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.
In today’s first reading from Isaiah 26, the prophet talks about how physical death is not the end for us. In fact, he talks about the resurrection of the dead. Check it out! In our Gospel reading from Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”
“Learn from me…” These two things, being meek and humble of heart, may be two of the hardest things for us to pick up. In today’s dog eat dog world, meekness is equated with weakness. No one wants to be seen as meek. Wimp! Sissy! And humble of heart? Oh, please! You’ve got to blow your own horn to get ahead. In today’s world, humility = failure.
Excuse me a moment…would you dare say any of these things about Jesus? Of course not! Those things are fine for Him, but come on. After all, times have changed. Jesus didn’t live in a time like ours. Or did He? Seems that the human condition has always been just that. The more things change, the more they stay the same. As Christians, are we not called to imitate Christ? To work each day to be more like Him? Last time I checked…
Father, help us today to be meek and humble of heart. Amen.
The Assyrians were a powerful people. They were definitely the bad boys on the block. More on them in a moment. In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 11, Jesus speaks of how the mysteries of the kingdom have been hidden from the wise and the learned, but revealed to the childlike.
Assyria had the most powerful army in the world. They were ruthless as they took whatever they wanted. They ran roughshod over the nation of Israel. The problem was they thought they had done it all on their own. They never considered there was someone more powerful than them. In today’s first reading from Isaiah 10, God exposes their flawed thinking. It was God who allowed them to conquer Israel. Assyria had become too big for their breeches.
It’s an easy enough trap to fall into, isn’t it? We have a bit of success and it goes right to our heads. We forget from where, or more rightly whom, our success comes. Once we decide that we alone are responsible for our success (our blessings), we become too big for our breeches. It’s always helpful to remember that it is God that gave us the breeches in the first place!
Father, forgive us for our hubris. May we humble ourselves before your mighty hand and give all glory to you alone. Amen.
An intriguing story in our first reading today from Isaiah 7. A couple of big-shots are planning to attack Jerusalem and overthrow Judah. And God says, “No way!” In the Gospel reading from Matthew 11, Jesus pronounces woes on some towns – Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum – because He performed mighty deeds there, but they did not repent.
Jesus has some pretty harsh words for these places that failed to repent. In fact, He says, things will go better for Sodom on the day of judgement. And Sodom was pretty much vaporized. Not good!
We’ve all heard the saying, “Those that fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it.” I believe this is exactly what Jesus was trying to communicate to the places where He pronounced woes. The people knew their history. They knew the bad stuff that happened when people failed to repent. Yet even with this knowledge, they would not get the message and repent. Seems true that history repeats itself – when people fail to learn lessons from the past. Have we learned our lesson?
Father, help us to learn from the past. Help us to remain close to you, and to repent when we have turned away, that we may not face destruction. Amen.
Social justice has become somewhat controversial these days. Unfortunately, many have a very skewed notion of what social justice is. Want to get a look at what God says? Read today’s first reading from Isaiah 1. As a courtesy, I’ll give you the long and short of it. “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.”
Our Gospel reading today from Matthew 10 contains some pretty controversial words from Jesus. “I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” And this: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
I don’t know about you, but I love my parents. (Even though my dad is deceased.) I love my wife passionately. And I love my children with every fiber of my being. But I also know that this love must pale in comparison to the love I have for Jesus. It’s a lot to ask, but Jesus insists that we (His disciples) put Him first in our lives. Interestingly enough, when we do that, our love for our folks and our spouse and our kids grows even greater.
Father, teach us to love Jesus more – more than anyone or anything. And let our love for your people grow as a result. Amen.