Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Equality in the Eyes of God

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”  Matthew 25:14-15

This passage begins the Parable of the Talents.  In the end, two of the servants worked hard using what they had received to produce more.  One of the servants did nothing and received condemnation.  There are many lessons we can take from this parable.  Let’s look at a lesson about equality.

At first, it may strike you that each of the servants were entrusted with a different number of talents, a reference to the monetary system used at that time.  In our day and age we tend to be fixated on what many call “equal rights.”  We get envious and angry if others seem to be treated better than us and there are many who become quite vocal about any perceived lack of fairness.

How would you feel if you were the one who received only one talent in this story after watching two others receive five and two talents?  Would you feel cheated?  Would you complain?  Perhaps.

Though the heart of the message in this parable is more about what one does with that which is received, it’s interesting to note that God does appear to give different portions to different people.  To some He gives what appears to be an abundance of blessings and responsibility.  To others He appears to give very little that is considered of value in this world.

God does not lack justice in any way.  Therefore, this parable should help us to accept the fact that life may not always “appear” to be fair and equal.  But this is a worldly perspective, not a divine one.  From the mind of God, those who have been given very little in the view of the world have as much potential to produce an abundance of good fruit as those who have been entrusted with much.  Think, for example, about the difference between a billionaire and a beggar.  Or about the difference between a bishop and an ordinary layman.  It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, but the fact of the matter is that the only thing that matters is what we do with that which we have received.  If you are a poor beggar who has been dealt a very difficult situation in life, you have just as much potential to glorify God and produce an abundance of good fruit as anyone else.

Reflect, today, upon all that God has given you.  What are your “talents?”  What have you been given to work with in life?  This would include material blessings, circumstances, natural talents and extraordinary graces.  How well do you use what you have been given?  Do not compare yourself to others.  Instead, use what you have been given for the glory of God and you will be rewarded for all eternity.

Lord, I give to You all that I am and thank You for all that You have given to me.  May I use all that I have been blessed with for Your glory and for the upbuilding of Your Kingdom.  May I never compare myself to others, looking only to the fulfillment of Your holy will in my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Word of God

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Mark 13:31

Yes, it is true.  Heaven as it is now and Earth as it is now will pass away.  The Gospels and the Book of Revelation speak to this truth.  As we draw close to the end of this liturgical year, we are reminded of this fact.  We are reminded that Jesus will return in splendor and glory and will make all things new.  The world as we know it will be made anew and Heaven will be joined to this new Earth and all will be one.  Jesus will reign in this new world as the glorious King of all.

One thing this tells us is that we should not become overly attached to the things of this passing world.  True, earthly wealth and possessions may offer a temporary satisfaction to our lives, but never a permanent satisfaction.  In time, the things of this world will all disappear.  So, if we work to build up only earthly wealth and possessions, we should know that all those things will eventually pass away and we would be left with nothing. 

So what is it that is eternal?  The answer is given in the passage above.  Jesus says that His “words will not pass away.”  Namely, all that is true and revealed by God as true is eternal and worth holding on to.  This reveals to us that Jesus’ words are the true riches that we must seek.  By embracing His Word, clinging to it, entering into it, believing it and letting it change us, we are embracing the eternal.  We are embracing that which we will have for all eternity.  This is an important truth to understand and live.

Reflect, today, upon the simple fact that everything in life is passing away except the words of our Lord.  All t
hat He has spoken and revealed to us will remain for all time and these truths are the only thing in life worth working for.  Turn your eyes to the Word of God and try to grasp its meaning more deeply so that you can begin to build up treasure in Heaven here and now!

Lord, I do believe all that You have spoken and revealed.  Help me to listen to You all the more and to cling to Your every word.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Discernment

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Do not follow them!”  Luke 21:8

What an interesting line.  What does this mean?  Who are the “many” that Jesus speaks of?  Are they in our midst today?

It may not be helpful to try to point to this or that person or to this or that group of people in reference to the “many” who will come in Jesus’ name falsely.  But it is helpful to speak to some general and guiding principles.

First, Jesus uses the word “deceived.”  There will be many false prophets who will have the ability to deceive.  They will portray themselves as messengers of the truth and dispensers of the will of God.  Their words will be convincing and many will follow. 

This tells us that not everyone “speaking in the name of God” is in fact speaking in the “name of God.”  And even if many others are following, and they are very convincing, this is not proof that the person is a true prophet of the Lord.

How do we discern when someone is speaking from the heart of Jesus?  Ultimately, this can only be done through a state of prayer.  Being in a “state of prayer” means that our hearts are attuned to God’s voice.  When God speaks through this or that person and our hearts are tuned into Him, we will simply know His voice as it is spoken through this or that person.

Conversely, when we are living in a state of true prayer and then someone speaks a false and deceiving message, something will not sit well with us.  There will be a sense in the depths of our souls that something is not right.  It will be a spiritual sense and this is a result of the healthy working of our conscience.  There are external guides such as the revealed teaching of the Church and the counsel of other good Christians, but in the end we must allow God to speak within our consciences and follow His voice in this holy sanctuary.

