Saturday, July 30, 2016
Saturday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time – Matthew 14:1-12
The primary character in today’s Gospel is Herod the tetrarch. Herod had heard many stories about Jesus and he believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Thus, he believed that Jesus was able to do many amazing deeds!
If you remember, it was Herod who had John arrested, put in prison and then put to death. He did this because John had criticized Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his concubine. John told Herod that this was unlawful and immoral. However, Herod did not listen to John and he was determined to find a way to rid himself of John.
The opportunity came when Herod had a birthday and a grand celebration was planned. During the celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod and his guests. Herod was so enthralled with her performance that he promised to give her anything she asked for. However, the girl did not know what to ask for so she went to her mother and consulted her. Herodias instructed her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter!
When the girl told Herod that she desired the head of John the Baptist, Herod was dismayed and distressed. However, since he had promised the girl that she could have whatever she wished, and he had said this in the presence of many guests, he felt bound to do as the girl requested. Thus, he gave the order to have John beheaded. The servants brought John’s head to the girl on a platter. In turn, the girl took John’s head to her mother. Then John’s disciples buried John’s body and went to tell Jesus of John’s death.
Have you ever been boxed in and had to do something that you truly did not want to do, something that you clearly knew was not right? I assume it was not anything nearly as serious as having someone killed to please another person! I wonder what would have happened if Herod had refused to kill John despite the fact that he had promised that he would give Herodias anything she wished for? Some of the people present may have called Herod a liar or a louse for not following through on his promise. However, I hope the majority of people present would have silently applauded and supported his decision.
How often have you told your children not to follow the crowd? Or how often have you schooled yourself not to do blindly what someone else expected you to do? At times in our lives, we need to stand up for what we believe is right and just. Typically, this is not easy as there usually there are people who strongly disagree with us.
However, if we do as the crowd wants, we may have to live with the guilt and shame for the rest of our lives. I wonder if Herod regretted having John beheaded? He knew he had not been strong enough to do what he believed was right. Hopefully, he learned from this devastating experience.
Today may we be mindful of our actions, choices, and decisions. Our choices and decisions impact others, the community, our world, and our own lives. Today and every day may we make thoughtful, loving, and righteous decisions. May God grace us with wisdom and insight!
Friday, July 29, 2016
Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, Memorial – Luke 10:38-42
Today we have the familiar story of Martha and Mary. As we know, Martha was a workaholic and Mary was a contemplative. When Jesus arrived in the town where Mary and Martha lived, He immediately went to their home. Martha welcomed him and then she immediately went to the kitchen to prepare a delicious meal for him.
Mary, however, sat down at Jesus’ feet. She talked with him and listened attentively to him. As time went on Martha began to get angry with Mary because she was in the kitchen doing all the work and Mary was not helping at all! In Martha’s mind, the very least Mary could do was ask her if she needed help with the meal preparation. However, Mary did not do so.
While Martha was cooking, her anger escalated until she was extremely upset and angry. Here she was slaving away at the stove while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet talking with Him. Finally Martha had had it; she decided to express her frustration and anger. She went to Jesus and said: “Lord, do you not care that Mary has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!” However, Jesus did not respond to Martha as she hoped. Rather Jesus scolded Martha for being so anxious and worried. Then He told Martha: “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Put yourself in Martha’s shoes. How do you think you would respond to this reprimand? Would you react as Martha did or would you pause and reflect on Jesus’ statement and your reaction to his words? Would you be rational enough to ask yourself: “Am I jealous of Mary’s relationship with Jesus? Are my priorities out of order?”
Today Jesus asks each of us: What takes priority in your life? One way to answer this question is to ask ourselves: How do I use my time? Do I fritter it away? Do I work 12 hours a day? Am I involved in activities I enjoy? Do I spend quality time with the people I care about? Do I make time for prayer and spend time with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?
No one else needs to know the answers to these questions. However, our answers to these questions may give us some insight into our lives. In our busy and distracting world, it is easy to get off-track. Today Jesus is inviting us to come away and spend time with Him. What a wonderful invitation! Today will we accept His invitation or will we ignore it because we are too busy?
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Thursday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:47-53
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus tells his disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that is thrown into the sea. Naturally the net collects a variety of species of fish and other objects. When the net is full, the men haul it ashore. However, the net typically will collect more than fish, including random objects or species of sea life that were not useful for their purposes. Thus, when the fishermen brought the net ashore, they had to separate what was good and edible from what was not useful. Naturally, they discarded what they could not use.
Jesus then proposes another analogy. He tells his disciples: “The angels will separate the wicked from the righteous and the wicked will be thrown into a fiery furnace where there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
It is easy for us to categorize ourselves as either righteous or wicked, but I assume that we exhibit a bit of each quality, depending on what is happening in our lives. However, when we become aware that we are in a “wicked” or unproductive space, we have opportunity to move toward a “righteous” or peaceful space!
Today I invite you to be aware and alert! Forgive yourself if you realize that you are griping, upset, or tense today. Then consciously move into a peaceful and loving stance. What do you experience in this process? Hopefully, you will like the difference. We can choose our moods and our attitudes!
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Wednesday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:44-46
The Gospel readings for this week use a variety of metaphors and examples for “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Today, Jesus says to His disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that the owner had been buried in a field. Now if someone finds this treasure, he or she likely will hide it and then will go and sell all he or she has and buy the field.” Jesus then uses a second example of a man who finds a rare and beautiful pearl. This man immediately sells all of his belongings so he can buy this rare pearl, this treasure.
