TWELFTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Calming Life’s Storms
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Mark 4:37–39
This passage is what we may call a “prophetic action” on the part of Jesus. His action of calming the storm is a way of speaking to us about our own lives.
The first thing to reflect upon is that Jesus was there in the center of the storm. He was on the boat while the waves came crashing over. But the key is that He was there. This tells us that whenever we experience a “storm” in our lives, Jesus is there in the midst of it. He is not far away; rather, He is right there.
But we also notice that He is asleep. One thing we can take from this is that Jesus awaits our prayer. He waits for us to turn to Him in the midst of the storm. That must be our first thought whenever we feel overwhelmed or challenged by life’s circumstances.
Notice that the “prayer” of the Apostles is similar to how we may pray at times. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” So often we turn to God saying, “Lord, where are You? Why are You not helping?” But we should know that God is often silent as a way of calling us to Himself so that we turn to Him in trust and confidence. Jesus took their prayer and responded.
His response was simply to manifest His authority over the storm. He rebuked it and said, “Quiet! Be still!” With that, the storm had no ability to continue and all was calm.
We must know that Jesus did this so that we would have confidence that He can handle any hardship we face. There is no storm too great for Him. Nothing He cannot handle.
Reflect, today, on what frightens you the most each day. What is it that shakes your faith? Turn to Jesus in the midst of that and know He is there ready to bring peace and calm.
Lord, I invite You into my life and into my storm. I know You can do all things, so I beg for Your peace and calm in my heart. Help me to always turn to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Judgmental Heart
Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1–3
Sadly, this tendency is far more common than most of us would like to admit. We live in a world in which it is very common to condemn, criticize and judge. This growing secular tendency, in turn, powerfully influences our thinking and actions.
Why is it so easy to judge others? Why is it so easy to see the failures of others, dwell on their sin, point out their weaknesses and speak of their faults to others? Perhaps part of the reason is that many people are not at peace within their own souls. In an unfortunate way, condemning another brings with it a certain twisted satisfaction. But it’s a “satisfaction” that will never satisfy. The desire to condemn, criticize and judge will only grow all the stronger the more these actions are committed. If you struggle with these sins, then listen to the words of Jesus. “Stop judging…”
Oftentimes the person who judges others does not even realize they are judging. This is why our Lord poses the question, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” If that stings even a little bit, then know that our Lord asks that question of you. And He asks it with deep love for you, desiring that you will hear Him, understand, and respond.
The truth is that being judgmental of others causes far more harm to the one who judges than to the one who is judged. Certainly being judged is not pleasant. But the act of being judged by others is not a sin. However, the act of judging others is a sin. And it can be a grave sin. This sin leaves the one who judges with an empty and angry heart. Love is lost in the soul who judges.
If these words seem unpleasant, that’s because they are. But sometimes we need to face the unpleasant truth in order to change. The Cross was unpleasant, but it was also the greatest act of love ever known. Facing our sin of judgmentalness is unpleasant, but doing so is the only way to be free. Honesty with ourselves is an act of love given to God, to ourselves and to those whom we need to stop judging.
Reflect, today, upon these challenging words from Jesus. Read the Scripture passage above a few times and then prayerfully ponder it. Use it as an examination of your own conscience. Try to be honest, humble and attentive to any ways that Jesus speaks this to you. Some will find that they have grave tendencies toward judgmentalness. Others will see less serious ways. But everyone who lacks complete perfection will find some ways in which they need to be more compassionate, merciful, forgiving and understanding of others. Be open to these truths and allow our Lord to lift the heavy burden of this sin from your own life.
My merciful Lord, You and You alone are the true Judge. Only You judge with mercy and justice. Give me the grace I need to abandon my own self-righteous judgmentalness so that I will be free to love You and to love others with my whole heart. Free me from the burden of these sins, dear Lord, so that I can more easily see Your goodness in others and rejoice in Your presence in their lives. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Narrow Gate
Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13–14
Is fear helpful? That depends. It depends upon which form of fear we are speaking of. First, there is a form of fear that is contrary to faith. It’s a fear that leads us to doubt and even despair. It’s a fear that results from the attack of the evil one and others who may sin against us. This form of fear is unhealthy and must be overcome through a faith that turns to our Lord with the utmost confidence and hope.
