In the Gospel of the Memorial of Saint Ignatius Loyola, Jesus teaches in his hometown synagogue. His neighbors resent a native son giving them spiritual advice. “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary” (Matthew 13: 54b-55a). They could not recognize the presence of God in a man of such humble origin as theirs. In disrespecting Jesus for his humble origins, they disrespect themselves. Christians today have a similar problem. We can’t really believe that God dwells in us through Christ. We falsely claim ourselves unworthy to do God’s will. God has empowered us by the presence of the Holy Spirit to use all of our gifts and talents for the good of others. What wisdom and mighty deeds has God given you for love of others?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the fishing net. “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. Thus it will be at the end of the age” (Matthew 13: 47-49a). God’s love is like a dragnet that draws in everyone. Not everyone responds in love. Those who do rely on God’s judgment. They strive to love sinner and saint alike. They share God’s love with those who like them and with those who don’t. How far do you extend your net of God’s love?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Martha, Jesus dines at the home of his friends, Martha and Mary. “Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me” (Luke 10: 39). Sound familiar? Martha is in the kitchen doing all the work. Mary is in the living room visiting with Jesus. Martha complains to Jesus. He tells her Mary has chosen the best part. Martha gets no satisfaction. Or does she? Jesus reminds Martha, Mary and us to keep our focus on God. It doesn’t matter whether we are cooking, socializing, caring for children, checking on sick relatives, balancing the checkbook, praying, or doing any of our other daily activities. We do them for God and not for ourselves. God cares deeply about what we do, even the most mundane tasks. If we remember God’s care for us, we will act out of love of God and for love of others. How does God show his care for you? How do you show your care for others?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower. He compares the harvest to the day of judgment. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Matthew 13: 43). When the just die, they will shine in heaven. They also shine here and now. The just enjoy a right relationship with God in this life and the next. They are in loving friendship with God through Jesus. They demonstrate their friendship with God in word and action. A neighbor visits the ailing senior next door. Parents try to reduce their family’s carbon footprint. A customer shows concern for a fast food clerk who is sick on the job. How do you shine the light of God’s love on others?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus explains to the disciples the purpose of the parables. They are blessed to be eyewitnesses. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13: 16-17). As Jesus’ disciples today, we too are blessed to be eyewitness. With God’s grace, we can see Jesus in others. Mother Teresa said she saw Jesus in the face of the poor. In whom do you see the face of Jesus?
In the Gospel for Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus cautions the disciples about naivety. “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves” (Matthew 10: 16). Jesus advises his disciples then and now to distinguish between innocence and naivety. Jesus wants us to behave with sincere and loving intentions. He also cautions us about the risks and dangers of unconditional love. We need to know that not everyone is going to like us. We must strive to love even those who hate us. Saint John XXIII knew how to be as “shrewd as a serpent yet as simple as a dove”. He saw everything, overlooked a great deal, and corrected little. How does God help you love people that are hard for you to love?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus advises the disciples as he commissions them. “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave” (Matthew 10: 8b-11). Jesus exhorts them to rely on the hospitality of those to whom they are sent. Relying on the help of others is risky business. Putting ourselves in the someone else’s care requires great trust. God asks us to trust in his loving care for all we need. As we grow in trust of God, we grow in trust of others. How do you rely on God? On others?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus commissions the Twelve disciples. “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand’ ” (Mathew 10: 6-7). Jesus gives them authority to restore all God’s people, including the marginalized and alienated. Jesus commissions us by virtue of Baptism to do the same. We have a responsibility to love the single mother, a gay neighbor, the homeless drug addict, and others whom we tend to exclude by our actions and words. Whom does God want you to include?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures the hemorrhaging woman. Approaching Jesus from behind, she tugs on the tassels of his prayer shawl. “Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “ ‘Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.’ And from that hour the woman was cured” (Matthew 9: 21-22). As soon as Jesus spoke to the woman, she was cured. Jesus words have saving power. Christ the Lord continues to save us. Through him, we live everyday in God’s love. Every hour of every day, awake and asleep, we enjoy God’s loving care. God’s love sustains us with every breath we breathe. We live in God’s love and for God’s love. How did you enjoy God’s love today? How did you give it away?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus forgives a paralytic and cures him.. ” ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’– he then said to the paralytic, ‘Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.’ He rose and went home” (Matthew 9: 6-7). Jesus’ cure of the paralytic illustrates the healing power of forgiveness. I know from experience the sense of rejuvenation from sacramental and personal forgiveness. To forgive is to give-for yourself and others. Giving up resentment for someone else heals you and the one forgiven. No longer burdened by the resentment one is freer to love oneself and the forgiven. Jesus healed the paralytic by freeing him of the burdens of paralysis and resentment. How is God asking you to forgive others? Yourself?