In the Reading for the Memorial of Saint Iranaeus, God asserts the divine authority. Skeptical of God’s promise of a son in his old age, Abraham questions God. God plans to keep the promise and expects Abraham to cooperate. “I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless” (Genesis 17: 1). I can relate to Abraham. I have countless excuses for avoiding God’s plan for me. I am not prepared. I am too tired. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t have any time. And more. I want to be in charge of my life. I try to be God. But God is God and I am not! I am still learning how to tell the difference. I grow everyday in my trust in God. In what ways do you rely on the power of God?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the houses built on rock and sand. He urges the listeners to be like the wise man. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock” (Matthew 7: 24-25). Listening to Jesus and doing God’s will requires a solid foundation. The Christian life of one’s house only rests solidly on the rock of a loving relationship with God in Christ. The experience of God’s love empowers us to love ourselves and others as God loves. How strong is the foundation of your life in Christ?
God reassures a discouraged prophet in the First Reading for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. “I thought I had toiled in vain … I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength!” (Isaiah 49: 4a, 5b). When my work and loving relationships go awry, I get discouraged too. I question the value of my job, the quality of my parenting, and strength of my other relationships in which I have invested so much of myself. I wonder if my efforts make a difference. In prayer, God reassures me that I am a good and faithful servant. How is God your strength?
Christ prays the Our Father in the Gospel for Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. He teaches his disciples to pray “… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:14). Fear deters me from doing the loving thing. What if I am rejected? I waste my time? I put myself at risk? I lose my reputation? I get hurt? Jesus wants me free from fear. He wants me free to love without cost. Jesus asks me to put my trust in God who delivers me from harm. From what harm do you pray for delivery?
Jesus teaches about prayer in the Gospel for Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6: 6). Jesus wants his disciples to pray like him. While he prayed publicly in the synagogue, he also spent time in private prayer. He nourished his spiritual life on these sincere encounters with God. I have experienced prayer like this. In times of trouble, I have admitted to God my inability to cope. I then asked God for help. God responded with a quiet and reassuring presence. These honest conversations with God are moments of grace for me. How have you met God in prayer?
Jesus continues the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel for Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil” (Matthew 5: 38-39). Jesus discourages violent retaliation for violence. Hurting someone for hurting you creates a spiral of violence. Jesus encourages the nonviolent resistance of love for enemies. Responding in love to someone who has hurt you witnesses to God’s unconditional love. Jesus forgave his persecutors. How do you respond to those who hurt you?
St. Paul reflects on his own weakness and God’s power in the Reading for Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time. “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Paul even in his weakness and frailty witnesses to the saving power of God. His suffering deepens his relationship with Christ whose power works through him. By baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we possess the power of God. Like Paul, we too are witnesses to God’s power in our human frailty. The widow who comforts the grieving witnesses God’s compassion. The cancer patient who prays for recovery witnesses God’s mercy. The laid off worker who advocates for his rights witnesses God’s justice. Which of God’s treasures do you share?
St. Paul defends his preaching ministry in the Reading for the Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua. “For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:5). Paul claims to preach a more authentic message. Other preachers give themselves more prominence than Christ. Paul professes good motives. He preaches for Christ, not for himself. I wonder about my motives for following Christ. Do I do good deeds for my own notoriety? self-satisfaction? personal benefit? Do I do them out of genuine love for God and others? What’s your motive?
In the Reading for Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, Paul writes about his qualification for ministry. “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant …” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5). Paul was certainly qualified for his ministry. So are you and I. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we possess all the qualifications we need to be Christ for others. Our baptism authorizes us to minister in the name of Jesus. We are Christ for others in our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our churches. How are you Christ for others?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world. ” … your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16). By baptism, his disciples today are the light of the world. We are commissioned by Christ to be who we are. Jesus doesn’t hope we are. He doesn’t encourage us to be. We are the light of the world! Our love for others gives witness to God’s love for us. How are you the light of the world?