Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ordinary Time 18

As we journey through life as Jesus’ disciples, have you ever thought to yourself, “I have nothing else to give!” or “I am burned out”? If you do, then our readings this weekend will be an oasis, a place and time to stop, to pray, to focus and become centered again in God.

The prophet Isaiah initiates the process of healing by reminding us that we have a standing invitation by God, who desires to nourish the weary, the thirsty, and the poor. God will tend both physical and spiritual needs, and asks only that we listen so that we might have life and be renewed. Too often, our weariness and discouragement come from the tendency to think that we alone are responsible; we alone have the resources; that we are somehow irreplaceable or indispensable. In his wisdom, Isaiah assures us otherwise, and reminds us that everything we have to give has first been given to us by God – freely, generously and unconditionally.

Every time we come to Mass to celebrate the Eucharist we come to eat, we come to listen, and we are fed. With the bread of the word and the bread of life, our bodies and spirits are nourished and renewed. It is good that we share these good gifts with others. As we leave our beautiful church, we carry away with us the resources that we will need for the week ahead. What word will we carry with us to feed upon during the coming week? How can we best share this word so that others may also eat and be satisfied? How will the bread of life we have eaten change us and inspire our service to others?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ordinary Time 17

Buried treasure, pearls, and fishing nets are all images of God’s kingdom that Jesus uses in today’s parables. One theme that winds its way through the parables is the absolute commitment required by those who would be part of the kingdom of God. The treasure seeker and the pearl merchant both go and sell all that they have. In Matthew’s Gospel, following Jesus cannot be a halfhearted measure. Disciples must jump in with both feet and accept the teaching of Jesus with all their strength and all their will. These are the
people who will be collected by the angels at the end of time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ordinary Time 16

Jesus communicates the mysteries of God’s kingdom through parables. Unlike a riddle that makes us laugh, a parable is meant to make us think. It both reveals and conceals, offering us first a flash of insight and then leaving us wondering whether we have really understood the message. Often Jesus’ parables reveal as much about the hearers as they do about the kingdom. How we receive them brings to light whether we are willing to accept and grapple with mystery or whether we would just as soon abandon it because it lies beyond our understanding and control.

The parable of the weeds and the wheat is a cautionary tale, meant to encourage believers in the practice of virtue. St. Matthew does not avoid the possibility that people may not accept the message of Jesus. And there are consequences for those who do not. Jesus gives practical, concrete instructions on how to live as a citizen of the kingdom. The beatitudes are one part of that and the corporal works of mercy form another part of Jesus’ message.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ordinary Time 15

This weekend we hear the parable of the sower and the seed. Jesus teaches the disciples that when his parables are seen and heard with the eyes of faith, then they are understood and, in turn, bear good fruit and true blessings.

One need not be a botanist to know how to tend to plants. They need light, water and nourishment. Plant life flourishes under the right conditions. Our Lord continually scatters the seeds of faith and the nourishment for its growth. The sower never stops showering us with his graces, blessings and love. When the message of Jesus is accepted, it grows into a life of faith witness. The sacraments of the Church and prayer sustain its growth. The Holy Spirit provides the enlightenment needed for faith to flourish amidst the challenges of our sinfulness. The Lord’s part is perfect; it is our response that usually needs the attention. We need to tune in to what the Lord offers and respond in faith. Where is God’s word planted in us today?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ordinary Time 14

This weekend we return to the Sundays of ordinary time – notice the green vestment. We also get back to St. Matthew’s Gospel. Between now and Thanksgiving we will hear from St. Matthew’s Gospel. The words of Jesus in this week’s Gospel are a prayer and an invitation. Since it is Independence Day weekend, we reflect on how the invitation of Jesus, “Come to me you who labor and are burdened,” parallels the words on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.” As our ancestors came to this country to seek a new life, many of them came to be free of the burdens they experienced in their homelands. This new country provided new freedoms, especially a spiritual freedom. Freedom of religion in our country allows us to choose where and how we will worship God. Exercising this right makes our country and our faith stronger.

As we gather around the altar of the Lord we remember how our heavenly Father was revealed to us through Jesus who paid the ultimate price for us and our spiritual freedom. With no fireworks, only the work of our hands, with no picnics, only bread and wine, with no parades, only a Communion procession, we remember Jesus. We might not label him a hero, but his words and actions have truly set us free. As we gather to celebrate our nation’s birthday and our nation’s freedoms let us also remember how our Lord lifts our burdens and makes us free.