In the Gospel for Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus explains the demands of following him. “But Jesus answered him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead’ ” (Matthew 8: 12). Jesus’ response seems harsh. Surely he has compassion for the grieving. Jesus is rather referring to an exemption in Jewish law. The family members of the deceased were exempt from certain religious duties during funerals. Following him is the number one priority. For Christian disciples, the most important requirements are a loving relationship with God and others like Jesus and a life lived according to the demands of that relationship. These are pre-requisites for all religious duties. How can Jesus help you follow him?
In the Second Reading for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, John reflects on God’s love. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 John 4: 11). God loves us in Jesus. Jesus loves us in the Christian community, the Church. We respond in love of God and one another. God takes the initiative. Gods’ love begets our love. A child shares the love of a parent. Spouses share their love with others. Friends reach other to others in love. God’s love is like this. How do you share God’s love for you with others?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the house built on rock. “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). Jesus compares his disciples to the wise man who builds his house on a strong foundation able to withstand the elements. Disciples who live out Jesus’ teachings strengthen their relationship with God enabling them to love even in the most difficult of circumstances. Loving my spouse in good times and bad enables me to forgive. Loving my children no matter what enables me to be patient. How does your relationship with God strengthen your love for others?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus warns against false prophets. “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7: 15-17). Christ wants his disciples to bear good fruit. Disciples bear good fruit in living their faith everyday. Living faith is loving God and others in all things. A living tree bears fruit that nourishes and refreshes. A living faith bears love that gives life to others. A loving smile affirms a stranger. A kind email comforts a sick friend. Thoughtful preparations for an evening meal nourishes the family. These and more are fruits of Christian love. In what ways do you bear the fruits of God’s love?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches whole hearted love for God. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:19-21). Jesus wants us to do loving acts of kindness that make a difference now and also hold everlasting value. He does not want us to do good deeds in this life as deposits in a heavenly bank account from which to withdraw after death. I know the love my mother gave me during her life continues to inspire my love for others. My love for my sons inspires them to love others now and hopefully after my death. How do you love God and others with your whole heart?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches love of enemies. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5: 44-45). Loving enemies seems counterintuitive. Why love someone who hurts you? Loving enemies is morally wise. Loving an enemy can sanctify both parties. St. Therese Lisieux lavished loving concern on a Carmelite Sister in her convent who aggravated her. Therese gave of herself in loving service to her Sister. Her Sister grew in kindness towards Therese. We all have people in our lives with whom we have difficulty. Jesus wants us to love them. How can God help you love your enemies?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples to have an open heart. “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow” (Matthew 5: 42). Disciples of Jesus treat others with kindness, patience, and generosity. With our self-survival instinct, we often think of ourselves first. Jesus wants us to think of others too. Jesus even asks us to place others’ needs before our own. God wants us to be kind to an unfriendly neighbor, patient with a demanding child, and generous with our time and our possessions, especially to those in need. When have you attended to the needs of others before your own?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5: 9). Peacemaking is the responsibility of every Christian disciple. Merciful love is at the heart of Christian peacemaking. Peacemaking is loving others, especially those in physical, economic, emotional or other kinds of distress. Inspired by the Holy Spirit whose fruit is peace, Christians make peace. How do you make peace?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter, Jesus entrusts Peter to care for his followers. ” ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Simon Peter answered him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ ” (John 21: 15). Jesus still entrusts his disciples to care for one another. Jesus wants us to share with one another God’s loving care he shares with us. How do you love those entrusted to your care?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Boniface, Jesus prays for unity among his disciples. “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17: 20-21). Jesus is united with God in a loving relationship. Jesus unites his disciples in a loving community with God. In Christ, all his disciples are one. Historical circumstances have created a variety of denominations within the Christian churches. Inspired by Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church is working toward Christian unity. How do you promote unity in the Christian family?