Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

The Reality of Evil Intent

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

“Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”  Matthew 21:37-39

This passage from the Parable of the Tenants is shocking.  If it were to have happened in real life, the father who sent his son to the vineyard to collect the produce would have been shocked beyond belief at the fact that the evil tenants killed even his son.  Of course, had he known this would have happened, he would never have sent his son into this evil situation.

This passage, in part, reveals the difference between rational thinking and irrational thinking.  The father sent his son because he presumed that the tenants would be rational.  He presumed a basic respect would be offered, but instead came face to face with evil.  

Being confronted with extreme irrationality, which is grounded in evil, can be shocking, despairing, frightening and confusing.  But it’s important that we not fall into any of these.  Instead, we must strive to be prudent enough to discern evil when we encounter it.  Had the father in this story been more discerning of the evil he was dealing with, he would not have sent his son.  

So it is with us.  At times, we must be ready to name evil for what it is rather than attempt to confront it with rationality.  Evil is not rational.  It can not be reasoned with or negotiated with.  It simply must be opposed and opposed with much force.  That’s why Jesus concludes this parable saying, “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”  They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death”  (Matthew 21:40-41).  

Reflect, today, upon any situation in which you find yourself where you come face to face with evil.  Learn from this parable that there are many times in life where rationality wins out.  But there are some times when the powerful wrath of God is the only answer.  When evil is “pure” it must be confronted in a direct way with the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  Seek to discern between the two and don’t be afraid to name evil for what it is when it is present.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment.  Help me to seek rational resolutions with those who are open.  Give me also the courage I need to be strong and forceful with Your grace when it is Your will.  I give my life to You, dear Lord, use me as You will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

From the Beginning…

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Mark 10:6-9

Those three words… “From the beginning” are keywords for our day and age.  It is important for people of faith to recognize not only the supernatural gifts God has given us, but also the natural gifts.  The supernatural gifts are all those gifts given us by the Cross of Christ.  His life, death and Resurrection poured forth upon us grace from Heaven and made holiness, salvation and Heaven possible.  But there is a whole other order of “gift” that God gave us that we often take for granted.  That’s the gift of nature.

Creation itself, the order of the Universe, our humanity and the natural design of God are all gifts.  Science can do much to discover the secrets and mysteries of the natural world, but ultimately a full understanding of even the natural world is mysterious, deep and awe-inspiring.

One aspect of the natural world God gave us is our sexuality.  “God made them male and female…”  This natural design is part of the glorious wisdom of the Creator and must be understood, loved and respected fully.  Being “male and female” is something that is quite obvious and naturally understood.  Within each person are certain attributes, desires, tendencies, etc., that go hand in hand with being either male or female.  

In many ways, the uniqueness and complementarity of the sexes have been challenged and even disregarded at times, especially in our day and age.  But deep down we all understand that being male or female is part of who we are.  It makes up our very identity as a person and brings with it many blessings.  Femininity and masculinity, at times, also can become distorted and confused.  But in essence, these attributes of our personhood cannot be discarded or denied.  In fact, embracing who we are in our nature is nothing more than being honest and enables us to continue down the road of true natural integrity.

Reflect, today, upon the many ways that being “male and female” are natural blessings from God.  Reflect, also, upon the ways that these natural gifts are challenged and undermined in our world today.  Embrace who you are, embrace who God made you to be, and let that natural gift from God flourish in your life.

Lord of all goodness, I thank You for Your countless gifts.  Thank You for the gift of grace won by Your Cross, and thank You also for the gift of nature and for the way You made me.  Help me to embrace my full identity in accord with Your design and, in that embrace, help me to continue to discover my very dignity.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Seeking Praise

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

“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 command to live.  Most often when we have done something well, and fulfilled our duty, we seek recognition and praise.  We want to be noticed.  And while this may be a “normal” reaction, it’s not the most humble reaction.  Humility comes in many degrees, and the deepest degree of humility allows a person to repeat this passage above and mean it.

First, we must realize that the will of God is good for us.  It imposes an obligation of love on us.  When we fulfill God’s will, we should take delight in that fact alone because it is good.  That way, the fulfillment of God’s will becomes the source of our joy, not the recognition of others.

