FOURTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Seeing Christ in Others
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Mark 6:4–6
Jesus’ encounter with His own kin in His own town was disappointing. They were amazed at His wisdom and the mighty deeds He performed. But despite this amazement at Him, they “took offense at Him.” They took offense because they didn’t understand how someone whom they knew well, one of their own kin, could be someone special. They allowed their closeness and familiarity with Jesus to cloud their ability to have faith in Him and to rejoice in His greatness.
We do not have this same struggle in a direct way. None of us are from Jesus’ own town or members of His extended family by blood relations. But we can still fall into the trap of turning Jesus away as He is present in those closest to us, within our own family and among our close friends.
This struggle that Jesus encountered reveals our tendency to look at those closest to us without the eyes of faith. Though Jesus was falsely judged, we can, at times, enter into judgment of those close to us on account of their sins or even our false perception of their good actions. Are you able to see others in the light of truth? Are you also able to look beyond the weakness and sins of others and see the presence and grace of God alive in their lives? Are you able to see their goodness and allow God to speak to you through those closest to you? This can be more of a struggle than we may realize.
If it happened to Jesus, it will happen in our families too. The lesson we should learn from this is to identify the temptation to see only the negative in the lives of those closest to us. If we can overcome that temptation, we will be able to focus in on the presence of God alive in their lives. This should be the first and primary thing we seek to discover each and every day.
Reflect, today, upon how well you do see God present in those closest to you. If you find you struggle with that, see it as a temptation you are called to overcome. Discovering the presence of God alive in those around you will help you to grow in love of them and love of God.
Lord, help me to see You in the lives of those closest to me. Help me to rejoice in Your presence and to grow in love of others and in love of You as I see You at work in their lives. Jesus, I trust in You.
Responding to the Voice of God
Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured. Matthew 9:20–21
What a tremendous amount of faith this woman had! She had suffered for many years and continued to suffer with her hemorrhages. How did she know that touching Jesus’ cloak would cure her? The only answer to that is faith. Faith is not just wishful thinking or hoping. Faith is a certain knowledge, given by a special grace and revelation from God, by which a person freely assents to belief. God spoke to her heart, she listened, she responded and she was cured.
One thing that is very inspiring in this Gospel story is the humility with which this woman approached Jesus. She didn’t feel as though she needed to bother Jesus, to speak to Him, or to trouble Him with her problem. Instead, in her humility, she presented her need to Jesus through her gift of faith, interiorly and silently, and the grace of God was given her because God sees the heart and responds to such humble and sincere faith.
Imagine if everyone had this depth of faith in our Lord. Imagine if all of us knew, with the deepest conviction of certitude, that God would take care of every need we have. And imagine if we turned to our Lord with this deep conviction of certitude every day with every need. If we could do that, then our Lord would be able to continually care for us in every way.
One key component to this woman’s healing is that it was God the Father who spoke to her and invited her to touch the cloak of His Son Jesus. And it was Jesus who sensed the healing she received, since He was in perfect union with the will of His Father. Therefore, touching Jesus’ cloak was not simply a magical act by which whatever this woman wanted would be granted to her. Instead, it was a response to the interior invitation she was given by the Father.
In our lives, we must work to do the same. Too often we present our preferences to God and tell Him what we want Him to do. God does not respond to such requests. Instead, we must seek His will…and His will alone. This woman knew she would be healed, because God the Father spoke to her in her mind and heart and inspired her to touch the cloak of Jesus His Son, and she responded, and the healing took place. God must speak first, we must hear and respond, and then His will is accomplished.
Reflect, today, upon the gentle Voice of God as He speaks to you in the depths of your heart. Do you hear Him? What is He inviting you to do? What healing does He want to bestow? As you ponder God’s Voice, try to respond only to Him. Set aside all of your own preferences and ideas of what God should do and seek only what He is speaking to you. Say “Yes” to Him, do so with certitude and conviction, and trust that whatever He speaks to you, if you have faith in what He says, He will do it.
My gentle Lord, You speak to me day and night, calling me to the healing I need. Help me to hear Your Voice and to respond to You in faith. May my faith and confidence in You grow strong and become the source of Your glorious action in my life. Jesus, I do trust in You.
Zeal for Souls
Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:35–36
Jesus was quite zealous for souls. Zeal is an energy, a passion and a drive to accomplish some task. The task that Jesus was zealous for was the conversion of every heart that He encountered. As He walked from town to town, encountering person after person, Jesus could see into their hearts. He saw that so many people were “troubled and abandoned.” He could see they were like “sheep without a shepherd.” And this moved Him to compassion with a zeal to become their Shepherd, to remove the trouble from their hearts and to let them know they were invited to belong to His new Kingdom.
