EIGHTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
The Most Holy Eucharist
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:34–35
They were hungry, and they wanted Jesus to perform a miracle like He had recently done. They wanted Him to multiply loaves and fishes for the crowds. Perhaps they were curious or perhaps they were hungry. But Jesus directs them to so much more.
This passage begins Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, which will be read at Sunday Mass for the next few weeks. We will see in this discourse Jesus giving His followers so much more than mere bread and fish. We listen to Him speak of Himself as the true Bread from Heaven. Sadly, many reject this precious teaching and gift and go their own way.
But what about you? How often have you truly pondered these words of Jesus? “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst!” Do you believe this?
Deep within every human heart is a hunger and thirst that longs to be satisfied. We all have this longing and desire. We try to fill it with so many things, but in the end only one thing satisfies. Jesus alone can satiate the deepest longings of our souls.
Again, do you believe this? And if you do believe it in your head, do you believe it with your actions? Do you turn to Him as the source of your daily fulfillment and satisfaction? When you go to Mass, do you long to receive Him and love Him and enter into Communion with Him? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Most likely we all need to redirect our desires toward our glorious Savior, especially as He comes to us in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Reflect, today, upon how deeply you believe in these words of Jesus. Do you regularly meet Him in the Eucharist? Do you allow His presence to consume you as you consume Him? If you cannot say “Yes” to this in a complete and definitive way, resolve today to renew your love for our Lord in this glorious Sacrament.
Lord, I do love You, and I desire You to come and consume me as I consume You in the Most Holy Eucharist. Help me to believe in You and Your presence in this Most Holy Sacrament. May Your divine presence meet my deepest need and fulfill my deepest longings in life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus is Always There
Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Years B&C)
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. Matthew 14:13–14
Humanly speaking, Jesus’ heart was grieved by the death of John the Baptist. He loved John and was deeply saddened by his beheading. So He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place alone. But the crowds were hungry for more! They wanted to see Jesus and listen to Him. They knew many who were ill and wanted Jesus to heal them. So they sought Him out despite the fact that He had withdrawn from the crowd to be alone.
What was Jesus’ reaction? Did He look at them and sigh, saying to Himself, “Why don’t they leave me alone. Don’t they know I am grieving?” No. Instead, Jesus was filled with mercy and compassion for them, and He went to them to heal many of their sick.
This gives us insight into the heart and compassion of our Lord. Many times, we are afraid to go to God. We are afraid to turn to Him because of our sin. We are afraid of what He will think and say to us. We feel guilty and ashamed and, as a result, fail to seek Him out.
But just as Jesus had compassion for those who sought Him out in this story, so also He will ALWAYS have the deepest of compassion for us every time we seek Him out. If we find our lives steeped in sin, but run to Him anyway, He will look at us with compassion and mercy. He never tires of us returning to Him, seeking His healing and mercy. We should always have hope in Him and turn to Him with the greatest confidence.
Reflect, today, upon how comfortable you are in turning to Jesus just as you are. Are you afraid or worried about what He thinks of you? Are you ashamed of your sin or weakness? Do you worry He will judge you and not care? Have confidence in His abundance of mercy and run to Him without fear.
Lord, help me to trust in Your love and compassion. Help me to know that You always long for me to come to You. As You never tire of me coming to You, may I also never tire of coming to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
When Faith Falters
Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Years B&C)
Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Matthew 14:28–29a
What a wonderful expression of faith! Saint Peter, caught in stormy conditions on the sea, expressed his complete confidence that if Jesus were to call him out of the boat to walk on water, it would happen. Jesus does call him to Himself, and St. Peter begins to walk on water. Of course, we know what happened next. Peter was filled with fear and began to sink. Fortunately, Jesus caught him, and all was well.
Interestingly, this story reveals much to us about our own lives of faith and much more about the goodness of Jesus. So often we begin with a faith in our head and have every intention of living that faith. Like Peter, we often make firm resolutions to trust in Jesus and to “walk on water” at His command. However, all too often we experience the same thing Peter did. We start to live the trust we express in Jesus, only to suddenly waver and give in to fear in the midst of our hardship. We begin to sink and have to cry out for help.