But there is also a holy fear that is most useful and one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Recall the Proverb that says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10). At a minimal level, this holy fear makes you aware of your sins and the consequences of those sins, especially serious sin. And this holy fear leads you to fear the punishment that results from sin, leading you to avoid serious sin. But the ideal form of “fear of the Lord” we must strive for is “filial fear,” which is the holy fear of a son or daughter of God. This fear is one that is grounded in a profound love of God and leaves you so filled with a wonder and awe of the glory, goodness and majesty of God that you are filled with a desire to please Him and give Him great glory with your life. Thus, this “fear” leads you to a desire to avoid even the smallest of sin, because, in your love of God, you not only want to avoid offending Him, you also want to honor Him to the greatest extent possible.
The Scripture passage above should lead us to, at a minimum, a fear of not entering the gate to the “road that leads to life.” It is useful to consider Jesus’ teaching in a very straightforward way. Jesus essentially says that it is quite easy to walk through the gate that is “wide” and down the road that is “broad” in this life. In other words, it’s exceptionally easy to embrace a life of sin and head toward “destruction.” Jesus further says that those who walk through this wide gate and down this broad road are “many.” This fact should be the cause of our honest daily examination. If this broad road is so easy, then we should honestly admit that we can easily find ourselves walking it.
The “narrow gate” and the “constricted” road are found and walked by only a “few,” according to Jesus’ words. Again, we should take notice of this and take it seriously. Jesus would not say this if it were not true. Therefore, if the gift of the fear of the Lord is alive in your life, and if you truly are a son or daughter of God, then you will daily strive to be one of those “few” who find this narrow way to holiness. And, ideally, you will do so out of your love for God and your desire to give Him the greatest glory you can.
Reflect, today, upon this challenging teaching of our Lord. Take Him at His word and evaluate your life in light of this teaching. What are you doing in life to be certain that you are one of those few who have begun to walk through this narrow gate? Does your love for God leave you with such a wonder and awe of the greatness of God that your deepest desire is to not only please Him but to glorify Him fully with your actions? Strive to enter the narrow gate and the constricted road and do not turn back. Though this requires much determination, sacrifice and love, the goal and end of the road are worth it.
My most magnificent Lord, You and You alone are worthy of all glory, honor and praise. May everything I do in life lead to Your glory and may I avoid everything that harms my relationship with You. I love You, dear Lord. Help me to love You and glorify You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Good Fruit—Bad Fruit
Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
“Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:16–17
“So by their fruits you will know them.” This is how our Gospel passage for today concludes. It offers us an exceptionally practical way by which you can discern the working of God in your own life and in the life of others.
When you look at your own life, what good fruit, born for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God, do you see? For some, there may be little to no fruit born, either for good or bad. Such complacency is, in and of itself, bad fruit. For others, their lives have many consequences in this world. They influence the lives of many, and their public actions make a true difference. Sometimes for good…and at other times for evil.
When discerning the actions of God in our world, we must first be very objective. The evil one is always very deceptive and regularly presents his bad fruit as good. For example, the legalization of abortion is often presented by many within our world as a “right to choose” or a “health service.” But the intentional death of any unborn child is clearly “bad fruit” from a “rotten tree.” There are even many so-called “humanitarian groups” or very wealthy “philanthropists” who present their work as “good fruit,” when it is anything but good. And on the contrary, there are many who work hard to bring forth a greater respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death, or strive to uphold the sacredness of marriage as God designed it, or work to promote the freedom to worship in accord with the will of God, but are labeled by the secular world as prejudiced, bigoted, fearmongers and even hateful. But their work, done very sacrificially, truly does bear good fruit for the Kingdom of God.
How about your own life? When you examine your actions and the fruit born of those actions, from where does that fruit originate? Does it come from a false sense of compassion, a misguided “charity,” and a fear of being criticized for standing for the truth? Or does it come from a deep love of God, an awareness of the truth God has revealed to us, and through a courageous proclamation of the pure Gospel?
Good fruit, born from the heart of the Father in Heaven, will always mirror the truths of our faith. A false sense of compassion, false accusations, persecutions and the like will flow from the rotten trees in our world. We must work diligently to be those good trees that bear the good fruit coming from God. This requires a radical commitment to do what is right in the face of the evil all around us.
