Jesus, Have Pity!
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, Bartimaeus began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Mark 10:47
These words from Bartimaeus, the blind man, present us with the perfect prayer for a few reasons.
First, this prayer reveals the deep humility of Bartimaeus. By praying this prayer, Bartimaeus expresses the fact that he knew Jesus was the source of what he needed and that he was unable to help himself. Bartimaeus knew that he was weak but that Jesus was perfect strength. Thus, Bartimaeus humbly turned to Jesus in his need, recognizing Him as the source.
Second, it is a prayer that cries for “pity.” Pity is the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering of others. Pity is mercy and is the form of love given to one by another who has no need of giving it. In this prayer, Bartimaeus asks the all-powerful Lord to show him kindness and mercy, even though he is unworthy of such a gift. This prayer reveals the fact that Bartimaeus knew he was undeserving of help from our Lord, but he cried out for it anyway in the hope that Jesus would help. And, indeed, He does.
Third, this prayer reveals a certain and deep passion. It is not just a request for God’s help; rather, it is a cry for help. It’s a plea and a form of begging. It’s an opening up of one’s soul to God, without concern of displaying one’s own weaknesses or worry that others will witness it or what they’ll think. This shows the depth of the blind man’s prayer.
Reflect, today, upon these three lessons from Bartimaeus’ short prayer. We must be humble, beg for mercy, and do so with deep passion and longing. Praying this way will most certainly dispose us to the grace and mercy of God.
Lord, Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. I do humbly beg You with all my heart for Your mercy and compassion. Though I am unworthy, I seek Your grace and trust in Your goodness. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday, October 25, 2021
The Burden of Scrupulosity
Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?” Luke 13:14–15
Why would the leader of the synagogue be “indignant” that Jesus cured a woman on the sabbath? She was crippled for eighteen years! Imagine, especially, her family. They would have seen her many years of suffering and shared them with her through years of compassion. If they were present when Jesus healed her on the sabbath, would they have immediately thought, “How dare Jesus do this healing of our mother, wife or sister on the sabbath?” Of course not! They would have rejoiced and been filled with awe, gratitude, and even tears. This normal reaction that her family would have had upon witnessing this miracle is the right response. And, of course, the reaction of the leader of the synagogue was deeply disordered.
Why would this leader of the synagogue do such a thing? Though he and many other scribes, Sadducess, Pharisees and scholars of the law struggled with envy and hypocrisy, others may sometimes react similarly to this leader of the synagogue for other reasons. One such reason is scrupulosity.
Scrupulosity is the tendency to see God and His holy will through the lens of legalism. “Legalism” is not just being faithful to the Law of God, because that is a good thing. Legalism is a misinterpretation of God’s Law by which one tends to put more emphasis upon themselves than upon God. A scrupulous person is preoccupied with themself. They tend to be far more concerned with sin than with God Himself. And though it’s vital to be concerned with sin, when fear of sinning becomes a form of obsession, then that obsession has the effect of clouding the pure will of God and leaves a person heavily burdened and unable to joyfully live out the authentic will of God.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was one saint who openly shared her struggles with scrupulosity in her autobiography. Of this struggle, which she referred to as “oversensitivity,” she said, “One would have to pass through this martyrdom to understand it well, and for me to express what I experienced for a year and a half would be impossible.” However, she eventually experienced what she called a “complete conversion” by which the heavy burden of oversensitivity was lifted. Though this oversensitivity oppressed her in various ways, one way it affected her was that she feared that even some of her random thoughts were mortal sins and that she would be condemned for them.
Though the leader of the synagogue was most likely not struggling with “oversensitivity” in the same way as Saint Thérèse, he was acting with an extreme scrupulosity which led him to be harshly judgmental and condemning of our Lord for His good deed done to this crippled woman.
Reflect, today, upon any tendency you may have with these heavy burdens. Do you worry in an irrational way about sin? Do you ever find yourself obsessing over decisions, worrying that you may make the wrong one? Do you think about yourself far more than you think about God and others? If so, you may also be carrying a similar heavy burden that our Lord wants to lift. Serving God and His holy will must become the deepest joy of our lives, not a heavy burden. If you find your Christian walk more of a burden, then turn your eyes away from yourself and look to the merciful God. Run to Him with the utmost confidence of a child, as Saint Thérèse eventually did, and allow yourself to love Him more authentically, freed of scrupulous and self-imposed burdens.
