Saturday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

There are a lot of pitfalls on the road through our spiritual lives.  We ourselves experience that all the time.  Making our confessions, we have a firm purpose of amendment, but it seems like the devil knows that, and so we barely make it to the parking lot and there’s a new temptation or frustration.  Those pitfalls in the spiritual life are many, and frequent, and exasperating at times.

Jesus said it would be so.  Listen to what he says in the Gospel reading again:

The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.

Did you catch that?  The Kingdom of heaven will be like that.  It will be planted with good seed, but the enemy will sow weeds.  That’s still the Kingdom of heaven.  So when we are frustrated by the pitfalls we encounter, we can at least take some relative comfort in that our Savior said it would be like that, and we’re still in the Kingdom of heaven.

But what we can’t do is accept that to the point that we decide we can participate in it and still be forgiven.  We can’t love our sins and expect God to save us.  That’s called presumption, and it too is a sin, and a pitfall in the spiritual life.  Presumption is what was going on in our first reading this morning. Jeremiah calls the people out on their practices of worshipping and then as soon as they leave, sinning gravely. He tells them they can’t murder, commit adultery, and worship false gods only to say, “We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again.” God is a God of justice; he sees that kind of nonsense and calls it what it is.

So here’s the take away.  Yes, there will be pitfalls in the spiritual life.  But when we run into them, it doesn’t mean we’re not still in the Kingdom of heaven.  What we have to do is call them what they are, repent, reform our lives, and call on God’s mercy.  But we can’t presume God’s mercy so that we give ourselves permission to sin.  We have to love God more than our sins; love eternity more than today’s passing pleasures.  We have to be like the Psalmist today who recognizes the pitfalls and cries out:

My soul yearns and pines 
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.

Friday of the Twenty-sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Pride and presumption are insidious sins.  They make any kind of grace impossible, for they even deny that grace is needed or wanted.  If we have no need of a Savior, then no relationship with God is even possible.  And not having a relationship with God is something that theologians like to call “hell.”  So the disciple doesn’t get to harbor pride and doesn’t get to presume that God will take care of her or him.  Instead the disciple must be very mindful of God, and must constantly nurture the relationship in such a way that they are caught up in the very life of God.

Job needed a little reminder.  Things were getting very bad for him, and he takes God to task on it.  But today’s first reading shows us God, in his loving mercy, giving Job the proverbial slap in the back of the head.  Does Job know the source of the sea, or has he comprehended the breadth of the earth?  Does he know where light and darkness come from?  No, of course not.  Job doesn’t have the big picture and we don’t either.  That’s something we have to remember when times are bad, as they are bad for many people right now.

And the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida needed to be taken down a peg or two as well.  They were totally unmindful of God, and they refused to repent.  Which is inconceivable given the mighty deeds Jesus had been doing among them.  Even a ton of bricks falling on them wouldn’t seem to get them to repent.  Jesus calls them to task on it, and calls us too when we are so presumptuous of God’s mercy and favor that we refuse to repent of the things that separate us from God.

The disciple is called to humbly place himself or herself in God’s mercy, acknowledging dependence on a Savior who has loved us into existence and sustains those who follow him.  The disciple shuns pride and presumption, and humbly prays with the Psalmist, “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.”