difficulties. And though we may be tempted to judge him for that and shake our finger at him, we may want to be careful. Why? Because it’s entirely possible that God actually allowed him, by an act of His divine permissive will, to go through these struggles for a reason. It’s entirely possible, and perhaps probable, that it was part of the wisdom of God that Jonah, at first, resisted His will. Why would God do this? Most likely for our sake in that Jonah becomes a great example for us. It seems clear that one of the main lessons from Jonah’s life was that God is relentless in His love for us and is relentless in calling us to embrace His will. So Jonah’s life and actions become prophetic and teach us a great lesson.
God does not give up on us. He does not simply throw us away the moment we turn from Him. Instead, our denial of Him only makes His resolve to pursue us all the greater. He takes our brokenness, our lack of resolve, our failings and weaknesses and uses them for His glory and His perfect plan.
Reflect, today, on whether you are discouraged in life and feel like you have failed in following the will of God for your life. If so, then the message of Jonah is clear. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. God has not given up on His plan for you and He has not lost hope. In the end, you may discover that those parts of your life that seem to be the greatest burden and obstacle for you will be turned upside down by God’s grace and become the very source of the manifestation of His glory!
The Gift of Sacred Scripture
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. Luke 1:1-4
St. Luke begins his Gospel with this short explanation. This introduction to his Gospel gives us the opportunity to look more deeply at the Holy Bible.
What is your approach to the Bible? How often do you read it? How thoroughly do you understand it? Is the Bible the foundation of your life of faith and knowledge of God?
Sacred Scripture is a gift beyond our imagination. It’s a gift from God through which He reveals His perfect love and His perfect plan for us. We should know the Scriptures well, read them often, pray over the verses and allow all that is revealed within those pages to become the foundation of our lives. Let’s reflect upon one particular aspect of Sacred Scripture.
The Bible is 100% the work of God and 100% the work of the human author. It is 100/100 so to speak. This means that the human author completely cooperated with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in writing each book and letter. And God, for His part, guaranteed that all that was written came from His heart and inspiration. Therefore, this joint effort reveals that God used the human author for a divine purpose.
This is of great significance to understand for two reasons. First, it reveals that we should love Scripture because it reveals the heart and truth of God as well as the unique personality and humanity of the human author. So we are benefiting from the full revelation of God as well as the unique gift of the human author.
Second, it should reveal to us that, though God will not use us in the same way (i.e., to add to the Bible), He does desire to use us for divine purposes. He desires to consume our unique human personality and use us to shine forth the beauty and splendor of His divinity. He wants a 100/100 cooperation with us, also, so as to shine through us in a radiant way.
Reflect, today, upon two things. First, reflect upon the gift of the Bible and the way that God used the human author to give you this gift. Second, reflect upon the fact that God wants to use you, in all your weakness and sin, to bring His divine presence into your world. Be open to that gift so that you may become a living gift of the Word of God to the world.
Lord, I thank You for the wonderful gift of Sacred Scripture. Thank You for all that You have revealed through this gift and for the way that You used the human author for the transmission of Your life. Help me to always be open to Your divine Word and to always be open to becoming a living presence of that Word in our world. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Sin Against the Holy Spirit
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
“Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” Mark 3:28-29
Now this is a frightening thought. Normally when speaking of sin we quickly focus in on the mercy of God and His abundant desire to forgive. But in this passage we have something that could at first appear quite contrary to the mercy of God. Is it true that some sins will not be forgiven by God? The answer is yes and no.
This passage reveals to us that there is a particular sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, that will not be forgiven. What is this sin? Why would it not be forgiven? Traditionally, this sin has been seen as a sin of final impenitence, or presumption. It’s the situation where someone sins gravely and then either fails to have any sorrow for that sin or simply presumes on God’s mercy without truly repenting. Either way, this lack of sorrow closes the door to God’s mercy.
Of course it must also be said that whenever a person’s heart is changed, and he/she grows in sincere sorrow for sin, God is there to immediately welcome that person back with open arms. God would never turn away from someone who humbly returns to Him with a contrite heart.
Reflect, today, upon the abundant mercy of God, but also reflect upon your own duty to foster true sorrow for sin. Do your part and you will be assured that God will lavish His mercy and forgiveness upon you. There is no sin too great when we have hearts that are humble and contrite.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner. I do acknowledge my sin and I am sorry for it. Help me, dear Lord, to continually foster within my heart a greater sorrow for sin and a deeper trust in Your divine mercy. I thank You for Your perfect and unfailing love for me and for all. Jesus, I trust in You
Becoming a Member of Jesus’ Family
Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35
Jesus said many shocking things throughout His public ministry. They were “shocking” in that His words were often way beyond the limited comprehension of many who heard Him. Interestingly, He wasn’t in the habit of quickly trying to clear up the misunderstandings. Rather, He often left those who misinterpreted what He said remain in their ignorance. There is a powerful lesson in this.
