Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Overcoming Obstinacy

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”  Matthew 21:31c-32

These words of Jesus are spoken to the chief priests and elders of the people.  They are very direct and condemning words.  They are also words spoken so as to awaken the consciences of these religious leaders.

These religious leaders were full of pride and self-righteousness.  They held to their own opinions and their opinions were wrong.  Their pride kept them from discovering the simple truths that tax collectors and prostitutes were discovering.  For that reason, Jesus makes it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes were on the path to holiness whereas these religious leaders were not.  This would have been hard for them to accept.

In which category do you find yourself?  Sometimes, those who are considered “religious” or “pious” struggle with a similar pride and judgmentalness as the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ time.  This is a dangerous sin because it leadsa person into much obstinacy.  It is for this reason that Jesus was so direct and so harsh.  He was attempting to break them free from their obstinacy and prideful ways.

The most important lesson we can take from this passage is to seek the humility, openness and genuineness of the tax collectors and prostitutes.  They were praised by our Lord because they could see and accept the honest truth.  Sure, they were sinners, but God can forgive sin when we are aware of our sin.  If we are not willing to see our sin, then it’s impossible for God’s grace to enter in and heal.

Reflect, today, upon how open you are to seeing the truth of God and, especially, to seeing your own fallen and sinful state.  Do not be afraid to humble yourself before God, admitting your faults and failures.  Embracing this level of humility will open the doors of God’s mercy toward you.

Lord, help me to always humble myself before You.  When pride and self-righteousness enter in, help me to hear Your strong words and to repent of my obstinate ways.  I am a sinner, dear Lord.  I beg for Your perfect mercy.  Jesus, I trust in You.


A True Friend

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.   If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.”  Mark 9:42-43

Seriously?  Does Jesus really mean this literally?  Should we really cut off our hand if it causes us to sin?  He goes on to say that we should also cut off our foot and pluck out our eye if it causes us to sin.  Hmmm…

Some of the early Church Fathers see this Scripture as a reference to our intimate friends.  The context of this passage is that we ought not lead others into scandal and sin.  In fact, it would be better if we had “a great millstone” put around our neck and were thrown into the sea than to cause another to sin.

Friends, especially close friends, are a blessing most of the time.  But they can also be a cause for sin.  If a good friend were to intentionally try to convince another friend to sin, this is a grave issue and is the heart of what Jesus is addressing.  What He’s saying is that if we have close friends who are intentionally and maliciously tempting us to turn from God, it’s better that we let go of that “friend” and cut him/her off.  The hand, foot or eye is a symbol of those friends who work hard to draw us to sin.  It’s better that these friendships end than to be drawn into Hell with them.  And if we are the “friend” drawing others to sin, it’s better for us to cut our friendship off with those we are tempting.

One thing this passage reveals is the powerful natural bond of friendship.  Friendship is a good thing.  And when you have a close friend, you find great consolation in knowing your friend is deeply committed to you and will always be there for you.  But every friendship must be continually evaluated in the light of faith and truth.  Sometimes friendships can get in the way of our faith in God and can be a powerful influence upon us in a negative way.  Of course, the opposite is also true.

Reflect, today, upon your friendships.  If you have a close and intimate friend in your life, reflect upon how you influence that person or how he/she influences you.  Make sure that Christ is the center and that faith always prevails in this natural bond.

Lord, I thank You for all friendships in my life.  I thank you for giving me people who care.  Help me to always be a good friend and to always examine my friendships in the light of faith.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Seeing Beyond Your Suffering

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,  who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”  Luke 16:19-21

From one perspective, Lazarus was existing in a very undesirable state.  He was poor, starving, and miserable.  He was covered with sores that dogs would lick.  This is very descriptive language used by Jesus and it’s helpful to do your best to imagine this miserable physical state that Lazarus was in.

The key to this story is that even though Lazarus was in a miserable physical condition, his soul was in the hands of God.  We know that to be true, because we are told that when he died, he was “carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22).

This story provides us all with an opportunity to look at what is most important in life.  The rich man had all he wanted in this life but clearly lacked charity on account of the fact that he ignored the physical needs of Lazarus.  For that reason, the rich man was spiritually impoverished, whereas Lazarus was spiritually prosperous. 

When you can keep your eyes on what is most important in life, spiritual wealth, it will make the many other hardships you endure less burdensome.  Perhaps you will never be in the same physical condition as Lazarus, but you may encounter other great pains and hardships in life.  When this happens, the tendency may be to become fixated upon those sufferings and to take your eyes off your interior union with God. 

Reflect, today, upon how you would deal with living like Lazarus.  Reflect upon what your own “sores” are in life.  They may be varied in type, degree and number from those of other people’s sufferings, , but they will be encountered in your life.  As you identify your suffering, turn your eyes from it to the presence of God in your soul, and allow His presence to fill you with the riches of His grace.