On the other hand, it is good when we see goodness in others and acknowledge it.  We should do this not to build up their ego but to give praise to God for the good thing done.  And when others see and acknowledge God’s will accomplished in our lives, we must accept their praise not as a source of our pride but as an honest acknowledgment that God is good and His will is being fulfilled.  We must be grateful that we could do “what we were obliged to do.”

Embracing the will of God as a holy “obligation” also enables us to fulfill it more fully.  When doing the will of God is seen as something extraordinary, we may not build a proper habit of fulfilling it.  But when it’s seen as our duty of love and as the normal act we should fulfill, it’s easier to embrace His will more completely.

Reflect, today, on this humble phrase. “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”  Try to say it, mean it and let it become the foundation of your daily service of God’s will.  Doing so will set you on the “fast track” toward holiness.

Lord, I am an unprofitable servant. When I fulfill Your holy will, I acknowledge that this is a holy obligation of love and my most fundamental duty.  Help me to see Your will as the most normal part of my daily life.  Help me to embrace it with wholehearted faith and obedience.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Bringing Mercy

Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:36-37

Here we have the conclusion to the familiar story of the Good Samaritan.  First, robbers beat him and left him for dead.  Then a priest walked by and ignored him.  And then a Levite walked by also ignoring him.  Finally, the Samaritan walked by and took care of him with great generosity.

Interestingly, when Jesus asked the disciples which of these three acted as a neighbor, they didn’t respond “the Samaritan.”  Rather, they responded, “The one who treated him with mercy.”  Mercy was the key focus.

It is so easy to be judgmental and harsh with one another.  If you read the newspapers or listen to the news commentators you can’t help but hear continual judgment and condemnation.  Our fallen human nature seems to thrive on being critical of others.  And when we are not critical, we are often tempted to act like the priest and Levite in this story.  We are tempted to turn a blind eye to those in need.  The key must be to always show mercy and show it in superabundance. 

Reflect, today, upon the call God gives you to show mercy.  Mercy, in order to be true mercy, must hurt.  It must “hurt” in the sense that it requires you to let go of your pride, selfishness and anger and choose to show love instead.  You choose to show love to the point that it hurts.  But that hurt is a true source of healing in that it cleanses you of your sin.  Saint Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”  Mercy is the kind of love that may hurt at first, but in the end leaves only love.

Merciful Lord, do make me an instrument of Your love and mercy.  Help me to especially show mercy when it is hard in life and when I do not feel like it.  May those moments be graced moments when You transform me into Your gift of love.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Resting at the Feet of Jesus

Tuesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”  Luke 10:40-42

At first this seems unfair.  Martha is working hard at preparing the meal, while Mary is just sitting there at the feet of Jesus.  So, Martha complains to Jesus. But interestingly, Jesus somewhat humbles Martha instead of Mary.  Of course, He does it in a kind and gentle way.

The truth is that both Martha and Mary were fulfilling their unique roles at that moment.  Martha was doing Jesus a great service by serving Him through the preparation of their meal.  This is what she was called to do and the service would have been an act of love.  Mary, on the other hand, was fulfilling her role.  She was called, at that moment, to simply sit at the feet of Jesus and be present to Him.  

These two women have traditionally represented two vocations in the Church, as well as two callings we are all called to have.  Martha represents the active life and Mary represents the contemplative life.  The active life is that life most live on a daily basis, be it through the service of family or others in the world.  The contemplative life is a vocation to which some are called through the cloistered life, in that they leave the busy world and dedicate most of their day to prayer and solitude.

Truthfully, you are called to both of these vocations.  Even if your life is one filled with work, you are still called regularly to choose “the better part.”  At times, Jesus calls you to imitate Mary in that He wants you to daily stop your work and dedicate some time to Him and Him alone.  Not everyone is able to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament each day in silent prayer, but some are.  However, you should seek to find at least some time of silence and solitude every day so as to sit at the feet of Jesus in prayer.

Reflect, today, upon your own call to prayer.  Do you pray?  Do you pray every day?  If this is lacking, then reflect upon the image of Mary being there at the feet of Jesus and know that Jesus wants the same from you.

