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 that 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!
Monday, November 15, 2021
A Model for Prayer
Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Luke 18:35–39
This beautiful story of the healing of this blind man, named Bartimaeus in the Gospel of Mark, sets for us a model of how we must come to Jesus in prayer. Bartimaeus and his encounter with Christ is an icon upon which we must meditate so as to imitate him in his weakness, openness, confidence and perseverance.
To begin, this “blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.” We must see this as an ideal image of how to begin our prayer. When we start to pray, we must see our littleness, weakness and extreme poverty in our spiritual life. We come to God with nothing. Unable to see. A beggar. And one who is incapable of meeting our own spiritual needs. This is Bartimaeus, and this must be the way we come to our Lord in prayer. Sometimes we can fall into the illusion that our prayers are so elevated and pious that God must be very impressed. If that’s your struggle, then you are more like the Pharisees. This blind man, however, is the ideal to aim for. So when you begin your prayer, come to our Lord as a spiritually poor and needy beggar.
In this state of humility, just as it happened in this Gospel story, you can be certain that “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” So as you sit in your humble and needy state, wait and be attentive to Jesus passing by. Wait upon His gentle voice, His quiet inspiration, His calming and unmistakable presence.
If you can humble yourself this way and then sense our Lord’s divine presence touching you in some way, then further imitate Bartimaeus by calling out interiorly, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The cry from the depths of your heart in prayer must come as a result of Jesus “passing by.” It must be a response to Him coming to you on His own. As Jesus passes by, spiritually speaking, He waits for you to call to Him. He desires that you call to Him. And He desires that you do it with firm confidence and perseverance.
Notice that as this blind beggar cried out, there were obstacles put in his way. The people “rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” But even this was a gift, because it enabled Bartimaeus to cry out all the more. So also with us, when obstacles arise in our prayer, such as distractions, temptations, a lack of consolation, or any other challenge to our prayer, we must see these obstacles as hurdles that must be overcome. Doing so will deepen our union with Jesus, turning that apparent obstacle into a source of blessing.
Reflect, today, upon these four aspects of a deep prayer life that are presented to us through the witness of this blind beggar. First, ponder your weakness and poverty as you turn to God in prayer. Second, be attentive to the presence of God as He passes by, waiting for you to call to Him. Third, cry out to Him and beg Him to come closer. And fourth, work to overcome every obstacle to prayer and see those obstacles as opportunities to call out to God all the more.
My compassionate Lord, I come to You in my weakness and poverty, I come in need of Your divine touch and healing. As You do pass by, I acknowledge Your presence and call to You. Jesus, please do come to me, have pity on me. Help me to overcome every obstacle to Your love and to trust in You always, never wavering from my commitment to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
The Desire of the Heart
Tuesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. Luke 19:1–3
Once again, our Lord reaches out to someone who comes to Him in humility and need. Zaccheaus was a wealthy man, materially speaking. But interiorly he was poor and in need. And it was this spiritual poverty he was experiencing that led him to seek out Jesus with much determination.
Zacchaeus probably never imagined that day that Jesus would offer to come to his home. Clearly, he climbed the tree to get a glimpse of Jesus because he felt a strong desire to know our Lord. Since he was physically wealthy, it seems clear that he no longer was satisfied in life simply because of a comfortable lifestyle. Something was missing, and he couldn’t help but know that Jesus held the answer. So Zacchaeus did what some may have thought unusual. He climbed a tree to be able to see Jesus.
Why did Jesus stop, look up at Zacchaeus, and call him down, stating that He was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ home? It’s because Jesus was able to sense the need within the heart of Zacchaeus. Hearts that are poor, in need, and open are very attractive to Jesus. He never misses the opportunity to come to humble souls like this.
Zacchaeus responds to our Lord immediately by promising to right the wrongs he has done in the past. He promises to give away half of his possessions and to repay anyone he has extorted fourfold. This reveals the authenticity of Zacchaeus’ heart.
