Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Ready for the Lord

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  Matthew 25:13

Imagine if you knew the day and hour you would pass from this life.  Of course, some people do know that death is approaching either due to illness or age.  But think about this in your own life.  What if you were told by Jesus that tomorrow is that day.  Are you ready?

Most likely there would be many practical details that would come to mind that you would want to take care of.  Many would think about all their loved ones and what impact this would have on them.  Set that all aside for now and ponder the question from one perspective only.  Are you ready to meet Jesus?

Once you pass from this life there is only one thing that will matter.  What will Jesus say to you?  Just prior to this quoted Scripture above, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  Some were wise and had oil for their lamps.  When the groom came late in the night they were ready with lamps lit to meet him and he welcomed them.  The foolish ones were not prepared and did not have oil for their lamps.  When the groom came, they missed him and heard the words, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12). 

The oil in their lamps, or the lack thereof, is a symbol of charity.  If we are to be prepared to meet the Lord at any time, on any day, we must have charity in our lives.  Charity is much more than a passion or emotion of love.  Charity is a radical commitment to love others with the heart of Christ.  It’s a daily habit we form by choosing to put others first, offering them all that Jesus asks us to give.  It may be a small sacrifice or a heroic act of forgiveness.  But whatever the case may be, we need charity in order to be ready to meet our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon those in your life whom God wants you to love.  How well do you do this?  How complete is your commitment?  How far are you willing to go?  Whatever comes to mind in regard to your lacking of this gift, pay attention to this and beg the Lord for His grace so that you, too, will be one who is wise and ready to meet the Lord at any time.

Lord, I pray for the supernatural gift of charity in my life.  Please fill me with love for others and help me to be abundantly generous in this love.  May I hold nothing back and, in so doing, be fully prepared to meet You whenever You call me home.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Prayer and Humility

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  Mark 12:38-40

It’s important to note here that Jesus says, “They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  These words are spoken from Him who is the source of mercy and grace.  His heart is full of kindness and compassion, He is gentle and forgiving, and He wants nothing other than our eternal salvation.  And yet Jesus is clear that the scribes will be severely condemned.  Ouch!

The first thing we should think is that we do not want to be like the scribes!  We do not want to receive similar condemnation and, thus, we should avoid their state of sin.  So that begs the question, “What sin of the scribes earned them this severe condemnation?”

The bottom line is that they were frauds.  They were consumed with a desire for “places of honor.”  They clearly treated others poorly: “They devour the houses of widows.”  What’s worse, they presented themselves as people of prayer when they clearly were not.  As a result, Jesus severely condemned them.

So what do we learn from their errors?  We should learn at least the following two lessons:

1) The true “place of honor” is the place of the greatest humility.  True honor, in the eyes of God, is found when we serve without notice and give without recognition.  In this way our giving and serving are done purely out of a motivation of love and not self-serving intentions.  The humble person does not seek to be praised and honored for the love they give.  The act of giving and serving is itself the gift they receive.

2) Reciting lengthy prayers is not the same as praying.  Prayer is about one thing.  It’s about entering into communion with God.  It’s about establishing a relationship with Him in a deep, beautiful and abiding way.  It’s about love.  Prayer is not for show or to gain the admiration of others.

Reflect, today, upon the harsh judgment Jesus issued toward the scribes.  Know that this is done, in part, to teach us what to avoid in life.  Avoid all selfish pride.  Seek humility and true prayer and you will be greatly blessed.

Lord, help me to be a person of true prayer and worship.  Help me to remain humble and true.  Help me to love You out of love of You alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Dead Will Rise

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord,’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  Luke 20:37-38

As we draw close to the end of this Church year, our readings begin to focus more clearly upon the final things to come.  The following is an excerpt from My Catholic Faith!, Chapter 5, regarding the resurrection of the dead:

The third and final coming is when Jesus returns to Earth in splendor and glory.  It will be “the end of the world as we know it.”  It will be a time when His permanent Kingdom is established.  There is much to say about this moment in history and it is actually quite fascinating to reflect upon.

Before you read on, open the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read paragraphs #671-677.  

Wow!  That’s good stuff!  It almost reads as a deeply intriguing futuristic science fiction mystery novel.  The only difference is that it’s all true, it’s all glorious, and it’s all beyond any mystery we will ever be able to comprehend until it actually takes place.  And it will take place at one definitive moment in time to come!

