Ordinary Time Week Five: 2021


Sunday, February 7, 2021

When Life is a “Drudgery”

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.  Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again. Job 7:1, 6–7 

The funny thing is, as soon as that reading is concluded at Mass, the entire congregation will respond, “Thanks be to God!”  Really?  Is this reading worth thanking God for?  Do we really want to thank God for an expression of such pain?  We most certainly do! 

Job was clearly expressing feelings that we all face at times. He speaks of a sleepless night.  Feelings of a loss of hope.  Months of misery.  Et cetera.  Hopefully these feelings are not an everyday occurrence.  But they are real, and everyone experiences them at times.

The key to understanding this passage is to look at Job’s whole life.  Even though he felt this way, it did not direct his decisions.  He did not give in to ultimate despair; he did not give up; he persevered.  And it paid off!  He stayed faithful to God through his tragedy of losing everything precious to him and never lost faith and hope in his God.  In his darkest hour, even his friends came to him telling him he was being punished by God and that all was lost for him.  But he wouldn’t listen.  

Remember Job’s powerful words, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”  Job praised God for the good things he received in life, but when they were taken away, he continued to bless and praise God.  This is the most central lesson and inspiration of Job’s life.  He did not give in to the way he felt in the reading above.  He did not let the despair he was tempted with deter him from praising and worshiping God.  He praised Him in ALL things!

The tragedy of Job took place for a reason.  It was to teach us this essential lesson of dealing with the heavy burdens life can throw at us.  Interestingly, for those who carry heavy burdens, Job is a real inspiration.  Why?  Because they can relate to him.  They can relate to his pain and learn from his perseverance in hope.  

Reflect, today, upon Job.  Let his life inspire you.  If you are finding a particular burden in life weighing you down, then try to praise and worship God anyway.  Give God the glory due His name simply because it is due His name and not because you do or do not feel like doing it.  In this, you will find that your heavy burden leads to your strengthening.  You will become more faithful by being faithful when it’s very difficult to do so.  Job did it and so can you!

Lord, when life is hard and the burden is great, help me to deepen my faith in You and my love for You.  Help me to love and worship You because it is good and right to do in all things.  I love You my Lord, and I choose to praise You always!  Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Seeking Healing

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6:56

It would have been truly awe-inspiring to witness Jesus healing the sick. The people who witnessed this clearly had never seen anything like it before. For those who were sick, or whose loved ones were sick, each healing would have had a powerful effect upon them and upon their whole family.

In Jesus’ day and age, physical illness was obviously of far greater concern than it is today. Medical science today, with its ability to treat so many illnesses, has lessened the fear and anxiety over getting sick. But in Jesus’ time, serious illness was of far greater concern. For that reason, the desire of so many people to bring their sick to Jesus so that they could be healed was very strong. This desire drove them to Jesus so that “they might touch only the tassel on his cloak” and be healed. And Jesus didn’t disappoint.

Though Jesus’ physical healings were unquestionably an act of charity given to those who were sick and to their families, it obviously wasn’t the most important thing Jesus did. And it’s important for us to remind ourselves of that fact. Jesus’ healings were primarily for the purpose of preparing the people to listen to His Word and to ultimately receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of their sins.

In your own life, if you were seriously ill and were given the option to receive either a physical healing or to receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins, which would you choose? Clearly, the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins is of infinitely greater value. It will affect your soul for all eternity. The truth is that this far greater healing is available to us all, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In that Sacrament, we are invited to “touch the tassel on his cloak,” so to speak, and be spiritually healed. For that reason, we should have a much deeper desire to seek out Jesus in the confessional than the people of Jesus’ day had for physical healing. And yet, too often we ignore the priceless gift of God’s mercy and healing offered so freely to us.

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the hearts of the people in this Gospel story. Think, especially, about those who were seriously ill and about their burning desire to come to Jesus for healing. Compare that desire in their hearts to the desire, or lack of desire, in your heart to run to our Lord for the spiritual healings your soul so desperately needs. Seek to foster a greater desire for this healing, especially as it comes to you through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

My healing Lord, I thank You for the spiritual healing You continually offer me, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins on account of You suffering on the Cross. Fill my heart with a greater desire to come to You so as to receive the greatest gift I could ever receive: the forgiveness of my sins. Jesus, I trust in You.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Worship From the Heart

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. Mark 7:6–8

It seems quite clear that Jesus’ instant fame led these religious leaders to jealousy and envy, and they wanted to find fault with Him. As a result, they carefully observed Jesus and His disciples, and they noticed that Jesus’ disciples were not following the traditions of the elders. So the leaders began questioning Jesus about this fact. Jesus’ response was one of severe criticism of them. He quoted Isaiah the prophet who said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”

Jesus strongly criticized them because their hearts were lacking true worship. The various traditions of the elders were not necessarily bad, such as the careful ceremonial washing of one’s hands before eating. But these traditions were empty if they were not motivated by a deep faith and love of God. The external following of human traditions was not truly an act of divine worship, and that’s what Jesus wanted for them. He wanted their hearts to be set ablaze with a love of God and with true divine worship.