Reflect, today, upon whether or not you daily seek out and hear God speaking to you in the depths of your conscience.  Listen closely and attentively.  Learn His voice and seek to hear Him speak through other people.  And when the voice of others is in opposition to the voice speaking within your soul, remain faithful to God speaking within you.  It is there, more than any other place, that He will lead you.

Lord, give me the grace to know and hear Your voice.  I choose You above all things and desire to know You more clearly.  May I follow You now and always in my life and may I never be deceived by the many false prophets of our day and age.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Calling Out for Mercy!

Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

[H]e kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  Luke 18:39c

Good for him!  Here was a blind beggar who was treated poorly by many.  He was treated as if he were no good and a sinner.  When he began to call out for mercy from Jesus, he was told to be silent by those around him.  But what did the blind man do?  Did he give in to their oppression and ridicule?  Certainly not.  Instead, “He kept calling out all the more!”  And Jesus took notice of his faith and healed him.

There is a great lesson from this man’s life for us all.  There are many things we will encounter in life that get us down, discourage us and tempt us to despair.  There are many things that are oppressive to us and difficult for us to deal with.  So what should we do?  Should we give in to the struggle and then retreat into a hole of self-pity? 

This blind man gives us the perfect witness of what we should do.  When we feel oppressed, discouraged, frustrated, misunderstood, or the like, we need to use this as an opportunity to turn to Jesus with even greater passion and courage calling upon His mercy.

Difficulties in life can have one of two effects on us.  Either they beat us down or they make us stronger.  The way they make us stronger is by fostering within our souls an even greater trust in and dependence upon the mercy of God.

Reflect, today, upon that which tempts you the most toward discouragement.  What is it that feels oppressive to you and difficult to deal with.  Use that struggle as an opportunity to cry out with even more passion and zeal for the mercy and grace of God.

Lord, in my weakness and struggle, help me to turn to You with even more passion.  Help me to rely upon You all the more in times of distress and frustration in life.  May the wickedness and harshness of this world only strengthen my resolve to turn to You in all things.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Love for the Sinner

Tuesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  Luke 19:5b

What joy Zacchaeus had at receiving this invitation from our Lord.  There are three things to note in this encounter.

First, Zacchaeus was seen by many as a sinner.  He was a tax collector and, therefore, was not respected by the people.  There is little doubt that this would have affected Zacchaeus and been a temptation for him to see himself as unworthy of Jesus’ compassion.  But Jesus came precisely for the sinner.  Therefore, truth be told, Zacchaeus was the perfect “candidate” for the mercy and compassion of Jesus.

Second, when Zacchaeus witnessed that Jesus came to him and selected him out of everyone present to be the one to spend time with, he was overjoyed!  The same must be true with us.  Jesus does pick us and He does want to be with us.  If we allow ourselves to see this, the natural result will be joy.  Do you have joy at this knowledge?

Third, as a result of Jesus’ compassion, Zacchaeus changed his life.  He committed to giving half his possessions to the poor and to repay four times over anyone he had previously cheated.  This is a sign that Zacchaeus began to discover true riches.  He began to immediately repay to others the kindness and compassion shown to him by Jesus.

Reflect, today, upon Zacchaeus and see yourself in his person.  You, too, are a sinner.  But God’s compassion is far more powerful than any sin.  Let His loving forgiveness and acceptance of you overshadow any guilt you may feel.  And allow the gift of His mercy to produce mercy and compassion in your own life for others.

Lord, I turn to You in my sin and beg for Your mercy and compassion.  Thank You in advance for showering Your mercy upon me.  May I receive that mercy with great joy and, in turn, may I shower Your mercy upon others.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Building the Kingdom

Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

“I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.”  Luke 19:26-27

Whoa, Jesus was not a pushover!  He was not timid in His words in this parable.  We see here the seriousness of our Lord regarding those who act contrary to His divine will.

First, this line comes as the conclusion to the parable of the talents.  Three servants were each given a gold coin.  The first used the coin to earn ten more, the second earned five more and the third did nothing but give back the coin upon the king’s return.  It is this servant who is chastised for doing nothing with the gold coin he was given.

Second, when this king went off to receive his kingship, there were some who did not want him as king and tried to stop his coronation.  Upon his return as the newly crowned king, he called in those people and had them slain before him. 

We often like to speak of the mercy and kindness of Jesus, and we are right in doing so.  He is kind and merciful beyond measure.  But He is also a God of true justice.  In this parable we have the image of two groupings of people receiving divine justice. 

First, we have those Christians who fail to spread the Gospel and fail to give what they have been given.  They remain idle with the faith and, as a result, lose the little faith they have.

Second, we have those who directly oppose the kingship of Christ and the building up of His Kingdom on Earth.  These are those who work for the upbuilding of the kingdom of darkness in numerous ways.  The ultimate result of this malice is their utter destruction.

Reflect, today, upon the seriousness of the Gospel.  Following Jesus
and building up His Kingdom is not only a great honor and joy, it’s also a requirement.  It’s a command of love from our Lord and one He takes seriously.  So, if it’s hard for you to serve Him wholeheartedly and to commit to building up the Kingdom out of love alone, do it at least because it is a duty.  And it’s a duty for which our Lord will ultimately hold each of us accountable.