Reflect, today, upon these images Jesus presents. Do you see clearly both the good and bad fruit around you? Is your life helping to foster the lies of the evil one or the truth and love of God? Look at the fruit your life bears, as well as the fruit within our world, in an objective way, comparing it to the clear and unambiguous teachings of Jesus. Seek out that good fruit with all your heart and do all you can to bring it forth, no matter the cost, and you will not only save your soul, you will also help feed others with the good fruit of Heaven.
My Lord of all truthfulness, You and You alone define the good and evil in our world. Your truth reveals the good fruit that is born to nourish the growth of Your glorious Kingdom. Give me courage and clarity of mind and heart so that I may continually do all that You call me to do so as to bring the good fruit of the Kingdom to all in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
Formed by the Hand of the Lord
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, June 24
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. Luke 1:65–66
John the Baptist was formed by the hand of the Lord. Saint Thomas Aquinas goes so far as to say that John was sanctified in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, as is written: “He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). From the moment that the Blessed Virgin Mary greeted Elizabeth and John leaped for joy, the hand of the Lord was upon John, making him holy and leading him to the fulfillment of God’s holy will.
John’s early life is not recorded for us, other than in the passage quoted above. We are told that he “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.” We should see in this passage the truth that John was not only sanctified within the womb of his mother but that, throughout his childhood and on into adulthood, he remained deeply united to God and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Today we honor one particular aspect of John’s life—his birth. We know that he was blessed to not only be born into the blessed family of Elizabeth and Zechariah but that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was also his relative and was present at his birth. Zechariah, his father, gave him the name “John” even though it would have been the custom to call him Zechariah after his father. Zechariah did this in obedience to the Archangel Gabriel, who appeared to him prior to John’s birth and instructed him to do so.
Great mystery and excitement surrounded the birth of John, and there is little doubt that those who were present at his birth would have been caught up in the intrigue and hope of who he would become. And John didn’t disappoint. It was of him that Jesus one day would say, “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John…” (Luke 7:28).
Though you may not have had the privilege of being sanctified in the womb of your mother, or to have had your father receive a revelation from the Archangel Gabriel prior to your birth, you are, nonetheless, called to be guided by the hand of the Lord each and every day. God wants you to become “strong in spirit” so that you can fulfill the unique will given to you. We honor the great saints, in part, because they give us an example of how to live. For that reason, we must see in each of their lives the model to which we must conform. The primary witness set by Saint John the Baptist is that he was unwaveringly obedient to God and to being formed by His hand. The result was the glorious fulfillment of his unique mission in life, all the way to giving his life as a martyr.
Reflect, today, upon the very real fact that, though you were not sanctified in the womb, you were sanctified by Baptism. From there, you were strengthened by the Spirit through Confirmation and are regularly fed by the Most Holy Eucharist. In many ways, you are just as blessed as John. Reflect upon the simple yet profound fact that God wants to use you for His holy mission. He gives to you some particular mission He has not entrusted to another. Say “Yes” to that mission today so that you, too, will be seen as “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord of all greatness, You sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb, and You continued to pour forth Your grace upon him throughout his life. He responded to You and fulfilled his glorious mission. I thank You for the sanctification given to me by my Baptism and strengthened through Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Help me to be open to all the graces You wish to bestow so that I may fulfill the unique mission given to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Homage, Reverence and Respect
Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:1–4
To do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect. This is what this leper did to Jesus. He “did him homage.” But the leper went even further. He also expressed his certain faith that Jesus could cure him if He wished to do so. And Jesus did desire this. Jesus stretched out His hand to touch the leper and pronounced the words, “I will do it. Be made clean.” And with that, the leper was cleansed.
The first thing to note in this passage is that Jesus “touched” the leper. This was a forbidden practice, since lepers were unclean and touching them could spread their disease. But Jesus broke the norm and touched the man, revealing to him his innate dignity.
It’s interesting to consider the question: Who paid whom a greater act of homage? Was the act of homage shown by the leper greater? Or the act of touching and cleansing the leper greater? Though we need not compare these two acts, it is helpful to reflect upon the profound fact that Jesus did show a form of homage to this unclean leper.
As was said above, to do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect to them. Without a doubt, Jesus did just this. He not only honored the leper by His touch and healing, but He publicly expressed His love and respect for this man through this act.