What our Lord wants of each one of us is worship. Pure, heartfelt, sincere worship. He wants us to love God with a deep interior devotion. He wants us to pray, to listen to Him, and to serve His holy will with all the powers of our soul. And this is only possible when we engage in authentic worship.

As Catholics, our life of prayer and worship is grounded in the holy Liturgy. The Liturgy incorporates many traditions and practices that reflect our faith and become a vehicle of the grace of God. And though the Liturgy itself is far different from the mere “tradition of the elders” that Jesus was criticizing, it’s useful to remind ourselves that the many Liturgies of our Church must move from the external actions to interior worship. Going through the motions alone is pointless. We must allow God to act on us and within us as we engage in the external celebration of the Sacraments.

Reflect, today, upon the burning desire in the heart of our Lord to draw you into worship. Reflect upon how well you allow yourself to be drawn into this worship every time you attend the holy Mass. Seek to make your participation not only an exterior one but, first and foremost, an interior one. Doing so will help ensure that the rebuke of our Lord upon the scribes and Pharisees does not also fall upon you.

My divine Lord, You and You alone are worthy of all worship, adoration and praise. You and You alone deserve the worship I offer You from the depths of my heart. Help me and Your entire Church to always interiorize our exterior acts of worship so as to give You the glory that is due Your holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

That Which is Within

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus 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

What is within you? What is in your heart? Today’s Gospel concludes with a list of vices that sadly come from within: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.” Of course, none of these vices are desirable when looked at objectively. They are all quite repulsive. And yet too often they are sins that people deal with on a regular basis to one extent or another.

Take greed, for example. When understood clearly, no one wants to be known as one who is greedy. It’s a shameful attribute to have. But when greed is not looked at as greed, it’s easy to fall into the trap of living it. One who is greedy desires an excessive amount of this or that. More money, a better house, a nicer car, more luxurious vacations, etc. Thus, when a person is acting in a greedy way, greed does not seem undesirable. It’s only when greed is looked at in an objective way that it is understood for what it is.

In this Gospel, by naming this long list of vices, Jesus does us an incredible act of mercy. He rattles us and calls us to step back and look at sin for what it is. Jesus also makes it clear that when you live one or more of these vices, you become defiled. You become greedy, a liar, cruel, a gossip, hateful, arrogant, etc. Objectively speaking, no one wants this.

What is it in that list of vices that you struggle with the most? What do you see within your own heart? Be honest with yourself before God. Jesus desires that your heart be pure and holy, freed from these and every filth. But unless you are able to look at your own heart with honesty, it will be difficult to reject the sin with which you struggle.

Reflect, today, upon this list of sins identified by our Lord. Consider each one and allow yourself to see each sin for what it truly is. Allow yourself to despise these sins with a holy wrath and then turn your eyes to that sin with which you struggle the most. Know that as you consciously see that sin and reject it, our Lord will begin to strengthen you and purify your heart so that you become freed from that defilement and become, instead, the beautiful child of God you were made to be.

My merciful Lord, help me to see sin for what it is. Help me, especially, to see my own sin—that sin within my own heart that defiles me as Your dear child. As I see my sin, give me the grace I need to reject it and to turn to You with all my heart so that I can become a new creation in Your grace and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

A Gentile’s Faith

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Mark 7:25–26

A parent’s love is powerful. And the woman in this story clearly loves her daughter. It is that love that drives this mother to seek out Jesus in the hope that He will free her daughter from the demon who possessed her. Interestingly, this woman was not of the Jewish faith. She was a gentile, a foreigner, but her faith was very real and very deep.

When Jesus first encountered this woman, she begged Him to free her daughter from the demon. Jesus’ response was at first surprising. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” In other words, Jesus was saying that His mission was first to the people of Israel, the chosen people of the Jewish faith. They were the “children” of whom Jesus was speaking, and the gentiles, such as this woman, were the ones referred to as “the dogs.” Jesus spoke this way to this woman not out of rudeness but because He could see her deep faith, and He wanted to give her an opportunity to manifest that faith for all to see. And so she did.

The woman responded to Jesus, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Her words were not only exceptionally humble but were also based on deep faith and a deep love for her daughter. As a result, Jesus responds with generosity and immediately frees her daughter from the demon.

In our own lives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we deserve the mercy of God. We can think that we have a right to God’s grace. And even though Jesus deeply desires to pour forth His grace and mercy in superabundance on our lives, it is essential that we fully understand our unworthiness before Him. The disposition of this woman’s heart sets for us a perfect example of how we must come to our Lord.

Reflect, today, upon the beautiful example of this woman of deep faith. Prayerfully read her words over and over. Try to understand her humility, her hope, and her love for her daughter. As you do, pray that you will be able to imitate her goodness so as to share in the blessings she and her daughter received.