Jesus then proposes a third metaphor for the Kingdom of Heaven. He tells his listeners: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea which collects a wide variety of species of fish. When the net is overloaded, they haul it to the shore and sit down and sort out the fish. They put the “good fish” into buckets; however, the fish that are not good and tasty are thrown away.
Jesus uses these metaphors to instruct His disciples. He tells them: “Thus will it be at the end of the age. The angels will go and separate the “wicked” from the “righteous” and the “wicked” will be thrown into a fiery furnace where they will wail and grind their teeth.”
Today Jesus is speaking directly to us; He is inviting us to look for “the treasure” in our lives. I invite you to take some time today to ask yourself: Whom do I treasure? How do I demonstrate my love and care for those people? Do I frequently tell them how important they are to me or do I often take them for granted?
Then ask yourself: Do I long for the Kingdom of Heaven in my daily life? Do I look for the Kingdom of Heaven as I go through my day? Do I notice how God, Jesus, or the Spirit is present to me, strengthening me, blessing me, and loving me? The Kingdom of Heaven is among us! I wonder how many times a day that we are oblivious to this great gift?
Today, be attentive to many gifts you receive…and thank the Giver!
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Tuesday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:36-43
In today’s Gospel reading, the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable of the weeds in the field. Jesus tells his disciples that the Son of Man (Jesus) sows only good seed in the fields. The good seeds are “the children of the kingdom and they bear abundant fruit.” Then Jesus tells his disciples that the weeds in the field are the children of the Evil One. The enemy who sows the weeds is the Devil. When it is time to harvest the crop, the weeds should be cut down, collected, and then burned.
What is the message that we are to glean from this reading? This Gospel is not an inviting passage. However, this reading may prompt us to pause and reflect on our lives. Today I invite you to take the five or ten minutes and think about your life. Ask yourself: Am I sowing weeds or wheat in my daily life? What are the areas of my life in which there appears to be more wheat than weeds? Where in my life are there more weeds than wheat? Then pause for a moment and ask yourself: What do I want to do change in my life?
I seriously doubt that any of us are striving to produce poor harvest. However, weeds have a way of encroaching into areas of our lives without our noticing them right away. If we are not mindful and alert to their presence, they may begin to cause us pain, disappointment, or damage to us or to important individuals in our lives in some way.
Today I invite you to sit and reflect on this image of the “weeds and the wheat.” Identify the weeds in your life. How deeply rooted are your weeds? Do you wish to uproot your weeds and allow good seeds to grow?
After you do this, sit and talk with Jesus! Ask him to help you root out the weeds in your life. Trust Jesus! He will not fail you!
Monday, July 25, 2016
Saint James the Apostle, Feast – Matthew 20:20-28
Today we hear the familiar story of a mother who had two sons. The mother approached Jesus and gave him homage. Jesus then asked her what she desired. She immediately told him: “Command that my sons will sit, one at your right and the other on your left hand in your Kingdom.” Jesus must have been shocked! He had received many strange requests; however, this woman was bolder in her request (or demand) than anyone else who had ever approached him.
Most likely, the mother believed that her request would bring her two sons power, fame, and fortune. However, Jesus knew that His Kingdom was radically different from what she thought it was. Being part of Jesus’ kingdom would mean that her sons would have to suffer.
Jesus told the woman: “Truly, you do not know what you are asking.” He then asked if her sons were ready to drink from the cup that He would drink from and immediately her sons replied that they were ready to do so. Jesus then told the mother and the sons that it was not His place to decide who would sit at his right and left hand. His Father would make that decision.
The disciples were extremely angry and upset with the brothers. After all, they all had been with Jesus for a long time. Perhaps they also were hoping that they would be the ones who would sit at Jesus’ right or left hand. Jesus then warned his disciples of the danger of desiring power.
Power often corrupts the individuals who wield it. Jesus bluntly told his disciples that it should be radically different with them. Rather than desiring to wield power over others, they should desire to serve one another. Jesus told them that this would make them great. And if they truly wished to be His disciples, they were to follow his example and serve others, not be served by others!
There is almost an innate desire within human beings for acclaim, recognition and appreciation. All of these gifts are proper and good in moderation. However, individuals who receive abundant acclaim or praise often are tempted and they develop a big (and unhealthy) ego. Jesus wanted His disciples to be humble.
Humility does not mean groveling or demeaning yourself. Humility comes from the root word, humus. Humus is an organic component of soil that is derived from decomposed plants, animal remains, and animal excrement. To us, this may sound unappealing. However, humus adds many nutrients to the soil. It aids water retention and thus makes the soil more workable and productive.
Our “humility” may be challenged when we experience the reality that we are far from perfect. As we acknowledge this reality, we can be angry about it or we can use this difficult and painful experience to add nutrients to our inner soil. If we do this, our rich inner soil will enable us to be more fruitful in our lives. If we truly are humble, we will serve others, share our resources, and be content. We will not need to be the first nor will we need acclaim.
Humility requires that we simply be who we are and share this fragile and imperfect gift, with the people in our lives. God has gifted us! Every day Jesus invites us to generously share our gifts, our love and our attention with others. However, he hopes that we will do this in a simple and unobtrusive way. When we share our gifts and love in this manner, truly we are following in the footsteps of Jesus. For what more could we ask?