So what does this all mean?  It means that Jesus will be returning in all His splendor and glory.  He will physically return to Earth one day radiant and glorious.  We will see Him, and the world as we currently know it will come to an end.  At that moment in time God will establish His permanent Kingdom and both Heaven and Earth will be united as one.  It will be “a new Heaven and a new Earth” (Revelation 21:1).  The former Heaven and Earth will pass away and the new order will be established.

But that’s not all!  At that moment in time all the dead shall rise.  That’s right, all people who have ever died will rise.  This means that everybody who has been “laid to rest” in a cemetery or elsewhere will be brought back to life, given a new glorified body, and that body will be rejoined to his or her soul.

Catechism also states:

When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace. (#682)

This is a fascinating thought, and a bit scary, too!  It means that all that is hidden will come to light.  This can be good or bad depending upon what is hidden.  The thought should both fill us with a bit of holy fear, and it should also fill us with a holy joy.  The holy fear is actually a gift from God to help us eliminate any secret and hidden sin we have now or have struggled with in the past.  Since it will in fact all come to light one day, we might as well deal with it now so that our sin is no more.  If we do, even our sin is turned into virtue and grace.  And then, at the end of time, that grace and virtue is what will be made manifest.  This manifestation of our virtue will be the cause of holy joy not only for us but also for others to whom it is manifested.

We will be judged, then, based on what is there within our conscience.  It will no longer just be exterior.  We will not be able to put on a good face and pretend we are someone we are not.  The full truth will come out and will be made manifest for all to see in accord with God’s plan.

Another thing to note is that at the Final Judgment even those who are in Hell will rise.  Why?  Because as humans we are meant to eternally be united with our bodies.  We are, in essence, body and soul.  So even the dead will receive their bodies back.  But sadly, they will then suffer eternally not only spiritually but also physically.  What this actually entails we do not know.  But it will be a real pain of loss.  Loss of God and loss in that the body and soul will not be able to share in life with God.  This can seem harsh and unfair but we should remind ourselves that God is perfectly just and perfectly loving and however this eternal loss and eternal suffering is lived, it is right and just.

What will this new life look like for those who share in the Resurrection to new life?  It will be life with God, physically and spiritually, as well as life with each other.  The Book of Revelation speaks symbolically of this new life as a city where God is on the throne in the center of the city.  Light shines forth from Him so there is no need for the sun or moon.  The streets are gold.  The gates filled with precious stones.  And so much more.  This symbolic language should not be taken literally, rather, it should be seen as imagery that helps us understand the beauty, splendor, and magnificence of the life that awaits us.  It’s the new Heavens and new Earth.  I can’t wait!

Lord, may I always be ready to greet You when You come.  I thank You for Your perfect promise of raising all from the dead and bringing forth new life.  Use me to gather many into this future and glorious Kingdom, dear Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Forgiving…Seven Times a Day

Monday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

“Be on your guard!  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’  you should forgive him.”  Luke 17:3-4

Complete forgiveness can be very difficult at times.  This is especially the case when the same person sins against you “seven times in one day” as Jesus says.  

But Jesus’ words should be taken to heart.  He was not being idealistic; rather, He was being very realistic.  Forgiveness must be given, over and over and over again.  We cannot hesitate in offering it, especially to those who sincerely repent.

One of the first things we should notice from this passage is that when someone sins against us, we should rebuke him.  The rebuke is not to be an act focused on revenge; rather, it must be done so as to invite repentance.  This is the only reason for the rebuke of another.  If we have a sense that someone who sins against us may be open to change, then we must offer them a rebuke of love.  And when they accept it and seek our forgiveness, we must offer it.

But, as mentioned, this can especially be difficult when the sin is committed over and over again.  It can become wearying and discouraging.  And when a sin is committed over and over again, it’s easy to become sceptical about the authentic sorrow of the one seeking forgiveness.

But none of that should be our concern.  Our only concern should be to hear those words, “I’m sorry.”  This is the command of Jesus.  When one says these words, we must forgive and do so immediately.

