The Greatest Commandment
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Matthew 22:36
This question was posed by one of the scholars of the law in an attempt to test Jesus. It’s clear, from the context of this passage, that the relationship between Jesus and the religious leaders of His time was beginning to become contentious. They were beginning to test Him and were even trying to trap Him. However, Jesus continued to silence them with His words of wisdom.
In response to the question above, Jesus silences this scholar of the law by giving the perfect answer. He says, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
With this statement, Jesus gives a complete summary of the moral law found in the Ten Commandments. The first three Commandments reveal that we must love God above all and with all our might. The last six Commandments reveal that we must love our neighbor. The moral law of God is as simple as fulfilling these two more general commandments.
But is it all that simple? Well, the answer is both “Yes” and “No.” It’s simple in the sense that God’s will is not typically complex and difficult to comprehend. Love is spelled out clearly in the Gospels and we are called to embrace a radical life of true love and charity.
However, it can be considered difficult in that we are not only called to love, we are called to love with our being. We must give of ourselves completely and without reserve. This is radical and requires that we hold nothing back.
Reflect, today, upon the simple call to love God and your neighbor with that you are. Reflect, especially, upon that word “all.” As you do, you will most certainly become aware of ways in which you fail to give everything. As you see your failure, recommit in hope to the glorious path of making a total gift of yourself to God and others.
Lord, I choose to love You with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength. I also choose to love all people as You love them. Give me the grace to live these two commandments of love and to see them as the path to holiness of life. I do love You, dear Lord. Help me to love You more. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus, Have Pity!
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, [Bartimaeus] began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Mark 10:47
These words from Bartimaeus the blind man present us with the perfect prayer for a few reasons.
First, this prayer reveals the deep humility of Bartimaeus. By praying this prayer, Bartimaeus expresses the fact that he knew Jesus was the source of what he needed and that he was unable to help himself. Bartimaeus knew that he was weak but that Jesus was perfect strength. Thus, he humbly turned to Jesus in his need, recognizing Him as the source.
Second, it is a prayer that cries for “pity.” Pity is the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering of others. Pity is mercy and is the form of love given to one by another who has no need of giving it. In this prayer, Bartimaeus asks the all-powerful Lord to show him kindness and mercy even though he is unworthy of such a gift. This prayer reveals the fact that Bartimaeus knew he was undeserving of help from our Lord, but he cried out for it anyway in the hope that Jesus would help. And, indeed, He does.
Third, this prayer reveals a certain and deep passion. It is not just a request for God’s help, rather it is a cry for help. It’s a plea and a form of begging. It’s an opening up of one’s soul to God, without concern of displaying one’s own weaknesses or worry that others will witness it or what they’ll think. This shows the depth of the blind man’s prayer.
Reflect, today, upon these three lessons from Bartimaeus’ short prayer. We must be humble, beg for mercy, and do so with deep passion and longing. Praying this way will most certainly dispose us to the grace and mercy of God.
Lord, Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. I do humbly beg You with all my heart for Your mercy and compassion. Though I am unworthy, I seek Your grace and trust in Your goodness. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. Luke 18:9
This Scripture passage is the introduction to the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. This parable offers quite a contrast between two general attitudes. First, the Pharisee’s attitude reveals that he is very impressed with himself, thinking highly of his public image, and is unaware of his own sin. Second, the tax collector’s attitude reveals that he is deeply aware of his own sin, is sorry for it and knows he is in need of God’s mercy. The result of these two very different attitudes is that the tax collector went home justified whereas the Pharisee did not.
What does it mean to be justified? It means that the tax collector had a clear conscience and was grounded in the truth. He knew his need for mercy, begged for it and received it. He did not lie to himself, to others or to God. He knew who he was and it is this truth that allowed God to exalt him. The tax collector’s justification came through the forgiveness of his sins and the bestowal of the mercy of God in his life.
The Pharisee may have felt good about himself to a certain extent in that he elevated himself for all to see. He was convinced of his self-righteousness but, in truth, was not righteous. He was only -righteous. He was living a lie and most likely believed that lie and even may have convinced others of that lie. But the fact remained, the Pharisee was not righteous and he was not truly justified.
What we must take from this passage is a profound realization of the importance of living in the truth. Those who paint a false image of themselves may fool themselves and may even fool others. But they will never fool God and they will never be able to achieve true peace in their soul. We each must realize the humble truth of our sin and weakness and, in that realization, beg for the only remedy – the mercy of God.
Reflect, today, upon the prayer of this tax collector: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Make it your prayer. Admit your sin. Acknowledge your need for the mercy of God and allow that mercy to exalt you within the righteousness of God.