The image of Jesus encountering numerous people who were troubled and abandoned is a good image to ponder. The reason is that this is us. Each one of us has our own interior troubles. We can feel alone, confused, uncertain and lost at times. The person who doesn’t feel this way is either a perfect saint or is not honest with themself. Deep holiness and union with God does, of course, cure this interior struggle that many have. In that case, the person clearly knows they belong to the family of God, understands themself as a son or daughter of God, and finds deep peace in this truth. But for those who struggle, this Scripture passage is especially for you.
First of all, to be “troubled” could be caused by many things. For some, they struggle with memories of the past, broken relationships, a lack of direction, serious sin, anger and the like. So the first question to honestly ponder is whether or not you have a troubled heart. Even the greatest of saints will find some areas they struggle with. So what is that for you?
Secondly, feeling “abandoned” is a heavy cross. The reason Jesus came was to enable us to belong to His family. That is accomplished by the gift of eternal salvation which must begin now. By receiving the forgiveness of sins and growing in a life of prayer, we come to know God in a very intimate and personal way. Yes, He is the Almighty God and Creator of all. But He is also deeply personal and intimate, and He wants to form a real relationship of love with you.
If you struggle with either of these, being troubled and/or abandoned, then consider the zeal that Jesus has for you. His tireless and extensive travels, by foot, while He was engaging in His public ministry, should be seen as a sign to you of His zeal to come to you, personally, to become your Shepherd. He wants to lift every burden and clear the way for you to discover your place in His family. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” that Jesus preached was one that invited everyone to become a member of that Kingdom. As He comes to you, know that His heart is filled with compassion for you, just as it was when He traveled the countryside so long ago. He sees you, gazes at your heart with love, and never takes His eyes off of you in your need, weakness and sin.
Reflect, today, upon the zeal that Jesus has for your own eternal salvation and holiness of life. You cannot make it through this world without Him. Let Jesus seek you out, come to you, speak to you and invite you to allow Him to shepherd you. He wants to do so with every fiber of His being; let Jesus fulfill His mission in you.
My divine Shepherd, You seek out all people with the greatest of zeal and compassion. You see every hurting and broken heart, and You desire to heal each one. Thank You for coming to me, dear Lord, for being my Shepherd and Guide. Help me to see You as You gaze at me in my weakness and pain. And help me to open my heart to You now and throughout my life. I love You, my Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
Proclaiming the Kingdom
Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5–7
The very last words of Jesus, just prior to His Ascension into Heaven, expands the mandate we read above that Jesus gave to His Apostles. He later says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). Eventually, Jesus sends the Twelve and all of His disciples to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. But here, prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit, and prior to the completion of Jesus’ earthly mission, He instructs the Twelve to go only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Thus, Jesus gives a sort of priority to the preaching of the Gospel to those who have already been entrusted with the revelations of the Old Testament. That is, the teachings of the Law of Moses and the prophets.
Though, today, we must all hear the call from our Lord to “make disciples of all nations,” we must also hear this unique commission to first preach to those who are already members of the family of God. And though, today, the Holy Spirit has already come and the Gospel has already gone forth far and wide, there is still an important spiritual lesson to be learned by Jesus’ progressive commission from those of the family of God to those who do not yet know the Gospel.
Start with yourself. By hearing Jesus give special emphasis to His Twelve to go first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, you should hear our Lord speaking especially about you. You, who were baptized, have been confirmed and have received Holy Communion, now have a special obligation to listen to and respond to the Gospel of Christ. From there, God entrusts you with the sharing of the Gospel in a special way to those who also share your faith. For that reason, parents are uniquely obliged to share the Gospel with their children. Friends within the same faith community are uniquely obliged to reach out to others who share their faith. And pastors of the Church must do the same. The Gospel is now universal and must be proclaimed to all people, but this passage appears to highlight the importance of sharing the Gospel with fellow disciples of Christ.
We know from our daily life that there are many who profess faith in Christ who still are not fully evangelized. There are many who have received the Sacraments but lack the deep faith to which they are called. It can appear that most fail to worship our Lord every day, and many fail in their prayerful worship each and every week. Therefore, it is useful to place yourself into this Gospel passage and to hear our Lord call you to especially devote yourself to the sharing of the Gospel with those who have already become members of His Church, even if it is only in name.
If we begin with ourselves, seeking to daily grow deeper in our life of faith, praying and seeking out the will of God, then God will more easily be able to use us as He wills to share the faith with those who belong to God’s family but whose faith may be weak. And for those who are “all in” and have truly given themselves over to Christ, God will certainly also use you for the proclamation of the Gospel to those who have not yet come to know Christ through the gift of faith.
Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus gives to you to be His evangelist. First, look at your own life and do all you can to allow the Gospel to transform you into a fervent follower of Christ. From there, be open to the many ways that God wants to use you every day to inspire others to become followers of our Lord. Start with your family. Pray for them. Be attentive to the promptings of grace God gives to reach out to them. Then turn your eyes, also, to the wider community. Allow the Lord to lead, follow His voice, and He will use you in many ways to help others come to know His burning love for them.
My universal King, You came to establish Your Kingdom in the lives of all people. You call all Your creatures to faith in You. Help me to be among the first who turn to You with my whole heart. Please also use me to become an instrument of Your saving grace to those whom You’ve put into my life. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Use me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Soften Your Heart
Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
“Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Matthew 10:14–15
Recall how Jesus harshly condemned the Pharisees for their hardness of heart. In Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 23, Jesus issues seven “woe to you” condemnations of these Pharisees for being hypocrites and blind guides. These condemnations were acts of love on Jesus’ part, in that they had the goal of calling them to conversion. Similarly, in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives instructions to His Twelve about what they are to do if they preach the Gospel in a town and are rejected. They are to “shake the dust” from their feet.
This instruction was given within the context of Jesus sending the Twelve to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” with the commission of preaching the Gospel. At that time, they were to go to those who had already been entrusted with the message of the Law of Moses and the prophets but were to now proclaim that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Jesus was the promised Messiah, and He was now here. And for those of the house of Israel who reject Jesus, they were to be condemned by this prophetic act of the wiping of the dust of their town from the Apostles’ feet.
At first, this can seem somewhat harsh. One can think that patience, ongoing discussions, gentleness and the like would be more effective. And though that may be the case in many of our experiences today, the fact remains that Jesus gave the Twelve this command.
Just like the condemnation of the Pharisees, this prophetic action of wiping the dust from their feet was an act of love. Certainly, the Apostles were not to do this out of an irrational anger. They were not to do so because their pride was wounded by rejection or because of their disdain for these people. Rather, the Apostles were to do so as a way of showing the consequences of the townspeople’s actions. When these towns of the chosen people rejected the promised Messiah, they needed to understand the consequences. They needed to know that by rejecting the messengers, they were rejecting the saving grace of the Gospel.
First of all, it’s important to consider those about whom Jesus was speaking. He was speaking about those who “will not receive” nor even “listen” to the message of the Gospel. These are those who have fully rejected God and His saving message. They, by their free choice, have separated themselves from God and His holy Gospel. They are stubborn, obstinate and hard of heart. Thus, it is in this most extreme case, of being completely closed to the Gospel, that Jesus instructs His Apostles to leave with this prophetic act. Perhaps upon seeing this done, some people would experience a certain sense of loss. Perhaps some would realize they made a mistake. Perhaps some would experience a holy sense of guilt and would eventually soften their hearts.
This teaching of Jesus should also open your eyes. How fully do you receive and listen to the message of the Gospel? How attentive are you to the saving proclamation of God’s Kingdom? To the extent that you are open, the floodgates of God’s mercy flows forth. But to the extent that you are not, the experience of loss is encountered.
Reflect, today, upon your being present in one of these towns. Consider the many ways that you have been closed to all that God wants to speak to you. Open your heart wide open, listen with the utmost attentiveness, be humble before the message of the Gospel and be ready to receive it and to change your life as you do. Commit to being a member of the Kingdom of God so that all that God speaks to you will have a transforming effect upon your life.
My compassionate Lord, Your firmness and chastisements are an act of Your utmost mercy for those who are hard of heart. Please soften my heart, dear Lord, and when I am stubborn and closed, please rebuke me in Your great love so that I will always turn back to You and Your saving message with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Speaking in the Spirit of the Father
Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19–20
This is an easy lesson to understand but very hard to live. This teaching of Jesus comes within the context of Him telling His Apostles that as they go forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, they will be handed over to courts, scourged in synagogues, and led before governors and kings. They will be persecuted in one town after another for sharing the Gospel. Though such a “pep-talk” may not at first seem that encouraging, the Gospel passage quoted above should provide much encouragement. Encouragement, that is, if they can follow Jesus’ advice in faith.
When we are condemned, judged, misunderstood and the like, it is very common to begin mounting our defense within our minds right away. We justify our actions, set up a tribunal in our minds by which we act as judge and jury of the other, finding them guilty and issuing them punishments. The sin traditionally referred to as “self-love” is a sin that stems from pride and is not love at all. It tempts us to defend ourselves, using our own human wisdom and counsel.