In some ways, the ideal would have been if Peter expressed his faith in Jesus and then walked to Him without faltering. But, in other ways, this is the ideal story, in that it reveals the depth of Jesus’ mercy and compassion. It reveals that Jesus will catch us and draw us out of our doubts and fears when our faith gives way. This story is much more about Jesus’ compassion and the extent of His help than it is about Peter’s lack of faith.
Reflect, today, upon any way that you have had great intentions of trusting Jesus, started down that path and then have fallen. Know that Jesus is full of compassion and will reach out to you in your weakness just as He did to Peter. Let Him grab your hand and strengthen your lack of faith out of His abundance of love and mercy.
Lord, I do believe. Help me when I falter. Help me to always turn to You when the storms and challenges of life seem to be too much. May I trust that, in those moments more than any other, You are there reaching out Your hand of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
Perseverance in Humble Faith
Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. Matthew 15:21–23
The district of Tyre and Sidon was non-Jewish territory. The people there were said to have been descendants of Cain, the son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother, Abel, and was banished. He and his descendants settled in the area of Tyre and Sidon and were not heirs to the faith given through Abraham, Moses and the prophets, making them Gentiles. Jesus and His disciples traveled about 40 miles by foot to this district from Galilee to flee Herod and the Pharisees who were seeking to kill Him. While there, Jesus intended to keep a low profile, but word of His presence spread, and this Canaanite woman came to Him to beg that He heal her daughter.
At first, it is surprising that Jesus remained silent. She came to Him with deep faith and trust, and He did not answer her at first. His disciples wanted her to stop bothering them, and Jesus Himself eventually responded to her stating that His mission during His public ministry was to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” meaning, to the Jews. Of course, later Jesus would expand His mission entrusted to the Apostles to include the Gentiles. But at first, Jesus’ mission was to the descendants of Abraham.
As we read this story today, it is clear that it was by God’s providence that this woman came to Jesus as she did. The Father drew her to Him, and Jesus participated in this discourse, not to be rude or dismissive but to allow her to manifest a faith that was clearly lacking in the lives of many.
In our lives, at times God seems silent. But if He is silent, we must know that it is for good reason. God never ignores us; rather, His silence is a way of drawing us even closer to Himself than if He were to be immediately “loud and clear,” so to speak. Silence from God is not necessarily a sign of His disfavor. It’s often a sign of His purifying action drawing us to a much fuller manifestation of our faith.
As for the Gentile woman, unlike many of the Jews, she manifested a faith in the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. This is evident by her calling Him “Son of David.” Her trust in Jesus’ ability to heal her daughter was expressed in very simple and clear words. She didn’t need to present herself as worthy of His help, because her trust in Him was all that was needed. Furthermore, she persevered in her prayer. First, Jesus is silent. Then, His disciples try to dismiss her. And then, Jesus gives the appearance of refusing her request. All of this results not in her discouragement but in perseverance and hope. And that hope was also extraordinarily humble. Jesus’ goal of allowing her to deepen her faith and manifesting it for all to see was accomplished.
Reflect, today, upon the qualities of this woman’s prayer. Try to imitate her by first acknowledging the truth of Who Jesus is. He is the Messiah, the Son of David, the Savior of the Word, God Incarnate and so much more. Calling Jesus’ true identity to mind is a wonderful way to begin to pray. From there, make your prayer simple, clear and humble. Don’t present your wants, present your needs. What do you need from the Savior of the World? Of course God knows what we need more than we do, but asking is an act of trust, so do so. Lastly, persevere. Do not get discouraged in prayer. Be fervent, relentless and unwavering. Humble yourself before the almighty power and mercy of God and do so without ceasing and God will always answer your prayer in accord with His holy will.
My Saving Lord, You are truly the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God. You and You alone deserve all honor, glory and praise. As I come to know You as You are, please fill me with a deep trust and unwavering faith in You. May I persevere through all things and never cease to put all my hope in You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Facing Fear with Hope
Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Matthew 16:22–23
What a shocking statement this must have been that was spoken by Jesus to Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus said. In the paragraph before this, Peter professed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus in turn told Peter that he was Petros and on this petra He would build His Church. Petros is the Greek word for a movable rock and petra was an immovable solid rock foundation. Thus, Peter was told that he would be the stone, set upon a solid foundation, by which Jesus would build His Church. Jesus even went on to promise Peter that he would receive the keys to the Kingdom and that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in Heaven. And then, one paragraph later, Jesus rebukes Peter for thinking “not as God” but as a human being.