Lord, I offer to You my suffering and pain, my misery and hurt.  Help me to always keep my eyes on You and to seek satisfaction only in the riches of Heaven.  Fill my heart, especially, with love of You and charity for others so that I will be truly rich in what matters most.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Supporting One Another

Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Luke 9:49-50

Why would the Apostles try to prevent someone from casting a demon out in Jesus’ name?  Jesus was not concerned about it and, in fact, tells them not to prevent him.  So why were the Apostles concerned?  Most likely because of jealousy.

The jealousy we see in this case among the Apostles is one that can creep into the Church at times.  It has to do with a desire for power and control.  The Apostles were upset because the person casting out demons did not follow in their company.  In other words, the Apostles were not able to be in charge of this person.

Though this may be hard to understand it may be helpful to see itin a modern context.  Say someone is in charge of a ministry at church and another person or persons start up a new ministry.  The new ministry is quite successful and, as a result, those who have been working in the older more established ministries may get upset and a bit jealous.

This is silly but it’s also reality.  It happens all the time, not only within a church setting but also in our daily lives.  When we see someone else doing something that is successful of bearing good fruit, we may get envious or jealous. 

In this case, with the Apostles, Jesus is quite understanding and compassionate about the whole thing.  But He is also quite clear.  “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Do you see things in life this way?  When someone does well do you rejoice or are you negative?  When another does good things in Jesus’ name, does that fill your heart with gratitude that God is using that person for good or do you get envious?

Reflect, today, upon the many good things going on all around you.  Reflect, especially, upon those who are f
urthering the Kingdom of God.  And reflect upon how you feel about them.  Pray that you will see them as your coworker in the vineyard of Christ rather than as your competitor. 

Lord, I thank You for the many good things taking place within Your Church and within society.  Help me to rejoice in all that You do through others.  Help me to let go of any struggle I have with envy.  Jesus, I trust in You.


The Desire for Revenge

Tuesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”  Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.  Luke 9:54-56

These words, spoken by James and John, are words that many people feel like saying at various times in their lives.  Perhaps you can relate.  These Apostles spoke this way because Jesus was not welcomed in a Samaritan town they had just entered.  He wanted to dine there and the townspeople rejected Him and His Apostles.  As a result, James and John were hurt and angry and wanted to call down the wrath of God upon that village.

Whenever we experience hurt in life, it’s understandable that we feel this way.  We tend to want justice and revenge and want those who hurt us to pay for their sin.  But Jesus’ attitude was much different.  He rebuked His Apostles for their desire of wrath and moved on not allowing this rejection to affect Him.

Rejection and other forms of hurt caused by others can be difficult to let go of.  It can easily sit within our hearts, acting like a mold that slowly grows and takes over.  When this happens, you may have a very hard time forgiving and letting go of the hurt.

The best way to approach the hurt caused by another is to immediately act as our Lord did.  It must be let go of right away and you must move on.  God is the only one to issue vengeance, not us.  When we fail to do this and harbor the hurt feelings, they ultimately do us more harm than anyone else.

Reflect, today, upon any feelings of anger or hurt that you still harbor in your heart.  Make the conscious choice to forgive and move on.  Forgiving does not mean that you act as if the hurt caused you was okay.  On the contrary, an act of forgiving another is also an acknowledgment that there was wrongdoing.  Forgiveness allows you to keep that hurt from doing you more unnecessary damage.  In the end, it is also an open invitation to the other to repent and reconcile with you.  Leave vengeance and wrath to the Lord and seek to keep your heart at peace.

Lord, I pray for the grace to forgive.  I especially forgive those who have hurt me the most and offer them to You.  Free me from any feelings of vengeance I harbor and help me to love with Your pure and merciful heart.  I love You, dear Lord.  Help me to love others as You love.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Hesitation

Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:61-62

Jesus’ call is absolute.  When He calls us we ought to respond with complete submission of our will and with an abundance of generosity.

In the Scripture above, God willed that this person immediately and completely follow Jesus.  But the person hesitates saying he wants to go and first say goodbye to his family.  That sounds like a reasonable request.  But Jesus makes it clear that he is called to follow Him immediately and without hesitation.

It’s certainly not that there is anything wrong with wanting to say goodbye to his family.  The family would most likely expect such a thing.  But Jesus uses this opportunity to show us that our number one priority must be to answer His call, when He calls, how He calls, and because He calls.  In the wonderful and even mysterious call to follow Christ, we must be ready to respond without hesitation.

Imagine if one of the persons in this story were different.  Imagine if one of them came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow You and am ready and willing to follow You right now without qualification.”  That’s the ideal.  And, yes, the idea is quite radical.

In our own lives, we most likely will not receive the radical call to literally leave everything behind immediately and go serve Christ in some new form of life.  But the key is our willingness!  Are you willing?

If you are willing, you will start to discover that Jesus is daily calling you to fulfill His mission.  And if you are willing, you will daily see that
His mission is glorious and fruitful beyond measure.  It simply comes down to you saying “Yes” without hesitation and without delay.

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to follow Jesus.  Put yourself into this Scripture and reflect upon how you would respond to Jesus.  Most likely you will see hesitation.  And if you see hesitation in your heart, try to surrender that over so that you will be ready for all our Lord has in mind for you.

