The toe bone connected to the foot bone. The foot bone connected to the ankle bone. Ever heard of dem bry bones? (It’s an old spiritual tune.) That song was written about today’s first reading! More in a moment. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is asked which commandment in the law is the greatest. Be sure to read His answer.
In today’s first reading from Ezekiel 37, we see the story of the dry bones. The Spirit of the Lord leads Ezekiel to a plain that is filled with bones. Dry bones that have no life in them. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones that God would bring life into them. So Ezekiel does. And God does just what He said He would do. The bones begin connecting, along with sinew and flesh. But still there is no life in them…until God puts His Spirit into them. God said that He would do the same for His people.
Have you ever felt like those dry bones? Brittle, dead, cut off? Allow God’s Spirit to come in and re-animate you. God will breathe life back into you, even when you are like those dry bones.
I’m throwing in an added bonus for today’s reflection. If you’ve never heard the song, click here and you’ll see a neat version by The King’s Heralds.
Father, we ask you to bring us back to life, like you did with the dry bones. Amen.
In today’s first reading from Ezekiel 36, God tells the people that He is going to take some corrective measures. We also hear the renewal of the covenant…”You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” The Gospel reading from Matthew 22 is the parable of a king throwing a wedding feast. He sees that there is a man who is not properly dressed for the feast. So he was tosssed out. Jesus ends the story by saying, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God tells the people that he is going to clean them up. He says He is going to cleanse them from all their impurities and put His spirit within them. “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.” That image of a stony heart is very stark for me.
I find myself way too often feeling as though I have a heart of stone. I often have little empathy or sympathy for those who don’t think like I do, act like I want them to or believe like I think they should believe. I have little use for those who hurt me or disagree with me. Obviously this was a problem with the people of Ezekiel’s time. Still is today, I guess. Only God can break that stony heart and replace it with a natural heart; a heart filled with love and peace.
Father, I ask you today to take away my heart of stone. Replace it with a heart of flesh, filled with your love and grace. Amen.
Today’s first reading is one that should be required daily reading for priests and bishops. Through Ezekiel, God talks about some not-so-good shepherds. He is not pleased; and when He is not pleased, things don’t end well for those with whom He is not pleased. Pray for our bishops and priests, that they may be good shepherds! The Gospel today from Matthew 20 is the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
Jesus tells the story of a landowner who needs workers for his vineyard. So he hires some people on at the beginning of the day, some in the middle of the day, and some near the very end of the day. And at the end of the day, he pays them all the same. The nerve! So the people who busted their humps all day complain; after all, those others only worked a few hours. Seems rather unjust, doesn’t it.
From a worldly standpoint, I empathize with the complainers. I think they had a case to be upset. But this isn’t about the world. This is one of those “The Kingdom of heaven is like..” stories. The moral of the story is that it is never too late to come into the Kingdom. God is always “hiring!” The key is to make sure that you don’t wait too long. Who knows? Today could be late in the day for us.
Father, thank you for always calling us into the Kingdom. May we not procrastinate another moment, and accept your invitation today. Amen.
It seems the prince of Tyre thought an awful lot of himself – fancied himself a god. This didn’t sit well with the one true God. See what message God has for this guy in today’s first reading from Ezekiel 28.
In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 19, we pick up the story of the encounter with the rich young man right after the rich young man has gone away sad. Jesus follows up with His famous saying about a camel going through the eye of a needle. The disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replies, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
Have you ever had an impossible situation turn around? I think we all have. Did you recognize that it was God that brought that about? God is a God of miracles, and I believe the impossible happens every day. Take a look around today. I think you’ll see so many things that make you wonder, how is that possible? For you it ain’t. But for God…well, Jesus said it nicely.
Father, teach us to trust in you in all things, even what we may see as impossible. Show us your grace, and lead us to the greatest possibility of all – heaven. Amen.
We have a very sad first reading today from Ezekiel 24. The LORD tells Ezekiel that he is going to take away the delight of your eyes, and that Ezekiel should not do the customary mourning, but be ready to press on. He would be a sign for the people. See what happens.
The Gospel reading is one that I hope is familiar from Matthew 19. Jesus encounters a rich young man, who asks what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus answers, “Keep the commandments.” The rich young man’s final retort is telling. “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus’ answer is a lesson in “Be careful what you ask.”
What do I still lack? The rich young man could have let Jesus’ first answer stand. But he wanted to make sure that he was doing all he could. So he took it the final step. It is a dangerous question – yet one we must ask every day. Lord, what do I still lack? Like the rich young man, our answer may be difficult to accept. But if we wish to press on in the spiritual life, we must hear and obey.
Father, what do I still lack? Help me to listen to your answer and follow your will however difficult it may be. Amen.