First of all, let’s look at the example of this passage from today’s Gospel. No doubt there was probably a sort of hush that came over the crowd when Jesus said this. Many who listened most likely thought Jesus was being rude to His mother and relatives. But was He? Is this how His Blessed Mother took it? Certainly not.
What this highlights is that His Blessed Mother, above all, is His mother primarily because of her obedience to God’s will. Her blood relationship was significant. But she was even more His mother because she fulfilled the requirement of perfect obedience to the will of God. Therefore, by her perfect obedience to God she was perfectly the mother of her Son.
But this passage also reveals that Jesus was often not that concerned with the fact that some misunderstood Him. Why is that the case? Because He knows how His message is communicated and best received. He knows that His message can only be received by those who listen with an open heart and with faith. And He knows that those who have an open heart in faith will understand, or at least ponder what He said until the message sinks in.
The message of Jesus cannot be argued and defended in the same way as some philosophical maxim can be. Rather, His message can only be received and understood by those who have an open heart. There should be no doubt that as Mary listened to those words of Jesus with her perfect faith she understood and was filled with joy. It was her perfect “Yes” to God that enabled her to understand all thatJesus said. Consequently, this enabled Mary to claim the holy title of “Mother” far more than her blood relation. Her blood relation is no doubt greatly significant, but her spiritual bond is so much more.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that you, too, are called to be a member of the intimate family of Jesus. You are called into His family through your obedience to His holy will. You are called to be attentive, listen, understand and then act on all that He speaks. Say “Yes” to our Lord, this day, and allow that “Yes” to be the foundation of your familial relationship with Him.
Lord, help me to always listen with an open heart. Help me to reflect upon Your words with faith. In this act of faith, allow me to grow deeper in my bond with You as I enter Your divine family. Jesus, I trust in You.
Sowing the Word of God…Despite the Results
Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.” Mark 4:3
This line begins the familiar Parable of the Sower. We are aware of the details of this parable in that the sower sows seed on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns and ultimately on good soil. The story reveals that we must strive to be like that “good soil” in that we must receive the Word of God into our souls, allowing it to be nurtured so that it may grow in abundance.
But this parable reveals something more that could easily be missed. It reveals the simple fact that the sower, in order to plant at least some seed in good and fertile soil, must act. He must act by going forth spreading seed in abundance. As he does this, he must not become disheartened if the majority of the seed he has sown fails to reach that good soil. The path, the rocky ground, and the thorny ground all are places where seed is sown but ultimately dies. Only one of the four places identified in this parable produces growth.
Jesus is the Divine Sower and His Word is the Seed. Therefore, we should realize that we are also called to act in His person by sowing the seed of His Word in our own lives. Just as He is willing to sow with the realization that not every seed will produce fruit, so also we must be ready and willing to accept this same fact.
The truth is that, very often, the labor we offer to God for the building up of His Kingdom produces little or no manifest fruit in the end. Hearts become hardened and the good we do, or the Word we share, does not grow.
One lesson we must take from this parable is that the spreading of the Gospel requires effort and commitment on our part. We must be willing to toil and labor for the Gospel despite whether or not people are willing to receive it. And we must not allow ourselves to become discouraged if the results are not what we had hoped for.
Reflect, today, upon the mission you have been given by Christ to spread His Word. Say “Yes” to that mission and then look for ways, each and every day, to sow His Word. Expect much of the effort you give to bear little fruit in a manifest way. But have deep hope and confidence in the fact that some of that seed will reach the soil that our Lord desires it to reach. Commit yourself to the sowing; God will worry about the rest.
Lord, I make myself available to You for the purpose of the Gospel. I promise to serve You, each and every day, and I commit to being a sower of Your divine Word. Help me not to become too focused on the results of the effort I give; but rather, help me to entrust those results only to You and to Your divine providence. Jesus, I trust in You.
One Good Reason for Mercy
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.” Mark 4:24
How would you like others to deal with you? How would you like them to treat you? Most certainly we would all like to be treated with mercy. We wish to be shown kindness, compassion, care, honesty, and the like. One thing this passage above reveals is that we will be dealt with, by God, in the same way we deal with others.
