Responding to the Gospel
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
“Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.” Matthew 22:5-6
This passage comes from the Parable of the Wedding Feast. It reveals two unfortunate responses to the Gospel. First, there are those who ignore the invitation. Second, there are those who respond to the proclamation of the Gospel with hostility.
If you commit yourself to the proclamation of the Gospel, and have dedicated your whole soul to this mission, you will most likely encounter both of these reactions. The King is an image of God, and we are called to be His messengers. We are sent by the Father to go and gather others into the wedding feast. This is a glorious mission in that we are privileged to invite people to enter into eternal joy and happiness! But rather than being filled with great excitement at this invitation, many we encounter will be indifferent and go about their day uninterested in what we share with them. Others, especially when it comes to various moral teachings of the Gospel, will react with hostility.
The rejection of the Gospel, be it indifferentism or a more hostile rejection, is an act of incredible irrationality. The truth is that the message of the Gospel, which is ultimately an invitation to share in the Wedding Feast of God, is an invitation to receive the fullness of life. It’s an invitation to share in the very life of God. What a gift! Yet there are those who fail to accept this gift from God because it is a total abandonment to the mind and will of God in every way. It requires humility and honesty, conversion and selfless living.
Reflect, today, upon two things. First, reflect upon your own reaction to the Gospel. Do you react to all that God speaks to you with complete openness and zeal? Second, reflect upon the ways that you are called by God to bring His message to the world. Commit yourself to doing so with great zeal, regardless of the reaction of others. If you fulfill these two responsibilities, you and many others will be blessed to share in the Wedding Feast of the Great King.
Lord, I give to You my whole life. May I always be open to You in every way, seeking to receive every word sent forth from Your merciful heart. May I also seek to be used by You so as to bring the invitation of Your mercy to a world in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Beyond Good Intentions
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Mark 10:17
This story starts out looking quite good. Here is a young man who is quite wealthy who comes to Jesus with a question grounded in faith. By asking Jesus what He must do to inherit eternal life, this man most likely believed that Jesus had the answer. And in his excitement, he wanted direction from Jesus.
Jesus tells him that he must keep the Commandments, to which the young man responds that he has observed them from his youth. But then Jesus says something that this young man never expected Him to say. He says, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Ouch! This must have stung this rich young man in the heart. The passage continues by stating that this young man walked away sad as a result of what Jesus said.
The young man started with good intentions, that is clear. But good intentions are not enough. Following Jesus and gaining eternal life is an all-consuming and radical commitment of every part of our lives. It’s not enough to tell Jesus that we will keep the Commandments, but that’s all. Sure, that may get us into Purgatory, but what we should desire is Heaven! So how do we obtain Heaven?
We only obtain Heaven through a life of perfection. Yes, it’s true. If we want Heaven, we must ultimately become perfect in every way. Every worldly attachment must disappear and every sin must be overcome. Our good intentions must turn into a radical and total gift of self to Jesus, seeking Him and only Him.
The rich young man walked away sad because he failed to realize that Jesus’ invitation to him to give everything away was actually an act of love. He did not understand that he would find happiness in this radical commitment to follow Christ.
Reflect, today, upon the radical call of Jesus in your life. He wants every part of your life. You may have good intentions of trying to be good, but are you willing to go all the way following Christ in a full and unlimited way?
Lord, I love You and I want to love You more. I want to love You with my whole being. Help me to realize that following You requires a radical and complete gift of myself to You. May I be ready and willing to let go of any attachment in life that keeps me from following You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Healing Balm of a Grateful Heart
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Luke 17:17-18
These words were spoken by Jesus after He healed ten lepers and only one of them, a foreigner, returned to Jesus to thank Him. Ten were healed physically of their leprosy but only one received a much deeper healing. Upon returning to Jesus with a grateful heart, Jesus said to this one leper, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19).
Only this one leper, the one who returned with a grateful heart, heard our Lord speak these words: “Your faith has saved you.” This reveals that gratitude to God is not only our duty, it also brings forth manifest blessings in our lives. When we sincerely offer thanks to God for all that He has done, we are manifesting great faith in God as a result. We are pointing to Him and His goodness as the source of our blessings and it takes faith to see this and to profess it.
What is it for which you need to grow in gratitude in your life? What is it that you may take for granted and have failed to properly return to God and thank Him for? The truth is that everything in life is a gift. Everything. Even the struggles you endure can be turned into blessings. In fact, that’s exactly what happened in this story. The awful suffering of leprosy was turned into a grace from God.
Reflect, today, upon all that God has done for you. Pray that you will understand all of the countless ways that God graces your life. As you see them, ponder those blessings, count them and be grateful for them. And from that gratitude, return a joyful thanks to God. In that act, your faith will also save you.