If we carefully consider Jesus’ teaching above, most people will realize that it is a very hard teaching to embrace. Essentially, when you are condemned or mistreated by another, remain silent in your heart. Do not immediately dwell on the wound they have inflicted. Do not become obsessed with the apparent injustice. Do not worry or become filled with anxiety at the perceived persecution. Instead, turn your eyes to Jesus, consider only His Voice and His Truth. And instead of looking at the wound that was inflicted upon you, look at the person inflicting it. And look at them with love. They are not the enemy, they are the battleground for Truth, and it is your mission to help them hear God’s truth. So how do you do that? Jesus’ answer is straightforward. “You will be given at that moment what you are to say.” Furthermore, Jesus makes it clear that it must be the “Spirit of your Father” who is to speak through you in such a case.
Living such a teaching especially requires two things: humility and trust. Humility will allow the temptation to self-love (pride) to be set aside. This is essential if you are to hear the Voice of God speaking to you and, ultimately, allow Him to speak through you. Second, it is essential that you trust that what Jesus says is true. You must trust that, if you are humble and open to His Voice, that He will give you His words when He wants them spoken. This is difficult because we often want to say far more than God chooses to say. God often calls us to silence in the face of injustice. A silence that is also imbued with love for the persecutor. This requires much trust in the grace of God, which results in an abundance of charity on your part.
Reflect, today, upon this teaching of our Lord. Consider how you react when someone condemns or judges you. How do you respond to such persecutions? Begin with silence, turn your eyes to the other out of love for them, and then listen and wait on the Lord. Wait until He gives you the words to say. Doing so is not only good for the persecutor, it is also exceptionally good for your own soul and holiness of life.
My patient Lord, You, Who are the Savior of the World and the God of all, allowed Yourself to be falsely accused, judged and condemned. During it all, You remained silent and spoke only when the Father spoke through You. Help me to be freed of all pride, dear Lord, so that I will speak only Your holy words, think only the thoughts inspired by You and act only on Your holy command of love. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Whispers of God
Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. Matthew 10:27
What is it that our Lord speaks to you in the “darkness” and what is it that you “hear whispered” by Him? This is an important question to consider, since whatever it is that is spoken that way must be spoken “in the light” and proclaimed “on the housetops.”
Recall that when people first came to Jesus, curious about Him, He would often speak in a veiled way, in figures of speech and in parables. This method of teaching is the first step in Jesus’ ongoing deepening revelation to us. His parables and various figures of speech are meant to draw the listener in so that they are attentive to the deeper message.
Recall, also, that Jesus said to His disciples, “I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father” (John 16:25). In which way does our Lord speak to you?
As we grow in faith, and become more and more familiar with our Lord, He will begin to “lift the veil,” so to speak, and will begin to whisper His deepest truths to us within the depths of our souls. He will communicate to us in ways that go far beyond the veiled message of His parables and figures of speech and will communicate His very self to us, in ways that are beyond words.
The Gospel passage above, when taken by itself, seems to clearly indicate that there is much God wants to say to us in a clear way. But He wants to speak it to us in the “darkness” of our interior life and with gentle whispers that can only be heard when we give Him our full attention. Saint John of the Cross, for example, speaks much of the “darkness of faith” by which the deepest communications from our Lord are received. These communications are beyond words, concepts and images and can only be communicated in a direct and spiritual way through infused prayer. Infused prayer is not something you can accomplish on your own; it is a gift by which God continually draws you deeper, you respond and are called even deeper, and you continue to respond.
The Gospel passage above also clearly indicates that God wants us to share this most pure faith with others. To share it in the light and to proclaim it on the housetops. This is first done by the witness of our lives, by allowing the transforming grace of God to shine forth through us in ways that He can only do. It is also done by being attentive to those moments when God wants to use you to share His deeper and often veiled truths with others. God must first speak them to you, and then at the promptings of His grace, He will, at times, use you to share Him with others.
Reflect, today, upon this twofold action commanded by our Lord. First listen to Him. Listen to Him in the “darkness of faith.” Let Him draw you into the deepest and most certain convictions about His love and mercy and His very Self. Then, as you savor these hidden and holy communications from our Lord, look for ways by which He wants to speak to others through you. You do not have to initiate this proclamation, you only need to respond when He directs you. By building a deep level of prayer in this way, you will not only come to know our Lord in ways that are beyond words, you will also know how and when He wants to speak to others through you.
My good Jesus, You desire to speak to me and all Your children in ways that are deep, profound and beyond words. Please do draw me deeper into these communications of Your love so that I may see beyond the veil and come to know You as You are. Please also use me, dear Lord, to speak to others as You choose. Jesus, I trust in You.