Though I typically like to do an overview of the Scriptures, today I want to concentrate on one sentence in our second reading. This passage from Romans 11 has always had a great deal of meaning to me. St. Paul writes, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”
I love that word “irrevocable.” Unable to be revoked. No give-backs. No mulligans. The gifts that God has given you and the call that He has put upon your life, He will never take back. It’s like this…God has called you, and He will never un-call you. So there it is. What are you gonna do about it?
Our call is always there, always valid. That doesn’t mean that we have to answer it. I have caller ID at my home. If someone calls that I don’t want to talk with, I don’t answer the call. We have the same kind of relationship with God. And He with us. He is constantly calling. Are you going to send Him to your voice mail today?
Father, thank you for calling us to yourself always. Give us the grace to respond to your call today. Amen.
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Jesus had a heart for children. Take a look at today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 19. He says, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” This is just one of the reasons why Catholics have always baptized their children.
In today’s first reading from Ezekiel 18, we see how our actions will be rewarded. Virtuous deeds will result in life. Wicked deeds will result in death. God makes it clear that he does not exult or rejoice when people do wicked things and die as a result. We have a free will, and God wants us to use it for good!
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God. Return and live!” So many people think that God wants to squash them like a bug. But He doesn’t! He wants nothing more than for us to turn our hearts to Him, that we may spend eternity with Him. If you’re holding back anything from God today, give it up! Return and live!
Father, you always call out to us when we go astray. Help us to hear your voice; to return to you, that we might live! Amen.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Don’t forget, it is a Holy Day of Obligation. This is one of those days that is greatly misunderstood by many. So let’s talk about it, and hopefully clear up some misconceptions that some people may have.
First of all, Catholics believe that Mary was assumed, body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. We do not believe that Mary ascended into heaven on her own power. This in no way makes Mary a goddess or attributes to her divinity. Here is what the Catechism says…”The Immaculate Virgin…was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory…so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.”
What about the Scriptures? In the first reading today from Revelation 11-12, we see John telling of a vision of a woman giving birth to the savior. Then we read, “The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.” So, though the Scriptures don’t mention the Assumption explicitly, this could well be an implicit reference from John’s vision. In any case, it only stands to reason that Mary, the first Christian, would be the first to participate in the resurrection of the body that we all, by the grace of God, will one day participate in also.
We end today’s reflection with the prayer over the gifts that you will hear at today’s Mass. “Lord, you raised the Virgin Mary to the glory of heaven. By her prayers, help us to seek you and to live in your love. Amen.
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Today in Ezekiel, the prophet is told to do some things in full view of the people as an example. He acts as one going into exile, showing the people what was about to happen to them. In the Gospel from Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how often he has to forgive a brother who sins against him. As many as seven times??
Jesus responds, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” You may have also heard this as “seventy times seven times.” In any case, Jesus is saying that there should be no end to our forgiveness. Jesus then goes on to tell a story of a man who was forgiven a great debt by the king, but then would not forgive a man who owed him a very small amount. The king did not take this well, and handed the man over to the torturers. Jesus then says, “So will my heavenly Fther do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” Ouch!
We always have to remember that forgiveness is not an emotion. Like love, it is an act of the will. We may not FEEL like extending forgiveness to someone. And the more egregious the sin, the less we FEEL like forgiving. But forgiveness is not about how we feel. In fact, the act of forgiving is often in direct conflict with how we feel. We can’t really choose how we feel. But we can choose how we act. So no matter how difficult it may be, let us choose to forgive.
Father, you always forgive us, no matter how little we deserve it. Help us this day to choose forgiveness, no matter how badly we’ve been hurt. Amen.
In today’s first reading from Ezekiel 9 an d 10, we see a scene reminiscent of the Passover. God has the faithful marked with a sign. Only they will be spared death.
In our Gospel reading today from Matthew 18, Jesus gives the Twelve the ability to bind and loose. Ancient rabbinic literature tells us that this notion of binding and loosing was the ability to teach authoritatively. Jesus says this same thing to Peter in Matthew 16. This is where we get the notion of the Magisterium of the Church – the Pope acting in concert with the Bishops. Each has the authority to bind and loose, and together they exercise this authority in the universal Church.
Jesus also talks today about praying. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus is made present to us in many ways. And communal prayer is powerful. This is one of the reasons why we, as Catholics, are obligated to go to Mass on Sundays. Can we pray on our own? Certainly. But praying together as a community brings Jesus to us in a special way. So, grab someone’s hand and offer up a prayer today, and know that Jesus is with you!
Father, we thank you for the presence of Jesus whenever we gather together to pray. Help us to remain faithful to communal prayer. Amen.