This Scripture also reveals to us the importance of expressing our sorrow to those whom we hurt.  It’s dangerous to simply presume that another will forgive.  There is great power in actually saying to another, “Please forgive me, I’m sorry for my sin.”  Though these words may be difficult to say, they are words of great healing.

Reflect, today, upon the act of asking for forgiveness and offering it to another.  We are all given numerous opportunities every day to forgive and seek forgiveness.  Do not hesitate in doing so and you will be grateful you did.

Lord, I am truly sorry for the many sins I have committed against You.  Please forgive me.  When I am obstinate, please offer me a rebuke of love.  When I need to ask forgiveness of another, please give me the courage to do so.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Christian Service

Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”  Luke 17:10b

This is a hard phrase to say and it is even harder to truly mean when said. 

Imagine the context in which this attitude toward Christian service must be spoken and lived.  For example, imagine a mother who spends the day cleaning and then preparing the family meal.  At the end of the day, it is certainly nice to be recognized for her hard work and to be thanked for it.  Of course, when the family is grateful and acknowledges this loving service, this gratitude is healthy and is nothing other than an act of love.  It is good to be grateful and to express it.  But this passage is not so much about the fact that we must strive to be grateful for the love and service of others, rather, it’s about our own motivation for service.  Do you serve so as to be thanked?  Or do you provide service because it is good and right to serve?

Jesus makes it clear that our Christian service to others, be it in the family or in some other context, must be primarily motivated by a certain duty of service.  We must serve out of love regardless of the receptivity or acknowledgment of others.

Imagine, then, if you spent your day in some service and that service was done out of your love of others.  Then imagine that no one expressed gratitude for your work.  Should that change your commitment to service?  Should the reaction, or lack of reaction, of others deter you from serving as God wants you to serve?  Certainly not.  We must serve and fulfill our Christian duty simply because it is the right thing to do and because it is what God wants of us.

Reflect, today, upon your motivation for loving service to others.  Try to speak these words of the Gospel within the context of your life.  It may be hard at first, but if you can serve with the mind that you are an “unprofitable servant” and that you have done nothing more than what you were “obliged to do,” then you will find that your charity takes on a whole new depth.

Lord, help me to serve freely and wholeheartedly out of love for You and others.  Help me to give of myself regardless of the reaction of others and to find satisfaction in this act of love alone.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Passionate and Humble Gratitude

Wednesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Luke 17:15-16

This leper is one of ten that Jesus healed as He traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  He was a foreigner, not a Jew, and was the only one to return to Jesus to offer thanks for his healing.

Note that there are two things this Samaritan did once he was healed.  First, he “returned, glorifying God in a loud voice.”  This is a significant description of what happened.  He did not just return to say thank you, rather, his gratitude was expressed in a very passionate way.  Try to imagine this leper shouting and praising God out of a sincere and deep gratitude.

Second, this man “fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.”  Again, this is no small act on the part of this Samaritan.  The act of falling at Jesus’ feet is another sign of his intense gratitude.  It’s not only that he was excited, he was also deeply humbled by this healing.  This is seen in the act of humbly falling down at the feet of Jesus.  It shows that this leper humbly recognized his unworthiness before God for this act of healing.  It’s a beautiful gesture which acknowledges that gratitude is not enough.  Instead, profound gratitude is necessary.  Profound and humble gratitude must always be our response to the goodness of God.

Reflect, today, upon your approach to the goodness of God.  Of the ten who were healed, only this one leper manifested the right attitude.  The others may have been grateful, but not to the extent that they should have been.  How about you?  How deep is your gratitude toward God?  Are you fully aware of all that God does for you every day?  If not, seek to imitate this leper and you will discover the same joy that he discovered.

Lord, I pray that I may daily turn to You in deep and total gratitude.  May I see all that You do for me every day and may I respond with wholehearted thanksgiving.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Jesus is King

Thursday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”  Luke 17:20-21

The Kingdom of God is among you!  What does that mean?  Where is the Kingdom of God and how is it that it’s among us?

The Kingdom of God can be spoken of in two ways.  At the final coming of Christ, at the end of time, His Kingdom will be permanent and visible to all.  He will destroy all sin and evil and all will be made new.  He will reign eternally and charity will govern every mind and heart.  What a joyful gift to anticipate with much hope!

