Monday, August 29, 2016
Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist - Mark 6:17-29
Today we recall the Passion of John the Baptist. Mark chronicles John’s arrest, imprisonment and death. It is a horrific story and it mirrors the atrocities that we human beings continually perpetrate on one another.
John’s crime was that he bluntly told Herod that is was not lawful for him to marry Herodias, his brother’s wife. When Herodias heard this, she harbored a grudge against John and she was determined to have him killed; however, she did not have the authority or means to do so. Herodias was a clever, manipulative and conniving woman, however, and she began planning how to get revenge on John.
It so happened that Herod had a birthday celebration. He had invited many esteemed guests to his party. During the celebration, Herodias’ daughter performed a beautiful dance that enchanted Herod and his guests. Herod was so enthralled by her performance that he said the girl: “Ask of me whatever you will and I will give it to you, even if you ask me for half of my kingdom.”
The girl quickly went to her mother and asked her what she should ask of Herod. Her mother immediately said: “Ask for the head of John the Baptist.” Herodias’ daughter returned to Herod and told him that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod was distressed by her request. He admired John and respected him. Yet, he had given his oath and all of his guests had witnessed this oath. What would they think of him if he did not keep his word? Herod truly was in a bind.
Finally, Herod gave the order to have John beheaded. And so it happened: John’s head was brought to Herod on a platter. Herod gave it to the girl and the girl gave it to her mother.
I assume that at times all of us have been in a bind. Perhaps we were asked to do something that we knew was not right. At some point in the future we likely will be in a similar situation. It is difficult to stand up and do what is right when there is pressure from others to conform to what they do. At these times, will we have the strength and courage to stand our ground and do what we know is right and just? Or will we cave in to please others or to look good?
Today may we pray for the strength and courage to do what we believe is right, even if others may not approve of our choice or our action. May we always strive to have the integrity and courage of John the Baptist, who stood firm in his beliefs even though it ended up costing him his life. What a wonderful and brave model is for us! May we strive to live as John lived!
Sunday, August 28, 2016
The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 14:1, 7-14
On the Sabbath, Jesus was invited to dine at the house of a prominent Pharisee. There were other guests in attendance and they intently observed Jesus. When Jesus arrived, he noticed how many of the guests had vied for places of honor at the table. After a time, Jesus said to the guests: “When you are invited to a wedding banquet, do not sit in a place of honor at table. It may happen that a guest deserving of a place of honor may arrive and need a high seat of honor. Thus, the host may approach you and ask you to give your place to the honored guest. And you would experience the embarrassment of having to move down to a lower place.”
Jesus tells his listeners that it is better to take a lower place at the table. Then the host may come to you and say: "My friend, move up higher.” The other guests then may hold you in high esteem. Jesus concludes with the statement: “For everyone who exalts himself/herself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself/herself will be exalted.”
In today’s world, individuals vie for fame, fortune, power, and status every day. The people who have achieved any of these advantages typically are held in high esteem. However, Jesus completely reverses this idea. He proposes that it is always best to choose a lower place rather than a higher place. Thus, you will never be embarrassed by being asked to move to a lower place, and possibly you may be invited to move up to a higher place.
Status-seeking is rampant in our world. Many people seek fame, power and recognition. However, there also are many individuals who live their lives quietly and simply. They are content with God, family, friends, and a simple lifestyle. Fame may look glamorous. However, almost every day in the newspaper or on television we hear stories of how the famous and the glamorous have fallen or been disgraced, often by their own choices.
Today Jesus encourages us to be content with what seems to be the lowly and least. Often it is in the small and seemingly insignificant gifts of everyday life where we may experience the greatest love, joy, peace, and contentment. Today, be mindful and notice the many small gifts you receive. Thank the giver and thank God!
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Saturday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time - Matthew 25:14-30
Today’s Gospel is the parable of the talents. In this story, the master of the house is going on a fairly long journey and he wants to safeguard his money while he is away. He gave one servant five talents, the second servant two talents and the third, one talent. The master, however, had an unspoken expectation. The master expected these servants to increase the amount of his money while he was gone.
The first servant and the second servant did what the master expected. They took the money and invested it. These investments increased the master’s money significantly. The increase varied, but the master was extremely pleased with these servants. They had been excellent stewards of his resources.
The third servant, however, was a fearful person. He knew his master could be harsh at times. This servant decided that he simply would keep the master’s money safe. He buried the money in the ground and then waited for the master to return.
When the master finally did return, naturally he asked the servants for an accounting. Each servant came and reported what they had done with his money. The master was very pleased with the first two servants. Their investments had made him more money. However, the master was not pleased with the third servant. Yes, the man kept his money safe, but the master had expected him to use it well and increase the amount of money, at least to some degree. Burying the money in the ground kept it safe, but the master expected more, much more!
How do we steward the resources that God has given us? Do we use them well and invest them wisely? Do we share them with others? Or do we hide them or dismiss them as insignificant? All our resources are given to us to share with others and the world. Do we believe that the resources or gifts we have are good enough? I pray
Friday, August 26, 2016
Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time - Matthew 25:1-13
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the ten virgins. This is a parable that is familiar to most of us. The ten virgins took their lamps and went out to wait for the coming of the bridegroom. Jesus tells us that five of these virgins were foolish and the other five virgins were wise.
The custom at the time of Jesus was that the bridegroom typically took off to party with his friends after the wedding. Then late in the night, the groom would come and collect his bride. When the bridegroom finally appeared, the custom was for the bridesmaids to light the way to his house with lamps.
Jesus’ version is a bit different. At midnight, the virgins were awakened when the sentinel cried out: “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out and welcome him!” Immediately, all ten of the virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. However, five of the virgins had not anticipated that the bridegroom would dally or party so long. Foolishly, the virgins had not brought any extra oil for their lamps; thus, when the bridegroom finally arrived, their lamps no longer had any oil in them. There lamps were dark; they could not escort the bridegroom to his bride!
Now the other five virgins were wise and prudent women. They had planned well and brought along some extra lamp oil, just in case it was needed. Thus, they could escort the bridegroom to the bridal chamber.
Today’s Gospel invites us to ask ourselves: Am I wise or foolish? Or am I a bit of both, depending on the circumstances? Within us, we each have a wise person and we all have a foolish person within us.
Today, we also are waiting for the bridegroom to come to each one of us. Do we have our lamps lit? Are we prepared and alert? Or has our oil been used up and our lamp dark? Or perhaps we have fallen asleep?
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time - Matthew 24:42-51
“Stay awake!” These are Jesus’ words to us today. He tells us that we do not know the day or the time when the Lord will come to us. Thus, each and every moment we must be awake and watchful. This may sound impossible to do. However, I think of parents who have young children; I assume their radar is always attuned to where their children are and what they are doing. It becomes second nature. I assume that each one us of us also have our radar attuned to the individuals in our lives who are significant to us.
Today Jesus desires that we also have our radar scanning for His coming and His presence. The reality is we do not know when, how or through whom Jesus may come to us or be present to us. However, staying awake and alert every moment is not easy. Perhaps though, we can enhance our radar system to be more closely attuned to Jesus’ vibes, to His presence with us. If we truly desire to be attentive to Jesus’ presence throughout our day, we can train ourselves to do so just as first-time parents attune themselves to the presence of a new baby. Today, attune the ear of your heart to Jesus’ presence with you! Jesus will not disappoint you!