My merciful Lord, I trust in Your perfect love for me and for all peoples. I pray especially for those who carry heavy burdens and for those whose lives are deeply intertwined with evil. Please set them free, dear Lord, and welcome them into Your family so that they become true children of Your Father. May I have the humility and faith I need to help bring forth this abundance of grace for others. Jesus, I trust in You.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Hearing and Speaking the Word of God

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:37

This line is the conclusion to the story of Jesus healing a deaf man who also had a speech impediment. The man was brought to Jesus, Jesus took him off by himself, cried out “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”), and the man was cured. And though this was an incredible gift to this man and an act of great mercy toward him, it also reveals that God wants to use us to draw others to Himself.

On a natural level, we all lack the ability to hear the voice of God when He speaks. We need the gift of grace for this. As a result, on a natural level, we are also incapable of speaking the many truths that God wants us to speak. This story teaches us that God also desires to heal our ears so as to hear His gentle voice and to loosen our tongues so that we can become His mouthpiece.

But this story is not only about God speaking to each one of us; it also reveals our duty to bring others to Christ who do not know Him. The friends of this man brought him to Jesus. And Jesus took the man off by himself. This gives us insight into how we help others to come to know our Lord’s voice. Oftentimes when we want to share the Gospel with another, we tend to talk to them and try to rationally convince them to turn their lives to Christ. And though this can bear good fruit at times, the real goal we must have is to help them to go off with our Lord by themselves for a while so that Jesus can do the healing.

If your ears have truly been opened by our Lord, then your tongue will also be loosened. And only if your tongue is loosened will God be able to draw others to Himself through you. Otherwise your act of evangelizing will only be based on your effort alone. Therefore, if you have people in your life who do not appear to be listening to the voice of God and following His holy will, then first and foremost commit yourself to listening to our Lord yourself. Let your ears hear Him. And when you do hear Him, it will be His voice that, in turn, speaks through you in the way He desires to reach out to others.

Reflect, today, upon this Gospel scene. Ponder, especially, the friends of this man as they are inspired to bring him to Jesus. Ask our Lord to use you in a similar way. Prayerfully ponder those in your life whom God wants to call to Himself through your mediation and place yourself at the service of our Lord so that His voice can speak through you in the way He chooses.

My good Jesus, please open my ears to hear all that You wish to say to me and please loosen my tongue so that I will become a mouthpiece of Your holy word to others. I offer myself to You for Your glory and pray that You will use me in accord with Your holy will. Jesus, I fully trust in You.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

First Things First

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.”  Mark 8:2–3

Jesus’ primary mission was a spiritual one. He came to set us free from the effects of sin so that we could enter the glories of Heaven for all eternity. His life, death and resurrection destroyed death itself and opened the way for all who turn to Him to be saved. But Jesus’ love for the people was so complete that He was also attentive to their physical needs.

First of all, ponder the first line of this statement of our Lord above: “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd…” Jesus’ divine love was intertwined with His humanity. He loved the entire person, body and soul. In this Gospel story, the people were with Him for three days and they were hungry, but they were showing no signs of leaving. They had become so amazed by our Lord that they didn’t want to leave. Jesus pointed out that their hunger was serious. If He sent them away, He feared that they would “collapse on the way.” Thus, these facts are the basis for His miracle.

One lesson we can learn from this story is that of our priorities in life. Oftentimes, we may tend to have our priorities reversed. Of course, taking care of the necessities of life is important. We need food, shelter, clothing and the like. We need to care for our families and provide for their basic needs. But too often we elevate these basic necessities in life over our spiritual need to love and serve Christ, as if the two were opposed to each other. But that’s not the case.

In this Gospel, the people who were with Jesus chose to put their faith first. They chose to remain with Jesus despite the fact that they did not have food to eat. Perhaps some people had left a day or two earlier deciding that the necessity of food took precedence. But those who may have done this missed out on the incredible gift of this miracle in which the entire crowd was fed to the point of being completely satisfied. Of course, our Lord does not want us to be irresponsible, especially if we have a duty to care for others. But this story does tell us that our spiritual need to be fed by the Word of God should always be our greatest concern. When we put Christ first, all other needs are met in accord with His providence.

Reflect, today, upon your own priorities in life. What’s more important to you? Your next good meal? Or your life of faith? Though these do not have to be opposed to each other, it’s important to always put your love of God first in life. Ponder this vast crowd of people who spent three days with Jesus in the wilderness without food and try to see yourself with them. Make their choice to remain with Jesus your choice also, so that your love of God becomes the primary focus of your life.

My providential Lord, You know my every need and are concerned for every aspect of my life. Help me to trust You so completely that I always put my love of You as my first priority in life. I do believe that if I can keep You and Your will as the most important part of my life, all other necessities in life will fall in place. Jesus, I trust in You.

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