Ideally, we will show mercy and goodness to others simply because it’s the right thing to do. God calls us to a life of abundant charity and we should desire to live that life. But if we struggle with charity toward others, perhaps one motivating factor could be to realize that we will be treated in the same way that we act toward others.
Though this may put a certain “holy fear” in our hearts and encourage us to act with mercy, it should also call us to desire to go beyond the basics and to offer love and compassion in an abundant way.
Think about it. If you spend your whole life striving to forgive, to show love, to reconcile, to help those in need, etc., you, too, can be assured of these gifts being lavished upon you now and in the end. You can be assured that God will not withhold anything from you. Instead, He will joyfully pour out upon you more than you could ever expect or hope for.
Reflect, today, upon your own calling to a life of abundant generosity. There are countless ways that you are called to be generous toward others. Commit yourself to this life of goodness and then anticipate all that God will pour forth upon you.
Lord, help me to be radically generous in my love and compassion toward others. Help me to forgive, to show kindness, to be merciful and to do it all in abundance. I love You my dear Lord. Help me to also love those You have put in my life with a perfect and total love. Jesus, I trust in You.
It Only Takes a Little
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…” Mark 4:30-32
It is amazing to think about. This tiny seed has so much potential. That little seed has within it the potential to become th
e largest of plants, a source of food, and a dwelling place for the birds of the air.
Perhaps this analogy that Jesus uses does not impress us as much as it should because we know that all plants begin with a seed. But try to think about this wonder of the physical world. Try to think about how so much potential is packed into that little seed.
This reality reveals the fact that Jesus wants to use each one of us for the building up of His Kingdom. We may feel as though we cannot do much, that we are not as gifted as others, that we will not be able to make much of a difference, but that’s not true. The truth is that each one of us is packed with unbelievable potential that God wants to bring to fruition. He wants to bring forth from our lives glorious blessings for the world. All we must do is allow Him to work.
Like a seed, we must allow ourselves to be planted in the fertile soil of His mercy through faith and surrender to His divine will. We must be watered by daily prayer and allow the rays of the Son of God to shine on us so that He can bring forth from us all that He desires and has planned from the foundation of the world.
Reflect, today, upon the incredible potential that God has placed within your soul. He made you with the intention to bring forth His Kingdom through you and to do so in an abundant way. It is your responsibility to simply believe this and to allow God to do what He desires to do in your life.
Lord, I love You and thank You for all that You have done in my life. I thank You, in advance, for all that You still desire of me. I pray that I may daily surrender to You so that You can come and nourish me with Your grace, bringing forth from my life an abundance of good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.
Calming the Sea
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Mark 4:38-39
And there was great calm! Yes, this is a reference to the quieting of the sea, but it is a message spoken to the turmoil we face, at times, in life. Jesus wants to bring great calm to our lives.
It’s so very easy to get discouraged in life. It’s so very easy to focus in on the chaos that is all around us. Be it a harsh and biting word from another, a family problem, civil unrest, financial concerns, etc., there are plenty of reasons for each one of us to fall into the trap of fear, frustration, depression and anxiety.
But it was for this reason that Jesus allowed this event to take place with His disciples. He got into the boat with His disciples and allowed them to experience a fierce storm while He slept, so that He could bring from this experience a clear and convincing message to us all.
In this story, the disciples focused in on one thing: They were perishing! The sea was tossing them and they feared imminent disaster. But through it all, Jesus was there sound asleep, waiting for them to wake Him. And when they woke Him, He took control of the storm and brought perfect calm.
The same is true in our lives. We are so easily rattled by the stresses and difficulties of daily life. We so often allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by problems we face. The key is to turn our eyes to Jesus. See Him there, before you, sleeping and waiting for you to rouse Him. He is always there, always waiting, always ready.
Waking our Lord is as simple as turning our eyes from the stormy sea and trusting in His divine presence. It’s all about trust. Total and unyielding trust. Do you trust Him?
Reflect, today, upon that which causes you daily anxiety, fear or confusion. What is it that appears to be tossing you here and there causing you stress and worry? As you see this burden, see also Jesus there with you, waiting for you to come to Him in trust so that He can take control of every situation in life you find yourself in. He loves you and will indeed take care of you.
Lord, I turn to You in the midst of the challenges of life and desire to rouse You to come to my aid. I know You are always near, waiting for me to trust You in all things. Help me to turn my eyes to You and to have faith in Your perfect love for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
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