My merciful Lord, You desire to free me from all that burdens me. You desire that I turn to You with the confidence of a child. Please do free me, dear Lord, from any way that I impose burdens upon myself by my obsessions and irrational worries. May I always understand Your infinite love for me and always walk freely and joyfully in Your ways. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Planting the Seed, Over and Over Again
Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” Luke 13:18–19
This short parable should speak to many people far more than they realize. It should be a source of great encouragement to us all as we seek to build up the Kingdom of God through apostolic works.
The mustard seed is very small. At first, when someone holds it in their hand, they may not think much of it. But if they did plant it under ideal conditions, that seed could grow into a tree upwards of 20 feet tall.
Jesus uses this parable to teach us many lessons. One such lesson is that of our apostolic works of charity. When you think of the call of being an apostle for the Lord, spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth, what comes to mind? Perhaps the first thought is of those who have been entrusted with a very large, public and vibrant ministry. In this case, it is easier to see the good fruit born of one’s apostolic works. But what about you? For most people, they may strive to love and serve others in every small way they can, and they fail to see the abundance of good fruit born from their efforts. When this happens, some may become discouraged and lose zeal for the spreading of the Gospel.
If this is you, then consider the mustard seed. Planting this small seed is representative of much of our apostolic endeavors. God calls us to do small acts of kindness, share our faith in subtle and even hidden ways, serve out of love even when it is unnoticed, and to do so without ceasing. Do these small acts bear fruit for the Kingdom of God? If you believe this parable of the mustard seed, then the answer must be a resounding “Yes.”
Many times in life, we will never see the full effects that our actions have on others. Our negative influence will affect them far more than we realize. And our loving acts of charity, by which we share our faith, will also affect people far more than we realize. Believing in the message of this Parable of the Mustard Seed should lead us to believe that planting those small seeds of faith, through our charity, virtues, and words, will indeed bear an abundance of good fruit, far more than we may ever know, until we enter the glories of Heaven.
Reflect, today, upon your duty to daily plant the smallest seeds of faith and love. Do not get discouraged if your efforts do not bear abundantly obvious fruit. Simply commit yourself to the planting, over and over. Take delight in sowing the seed of faith and see this as your mission. If you do this throughout your life, from Heaven you will look back and be amazed at how God powerfully brought forth His Kingdom through those seemingly insignificant acts of faith and love.
My glorious King, You desire that Your Kingdom grow far and wide through our efforts of love. Please do use me, dear Lord, to plant Your seeds of faith and charity every day. May I never tire of these apostolic endeavors and may I always take great delight in serving You and building Your Kingdom in every way I can. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Entering the Narrow Gate
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Luke 13:27
We should definitely take our Lord’s words spoken above to heart. It’s easy to presume we will be saved. It’s easy to simply presume that God is kind and that we are good people at heart and, therefore, salvation is assured. But that’s not what Jesus says.
So who will be saved? When we get to Heaven, God willing, we may be surprised at who is saved and who is not. This is clearly one of the messages of today’s Gospel. Jesus even goes so far to say that some, when they die, will assume they are going to enter into Heaven but will hear our Lord say to them, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” Again, we should take these words to heart.
One of the most dangerous sins we can fall into is presumption. Presumption is deadly because it has a double effect upon us. First, the person caught in presumption is one who has committed mortal sin but has not repented of it. But the presumptuous person also remains incapable of repentance because they refuse to acknowledge their sin. Their conscience is not working. They have blinders on and expect God to wear those same blinders. But God sees all things and judges accordingly.
The “narrow gate” of which Jesus speaks is a simile used by Jesus to tell us that it is not easy to obtain Heaven. It requires a concerted effort on our part as well as the infinite mercy of God. But regarding our part, the attainment of Heaven is only possible if we intentionally seek out the will of God and respond generously to Him. First, that means we confess and turn away from our sins. But from there, it means that we make every effort to fulfill God’s will in our lives.
