In the Gospel for Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They wait for the bridegroom into the night. The wise virgins have enough oil in their lamps. They join him in the wedding feast. The foolish do not. Arriving late, they knock at the door. Not recognizing them, the bridegroom sends them away. Jesus advises the listeners, “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25: 14). This parable used to scare me. I felt compelled to always do the right thing. The littlest mistake frightened me. Any day could be my last. This parable is not about vigilance, but readiness. Christ offers us a relationship of love. He wants us ready to love in return. Without this relationship our love for ourselves and others grows cold. Are you ready?
In the Reading for Thursday of the Twenty First Week in Ordinary Time, St. Paul greets the Church in Corinth. “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Corinthians 1: 4, 5a, 7). God gives them the gifts they need. This good news reassures me. I get discouraged following Jesus. It’s hard to love others as yourself. With the grace of Baptism, we have the gifts we need- forgiveness, patience, hope, and more – to love one another. Together we build up the Body of Christ. What are your spiritual gifts?
In the Reading for the Memorial of St. Augustine, St. Paul prays for the church in Thessalonika. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts” (2 Thessalonians 2: 14-17). I imagine St. Paul praying for me too. I get discouraged. He gives me hope. Christ’s love encourages me to love others even when its difficult. How does Christ encourage you?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of St. Monica, Jesus chastises the scribe and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Jesus satisfies my sense of justice. They say one thing and do another! They deserve the scorn for leading good people astray. Yet Jesus speaks to me too. His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees gives me pause to reflect on my own behavior. Jesus wants me to follow his example. So I strive put into practice his loving self sacrifice. Those who follow my example follow Jesus too. For example, I try to behave the way I expect my sons to behave. What kind of example do you give others?
In the Gospel for the Feast of St. Bartholomew, Nathanael asks his brother about Jesus. ” ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ Philip [says] to him, ‘Come and see’ ” (John 1: 46). Nathanael is skeptical that the messiah comes from an ordinary town. I can relate to him. I have missed God by looking in the wrong places. I expect to find God in the extraordinary. Usually I find God in the ordinary and familiar. Because of the Incarnation, I meet Jesus in my wife, my sons, my neighbors, and even people I do not like. Where do you find God?
God invites His people to conversion in the Reading for Thursday of the Twentieth in Ordinary Time. Through the prophet Ezekiel God promises, “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36: 26). This promise encourages me. God is with me as I strive to love the way Jesus loves. I miss opportunities to love my family, friends, co-workers, and others in need. I still find the strength to do better. God’s loving mercy energizes my faint heart and rejuvenates my drooping spirit. With God there is always another chance. God has raised up Jesus whose Spirit dwells in the hearts of the baptized. How can God increase your love, revive your spirit?
Jesus’ neighbors in Nazareth disregard him in the Gospel for Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time. “And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” Matthew 13:58). I have faith, a loving relationship with Jesus. When my relationship is strongest, I am very much aware of God active in my life. I encounter God in my family, my co-workers, the passersby, the sick, the poor and hungry, and everyone I meet each day. The better my relationship with God the better my relationships with others. How’s your relationship with God?
Jesus tells the Parable of the Net in the Gospel for Thursday of the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away” (Matthew 14: 47-48). I used to identify with the bad fish. I made myself anxious worrying about living up to Jesus’ expectations. This parable teaches a different lesson. Jesus cautions us to avoid judging others. Leave that to God. God wants us to care especially those we hate. Together we help each other into the fishing boat of God’s reign. How can you love your enemies?
In the Reading for the Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, the Prophet Jeremiah complains to God. He wishes he was never born. Naysayers scoff at him. His opponents try to kill him. God reassures him. “For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD” (Jeremiah 15:21). Some days I feel like the whole world is conspiring against me. Life circumstances heavily burden me. God’s reassuring presence gives me hope. From what can God rescue you?