Lord, I do thank You for the countless blessings that You have bestowed upon me throughout my life. I thank You for the ways in which You have graced me, led me and healed me. Help me to see clearly all that You have done and continue to do for me. As I see these blessings, help me to daily express my gratitude in faith. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” Luke 11:29
Do you ever wish that God would give you a sign from Heaven as a way of giving you some definitive guidance or direction in life? Do you look for signs from God and rely upon them?
If God were to give us some clear sign in life revealing His will, we should take it as a gift and be grateful for it. But receiving a sign from God is different than seeking a sign from God. In the passage above, Jesus strongly condemns those coming and seeking signs. Why is this the case? Why does Jesus speak strongly against seeking signs? In large part because He wants us to seek Him through the gift of faith.
Jesus states that no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. The “sign of Jonah” refers to Jesus’ Crucifixion, death, three days in the tomb and Resurrection. Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale. Jesus was telling them that He would be three days in the tomb.
But the key is that Jesus’ death and Resurrection IS the sign that will be given. We should seek nothing other than this central mystery of our faith. Every question, problem, concern, confusion, etc., can be answered and dealt with if we simply enter into the great mystery of our redemption by entering into the life, death and Resurrection of Christ. Seeking a sign other than this would be wrong in that it would be a way of saying that the death and Resurrection of Jesus is not enough.
Reflect, today, upon the greatest “sign” God has ever given. And if you find yourself struggling with questions in life, turn your eyes to this one definitive sign. Turn your eyes to the central mystery of our faith: the life, death and Resurrection of Christ. It is there that every question can be answered and every grace is given. We need nothing more than this.
Lord, Your life, death and Resurrection is all I need to know in life. Your perfect sacrifice gives me every answer and pours forth every grace. May I always turn to You as the sign I need every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
Cleansing Your Heart
Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools!” Luke 11:39-40a
Jesus was continually critical of the Pharisees for being caught up with their external appearance and ignoring the sacredness of their souls. It appears that Pharisee after Pharisee fell into this same trap. Their pride led them to become obsessed with their external appearance of righteousness. Sadly, their external appearance was only a mask over the “plunder and evil” that consumed them from within. For that reason Jesus calls them “fools.”
This head on challenge from our Lord was clearly an act of love in that He deeply desired that they looked at that which was within so as to cleanse their hearts and souls of all evil. It appears that, in the case of the Pharisees, they needed to be called out directly for their evil. This was the only way they would have a chance of repenting.
The same can be true for all of us at times. Each one of us can struggle with being far more concerned about our public image than about the sanctity of our souls. But what is more important? What’s important is that which God sees within. God sees our intentions and all that is deep within our consciences. He sees our motivations, our virtues, our sins, our attachments, and everything hidden from the eyes of others. We, too, are invited to see that which Jesus sees. We are invited to look at our souls in the light of truth.
Do you see your soul? Do you examine your conscience each and every day? You should examine your conscience by looking within and seeing what God sees through times of prayer and honest introspection. Perhaps the Pharisees regularly fooled themselves into thinking all was well in their souls. If you do the same at times, you also may need to learn from the strong words of Jesus.
Reflect, today, upon your soul. Do not be afraid to look at it in the light of truth and to see your life as God sees it. This is the first and most important step in becoming truly holy. And it’s not only the way to cleanse our souls, it’s also the necessary step in allowing our external life to shine brightly with the light of God’s grace.
Lord, I want to become holy. I want to be cleansed through and through. Help me to see my soul as You see it and to allow Your grace and mercy to cleanse me in the ways that I need to be cleansed. Jesus, I trust in You.
Woe to You!
Wednesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
“Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” Luke 11:44-46
What an interesting and somewhat surprising exchange between Jesus and this scholar of the law. Here, Jesus is severely chastising the Pharisees and one of the scholars of the law tries to correct Jesus for being offensive. And what does Jesus do? He doesn’t back down or apologize for offending him; rather, He turns His severe rebuke to the scholar of the law. That must have surprised him!
What’s interesting is that the scholar of the law points out that Jesus is “insulting” them. And he points it out as if Jesus were committing a sin and in need of a rebuke. So was Jesus insulting the Pharisees and scholar of the law? Yes, He probably was. Was that a sin on Jesus’ part? Obviously not. Jesus does not sin.
The mystery we face here is that sometimes the truth is “insulting,” so to speak. It’s insulting to a person’s pride. What’s most interesting is that when someone is insulted, they need to first realize that they are insulted because of their pride, not because of what the other person said or did. Even if someone was overly harsh, feeling insulted is a result of pride. If one were truly humble, then a rebuke would actually be welcomed as a helpful form of correction. Sadly, the scholar of the law appears to lack the necessary humility to let Jesus’ rebuke sink in and free him from his sin.
Reflect, today, upon whether or not you are humble enough to receive correction from another. If someone points out your sin do you get offended? Or do you take it as a useful correction and allow it to help you grow in holiness?