Lord, may I never squander the grace You have given me.  Help me to always work diligently for the upbuilding of Your divine Kingdom.  And help me to see it as a joy and honor to do so.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Jesus Wept

Thursday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  Luke 19:41-42

It’s hard to know exactly what Jesus knew about the future of the people of Jerusalem.  But we do know, from this passage, that His knowledge made Him weep in sorrow.  Here are a few points on which to meditate.

First, it’s important to see the image of Jesus weeping.  To say that Jesus wept implies that this was not simply some small sadness or disappointment.  Rather, it implies a very deep sorrow that moved Him to very real tears.  So start with that image and let it sink in.

Second, Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem because, as He approached and had a good view of the city, He immediately became aware of the fact that so many people would reject Him and His visit.  He came to bring them the gift of eternal salvation. Sadly, some ignored Jesus out of indifference while others were infuriated at Him and sought His death.

Third, Jesus was not only weeping over Jerusalem.  He was also weeping over all people, especially those of His future family of faith.  He wept, in particular, at the lack of faith that He could see so many would have.  Jesus was keenly aware of this fact and it grieved Him deeply. 

Reflect, today, upon the serious temptation we all face of being indifferent to Christ.  It’s easy for us to have a little faith and to turn to God when it is to our advantage.  But it is also very easy to remain indifferent to Christ when things in life seem to be going well.  We easily fall into the trap of thinking we do not need to daily surrender to Him in the most complete way possible.  Root out any indifference to Christ today and tell Him you want to serve Him and His holy will with your whole heart.

Lord, I beg of You to weed out every bit of indifference in my heart.  As You weep over my sin, may those tears wash me and cleanse me so that I may make a total commitment to You as my Divine Lord and King.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Purification

Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Luke 19:45-46

This passage reveals not only something that Jesus did long ago, it also reveals something that He desires to do today.  Additionally, He desires to do this in two ways: He desires to root out all evil within the temple of our world, and He desires to root out all evil in the temple of our hearts.

In regard to the first point, it is clear that the evil and ambition of many throughout history have seeped into our Church and world.  This is nothing new.  Everyone has most likely encountered some sort of hurt from those within the Church itself, from society and even from family.  Jesus does not promise perfection from those we encounter every day, but He does promise to vigorously go after evil and root it out. 

As for the second and most important point, we should see this passage as a lesson for our own soul.  Each soul is a temple that should be set aside solely for the glory of God and the fulfillment of His holy will.  Therefore, this passage is fulfilled today if we allow our Lord to enter in and to see the evil and filth within our own souls.  This may not be easy to do and will require a true humility and surrender, but the end result will be cleansing and purification by our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Jesus desires to bring about purification in many ways.  He desires to purify the Church as a whole, each society and community, your own family and especially your own soul.  Do not be afraid to let Jesus’ holy wrath work its power.  Pray for purification on all levels and let Jesus accomplish His mission.

Lord, I do pray for the purification of our world, our Church, our families and most especially my own soul.  I invite You to come to me this day to reveal to me what it is that grieves You the most.  I invite You to root out, in my heart, all that is displeasing to You.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Truth Wins!

Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there wereseven brothers…”  Luke 20:27-29a

And the Sadducees go on to present Jesus with a difficult scenario in order to trap Him.  They present the story of seven brothers who each die without having any children.  After each one dies, the next takes the first brother’s wife as his own.  The question they pose is this: “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?”  They ask this so as to trick Jesus because, as the passage above states, the Sadducees deny the resurrection of the dead. 

Jesus, of course, gives them the answer explaining that marriage is of this age and not of the age of the Resurrection.  His answer undermines their attempt to trap Him, and the scribes, who do believe in the resurrection of the dead, applaud His answer.

One thing this story reveals to us is that the Truth is perfect and cannot be overcome.  The Truth always wins!  Jesus, by stating what is true, unmasks the foolishness of the Sadducees.  He shows that no human trickery can undermine the Truth.

This is an important lesson for us to learn in that it applies to all aspects of life.  We may not have the same question as the Sadducees, but there is little doubt that as we go through life we will come up with difficult questions.  Our questions may not be there as a way of trapping Jesus or challenging Him, but we will inevitably have them. 

This Gospel story should reassure us that no matter what we are confused about, there is an answer.  No matter what we fail to understand, if we seek the Truth we will discover the Truth. 

Reflect, today, upon that which challenges you the most in your journey of faith.  Perhaps it’s a question about the afterlife, or about suffering, or creation.  Perhaps it’s something deeply personal.  Or perhaps you have not spent enough time as of late to come up with questions for our Lord.  Whatever the case may be, seek out the Truth in all things and ask our Lord for wisdom so that you may daily enter more deeply into faith.

Lord, I do desire to know all that You have revealed.  I desire to understand those things that are most confusing and challenging in life.  Help me each day to deepen my faith in You and my understanding of Your Truth.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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