If this is hard to accept, simply remind yourself that this teaching came directly from Jesus Himself. He is absolutely clear and means what He says. If that fills you with a sort of holy fear, then that is a good thing. “Holy fear” is a gift by which we have a well-ordered conscience that is able to identify those things in our lives that have become immovable obstacles to eternal salvation. The same well-ordered conscience will lead us to that narrow gate which is the only path to eternal life.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that we must all take eternal salvation seriously. If you find that you have become lax in your spiritual life, then use this Gospel as a motivation to change. Do not allow yourself to be one of those knocking at the gates of Heaven, only to realize that our Lord does not know you. Do all you can to eradicate the sin of presumption from your life, and your reward will be truly great in Heaven.
My most merciful Lord, You and You alone can open the gates of Heaven to us, and You and You alone will do so only to those who have responded to Your holy will. Please open my eyes to any ways that I turn from You and remain lax in my spiritual journey. Give me the grace I need to see clearly and to respond to You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Sent Forth by Christ
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles, October 28
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles… Luke 6:12
Simon and Jude were among those very select few who were chosen by Jesus Himself to be His Apostles. Today’s Simon is not the same person as Simon Peter, and today’s Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot. Little is known about these two Apostles. Simon is referred to as a zealot in the Gospels, which could have meant he was a member of a more radical sect within Judaism. Jude is popularly known as the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. Some suggest this is because he was often the last Apostle to be prayed to by the early Christian faithful on account of the fact that he shared a name with Judas Iscariot, and praying to Jude reminded people of that betrayer. If that was the case, then in God’s providence, since Jude became the last Apostle to be prayed to, he also became the last hope for many and, thus, the patron saint for those with truly hopeless causes.
One tradition states that Saints Simon and Jude are linked together in the Roman Canon and also share the same feast day because they were both martyred together on the same day, possibly in Syria, Lebanon, or Persia. However, the true details of their missionary journeys and martyrdom is unclear. The one thing that is certain about these Apostles, however, is that they were Apostles. They were chosen by our Lord and appointed by Him as two of the first bishops of our Church and were given a mandate to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
From our perspective today, being one of those chosen Twelve is an incredible privilege. The effect of their ministry in establishing the first Christian communities has resulted in our worldwide universal Catholic Church. These men most likely did not realize the impact that their faithful service would have upon the world.
As we honor these two Apostles, we are also reminded that each one of us is called to go forth to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We each do so in a way specific to the calling and mission that Christ has entrusted to us. We are each called to make an eternal difference in the lives of those whom we serve. And if we are faithful to our mission, we can be certain that the effects of our apostolic service will be felt in the lives of countless others until the end of the world.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus choosing these two men and appointing them as Apostles. As you do, listen to God’s voice as He also speaks to you. Do not underestimate the importance of accepting the mission that Jesus gives to you. Say “Yes” to Him in imitation of these two Apostles and know that your choice to serve our Lord in this way will not only have a great effect in your life, it will also have an effect in the lives of many others for all eternity.
My glorious Lord, You called these two ordinary men, Simon and Jude, to be Your Apostles. You filled them with Your grace, taught them with Your Word, and sent them forth to preach to the ends of the earth. Please also send me, dear Lord, to whomever You choose. Use me as Your instrument and help me to always remain faithful and zealous, reaching out to those in need, especially to those who lack faith and hope in their lives. Saints Simon and Jude, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday, October 29, 2021
Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. Luke 14:1
Jesus accepted an invitation from this prominent Pharisee to dine at his house. The people at the dinner were “observing him carefully.” It’s somewhat easy to picture the scene. For most people, being invited to a dinner with many strangers who are observing them carefully may leave them feeling quite uncomfortable and self-conscious. But Jesus showed up with perfect confidence and an unwavering commitment to share the Gospel. One thing we can learn from this dinner and Jesus’ disposition at it is that uncomfortable situations are actually great opportunities to share your faith.