My inviting Lord, help me to hear You calling me to stop what I’m doing and to simply rest in Your divine presence.  May I find those moments every day in which I can be refreshed in Your presence.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer

Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  In response, He taught them the “Our Father” prayer.  There is much that can be said about this prayer.  This prayer contains all we need to know about prayer.  It is a catechetical lesson about prayer itself and contains seven petitions to the Father.  Let’s look at the first three of these as found in Chapter 11 of My Catholic Worship!

Hallowed be Thy Name:  “Hallowed” means to be holy.  As we pray this part of the prayer we are not praying that God’s name will become holy, for His name already is holy.  Rather, we pray that this holiness of God will be recognized by us and all people.  We pray that there will be a deep reverence of God’s name and that we will always treat God with the proper honor, devotion, love and awe to which we are called.

It’s especially important to point out how often God’s name is used in vain.  That is a strange phenomenon.  Have you ever wondered why, when people get angry, they would curse God’s name?  It’s strange.  And, in fact, it’s demonic.  Anger, in those moments, invites us to act in a contrary way to this prayer and to the proper use of God’s name.

God Himself is holy, holy, holy.  He is thrice holy!  In other words, He is the Holiest!  Living with this fundamental disposition of heart is key to a good Christian life and to a good life of prayer. 

Perhaps a good practice would be to regularly honor God’s name.  For example, what a wonderful habit it would be to regularly say, “Sweet and precious Jesus, I love You.”  Or, “Glorious and merciful God, I adore You.”  Adding adjectives like these before we mention God is a good habit to get into as a way of fulfilling this first petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

Another good practice would be to always refer to the “Blood of Christ” we consume at Mass as the “Precious Blood.”  Or the Host as the “Sacred Host.”  There are many who fall into the trap of just referring to it as the “wine” or the “bread.”  This is most likely not malicious or even sinful, but it’s much better to enter into the practice and habit of honoring and revering anything that is associated with God, especially the Most Holy Eucharist!

Thy Kingdom Come: This petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a way of acknowledging two things.  First, we acknowledge the fact that Jesus will, one day, return in all His glory and establish His permanent and visible Kingdom.  This will be the time of the Final Judgment when the current Heaven and Earth will pass away and the new order will be established.  So, praying this petition is a faith-filled acknowledgment of this fact.  It’s our way of saying we not only believe this will happen, we also look forward to it and pray for it. 

Secondly, we must realize that the Kingdom of God is already here among us.  For now, it’s an invisible Kingdom.  It’s a spiritual reality that must become an all-consuming and present reality in our world. 

To pray that God’s “Kingdom come” means we desire that He first take greater possession of our souls.  The Kingdom of God must be within us.  He must reign on the throne of our hearts and we must allow Him.  Therefore, this must be our constant prayer. 

We also pray that the Kingdom of God become present in our world.  God wants to transform the social, political and cultural order right now.  So we must pray and work for that.  Our prayer for the Kingdom to come is also a way for us to commit ourselves to God to allow Him to use us for this very purpose.  It’s a prayer of faith and courage.  Faith because we believe He can use us, and courage because the evil one and world will not like it.  As the Kingdom of God is established in this world through us, we will meet with opposition.  But that’s ok and should be expected.  And this petition is, in part, to help us with this mission.

Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven: Praying for the Kingdom of God to come means, also, that we seek to live the will of the Father.  This is done as we enter into union with Christ Jesus.  He fulfilled the will of His Father with perfection.  His human life is the perfect model of the will of God and it is also the means by which we live the will of God.

This petition is a way of committing ourselves to live in union with Christ Jesus.  We take our will and entrust it to Christ so that His will lives in us. 

By doing this we begin to be filled with all virtue.  We will also be filled with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which are necessary for living the will of the Father.  For example, the Gift of Knowledge is a gift by which we come to know what God wants of us in particular situations in life.  So praying this petition is a way of asking God to fill us with knowledge of His will.  But we also need the courage and strength necessary to then live out that will.  So this petition also prays for those Gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable us to live out what God reveals as His divine plan for our lives. 