Of course, the homage we owe to God is unique. It is the homage of worship. We must bow down before Him, surrendering our lives in total abandonment and trust. We must honor Him as God and express our love accordingly. But, in addition to Jesus showing His almighty power by this miracle, He also sets for us an example of how we must treat others. Every person, because they are made in the image and likeness of God, deserves our utmost respect, and they deserve to receive that respect in a public way. We must continually seek to honor and respect others and express that honor and respect for others to see. This is especially difficult when the person we are called to show respect for is considered by others as “unclean.” The leper is only a symbol of the many types of people whom the world considers unclean and unworthy. Criminals, the poor, the confused, the sinner, the homeless, the political opponent and every other person in our world deserves our utmost respect and reverence. Doing so does not justify their sin; rather, it cuts through the surface and looks at their innate dignity.
Reflect, today, upon the act of homage done by this leper to Jesus. And then reflect upon the act of homage Jesus offers this leper by publicly confirming his innate dignity. Who in your life is represented by this leper? Who is “unclean” because of the condition of their life, the sin they commit, or the public stigma they have? Whom is God calling you to reach out and touch with love and respect, for others to see? Seek out the leper in your life and do not be afraid to imitate this holy act of homage exemplified by our Lord.
My holy Lord, You are worthy of all adoration, glory and homage. You and You alone deserve our worship. Help me to continually discover Your hidden presence in the lives of those around me. Help me, especially, to see You in the leper of our day. May my love and respect for them flow from my love for You and become an imitation of Your act of love for all. Jesus, I trust in You.
Touched by Grace
Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him. Matthew 8:14–15
How do we properly respond to the action of God in our lives? In the passage above, we are given the witness of Peter’s mother-in-law to answer that question. It should be noted that Jesus was on a continual mission of healing. In fact, before arriving at the house of Peter, Jesus had just healed a centurion’s servant. When the centurion came to Jesus stating that he was not even worthy to have Him enter his house, Jesus saw the centurion’s faith and healed his servant from a distance. After arriving at the house of Peter, we are told that many people brought to Jesus those who were possessed by demons, and Jesus healed them all. But between the healing of the servant and the healings of the many, another healing occurred. The response to this healing sets for us a wonderful example.
Peter’s mother-in-law was ill and in bed with a fever. It’s unclear just how ill she was, but the fact remains that she was ill to the point of being in bed. Notice, first, that Jesus was not even asked to heal her. Rather, He “saw” her ill and in bed, approached her of His own choosing, “touched her hand,” and she was healed.
Within the same sentence describing Jesus’ healing, we are told that “she rose and waited on him.” First of all, “she rose.” This should be seen as a symbolic depiction of what we must do when we are touched by grace. The grace of God, when it is given to us, must have the effect of causing us to rise. We rise from sin when we confess that sin and receive forgiveness, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We rise up every time God enters our lives to give us direction, clarity and hope. To rise is to be strengthened to dispel the burden that sin and confusion causes. We rise in strength, renewed and determined to go about the will of God.
After this woman rose, she “waited” on Jesus. This is the reason we rise up when touched by grace. We are not given God’s grace so that we can go back to our sin, or pursue our own ventures, or do our own will. We rise so that we can serve our Lord and His holy will. In a sense, Jesus’ actions in our lives impose upon us a holy burden. But it is a burden that is light. It’s an obligation to serve and give ourselves to our Lord to attend to Him, His holy will, and to all that He calls us to do.
Reflect, today, upon this threefold action of the Gospel. See Jesus approaching you and touching you in your prayer. Know that He comes to you not only because you pray to Him but out of His own initiative when He sees you will respond. Then consider your response. Rise from that which keeps you down. Let God’s grace free you from the burdens you carry. And as He grants you this grace, determine to wait on Him and to serve His will alone. The service of our Lord is what we are made for, and doing so will enable us to continually receive His grace through His touch of love.
My merciful Jesus, You continually come to me, approaching me to reach out and touch me with Your grace. You desire my healing and strengthening every day. Help me to be open to all that You wish to bestow and please free me from all that keeps me down. May I rise up in service of You and Your holy will so that Your Kingdom may be built up more fully through me. Jesus, I trust in You.