Jesus rebuked Peter because Peter could not accept Jesus teaching about His coming passion and death. Jesus told Peter and the other disciples that He would soon suffer greatly, be rejected by the chief priest, the scribes and the elders, be killed and then rise on the third day. So Peter went from a profound proclamation of faith, to fear and a rejection of the divine plan of salvation. And for that reason, Jesus went from entrusting much authority to Peter to rebuking him for his weakness and fear.
Fear is often a paralyzing passion. Saint Thomas explains that the passion of fear comes from a perceived future evil. Sorrow is the normal reaction to a present suffering such as the death of a loved one. But when the perceived suffering, or apparent evil, is something that has not yet come, then we often react with fear. When that fear is caused by something exterior and out of our control, it tempts us to feel shock, a sense of being overwhelmed and anxiety. In the case of Peter, the thought of Jesus suffering greatly, and being killed, was more than he was able to accept. So Peter says, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
Jesus’ rebuke of Peter was an act of true love. It was a way of shaking him free from the paralysis of fear. Jesus wanted Peter to think clearly and to face this future suffering with courage, acceptance, hope and faith. Courage provides strength. Acceptance cures anxiety. Hope produces joy. And faith is the remedy for all fear. These and other similar virtues were necessary if Peter and the other disciples were going to be able to endure the suffering and passion of Jesus. They needed to know that this perceived evil was going to be transformed by the Father in Heaven and used for the greatest good the world had ever known. They needed to know that Jesus “must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly…” It was the Father’s will. And because it was the Father’s will, the greatest good would come from the greatest evil because of God’s almighty power.
Reflect, today, upon that which causes you the most fear and anxiety in your life. When you look to the future, what is it that paralyzes you or at least tempts you to fear and worry? The truth is that any evil or suffering that you foresee has the potential to bring forth the greatest good in your life. Your natural human mind cannot discern this. We must strive to think as God, not as humans, as Jesus says. Try to look at anything that causes you anxiety through the eyes of God alone. Trust that, in faith, all can be used by God for good. Do not doubt but believe and God will begin to bestow upon you the many virtues you need to move forward with peace, courage and confidence.
My suffering Lord, You faced the evil You endured with the utmost courage and love. You never gave in to fear but pressed on, fulfilling the Father’s will. Give me the grace I need to share in Your strength so as to overcome all that tempts me to fear. I love You, my Lord. May I rely upon You for all things. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Glory of the Transfiguration
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, August 6
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Mark 9:5–7
Just prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus began to reveal to His disciples that He would suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, be killed and then rise on the third day. This caused much fear for the disciples as they grappled with this unsettling revelation from our Lord. And even though Jesus remained firm with them and even rebuked Peter for his fear, Jesus also gave three of His disciples a very precious gift.
After much traveling, preaching, miracle working and private conversations about His passion with the Twelve, Jesus invited Peter, James and John to go with Him up a high mountain to pray. These disciples most likely had no idea what they would soon encounter. As they made the difficult and arduous journey, their minds must have been pondering not only the mighty deeds done by Jesus in the previous months but also His words about the suffering to come. As they struggled with this, much to their amazement, Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared before them, representing the Law and the prophets. These two Old Testament figures appeared as a way of saying to these disciples that everything that Jesus was telling them was to take place to fulfill all that had been foretold about Him from of old. Perhaps Jesus thought that if His disciples would not fully listen to Him, then seeing Moses and Elijah would help. But Jesus went even further. The Voice of the Father Himself thundered and said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Thus, if these disciples would not ultimately listen to Jesus alone, or if even Moses and Elijah failed to convince them, then the last hope was the Father Himself. And Jesus delivered such a grace.
The Transfiguration was a true mercy. These disciples had never seen anything like it before. But it was most likely this act of mercy that ultimately helped them to accept the hard truth that Jesus was trying to teach them about His coming suffering and death. If the Father in Heaven Personally gave witness to Jesus, then everything that Jesus had said was trustworthy.