Lord, Jesus Christ, please be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. I acknowledge my sin and my weakness and I beg for Your abundant mercy. Please pour forth Your mercy and help me to open my heart to all that You wish to bestow. Help me to live in the humble truth, dear Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. Luke 13:10-13
Every miracle of Jesus is certainly an act of love given toward the person healed. In this story, this woman was suffering for eighteen years and Jesus shows her compassion by healing her. And though it is a clear act of love for her directly, there is much more to the story as a lesson for us.
One message we can take from this story comes from the fact that Jesus heals on His own initiative. Though some miracles are performed at the request and prayer of the one healed, this miracle comes simply through the goodness of Jesus and His compassion. This woman apparently was not seeking a healing, but when Jesus saw her His heart went out to her and He healed her.
So it is with us, Jesus knows what we need before we ask Him. Our duty is to always remain faithful to Him and know that in our fidelity He will give us what we need even before we ask.
A second message comes from the fact that this woman “stood up straight” once she was healed. This is a symbolic image of what grace does to us. When God enters our life, we are able to stand up straight, so to speak. We are able to walk with a new confidence and dignity. We discover who we are and live freely in His grace.
Reflect, today, upon these two facts. God knows every need you have and will answer those needs when it is best for you. Also, when He bestows His grace on you, it will enable you to live in full confidence as His son or daughter.
Lord, I surrender myself to You and trust in Your abundant mercy. I trust that You will enable me to walk in Your
ways every day of my life with full confidence. Jesus, I trust in You.
Conversion of Heart
Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” Luke 13:20-21
Yeast is a fascinating thing. It is so small in size and yet has such a powerful effect upon the dough. The yeast works slowly and somewhat miraculously. Little by little the dough rises and is transformed. This is always something fascinating for children to watch when making bread.
This is the ideal way for the Gospel to work in our lives. Right now, the Kingdom of God is first and foremost alive in our hearts. The conversion of our hearts will rarely effectively take place in a day or in a moment. Sure, each day and every moment is important, and there are certainly powerful moments of conversion we can all point to. But conversion of heart is more like the yeast causing the dough to rise. The conversion of heart is usually something that takes place little by little and step by step. We allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives in a continually deepening way and, as we do, we grow deeper and deeper in holiness just as dough rises slowly but surely.
Reflect, today, upon this image of yeast causing dough to rise. Do you see this as an image of your soul? Do you see the Holy Spirit working on you little by little? Do you see yourself changing slowly but steadily? Hopefully the answer is “Yes.” Though conversion may not always take place overnight, it must be constant so as to enable the soul to progress to that place prepared for it by God.
Lord, I do desire to become holy. I desire to be transformed little by little every day. Help me to allow You to change me every moment of my life so that I can continually walk the path You have laid out for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
“Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’” Luke 13:27
Jesus makes it clear that there are some who will come to Him presuming their entrance into Heaven but their presumption will be met with these frightening words: “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me.”
Presumption is a dangerous sin. It’s dangerous for two reasons. First, when people are presumptuous, they are living in denial of the truth. In regard to God, presumption means that the persons act as if they are in a relationship with God when they are not. They may say holy things, act holy and even believe they are holy, while in fact they do not know our Lord at all. Thus, presumption is when one lives in denial of the truth.
Second, presumption is dangerous because the presumptuous person will not repent of his or her own sin. This is because their denial makes it impossible for them to admit their sin. Without admitting their sin, they cannot subsequently admit their need to change. They remain steeped in their false thinking and their sin.
Jesus presents this teaching not to reveal that He is harsh with those who are presumptuous; rather, He presents it as an act of great mercy for those stuck in this sin. It takes this startling revelation to shake a person free of this sin. In this case, it is the fear of one day hearing these words from Jesus that will help those who are stuck in presumption to break free and to face the truth.
Reflect, today, upon any way that you are not being honest with yourself or with others. Let the shock of the final outcome of any presumption in your life shake you free of this sin so that you can humble yourself before God now, before it is too late. Remember how deeply our Lord loves you and let that love help you to face your life with honesty and integrity.
Lord, I love You deeply and pray that my love may always be honest, genuine and complete. Help me to see, in my life, any ways in which I fail to love You with my whole heart. I give my life to You, dear Lord, without reserve. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.’“ Luke 13:31-32
What an interesting exchange this was between Jesus and some of the Pharisees. It’s interesting to look at both the action of the Pharisees as well as that of Jesus.
It could be asked why the Pharisees spoke to Jesus in this way, warning Him of Herod’s intent. Were they worried about Jesus and, therefore, were they trying to help Him? Probably not. Instead, we know that the majority of the Pharisees were jealous and envious of Jesus. In this case, it appears that they were warning Jesus of Herod’s wrath as a way of trying to intimidate Him to leave their district. Of course, Jesus wasn’t intimidated.