As Jesus passes by you, what does He sense? Is He drawn to your heart? Is He drawn to you because of your interior disposition of humility and need? It is easy for us to go through life acting as if we have it all together. We can put on a facade that portrays an attitude of strength and success. But Jesus rarely comes to the soul who expresses little need. If we want to draw Jesus to ourselves, then we must acknowledge the poverty within ourselves, even if we are materially wealthy and successful in a worldly way. Every one of us must humble ourselves like Zacchaeus by knowing that Jesus is the only answer in life.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that you and you alone have the ability to draw Jesus to yourself. You can do this by looking at your need for Him. Do not hide it. Climb the figurative tree by which you will be able to look for Jesus and, more importantly, by which Jesus can see your manifest desire for Him. As you express your need for Him, know that He will be compelled, by His unshakable love and mercy, to come to you and to stay with you in the house of your soul. And when He does, be ready and willing to abandon all that has been a hindrance to your meeting with Christ in the past.
My attentive Lord, You are always aware of every heart that longs for You. You never ignore those who desire You in their life. Please help me to see my own interior needs and struggles and to see You as the only source of fulfillment in life. I commit myself to seeking You out, dear Lord. And as You come to me, I commit to abandon all that has kept me from You in the past. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Your Apostolic Calling
Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
“A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’” Luke 19:12–14
There are three categories of people in this parable. The first includes those who received a gold coin and followed the master’s request to “engage in trade” until he returned. The second has those who received the same command but were lazy and failed to produce any good fruit from that which our Lord has given them. And the third includes those who “despise” our Lord and do not want Him as their King.
Upon the king’s return, this first category of people are represented by the two servants who took the gold coins, engaged in trade, and made five and ten more. These are those who have much apostolic zeal. God not only calls us to use the gifts we have received to expand His Kingdom on earth, He also expects it of us. His expectation is a command of love. For those who understand this command, they see it as a glorious invitation to make an eternal difference in the lives of many. They do not see the apostolic works to which they are called as a burden. Rather, they see them as a joy, and that joy fuels their efforts. The result will have exponential effects for God’s Kingdom.
The second category of people is illustrated by the one servant who kept the one gold coin “stored away in a handkerchief” out of fear. These are the people who avoid evangelizing and furthering the Kingdom of God out of fear. Fear is paralyzing. But giving in to fear is a sin. It’s a lack of faith and trust in God. Serving God will inevitably require courage on our part. It will demand that we step out of our comfort zone and do that which we may not immediately feel comfortable doing. But as that servant in the parable foretold, God is a demanding God. And He will not accept fear as an acceptable excuse not to zealously help to build the Kingdom of God.
The third category of people is the category in which you definitely do not want to fall. These are those who actively work to undermine God’s Kingship and reject Him as God. The world is filled with these people. The only thing we need to say about those who fall into this category is that which our Lord said of them. “Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.”
Reflect, today, upon which category of people your life most fully resembles. Most likely it is one of the first two. Do you have great zeal for God’s Kingdom? Are you willing to do all that you can to help build His Kingdom? Are you willing to do so even at the cost of great personal sacrifice? If so, then rejoice and know that an abundant reward awaits. But if you are one who struggles with fear, specifically, if you struggle with a fear to evangelize, to share the Gospel and to live your faith openly with humility and love, then spend more time with this parable and the fate of that one servant who hid the coin in the handkerchief. Engage in the apostolate. Commit yourself to the furtherance of God’s Kingdom. Dispel all fear and know that you will never regret putting your whole heart and soul into the service of God and the building of His Kingdom.
My demanding Lord, You have entrusted me with much, and You demand that I use all that You have given me to help build Your Kingdom of grace. What a privilege it is to be called by You and used by You for this apostolic mission. Please free me from all fear, dear Lord, so that I will never hesitate to serve You in the ways that You call me to serve. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday, November 18, 2021
Thursday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
“For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:43–44
Jesus spoke these words as He looked at Jerusalem from a distance, preparing to enter that holy city for the last time in preparation for His passion and death. As He spoke these words, the Gospel says that Jesus wept over the city. Of course, it wasn’t primarily tears over the future physical destruction of the Temple and invasion by Roman forces. It was first and foremost tears over the lack of faith of so many which was the true destruction He mourned.