As we read through the Gospels and the many teachings God has given us through the Church, think about whether there are some teachings with which you struggle? Or in your own life, on a personal level, are there some things you know God wants of you but you find it difficult to accept? When confusion sets in, that means we are not listening, are not fully hearing what God is saying to us or are not understanding. And though we will not see the Transfigured Lord with our eyes and hear the Voice of the Father with our ears as these three disciples did, we must choose to believe all that God has said as if it were the Transfigured Lord, with Moses and Elijah, and the Father Himself speaking clearly and directly to us. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Those words were not only spoken for the good of the disciples, they are also spoken to us.
Reflect, today, upon this powerful experience given to these disciples by our Lord. Try to place yourself in the scene so as to witness Jesus transfigured in the most glorious way, with Moses and Elijah and with the thundering Voice of the Father. Allow the Father to speak also to you, telling you that all He has spoken through the Scriptures, the Church and within your own conscience is true. Allow this revelation to convince you on the deepest level to acknowledge not only the divinity of Jesus but also to “Listen to Him” in every way.
My transfigured Lord, You are glorious beyond imagination, and You revealed a small glimpse of this glory to Your disciples to help them trust You more fully. May I also trust in You more completely, knowing that all You have spoken to me is true. Please remove any doubt and fear in my life so that nothing keeps me from embracing Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Doing the Unimaginable
Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19–20
A man came up to Jesus, fell on his knees before Him and begged Jesus to cure his son who was possessed by a demon. The man explained that Jesus’ disciples had tried to cast the demon out, but they could not do so. Jesus’ initial response to the man was, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?” But then Jesus had the boy brought to Him, and He cast the demon out.
The line quoted above reveals the conversation that immediately followed between Jesus and His disciples who failed to cast out the demon. It was because of their lack of faith that they were not able to do so. It should be noted that Jesus reacts firmly with a rebuke to this lack of faith as a way of emphasizing the importance of having a more pure faith.
Is it true that if you were to have “faith the size of a mustard seed” that you would be able to move a mountain? Yes, most certainly. But this statement must be carefully understood. First of all, we can only have “faith” in that which is in the mind and will of God. Faith is a response to that which God speaks to us. We listen, understand and believe. This is faith. Faith is not just believing in something so strongly that we try to will it to happen. Thus, if God truly wanted a mountain to be uprooted and moved, and He spoke this to you asking you to do it, then if you listened to His Voice and responded with complete trust, then it would happen. But, of course, the glory of God is not fulfilled by moving a literal mountain, so it is very unlikely that this would ever be done through the gift of faith.
But Jesus speaks this to His disciples and to us to assure us that we must listen, understand and believe all that He says. In the case of the curing of the boy with the demon, it is clear that it was the will of God that the disciples cast the demon out. But they failed to believe and, therefore, were unable to bring forth God’s will through their faith.
As for moving mountains, this happens on a figurative and spiritual level all the time. Any time God works in our lives in a supernatural way, or any time God uses us to work in another’s life in a supernatural way, much more than a “mountain” is moved. From an eternal perspective, what is more glorious and what gives God greater glory? To literally move a mountain? Or to be changed by grace and to be interiorly transformed by God so as to give Him eternal glory? And what is more impressive? To be able to defy the laws of physics in a way that comes and goes in an instant, or to be used to change someone’s soul for eternity? Without question, being used by God to bring transformation to another’s soul for eternity is of infinitely greater magnitude.
Reflect, today, upon the importance of listening to the Voice of God and responding with complete obedience and love. This is faith. What “mountain” does God want to move in your life? What transformation does He want to perform? Listen to Him and believe with every fiber of your being. As you do, God will not only do unimaginable things in your life, but through you, He will do unimaginable things in the lives of others.
My saving Lord, You have done incredible things in the lives of so many. You have transformed souls and recreated them in Your mercy. Please bestow upon me the gift of faith so that I will hear Your Voice and respond with the utmost generosity and belief. Use me, dear Lord, to also become an instrument of Your unimaginable grace in the lives of others. Jesus, I trust in You.