TWENTY-SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
That Which is Within
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” Mark 7:14–15
Jesus speaks this passage after calling the Pharisees “hypocrites.” He rebukes them for being obsessively concerned about the externals and failing to be attentive to the internals. Jesus makes it clear that evil comes from within and that the heart should be our true concern.
The thing that sparked Jesus’ strong rebuke of the Pharisees was the fact that they criticized the disciples for not washing their hands and, thus, they ate their meal with “unclean hands.” What’s sad is that the Pharisees seem to make a huge deal about this fact. What this reveals is that the Pharisees seemed to think that holiness is something that you obtain by scrupulous external observance of the laws and customs of the times. But they failed to see the importance of what was within.
St. Teresa of Ávila has a couple of beautiful quotes that speak of the importance of that which is within. “Within you dwells your God. Enter within, look at Him, talk to Him, listen to Him and stay with Him in your heart.” And, “Indeed, we have heaven within ourselves for the Lord of Heaven is there.”
Jesus also points out the types of evil that come from within. “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” Mark 7: 21–23.
So what’s in your heart? When you spend time alone and quietly look at your life, what do you see? What is it that makes up your interior life?
Reflect, today, upon that which is within. Know that any sin in your heart must be acknowledged, confessed and purged. Only when that is done can you meet God who dwells within. Only then can you allow God to transform your exterior from His presence in your soul.
Lord, please do come into my heart. Set my heart on fire with love for You. Purge my heart of all sin and allow Your divine presence to shine forth for all to see. Jesus, I trust in You.
An Emotional Reaction to Jesus
Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. Luke 4:28–30
It’s hard to believe that those people who knew Jesus, those from the town in which He had been raised, reacted in such a severe way to our Lord. Jesus had just entered the Synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah who stated that “the Spirit of the Lord” was upon him and that he had come to “proclaim liberty to captives.” Jesus’ mission was clear. He was the Messiah, sent from the Father, in fulfillment of the teachings of the prophets, and yet Jesus was rejected to the point that the people drove Him out of the town and tried to throw Him off a cliff near the town to kill Him. Again, it’s hard to comprehend the extreme emotions that people experienced in regard to Jesus. Some came to love Jesus with the deepest passion, others were outraged at Him and sought His life.
One thing that these extreme emotions experienced by many should tell us is that we cannot remain indifferent to Jesus when we truly listen to His words. Indifference comes when Jesus is ignored. But when He is heard and understood, it is clear that His message demands a response. If we do not fully accept Him as we listen to His message, then we will be tempted to reject Him and all that He speaks.
Jesus wants to do the same with us. He wants a response from us. First, He wants us to hear Him, to understand the radical nature of His message, and then to make a choice. He wants us to follow Him with passion and zeal, to believe in everything He teaches, and to radically change our lives as a result. And if we will not change, then Jesus’ words will challenge us and evoke a response.
One example of this that is common today is the strong response that sometimes comes from a teenager or young adult when a loving parent confronts them when they begin to go astray. When confronted in love and with the truth, emotion is often evoked and stirred up. But that is not always bad. The temptation on the part of the parent is to back off and compromise. But that’s not what Jesus did with the townspeople. He spoke the truth in love and accepted their response. So it is with those in our lives. At times we must speak the hard but loving truth others need to hear even if we know they will lash out. In the end, challenging them with compassion and truth may ultimately win them over. We do not know what ultimately happened to those townspeople who tried to kill Jesus that day out of anger, but it is entirely possible that the extreme emotion they experienced eventually led them to the truth.
Reflect, today, upon the courage and love Jesus had as He directly confronted and challenged His own townspeople for their lack of faith. Try to understand that Jesus’ challenge of them was a mercy He offered them to move them from indifference. In your life, are there ways in which you need to be challenged? Are there things you have reacted strongly to and even with a form of rage? Try to see yourself as one of those townspeople who became enraged by our Lord. Be open to any way that you have reacted negatively to that which Jesus has spoken to you. Consider, also, any ways that Jesus may want to use you to speak His clear message of love to another, even if you know it may not immediately be received. Pray for courage, compassion, clarity and love so that you will be able to imitate Jesus as He sought to move those of His own hometown out of the indifference they were experiencing.
My challenging Lord, You desire that all Your children turn to You with their whole heart. Your chastisements are acts of mercy meant to move us out of indifference. Please speak to me the truths that I need to hear this day and use me to share Your holy word with others, especially those of my own family. Jesus, I trust in You.
Authority and Power
Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region. Luke 4:36–37
Jesus had just encountered the wrath of many in His hometown of Nazareth, so He left there and traveled about 30 miles to Capernaum, a town just north of the Sea of Galilee. This was to become His new home during His public ministry. The reaction He received in Capernaum was much different than that which He received in Nazareth. As He taught in the Synagogue in Capernaum, a man with a demon came to Him, Jesus rebuked the demon and cast it out, and the people were amazed. Word spread about Jesus quickly. After this, Jesus performed many other miracles, and the people continued to be in awe of Him.
What was it that impressed the people of Capernaum? In part it was the “authority and power” with which Jesus spoke and acted. But it was not only this, since Jesus had done so also in Nazareth where the people failed to believe in Him. In Capernaum it wasn’t that Jesus was different, it seems that the people were different. Jesus won over many hearts in Capernaum because the people were open to the gift of faith. In fact, when Jesus was preparing to leave from Capernaum, the people begged Him to stay. Though eventually Jesus would also encounter resistance from the people there, their initial reaction was one of faith.
Do you want Jesus to act powerfully in your life? Do you want Him to act upon you with authority and power? Many people, from time to time, can feel as though their lives are somewhat out of control. They experience weakness, confusion, a lack of direction and the like. For that reason, true spiritual “authority and power” is very welcome. What sort of authority and power do you need Jesus to exert over your life today?
Think of a small child who is frightened. When this happens, the child turns to a loving parent for comfort and security. The embrace of a parent immediately helps to dispel the fear and worry of the child. So it is with us. We must see Jesus as the source of calm in our lives. He is the only one Who is capable of ordering our lives, freeing us from the attacks of the evil one, bringing peace and calm to our disordered emotions and clarity to our questions and doubts. But this will only be possible if we are open. His power never changes, but it can only enter our lives when we change and when we recognize our weakness and our need for Him to take control.
Reflect, today, upon the infinite spiritual authority and power of our Lord. It is a power beyond anything else we could imagine. He wants to exercise this authority in your life out of love. What is hindering Him from taking greater control of your life? What sin or temptation does Jesus want to rebuke in your life? From what oppression does He want to set you free? Reflect upon yourself being a member of the town of Capernaum who fully welcomes Jesus, is amazed at Him and desires Him in your life. His working in your life depends upon you and your response to Him. Call on Him and let Him in.
My most powerful Lord, You and You alone are able to take authority over my life and bring order and peace. Please remove any doubt and stubbornness from my heart so that I can open myself to You and Your grace. Take authority of my life, dear Lord, and lead me into Your most holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.