Saturday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

When we are deeply concerned about our own needs, our own prestige, our own honor, we often end up falling into a pit.  Because that kind of thinking is its own kind of blinder.  We can’t see past all that to notice the greatness of God, and to rejoice in what he is doing.

Pride has us looking in all the wrong directions.  What we need to look to is the host of the party.  Then we can rejoice and give honor and glory to God, who deserves all of our praise.  Then we can see and delight in the good things he is doing in our lives and in the life of our community and our world.

Humility frees us up to see God’s work in us.  It allows God to call us to a higher place, perhaps even a higher place than we would have, and certainly could have, on our own.  Humility is custody of the eyes: instead of looking where we should not look, we look instead to ourselves, into our own hearts.  And there we see three things.  First, we see our own sins, woundedness, brokenness, imperfections and failings and we humbly ask for God’s help.  Second, we see the child God created us to be, and the beauty of that child, and return to our first longing which is to be with God himself.  And finally, we see God at work, creating and re-creating us, calling us to himself.

What we see in humility is always greater than what we see in pride.  But we have to be willing to take off those blinders that pride puts on us, and be ready to take the lower place.

Friday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

It could have been jealousy.  Or maybe they just felt threatened.  Either way, the Pharisees had lost sight of the mission.

You could see how they would have been jealous: here they are working long and hard to take care of the many prescripts of their religion, attending with exacting detail to the commandments of God and the laws that governed their way of life.  But it is Jesus, this upstart, and not them, who is really moving the people and getting things done.  People were being healed – inside and out – and others were being moved to follow him on his way.  That had to make them green with envy.

And, yes, they probably felt threatened.  The way that he was preaching, the religion he was talking about – well, it was all new and seemed to fly in the face of what they had long believed and what they had worked so hard to preserve.

But how had they gotten here, how did they lose the way?  Because what Jesus advocated was really not a different message: it was all about how God loves his people and that we should love God and others with that same kind of love.  That message was there: buried deep in the laws and rules that they were so familiar with, but somehow, the laws and rules became more important than the love.

The Pharisees wanted to preserve their religion and the way of life they had lived for so long.  Jesus wanted to make manifest God’s love, forgiveness of sins, and true healing.  It’s not that the rules of religion are not important, but the underlying message and the greatness of God cannot be overshadowed by legalism.  That is the argument in today’s Gospel; that is the argument that ultimately brought Jesus to the cross.  He would rather die than live without us; he paid the price that we might be truly healed and might truly live.  As the Psalmist reminds us today: Praise the Lord!

Ss. Simon & Jude, apostles

Today’s readings

Today, we celebrate two apostles who, as often is the case, are relatively unknown except that they were followers of Jesus.  Jude is called Judas in Luke and in the Acts of the Apostles.  Matthew and Mark call him Thaddeus.  We have in the New Testament the letter of Jude, which scholars say is not written by the man whose feast we celebrate today.

Simon was a Zealot, a member of a radical party that disavowed all ties with the government, holding that Israel should be re-elevated to political greatness under the leadership of God alone.  They also held that any payment of taxes to the Romans was a blasphemy against God.

Neither of these men held any claim to greatness here on earth; they found their glory in following Christ.  Their joy was, as St. Paul instructs us in his letter to the Ephesians, in their citizenship which was of course in heaven, as it is for all of us.  We are merely passing through this place, and our task while we are hear, as was the task for Simon and Jude and all the apostles, to live for Christ and to live the Gospel.  The reward for them, then, as is for all of us, is in heaven, their and our true home.

Monday of the Thritieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The leader of the synagogue had it all wrong, and he of all people should have known what was right.  God always intended the Sabbath day to be a day of rest, yes, but also of healing.  We find great healing when we rest, and so the healing of a person who had been plagued for so long by a demon that she was bent over double from the weight of it, that healing had every right to take place on the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath Day of rest.  The Sabbath has come and gone for us this week, but as we head into the workweek this day, it would be wonderful if we could take a moment to plan for the coming Sabbath day of rest.  We too are offered healing if we would rest in the Lord

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Master, I want to see.”

As you might have guessed, today’s Gospel story isn’t about healing a blind man.  Yes, that’s what happened in the story, and it was significant, but that’s not the real essence of the story and it’s not why we have this story in the Scriptures today.  The story refers to physical blindness, but it implies a blindness that goes much deeper, a darkening of wisdom and understanding, from which Bartimaeus has been suffering for some time.  We know this because, in the story, he is encamped, all set up, with his cloak spread out underneath him.  This cloak would have caught the alms that people tossed to him as they passed by.

Somehow, he comes to know that someone important is passing by, and someone tells him that it is Jesus.  He begins to call out “Son of David, have pity on me!” which disturbs some of those in the crowd.  But he is persistent and Jesus hears him and calls him to come to him.  At that, Bartimaeus casts aside his cloak and runs to Jesus.  This detail is important.  The cloak in the story symbolizes his past life, everything he had become, and he casts it aside to come to Jesus.  When Jesus asks what he wants, he says, “Master, I want to see.”  To which Jesus replies, “Go, your faith has saved you.”

So Bartimaeus has come to know that his life has not had the meaning he would like.  He is unable to “see” with understanding, and he calls out to Jesus to save him.  Jesus does so, and remarks that it is Bartimaeus’s faith that has saved him; had Bartimaeus not had faith that Jesus could heal him, no healing would have happened.  Then Bartimaeus goes on to follow Jesus on the way.

The question before us today is this: what is our own blindness?  What is on our cloak keeping us rooted in our past life of sin?  Will we have the courage to cast all that aside and call out for the mercy of our beloved Savior?  Because it is only this act of faith that will ever bring us from the blindness of our past lives, our sins and brokenness, into the light of understanding and grace.

Just as he asked Bartimaeus, Jesus asks us today, “What do you want me to do for you?”  May our prayer be as full of faith as Bartimaeus’s was: “Master, I want to see.”

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Paul’s lament has got to be so familiar to all of us, I think.  Most of us really want to be better people, to live the right way, to give witness to Christ in our daily lives.  And much of the time, I think we accomplish that.  But there’s always that downfall in all of us, that pattern of sin, that set of circumstances or group of people who bring us back to the nastiness that is the evil in our own lives.  And try as we might to do good, there it is, close at hand, as St. Paul tells us in our first reading.  There seems to be no end in sight; no way for us to actually be good people.  But all we need is the desire, and, as he also tells us, thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  That is the mercy and grace that is extended to us in the Sacrament of Penance.  The more we desire it and approach it, the more help it will be to us.  We don’t have to be good all on our own, we can’t.  But, thanks be to God, we don’t have to.

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

All this talk of beatings aside, I think the scariest words in today’s Gospel come right at the end of the reading:  “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”  Think about how much we all have.  Even in a tough economy, we have much more than most people in the world.  That’s a wonderful blessing, but it does mean that so much will be demanded of us.  Demanded.  But then it can be demanded, because the blessings have been so freely given.  We may feel inadequate to the task, we may shrink before the demands.  But we have no reason to do so, because, as the Psalmist tells us, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”