In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 13, Jesus tells two very brief parables about what the Kingdom of heaven is like.
Though often times His messages were hidden, Jesus always used examples that His listeners would relate to. Today He talks about finding things that would make us rich beyond our wildest dreams. A treasure buried in a field, and a pearl of great price. Who wouldn’t like to have those things? The people in the parables were willing to give up everything they had to get their hands on that which would change their lives.
Of course, we know that the treasure and the pearl of great price are Christ Himself. He is the Way to heaven. So it begs the question: what are we willing to do for Him? Could we “sell all that we have?” I don’t think that Jesus is proposing that we have an enormous garage sale and move to an impoverished land. Or is He? If He were to ask that of us, could we comply? What if we had to give up an unhealthy relationship? Or a job that helps us make a comfortable living? What is heaven worth?
Father, help us to be willing to sell all that we have, so that we may attain the pearl of great price, the Kingdom of heaven. Amen.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne. Tradition tells us that these were the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the record, Joachim and Anne are not mentioned in the Scriptures.
As the parents of Mary, Joachim and Anne were Jesus’ grandparents. As a new grandfather (my first grandson, Beckett, is about to turn one), I can’t resist doing a brief reflection on these wonderful people today.
Most people would admit that family is one of the most important things in life. These days, families may not necessarily be close to each other geographically. In Jesus’ day, families tended to stay together, usually living in the same communities, if not the same house. Were Joachim and Anne close to Jesus? Again, we don’t have any written evidence. But let me say this – and I speak with great conviction: if they were alive, they spoiled and loved that little boy like nobody’s business. Here’s to grandparents!
Father, we thank you for the gift of grandparents and grandparenting. May your spread in our families from generation to generation. Amen.
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. James. This James is the son of Zebedee and the brother of St. John the Apostle. He is known as James the Greater. This isn’t because he was considered greater that the other Apostle James, but because he is mentioned first in the Gospels. Our first reading is from 2 Corinthians 4. I hope you’ll take the time to read it. It is beautiful. The Gospel reading is from Matthew 20, where the mother of James and John asks Jesus if her two sons can sit at His right and left when he comes into His kingdom.
St. Paul says “For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus.” One of the traits of a Christian is that we must be willing to die to ourselves. This is one of the things that early pagan historians marveled about concerning the first generation of Christians. They looked after the needs of one another. They had everything in common. They not only died, they died to self.
As with all the Apostles, St. James exhibited this trait. Tradition tells us that he died a martyr, probably around the year 42. He knew his calling, and was willing to give up his very life to fulfill that calling. We are called to die to self, and imitate the faith of St. James.
Father, forgive us for those times when we think only of ourselves. Teach us how to die to self, that we may truly live. Amen.
People can be a bit dense, slow on the uptake. I know – I tend to be one of those people. This is kind of a theme that runs through the readings today. God tried and tried to get through to his people. But in the first reading from Jeremiah 2, the Lord says, “Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.”
In the Gospel reading from Matthew 13, Jesus is asked why He speaks to the people in parables. He answers, “Because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” He then goes on to quote Isaiah – “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them.” Sound familiar?
I believe that God speaks to us constantly. So why do we fail to hear Him? I think there are two reasons. First, the enemy is awfully LOUD! The messages of the world bombard us from all sides. It can be hard even for God to break through all the crap. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it is because we don’t WANT to hear Him. We turn a deaf ear because we don’t like the message. To many, God’s agenda seems antiquated, out of touch with how things are today. And so we block Him out. This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s as old as Adam and Eve. The important to remember is that we have free will. We can choose to listen. We can choose to open our ears. Are you listening?
Father, forgive us for the times when we choose not to listen to you. Open our eyes and our ears as we allow you to speak to us. Amen.
Today in the first reading, we begin a journey through the book of the prophet Jeremiah. At the opening of the book, we read about the call of Jeremiah. Our Gospel reading is from Matthew 13, a chapter that is filled with the parables of Jesus. Today we read the parable of the sower.
When God calls Jeremiah, he instantly comes up with a couple of excuses as to why he cannot accept the assignment as prophet. “I know not how to speak; I am too young,” exclaims Jeremiah. But God sets him straight right away. “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.” Sorry, Jeremiah – you lose this argument.
Jeremiah, like Moses and many of the other prophets, simply didn’t feel qualified to take on task that God had set out for him. Sound familiar? “Sorry, God, I’ve got a job and a family. No time now!” “But Lord, I’m such a sinner. Who would ever listen to me?” When we say these things, we put limits on God – and on ourselves. God knows exactly what he is doing. If he is calling you, your job is to what he asks of you, not to put limits on his judgment and power.
Father, we thank you for calling us to be your servant. Help us to stop making excuses, and to more readily say yes to you when you call. Amen.
Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. There are different options for the first reading, so I’ll let you read them and mull them over yourself. You can choose from Song of Songs 3:1-4 or 2 Corinthians 5:14-17. (You may also get the reading for Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time.) The Gospel is from John 20. It is the story of Mary’s meeting with Jesus after the resurrection. She was the first person to actually see the risen Lord, though she didn’t recognize Him at first.
There has been much conjecture about Mary Magdalene down through the ages. Many say that she was the woman caught in adultery, the story where Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” We don’t really know that woman’s identity. In The DaVinci Code, she was supposedly married to Jesus and had a child with him. We can safely do away with that one. Was she a prostitute? An adulterer? A harlot? All we really know is that she was a sinner. She was also a woman filled with love for Christ.
Here’s where we can take a page from Mary’s story. She was a sinner. You are a sinner. (Sorry if that is news to you.) She was forgiven. You are forgiven. She showed her gratitude and love for Jesus by dedicating her life to Him. Have you?
Father, may we take a page from Mary Magdalene’s story by repenting, accepting your forgiveness and giving our lives to Christ Jesus. Amen.
If you took a survey and asked this question: What does God require of you? I’m sure you’d get plenty of answers. More on that in a moment. In our Gospel reading today from Matthew 12, some scribes and Pharisees come to Jesus asking Him for a sign. Jesus tells them that they will receive only the sign of Jonah the prophet. Only Jesus lets them know that there is something greater than Jonah, and something greater than Solomon in Him.
What does God require of us? Here are some answers that you may possibly hear to that question: Follow the commandments. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There would probably be a large contingent of people that would tell you that God requires nothing from you. You can do whatever you want whenever you want for any reason or no reason. God will love you all the same. While God certainly loves us no matter what, some things ARE required of us. In the first reading today, the prophet Micah explains.
“You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Notice that the prophet did not say what the Lord DESIRES of you. The word is REQUIRES. Do the right. Love goodness. Walk humbly with your God. Three things. Sounds pretty simple, no? Do a little self-examination today. How are you doing with those three requirements?
Father, we know that you expect great things from your children. Help us today to do what is right, love goodness, and walk humbly with you. Amen.
For the Gospel reading today, we’re back in Matthew 13 for some more parable action. Jesus gives and then explains the parable of the wheat and the weeds. (Note: when you hear the reading at Mass, the explanation may not be read.)
This is where a man sows good seed in his wheat field and an enemy comes during the night and sows weed seeds. The man tells his servants not to pull the weeds, but that they would be separated at the harvest. Jesus explains that the sower is the Son of Man, the good seed the children of the Kingdom, the weeds are the children of the Evil One and Satan the one who sows them. At the end of time, the weeds will be thrown into the fire. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.”
So, how does one know which is a weed? Jesus said, “all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.” This often makes me wonder whether I’m a wheat or whether I’m a weed. I suppose that at any given time on any given day, I could be one or the other. But I try each day to be more wheat than weed. And I believe that God honors the trying. So, even when I occasionally have some “weed moments,” I accept His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliaton, and He allows me to become wheat once again. Here’s to being wheat!
Father, forgive us for our “weed moments.” Thank you for taking us back, and allowing us to be wheat in the Kingdom. Amen.
In our first reading today from Micah 2, we see once again what God has planned for those who plan iniquity. The responsorial Psalm mirrors this. In our Gospel reading, we see Jesus telling those He heals not to make him known, so that the words of the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.
People do bad things. Some even do them with mailce aforethought. And I’m guessing that each of them are sure that they will get away with their dastardly deeds. And for a while, they may. But eventually, they must face the music. Even if “the music” is God at their final judgement.
It can be very tempting to try to get over on others for temporary gain. But, in the long run, the REALLY long run (read: eternity), it will never pay off. God will always have the last word. The prophets told the people this over and over again. And we know this. Right?
Father, we’re sorry for those times when we try to get over on others for our own gain. Help us to always seek what is best for others, as you do for us. Amen.
In the first reading today from Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah is on his death bed. He cries and prays, and the LORD answers his prayer and the prophet Isaiah informs the king that he will be given another fifteen years of life.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew 12, the Pharisees see Jesus’ disciples picking heads of grain on the sabbath. This was considered work, breaking the law. So the Pharisees gave Jesus a hard time about it. Jesus answers them, “If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men.”
The Pharisees were great at sacrifice. They did all the right things, followed the laws to the letter. That’s not a bad thing. Unfortunately, they tended to take it too far. They forgot to include mercy. Rules are a good thing, but we must always remember the person. If someone is hungry, you feed them. If you have to choose between mercy and sacrifice, always err on the side of mercy.
Father, thank you for being merciful to us. May we always choose mercy over sacrifice. Amen.