Lord, please give me true humility. Help me to never be offended when corrected by others. May I receive others’ corrections as graces to help me on my way to holiness. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Key to Knowledge
Thursday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
“Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” Luke 11:52
In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues to chastise the Pharisees and the scholars of the law. In this passage above, He chastises them because they “have taken away the key of knowledge” and have actively tried to keep others from the knowledge God wants them to have. This is a strong accusation and reveals that the Pharisees and scholars of the law were actively hurting the faith of God’s people.
As we’ve seen over the past few days in the Scriptures, Jesus rebuked the scholars of the law and the Pharisees severely for this. And His rebuke was not only for their sake, it is also for our sake so that we know not to follow false prophets such as these and all who are interested only in themselves and their reputation rather than the truth.
This Gospel passage is not only a condemnation of this sin, more importantly it raises a deep and beautiful concept. It’s the concept of “the key of knowledge.” What is the key of knowledge? The key of knowledge is faith, and faith can come only by listening to the voice of God. The key to knowledge is to let God speak to you and to reveal to you His deepest and most beautiful truths. These truths can only be received and believed through prayer and through direct communication with God.
The saints are the best examples of those who have penetrated the deep mysteries of God’s life. Through their life of prayer and faith they came to know God on a profound level. Many of these great saints have left us beautiful writings and a powerful witness of the hidden but revealed mysteries of the inner life of God.
Reflect, today, upon whether or not you have taken the “key of knowledge” and opened the mysteries of God through your life of faith and prayer. Recommit yourself to seeking God in your daily personal prayer and to seek all that He desires to reveal to you.
Lord, help me to seek You through a life of daily prayer. In that life of prayer, draw me into a deep relationship with You, revealing to me all that You are and all that life is about. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7
“Do not be afraid.” These words are often repeated in the holy Scriptures. In this passage, Jesus says we should not be afraid because of the fact that the Father in Heaven is attentive to every last detail of our lives. Nothing has escaped the notice of God. If God is attentive to the sparrows, He is even more attentive to us. That should give us a certain sense of peace and confidence.
Of course, one reason that this can still be difficult to believe is that there are many times when it feels like God is quite distant and inattentive to our lives. It’s important to remember that whenever we have this feeling, it’s only a feeling and not reality. Reality is that God is infinitely more attentive to the details of our lives than we could ever realize. In fact, He’s far more attentive to us than we are attentive to ourselves! And not only is He attentive to every detail, He is deeply concerned about every detail.
So why might it feel like God is distant at times? There could be many reasons for this but we should be certain that there is always a reason. Perhaps we are not listening to Him and not praying as we should and thus we are missing His attentiveness and guidance. Perhaps He has chosen to remain silent in a matter as a way of drawing us closer to Himself. Perhaps His silence is actually a very clear sign of His presence and His will.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that regardless of how we may feel at times we must be certain of the truth of this passage above. “You are worth more than many sparrows.” God has even counted the hairs on your head. And every part of your life is fully present to Him. Allow these truths to give you consolation and hope knowing that this attentive God is also a God of perfect love and mercy and will provide for you all that you need in life.
Lord, I know You love me and are aware of every feeling, thought and experience I have in life. You are aware of every problem and concern I have. Help me to continually turn to You in all things knowing of Your perfect love and guidance. Jesus, I trust in You.
Inspiration is Not Enough
Saturday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
[Jesus said to his disciples:] “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8-9
One of the greatest examples of those who acknowledge Jesus before others is that of the martyrs. One martyr after another throughout history gave witness to their love of God by holding firm to their faith despite persecution and death. One such martyr was St. Ignatius of Antioch. Below is an excerpt from a famous letter St. Ignatius wrote to his followers once he was arrested and headed for martyrdom by being fed to the lions. He wrote:
I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.
No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
This statement is inspiring and powerful, but here is an important insight that could easily be missed in readingit. The insight is that it’s easy for us to read it, be in awe of his courage, talk about him to others, believe in his witness, etc…but not take one step closer to making this same faith and courage our own. It’s easy to talk about the great saints and to be inspired by them. But it’s very difficult to actually imitate them.
Think about your own life in the light of the Gospel passage from today. Do you freely, openly and fully acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and God before others? You do not have to go around being an “in-your-face” sort of Christian. But you do have to easily, freely, transparently and completely allow your faith and love of God shine forth, especially when it’s uncomfortable and difficult. Do you hesitate in doing this? Most likely you do. Most likely all Christians do. For that reason, St. Ignatius and the other martyrs are great examples for us. But if they only remain examples, then their example is not enough. We must live their witness and become the next St. Ignatius in the witness God calls us to live.
Reflect, today, upon whether you are only inspired by the martyrs or if you actually imitate them. If it’s the former, pray that their inspiring witness effects a powerful change in your life.
Lord, thank You for the witness of the great saints, especially the martyrs. May their witness enable me to live a life of holy faith in imitation of each one of them. I choose You, dear Lord, and acknowledge You, this day, before the world and above all else. Give me the grace to live this witness with courage. Jesus, I trust in You.
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