Lord, I do love You and I do want to follow You.  Help me to overcome any and every hesitation in my life in saying “Yes” to Your holy will.  Help me to discern Your voice and embrace all You say every day.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Sent Forth

Thursday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”  Luke 10:1-2

The world is in great need of the love and mercy of Christ.  It’s like a dry and barren land waiting to soak up the gentle rain.  You are that rain and our Lord wants to send you forth to bring His grace to the world.

It’s important that all Christians understand that they are indeed being sent forth by the Lord to others.  This Scripture above reveals that the world is like a field of abundant fruit waiting to be picked.  Too often it sits there, withering on the vines, with no one to harvest it.  That’s where you come in.

How ready and willing are you to be used by God for His mission and purpose?  You may often feel as though the work of evangelizing and harvesting good fruit for the Kingdom of God is the job for someone else.  It’s so easy to think, “What can I do?”

The answer is quite easy.  You can turn your attention to the Lord and let Him send you.  Only He knows the mission He has picked for you and only He knows what He wants you to harvest.  Your responsibility is to be attentive.  Listen, be open, be ready and be willing.  When you sense Him calling you and sending you, do not hesitate.  Say “Yes” to His gentle promptings.

This is accomplished first and foremost through prayer.  This passage says, “Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”  In other words, pray that the Lord sends many zealous souls, including yourself, into the world to attend to the many hearts that are in need. 

Reflect, today, upon your willingness to be sent by Christ.  Give yourself to His service and wait to be sent.  When He does speak to you and send you on your way, go without haste and allow yourself to be amazed at all that God wants to do through you.

Lord, I give myself to Your service.  I lay my life down at Your feet and commit to the mission You have in store for me.  I thank You, Lord, for loving me enough that I may be used by You.  Use me as You will, dear Lord.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Instruments of God

Friday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

“Whoever listens to you listens to me.  Whoever rejects you rejects me.  And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”  Luke 10:16

Jesus makes a threefold connection in this passage.  He connects you to Him and Himself to the Father.  Thus, when you are acting as a true instrument of the Lord, and another either listens to or rejects what you bring to them, then they are either listening to or rejecting not only you but also our Lord and the Father in Heaven.

One thing this reveals is the awesome responsibility we all have to bring the love and mercy of the Father in Heaven to those whom we encounter every day.  We are able to be true instruments of God.  In making such a strong connection between us, Himself and the Father in Heaven, Jesus is elevating our human dignity to an incredible level.

This passage also reveals the fact that others will act as instruments of God to us.  This is important to understand because Jesus is very clear.  If someone comes to us, acts in Christ’s name, and we reject that person, then we are actually rejecting the Father in Heaven.  This should lead us to pause and be seriously attentive to the way in which we treat others.  We must especially be aware that others have great potential to be instruments of God to us.  The Lord speaks through them in numerous ways.

Reflect, today, upon these revelations.  Reflect upon the great gift it is to act as an instrument of the Father in Heaven.  This is a sacred duty and a profound privilege we must not take lightly.  Look also for ways th
at the Father speaks to you through others.  When He speaks, give Him your full attention and be grateful for those who act as these instruments of God’s love.

Lord, I thank You for the honor and privilege of serving as an instrument of Your holy voice.  May I always seek to embrace this calling with faith and sincerity.  May I also be open to every way that You speak to me through others.  Give me the humility I need to listen to Your voice through them.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Holiness of Life

Saturday of the Twenty-Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

The seventy-two disciples returned rejoicing and said to Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20

Wow, that would have been impressive.  The seventy-two had power over demons when they called on the name of the Lord Jesus.  This was a power they had that amazed them more than anything.

Most likely if we saw someone actually possessed by a demon and we went overand demanded the demon leave in the name of Jesus, and the demon left, we’d also be impressed.  This is an uncommon experience in the strictest sense.  There are a few things to say about it.

First, yes, it is impressive and, yes, Jesus has full authority over the evil one.  Therefore, the seventy-two should have been overjoyed at seeing His power at work through them.

Second, we should be aware of the fact that even though we may not encounter people who are fully possessed, we do encounter the workings of the evil one on a daily basis.  So one thing this Scripture should tell us is that we need to trust in the power of Jesus to act through us as evil is combated.  We must confidently pray that our world be delivered from the evil one and we must have full faith that the power of Christ will work through our prayer.

Third, though combatting evil directly is essential, Jesus takes this occasion to point out that there is something far more important.  He says that we should primarily rejoice because our “names are written in Heaven.”  In other words, power over the evil one is not the end goal.  Heaven is.  Growth in holiness and virtue are the primary goals we must have in life.

Reflect, today, upon your duty to rebuke the evil one and his works in Jesus’ name.  But reflect even more upon your calling to holiness of life and growth in virtue.  These, more than anything else, are the pathway to Heaven!

Lord, help me to have confidence in Your power to overcome the evil one and his works.  But more importantly, help me to continually turn my eyes to You and Heaven, making holiness of life my primary goal.  Jesus, I trust in You.