We will all have times when we are put in an uncomfortable situation. Imagine, for example, being invited to a party for a distant relative or a new neighbor. You decided to attend and knew that you would know very few people there. The tendency for those who are shy would be to show up, find someone they know, and then spend the rest of the time with that person. But consider what Jesus did. He probably knew very few people at this dinner. Jesus’ primary purpose in attending was not to just relax and have a fun time while He met new friends. Instead, His primary purpose was to preach His saving message to those in need. Thus, He went to those in need and did so with confidence.
Whether you are one who likes to socialize and meet new people, or are one who dreads such settings, consider the simple fact that these settings are wonderful opportunities to share your faith. Like our Lord, if you are willing to put yourself out there, entering situations that are new and unfamiliar, then you may start to discover that the opportunities abound. New settings and new people are new opportunities to evangelize. True, they are also opportunities to make new friends and enjoy yourself. But if you have a heart set on the desire to share the Gospel, then you will regularly look for new opportunities in which you can somehow share your faith with others.
Reflect, today, upon this simple Gospel scene of Jesus attending a dinner, with many people He did not know, for the purpose of sharing the faith with them. Imagine yourself joining our Lord at this meal. How would you have felt? Would you have been self-conscious and uncomfortable? Or would you have seen it as an opportunity to share the Gospel? Reflect upon how zealous you are in your efforts to evangelize others and recommit yourself to this holy endeavor. Tell our Lord you are ready and willing to be used by Him wherever He sends you and then try to see every new adventure and experience in life as a new opportunity to share Christ’s saving message with others.
My saving Lord, You desire that Your saving message be shared far and wide, to the ends of the earth. Please fill me with zeal for souls. Give me an unwavering desire to share the Gospel with everyone I meet. Please use me, dear Lord, in the way You desire, so that Your love and mercy will be brought to those in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday, October 30, 2021
The Freedom of Humility
Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.” Luke 14:8–9
This is an interesting parable. First of all, it must be noted that a true saint would not be embarrassed by such a humiliation. Instead, they would happily give their seat of honor to another. In fact, they would most likely have immediately taken the “lowest” spot, since this form of worldly honor would mean nothing to them. But Jesus wasn’t speaking at this time to living saints. He was speaking to people who did struggle with desires for worldly esteem. This shows that the people to whom Jesus was speaking were also insecure and lacked healthy self-esteem.
What’s beautiful is that Jesus meets these people where they are at, telling them a parable to which they could relate. These were the guests who were present at a dinner being held by one of the leading Pharisees to which Jesus was also invited. Jesus’ point was to gently share with them the truth that humility was far better than pride. True exultation and honor is found by humbling oneself and elevating others as a way of pointing to their innate dignity and value as persons. This is a hard lesson to learn.
Most people, when in a group of people, will struggle with comparing themselves to others. “She’s prettier” or “He’s more successful” or “They are very educated,” etc. This common tendency often comes as a result of being personally insecure with who you are as a person. However, if you were able to completely be at peace with who you are, if you loved yourself in the way God loves you, then you would be much freer to love others, see their dignity, and even rejoice in the ways that they are successful and exalted.
Jesus concludes His parable by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” To the normal secular mind, this can be a hard truth to grasp. It can be difficult to understand the great value of humility. But humility is simply seeing yourself in the light of truth, in the way God sees you. The humble person does not need the praise and esteem of others. God’s love for them is sufficient. For that reason, the humble person not only loves themself as God loves them, but they are then free to turn their full attention to the good of others. This is pure love. And this love is only possible when humility is lived fully.
Reflect, today, upon this gentle teaching of Jesus, given to those who greatly lacked humility. Try to see Jesus’ concern for them and His desire not to embarass them but to free them from the heavy burden of their insecurities. If you are one who struggles with this, reflect upon our Lord gently inviting you to embrace humility. Pray for this virtue and practice it with sincerity. Know that the attainment of this virtue will open the door to much freedom in your life.
My humble Lord, You knew Yourself with perfection and loved Your own sacred soul with the same love the Father in Heaven had for You. Please help me to discover who I am. Help me to see myself as You see me. May I never be burdened by the distorted desire for earthly honors and worldly esteem. Instead, I pray that this glorious gift of humility will live deeply in my soul. Jesus, I trust in You.