But this passage especially refers to the Kingdom of God that is already in our midst.  What is that Kingdom?  It’s the Kingdom present by grace living in our hearts and present to us in countless ways every day.

First, Jesus longs to reign in our hearts and rule our lives.  The key question is this: Do I let Him take control?  He is not the sort of King who imposes Himself in a dictatorial way.  He does not exercise His authority and demand we obey.  Of course this will happen in the end, when Jesus returns, but for now His invitation is just that, an invitation.  He invites us to give Him Kingship of our lives.  He invites us to let Him take full control.  If we do that, He will issue commands to us which are commands of love.  They are decrees that draw us into truth and beauty.  They refresh us and renew us. 

Second, Jesus’ presence is all around us.  His Kingdom is present every time charity is present.  His Kingdom is present every time grace is at work.  It’s so easy for us to be overwhelmed by the evils of this world and to miss the presence of God.  God is alive in countless ways all around us.  We must always strive to see this presence, be inspired by it and love it.

Reflect, today, upon the presence of the Kingdom of God present among you.  Do you see it in your heart?  Do you daily invite Jesus to rule your life?  Do you acknowledge Him as your Lord?  And do you see the ways He comes to you through your daily circumstances or in others and in your daily situations?  Seek Him out constantly and this will bring joy to your heart.

Lord, I invite You, today, to come reign in my heart.  I give You complete control of my life.  You are my Lord and my King.  I love You and want to live in accord with Your perfect and holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Abandonment to God

Friday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.”  Luke 17:33

Jesus never fails to say things that cause us to stop and think.  This phrase from today’s Gospel is one of those things.  He presents us with an apparent paradox.  Trying to save your life will be the cause of you losing it, but losing your life will be the way you save it.  What does this mean?

This statement especially goes to the heart of trust and surrender.  Basically, if we try to direct our lives and our future by our own effort, things will not work out.  By calling us to “lose” our life, Jesus is telling us that we must abandon ourselves to Him.  We must allow Him to be the one who directs all things and guides us into His most holy will.  This is the only way to save our life.  We save it by letting go of our own will and letting God take over.

This level of trust and surrender is very difficult at first.  It’s difficult to come to the level of complete trust in God.  But if we can do just that, we will be amazed at the fact that God’s ways and plan for our life is far better than we could ever come up with on our own. His wisdom is beyond compare and His solution to all our concerns and problems is perfect.

Reflect, today, upon how ready and willing you are to give complete control of your life to our merciful God.  Do you trust Him enough to let Him take complete control?  Make this act of faith in the most sincere way that you can and watch as He begins to preserve you and help you flourish in a way that only God can do.

Lord, I give You my life, my cares, my concerns and my future.  I trust You in all things.  I surrender all.  Help me to trust You more each day and to turn to You in complete abandonment.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Faith

Saturday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:8b

This is a good and interesting question that Jesus poses.  He poses it to each one of us and asks us to answer it in a personal way.  The answer is contingent upon whether or not we each have faith in our hearts.

So what is your answer to Jesus?  Presumably the answer is “Yes.”  But it’s not just a yes or no answer.  It’s hopefully a “yes” that continually grows in depth and certitude.

What is faith?  Faith is a response from each one of us to God speaking in our hearts.  In order to have faith we must first listen to God speak.  We must let Him reveal Himself to us within the depths of our conscience.  And when He does this, we manifest faith by responding to all that He reveals.  We enter into a belief in His Word spoken to us and it is this act of believing that changes us and forms faith within us.

Faith is not just believing.  It’s believing in what God speaks to us.  It’s the belief in His very Word and in His very Person.  Interestingly, when we do enter into the gift of faith, we grow in a certainty about God and all He says to a radical degree.  That certainty is what God is looking for in our life and will be the answer to His question above.

Reflect, today, upon how authentic and how certain your faith is.  Reflect upon Jesus asking you this question.  Will He find faith in your heart?  Let your “Yes” to Him grow and commit yourself to a deeper embrace of all that He reveals to you each and every day.  Don’t be afraid to seek out His voice so that you can say “Yes” to all He reveals.

Lord, I desire to grow in faith.  I desire to grow in my love and in my knowledge of You.  May faith be alive in my life and may You find that faith as a precious gift I offer to You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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