It is, of course, also an intercession for all people.  In this petition we pray that all will come to live in unity and harmony with God’s perfect plan.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Ask, Seek, Knock

Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10

Sometimes this Scripture passage can be misunderstood.  Some may think it means that we should pray, pray more and pray harder and eventually God will answer our prayers.  Some may think that this means that God does not answer prayer if we fail to pray hard enough.  And some may think that whatever we pray for will be given to us if we just keep asking.  We need some important clarifications on these points.

We certainly should pray hard and often.  But one key question to understand is this:  What should I pray for?  This is key because God will not give us what we pray for, no matter how long and hard we pray for it, if it is not part of His glorious and perfect will.  For example, if someone is sick and dying and it is part of the permissive will of God to allow that person to die, then all the prayer in the world will not change things.  Instead, prayer in this case should be offered so as to invite God into this difficult situation so as to make it a beautiful and holy death.  So it’s not a matter of begging God until we convince Him to do what we want, as a child may do to a parent.  Rather, we must pray for one thing and one thing only…we must pray for the will of God to be done.  Prayer is not offered to change God’s mind, it’s to transform us, strengthen us and enable us to embrace all that God calls us to do.  

Reflect, today, upon how you pray.  Do you seek only the will of God in all things and pray deeply for that?  Do you knock at the heart of Christ seeking His holy and perfect plan?  Do you ask for His grace to enable you and others to fully embrace all that He has in mind for you?  Pray hard and expect that prayer to change your life.

Lord, help me to daily seek You and to increase my life of faith through prayer.  May my prayer help me to receive Your holy and perfect will into my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Overcoming Sin

Friday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

This passage reveals the danger of habitual sin.  Perhaps you’ve found that you have struggled with a particular sin in your life.  This sin has been committed over and over again.  Eventually you resolve to confess it and overcome it.  After confessing it you are overjoyed, but find that within a day you are right back to that same sin.  

This common struggle people go through can be a cause of much frustration.  The Scripture above speaks about this struggle from a spiritual point of view, the point of view of demonic temptation.  When we target a sin to overcome and turn away from the temptation of the evil one, the demons come at us with even greater force and do not give up the battle for our souls that easily.  As a result, some eventually give in to sin and choose not to try any longer to overcome it.  That would be a mistake.

One key spiritual principle to understand from this passage is that the more attached we are to a particular sin, the deeper our resolve must be to overcome it.  And overcoming sin can be quite painful and difficult.  Overcoming sin requires deep spiritual purification and a complete submission of our mind and will to God.  Without this resolve and purifying surrender, the temptations we face from the evil one will be very difficult to overcome.

Reflect, today, upon how deep your resolve is to overcome sin.  When temptations come your way, are you wholeheartedly committed to overcoming them?  Seek to deepen your resolve so that the temptations of the evil one do not take hold of you.

Lord, I surrender my life into Your hands without reserve.  I beg You to strengthen me in time of temptation and to keep me free from sin.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Are You Blessed?

Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  Luke 11:27-28

Do you hear the Word of God?  And if you do hear it, do you observe it?  If so, then you can consider yourself among those truly blessed by our Lord.

Interestingly, the woman speaking to Jesus in this passage was honoring His mother by saying she was blessed to have carried and fed Him.  But Jesus honors His mother to an even greater degree by stating what He does.  He honors her and calls her blessed because she, more than anyone else, hears the Word of God and observes it perfectly.

Hearing and doing are two very different things.  Both of them take much commitment in the spiritual life.  First of all, hearing the Word of God is not simply an audible hearing or a reading of the Bible.  “Hearing” in this case means that God has communicated to our souls.  It means we are engaging a Person, Jesus Himself, and we are letting Him communicate to us whatever He desires to communicate.

Though it can be challenging to hear Jesus speak and to internalize what He says, it is even more challenging to then let His Word change us to the point that we live what He has spoken.  So often we can have very good intentions but fail to follow through with action by living the Word of God.

Reflect, today, upon both hearing and observing.  Start with hearing and reflect upon whether or not you daily allow yourself to be engaged by Jesus.  From there, reflect upon whether you are living what you know He has spoken.  Recommit yourself to this process and you will find that you, too, are truly blessed!

Eternal Word of God, may I hear You speak to me.  May I meet You in my soul and receive Your sacred Word.  May I also put that Word into action in my life so as to experience the blessings You have in store for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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