As mentioned above, the city of Jerusalem was indeed sieged by the military commander Titus in the year 70 A.D. Titus was acting under the authority of his father, the emperor, and destroyed not only the Temple but also much of the city itself, as well as the Jewish inhabitants.
As Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, so as to enter the Temple one last time to offer His life as the definitive Sacrificial Lamb for the salvation of the world, Jesus knew that many within this holy city would not accept His saving sacrifice. He knew that many within that city would become the instruments of His pending death and would have no remorse for killing the Savior of the World. And though this one point can easily be missed, it should be emphasised that Jesus’ reaction was not fear, it was not anger, it was not disgust. Rather, His reaction was holy sorrow. He wept over the city and its inhabitants despite what many of them would soon do to Him.
When you suffer injustice, how do you react? Do you lash out? Condemn? Get defensive? Or do you imitate our Lord and allow your soul to be filled with holy sorrow? Holy sorrow is an act of love and is the appropriate Christian response to persecution and injustice. Too often, however, our response is not holy sorrow but anger. The problem with this is that reacting in unholy anger does not accomplish anything good. It does not help us to imitate Jesus, and it doesn’t help those with whom we are angry. Though the passion of anger can be used for good at times, it becomes a sin when it is selfish and a reaction to some injustice done to us. Instead of this unholy anger, seek to foster holy sorrow in imitation of Jesus. This virtue will not only help your soul grow in love of those who have hurt you, it will also help them to see more clearly what they have done so that they can repent.
Reflect, today, upon your own approach to the evil you face in your life. Consider carefully your interior and exterior reaction. Do you mourn with love over sins you witness and experience? Do you mourn, with a holy sorrow, over your own sins and the sins of others? Work to foster this form of love within you and you will find that it can become a motivation for you to help transform the sins you commit and the sins of others you endure.
My sorrowful Lord, You endured the sins of many. You were treated with cruelty and injustice. To all of these sins, including those that you foresaw, You reacted with the love of holy sorrow. And that sorrow led you to true compassion and concern for all. Please give me the grace to imitate this same love of Yours so that I, too, may share in the holiness of Your sorrowful heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday, November 19, 2021
Consoled by Fervent Preaching
Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:45–46
Jesus had just entered Jerusalem for the upcoming Feast of Passover. He arrived in that holy city and then returned again the next day and entered the Temple area. As He witnessed the corruption of those selling animals for the Temple sacrifices, Jesus responded with fervent preaching in an attempt to cleanse the Temple from this corruption. He quoted the Prophet Isaiah and cried out, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” Luke’s Gospel points out the reaction of the chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people. They were “seeking to put him to death.” However, as the Gospel further relates, “they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.”
It’s important to consider this passage within its context. The words that Jesus spoke were words that sought to cleanse the Temple of corruption. With the approval of the temple priests, who benefitted from the temple tax, there were many people who were using the practice of divine worship to make a profit for selfish gain, turning the Temple into a marketplace. Jesus could see this clearly, and many of the people would have also sensed the corruption of these practices. Though they needed to purchase animals for the ritual sacrifices and Passover meal, many of them were most likely disturbed by this abuse. Therefore, as Jesus spoke with fervor and condemnation, it angered those who were responsible for the corruption but left the people with consolation. Hence, they were “hanging on his words.”
The Gospel is always consoling, and, for those who are open, it leads them to hang on every word that is spoken. It refreshes and invigorates, clarifies and motivates. Usually when we think of the Gospel, we think of words that are gentle and inviting—words of mercy to the sinner and compassion for those who are struggling. But sometimes the pure Gospel message from our Lord fiercely attacks sin and evil. And though this may be shocking to the evil doers, to those with pure faith, these words also refresh and strengthen.