Sometimes we experience the same thing. At times we may have someone come and tell us some gossip about us under the guise of trying to help us, when in fact it’s a subtle way of intimidating us so as to fill us with fear or anxiety.
The key is to react only in the way that Jesus did when confronted with foolishness and malice. Jesus did not give in to the intimidation. He was not at all concerned by Herod’s malice. Rather, He responded in a way that told the Pharisees, in a sense, “Don’t waste your time trying to fill me with fear or anxiety. I am doing the works of my Father and that’s all I should be concerned about.”
What is it that bothers you in life? What are you intimidated by? Do you allow the opinions, malice or gossip of others to get you down? The only thing we should be concerned about is doing the will of the Father in Heaven. When we are confidently doing His will, we will also have the wisdom and courage we need to rebuke all deceit and silly intimidation in our lives.
Reflect, today, upon your own commitment to the will of the Father in your life. Are you fulfilling His will? If so, do you find that some people come and try to deter you? Strive to have the same confidence of Jesus and keep focused on the mission given to you by God.
Lord, I do trust in Your divine will. I trust in the plan You have laid out for me and refuse to be influenced or intimidated by the foolishness and malice of others. Give me courage and wisdom to keep my eyes on You in all things. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. Luke 14:1
This line, from the beginning of today’s Gospel, reveals two things worth pondering.
First, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. This was no small thing. In fact, it was most likely the source of much discussion among the people and the other Pharisees. It shows us that Jesus does not play favorites. He did not only come for the poor and weak. He also came for the conversion of the wealthy and powerful. Too often we forget that simple fact. Jesus came for all people, loves all people and responds to invitations from all who want to have Him in their lives. Of course this passage also reveals that Jesus was not afraid to come to the home of this leading Pharisee and challenge him and his guests so as to move them to a change of heart.
Second, this passage states that people were “observing Him carefully.” Perhaps some were just curious and were looking for something to talk about later with their friends. But others were most likely observing Him carefully because they truly wanted to understand Him. They could tell there was something unique about Jesus and they wanted to know more about Him.
These two lessons should encourage us to realize that Jesus does love us and will respond to our openness to His presence in our lives. All we have to do is ask and be open to Him coming to “dine” with us. We should also learn from the witness of those who were observing Him carefully. They reveal to us the good desire we should have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Though some who observed Him carefully turned against Him and mocked Him, there were others who observed Him carefully and embraced Jesus and His message.
Reflect, today, upon your willingness to invite Jesus into the home of your heart and life’s situation. Know that He will accept any invitation you offer. And as Jesus comes to you, give Him your full attentiveness. Observe all that He says and does and let His presence and message become the foundation of your life.
Lord, I do invite You into my heart. I invite You into every situation in my life. Please come dwell with me in my family. Come dwell with me at work, among friends, in my hardships, during my despair, and in all things. Help my attentiveness to You and Your will and lead me to all You have in store for my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Embarrassment of Pride
Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.” Luke 14:8-9
In telling this parable to those dining with Him at the Pharisee’s house, Jesus strikes a chord in their hearts. It is clear that His audience was filled with those who sought the esteem of others and were very concerned about their social reputation. It would have been a frightening thought for them to take the place of honor at a banquet only to be embarrassed by the host when asked to move to a lower spot. This humiliation was clear to those who were caught up in the world of social prestige.
Jesus uses this embarrassing example as a way of highlighting their pride and the danger of living in such a prideful way. He goes on to say, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
We can never examine our consciences often enough concerning pride. Pride is referred to as the “Mother of all sins” for a reason. Pride leads to every other sin and, in many ways, is the source of all sin. Therefore, if we want to strive for perfection in life, we should seek true humility on a daily basis.
Humility is nothing other than seeing things as they are. A humble person sees him/herself in the truth of God. This can be hard to do because it requires that we see ourselves as weak and dependent upon God. We may be able to accomplish many worldly things through our own strength and hard work. But we cannot achieve happiness and goodness unless we open ourselves to the truth of our weaknesses and dependence upon God for all things.
Humility also helps to purify our hearts of something that is very hard to let go of. Pride causes us to deeply seek out the esteem of others and to be dependent upon that esteem for our happiness. That’s a dangerous road to go down because it leaves us constantly dependent upon the opinions of others. And far too often, the opinions of others are based on false and superficial criteria.
Reflect, today, upon how free you are from the misleading and false opinions of others. Sure, you need to regularly seek out advice from those you know andlove. But you must allow yourself only to be dependent upon God and His Truth. When you do that, you will be well down the road of true humility.
Lord, please make me humble. Strip away all pride in my life so that I can turn to You and Your will alone. Help me to have concern only for the Truth that You establish and to use that as the only measure of my soul. Jesus, I trust in You.