Monday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Sometimes God’s blessings can be challenging.  For example, we might not think that those who are meek and those who mourn are blessed.  And we certainly wouldn’t celebrate the blessings of those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, would we?  It’s even more challenging when we remember that the word “blessed” in Scripture could also be translated as “happy.”  Would we think of those people as happy?  Probably not, but God does.

Paul and Timothy in our first reading write to the people of the Church at Corinth that, when they are afflicted – as they surely were! – it was for the Church’s encouragement and salvation.  Paul knew well that following Christ meant going to the Cross.  He realized that, for him, it probably meant death, but for all of us, it means some kind of mortification, some kind of sacrifice.

So it’s important for us to remember, I think, that while God never promises to make our lives free and easy, he does promise to bless us.  He will bless us with whatever gifts we need to do the work he has called us to do, the work for which he formed us in our mother’s womb.  We may be reasonably happy in this life, but the true happiness must come later.  Our reward, which Jesus promises will be great, will surely be in heaven.

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter (School Mass)

Today’s readings

Jesus’ words to Peter in this Gospel reading are a mixture of comfort, challenge, and warning.  We have to think back to what happened between Peter and Jesus just before Easter.  Peter had just messed up in the worst way possible by denying his friend not once but three times.  People asked if he knew the Lord, but he denied him every time.  Then came Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.  Peter and Jesus hadn’t yet had a chance to talk about what happened.  So today’s Gospel is the first chance they’ve had for a heart to heart since the resurrection.

Jesus asks him: “Peter, do you love me?”  And Peter says “of course.”  Then he asks him again, and a third time even.  He asks Peter three times not because he didn’t hear him, and not even because he didn’t know what Peter would say.  He asks him three times because Peter denied him three times.  So Jesus comforts Peter in this way, because with each asking, Jesus is healing Peter from the inside out.

After Jesus heals Peter, he challenges him:  “Feed my sheep.” When we are forgiven or graced in any way, we, like Peter, are then challenged to do something about it.  Feed my sheep, follow me, give me your life, come to know my grace in a deeper way.  These are the ways Jesus calls us when we have been redeemed.

Finally, Jesus has for Peter words of warning: “when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  This foretold that Peter would give his life as a martyr for the faith.  He denied his Lord three times, but he would never do it again!  Martyrdom was certainly a scary idea, but when we give ourselves over to God, that necessarily means that we might have to go in a direction we might not otherwise choose.

At the end of the reading, Jesus brings Peter back to comfort and healing once again by saying “Follow me.”  Yes, Peter had messed up, but Jesus knew that he was better than that.  We mess up too, don’t we?  But Jesus doesn’t write us off, either.  No matter what we disciples have done in our past, no matter how many times we have messed up or in what ways, there is always forgiveness if we give ourselves over to our Savior and our friend.

So Jesus asks us all today: “Do you love me?”

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Today’s readings

Jesus’ words to Peter in this Gospel reading are a mixture of comfort, challenge, and warning. Peter had just messed up in the worst way possible by denying his friend not once but three times. But then comes the question not once but three times: “Peter, do you love me?” This is comfort because with each asking, Jesus is healing Peter from the inside out.

Then words of challenge: “Feed my sheep.” When we are forgiven or graced in any way, we, like Peter, are then challenged to do something about it. Feed my sheep, follow me, give me your life, come to know my grace in a deeper way.

And then words of warning: “when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” When we give ourselves over to God, that necessarily means that we might have to go in a direction we might not otherwise choose.

But then Jesus brings Peter back to comfort and healing once again by saying “Follow me.” No matter what we disciples have done in our past, no matter how many times we have messed up or in what ways, there is always forgiveness if we give ourselves over to our Savior and our friend.

Friday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“We have never seen anything like this.”

That statement can be taken in a number of ways.  It could be an expression of amazement: the people were seeing something new in Jesus and found it to be astonishingly wonderful.  That’s almost too much to hope for from them, unfortunately, so what they probably meant was something much different.  They probably meant, we have never seen anything like this, and since it’s not what we are used to, we distrust it and refuse to go there.

What’s sad about that is that we react that way too sometimes, don’t we.  The old joke is that the last seven words of the Church will be, “we’ve never done it that way before.”  If someone challenges us in new ways, we have a tendency to automatically assume it’s wrong.  People tend often to distrust anything that puts them outside their comfort zones.

And Jesus was doing that all the time.  The scribes, Pharisees, and religious leaders all distrusted him because he hit them right where they lived.  He challenged them to new ways of thinking and praying and fasting and giving and even loving.  He showed them a Messiah that was much different than anything they ever expected.  And so they dismissed him: “We have never seen anything like this.”

But it cannot be so for us.  Jesus still challenges us today, beaconing us out of our comfort zones, challenging us to live for God and for others, and to reach out and live the Gospel with wild abandon.  Will we dismiss him and his message too?  Or will we say with eager expectation: “We have never seen anything like this!” – with eyes wide open to see where he will lead us next?

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Today’s readings

Jesus tells us today a parable about himself – he is the son whose inheritance the tenants wanted to steal. And that’s how the leaders of Judaism saw it in those days. If Jesus were out of the way, they’d still be able to “corner the market” on religious leadership, unchallenged by his Gospel. They’d have all the blessings of religious leadership all to themselves. Because no one likes a challenging messenger, the religious leaders no more than the parable tenants no more than Joseph’s brothers. But for those of us who stop to hear what they have to say, the blessing is more than we can imagine. Yes, they challenge us, but we never grow if we are not challenged. So the question is, who is the challenging messenger in our own lives, what is their message, and are we ready to hear it?