Today, we need the full Gospel message. Many need to hear Jesus’ gentle invitation to conversion by which their heavy burdens are lifted. But many others need to hear His firm words of condemnation. And the Church as a whole needs both of these messages to be proclaimed if we are to fully participate in the apostolic ministry of our Lord. Only our Lord has the right to condemn, chastise, and call others to repentance. But we are all called to share in this mission of our Lord. And though we do not have the right to judge the hearts of others, when we see objective evil and disorder within our world and even within our Church, we must cry out with our Lord, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And when we do hear the holy and inspired words of God’s messengers who boldly and courageously proclaim the truth and call others to repentance, it should inspire, invigorate and console us as we find ourselves hanging on their every word.
Reflect, today, upon the Gospel messages that need to be preached in our day and age that are both inspired by God and are also fervently directed at corruption within the world and even within our Church. Allow yourself to support such holy preaching and to be inspired by it. Hang on these holy words of God’s prophets today. As you do, God will protect them and inspire them to continue His holy mission of purification.
My purifying Lord, the corruption within our world, and at times even within our Church, requires Your holy preaching and purifying action. Please send Your messengers to those in need so that all may be cleansed as You cleansed the Temple. May I share in this mission in the ways in which You call me, and may I always hang on every word spoken from Your merciful and fervent heart of love. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Preparing for Eternity
Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
“That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Luke 20:37–38
Jesus gives this response to some of the Sadducees who question Him about the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the body, whereas the Pharisees did. Thus, the Sadducees asked Jesus about the resurrection of the body using an almost unheard of example. They refer to the levirate law found in Deuteronomy 25:5ff which states that if a married man dies before having children, the brother of that man must marry his wife and provide descendants for his brother. Thus, the Sadducees present the scenario where seven brothers die, each one subsequently taking the same wife. The question they posed was, “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus answers by explaining that marriage is for this life, not the life to come at the resurrection. Therefore, none of the brothers will be married to her when they rise.
Some spouses have a hard time with this teaching, in that they love their spouse and desire to remain married in Heaven and at the time of the final resurrection. For those who feel this way, rest assured that the bonds of love we form on earth will remain and even be strengthened in Heaven. And when the end of the world comes and all of our bodies rise and are reunited with our souls, those bonds of love will remain stronger than ever. However, marriage, in the earthly sense, will be no more. It will be replaced by the pure love of the new life to come.
This teaching gives us reason to ponder further the beautiful teaching of our Lord about His return in glory and, as we say in the Creed, “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” We profess this belief every Sunday at Mass. But for many, it can be hard to understand. So what do we actually believe?
Simply put, we believe that when we die, our body is “laid to rest,” but our soul enters a moment of particular judgment. Those who remain in mortal sin are eternally separated from God. But those who die in a state of grace will eternally live with God. Most people who die will most likely die with some lasting venial sins on their soul. Thus, Purgatory is the grace of final purification that the person’s soul encounters upon death. Purgatory is simply the purifying love of God which has the effect of eliminating every last sin and imperfection, and every attachment to sin, so that the purified soul can see God face-to-face in Heaven. But it doesn’t stop there. We also believe that at some definitive time in world history, Jesus will return to earth and transform it. This is His Final Judgment. At that time, every body will rise, and we will live eternally as we were intended to live: body and soul united as one. Those souls who are in mortal sin will also be reunited with their bodies, but their body and soul will live separated from God forever. Thankfully, those who are in a state of grace and have endured their final purification will be resurrected and share in the new Heavens and new Earth forever, body and soul as God intended.
Reflect, today, upon this glorious teaching of our Lord that you profess faith in every time you pray the Creed. Keeping your eyes on Heaven and, especially, on the final and glorious resurrected state in which you will live in the new Heaven and Earth must become your daily practice. The more we live with this holy expectation, the more we will live here and now as a time of preparation for this final existence. Build treasure now in anticipation of this glorious day and believe that it is the eternity to which you are called.
My resurrected Lord, You now reign in Heaven, body and soul, in anticipation of the final and glorious resurrection of all the dead. May I always keep my eyes on this final goal of human life and do all that I can to prepare for this eternity of glory and love. Jesus, I trust in You.