In the Gospel for the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches his disciples about forgiveness.  “Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times?’  Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’ ” (Matthew 18: 21-22).   Feeling pretty generous, Peter suggests forgiving others four more times than the current religious practice.  Jesus tells him to be as generous in forgiveness as God is generous.  Then Jesus tells the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.  His master forgave him a huge debt.  He refused to forgive his servant a smaller debt.  Jesus makes it pretty clear that forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian life.  Forgiveness of ourselves and others acknowledges our dependence on God, deepens our compassion for ourselves and others when we respond in an unloving way to life’s struggles, and empowers us to try to love again.  How generous are you with your forgiveness?  How has God helped you to forgive?

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In the Gospel for the Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time,  Jesus advises his disciples about making decisions.  “Amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18: 19-20).   After months considering all the pros and cons, consulting with mentors and friends, praying for wisdom, and checking my heart,  I decided to propose to my wife.  Ultimately I trusted in God present in our agreement of love.  When you made a major decision, how was God present to you in other people?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples there is great suffering ahead for him.  Peter tells Jesus he is talking nonsense.  Jesus replies.  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16: 24-25).  Self denial is submission to God’s will.  Following the example of Jesus means giving of oneself – one’s life – for others.  Doing what God wants often means forgoing what we want.  Sleeping parents wake up in the middle of the night to feed their infant child.  A senior citizen on a fixed income shopping at a discount store makes a donation to Red Cross hurricane relief.  How do you deny yourself – do God’s will – for others?

In the Gospel for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Peter confesses his faith in Jesus as the Christ.  Jesus commissions Peter.  “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”  (Matthew 16: 19).  Jesus promises Peter that God shall bind and loose what he binds and looses.  Jesus confers authority to him in making decisions for the disciples.  By virtue of Baptism, Christians share in this authority to make decisions.  Every day I am authorized by God to love myself and others as Jesus loves us.  I have to decide to do the loving thing.  Dismiss the reports of natural disasters as news coverage?  Or pray for those who are devastated?  Ignore an addicted family member?  Or show some care?  Retaliate when criticized?  Or respond with honesty and compassion?  Christ wants us to decide for the common good.  When have you bound and loosed for love of God?  When have you not?

 

 

In the Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus heals the possessed daughter of a Canaanite woman.  Since the woman is not a Jew, he is reluctant to heal her daughter.  ” ‘It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.’  [She persists.].  ‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’  Then Jesus said to her in reply,  ‘O woman, great is your faith!   Let it be done for you as you wish.’  And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour” (Matthew 15: 26-28).  The Canaanite woman believed without a doubt in God’s generous and merciful love for everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.  She knew God had enough love to go around for everyone.  She refused to accept that she and her daughter were unworthy of God’s love.  She inspires my confidence in God’s unconditional love for me.  She reminds me that God loves others I may consider unworthy.  How have you experienced God’s unconditional love?  How have you shared this love with others?

In the Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee.  “Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  ‘It is a ghost,’  they said, and they cried out in fear.   At once Jesus spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid’ ” (Matthew 14: 23b-27).  “Walking on the sea” can be a metaphor for life.  Like the disciples, we encounter storms in our lives.  We do our best to deal with life’s challenges.  Like Peter, we too loose our footing.  We may sink into depression from a chronic illness, despair over a lost job, loneliness from the death of a close friend, alienation from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or even frustration over a bad day.  As he reached out a helping hand to Peter, Jesus accompanies us through the storms of our lives.   How has God walked with you through a storm in your life?  How have you walked with others?

In the Gospel for the Feast of the Transfiguration, Jesus appears to his disciples with Moses and Elijah.  “Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him”.  (Matthew 17: 1-3).  Like Moses on Mt Sinai, the face of Jesus shone with the glory of God.  Jesus radiated the presence of God.  This light of Christ we receive at Baptism glows in us.   We radiate the love of Christ for others.   We shine with the glory of God when we greet a store clerk with a smile,  visit a neighbor recuperating from surgery, reassure an anxious friend, uphold the dignity of every person no matter their race, color, or gender.  How have you shone with the love of Christ for those in need?

 

 

In the Gospel for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the treasure.  “Jesus said to his disciples:  ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field’ ” (Matthew 13: 44).   Christian disciples treasure their relationship with God in Jesus.  They gladly give their all for God and the people in their lives.  Before my sons got their driver’s licenses, I often resented driving them everywhere.  My resentment waned when I realized the trips were opportunities to spend time with them.  I enjoyed many moments of grace shuttling them to and fro.   I am glad I shared my time with them.  When did you gladly and generously give of yourself for someone who needed your help?

 

 

In the Gospel for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus invites his disciples to follow him.   “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11: 28-30).  Jesus uses the oxen yoke as an image for his teaching.  As the yoke guides the oxen along the furrows, the teaching of Jesus guides disciples in love of God and neighbor.  The oxen pull the plow planting season to planting season.  Christian disciples follow Jesus season in and season out.   A disciples is a life long learner.  Each day demands greater love of God and neighbor.  What have you learned about selfless love by following the example of Jesus?

In the Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus describes radical discipleship.  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10: 37-39).   Jesus seems opposed to families.  Rather he urges his disciples to make God their first priority.  God comes first before family and even before oneself.  Jesus wants disciples to give their lives in love for God and others.  Whenever Christians love another before themselves, they lose their life for the sake of the reign of God.   Parents awakened in the middle of the night to feed a baby.  A man who provides all the care giving for his invalid wife.  A community organizer who risks her life protecting her village’s farmland from developers.  For God’s sake to whom do you need to give of yourself today?