The Sunday Gospel For Men
Catholic reflections on the Sunday Gospel. For men. Every Sunday, we’re called to the altar of Christ to receive the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. Prepare to encounter our Lord by reading and praying with the Word of God. Each week, we’ll send you the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection to help you prepare for Sunday Mass.
Wednesday Aug 16, 2023
Wednesday Aug 16, 2023
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
The Right Time
We often want God to take problems away immediately. He knows the right time, however, and waits for us to arrive at the right disposition of receptivity. When Jesus met this Gentile mother, initially he does not respond to her plea for help.
If we have faith in Jesus, why does he not just solve our problems right away? Why does he allow us to suffer? In this case, if Jesus is waging war against the demons, why does he not jump at the opportunity to cast a demon out of a poor child? It seems counterproductive to his mission to let people be possessed and tormented by evil spirits. The woman persists as she begs for mercy, saying, “Lord, help me.” In this, she provides an important example. God often makes us wait so that we can come to the right interior disposition. Rather than taking away our problems, he wants to fix things within us and waits for the right response of the heart.
The Gentile woman persists. After she brings her request, she was met with silence from God and resistance from the disciples. Throughout this difficult test, her faith was not shaken. This must be our model for prayer. When you ask the Lord for help, you must remain persistent in your pleading, and you must not waver in your faith. At times, you will not hear God’s response to your prayer. Men may dismiss you and attempt to dissuade you. God may even say that your favor should not be granted at this time or he may have something else in mind that is even better. But whenever you pray, you must follow the example of the woman in today’s Gospel and be persistent in your intercession and constant in your faith.
In your prayer today, recall any prayers that have gone without a response. Remain constant in your righteous petitions and firm in your faith.
Tuesday Aug 08, 2023
Tuesday Aug 08, 2023
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Jesus was seeking silence and solitude for prayer after he heard about John the Baptist’s death (see Matthew 13:13). He and his apostles crossed the Sea of Galilee to a deserted place, but the crowds raced around the sea, and they were waiting to hear him preach. Although he was seeking solitude, he was moved with pity and preached to them. When the crowds dispersed, Jesus sent his apostles ahead, and “he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”
When Jesus prays to the Father, he heeds his own advice. He does not make a spectacle on the streets or in the synagogues. He seeks out solitude, and his Father hears him in secret (see Matthew 6:6)
In The Power of Silence, Cardinal Robert Sarah explains the importance of silence in our lives today. He says:
If man seeks God and wants to find him, if he desires a life of the most intimate union with him, silence is the most direct path and the surest means of attaining it. Silence is of capital importance because it enables the Church to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, imitating his thirty silent years in Nazareth, his forty days and forty nights of fasting, and intimate dialogue with the Father in the solitude and silence of the desert. (pp. 219-20)
The power of silence is rooted in the imitation of Christ. Jesus taught us to pray silently and frequently demonstrated the importance of silent prayer.
In the same book, Cardinal Sarah warns that silence can become a kind of idolatry if we seek silence as a goal in itself: “We do not seek silence for its own sake, as though it were our goal. We seek silence because we seek God. And we will find it if we are silent in the very depths of our heart” (p. 193). We must not enjoy silence as a final end, but we must use it as a means of drawing closer to the Father in heaven.
In the modern world, we are constantly surrounded by noise. Our phones are always sounding notifications, and even when they are not notifying us of anything, we are continuously checking them. The drive to work is filled with noise from the radio or some podcast or audiobook to which we listen. Many men walk around with AirPods in their ears, oblivious to the world around them. It is so hard to find time to listen to God silently. Even the calls to silent prayer in the Mass are frequently omitted. Like a storm at sea, the noise of the modern world threatens to overtake us.
As Exodus men, we have committed to daily silent prayer. This is a time to turn off the interior and exterior distractions that threaten to eliminate the time we have set aside to listen to God.
Today, honor your commitment to silent prayer. Imitate Jesus and go to a deserted place to sit silently, drawing closer to your Father in heaven.
Wednesday Aug 02, 2023
Wednesday Aug 02, 2023
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up a mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
The Chosen Son
Jesus went up a mountain to pray, and he brought Peter, James, and John with him. These three men were among Jesus’s closest and most trustworthy friends. St. Hilary of Poitiers (d. 367) interprets this event allegorically, saying, “By the three disciples who were taken apart is shown the future election of the people who were to come from a threefold origin: Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Commentary on Matthew, 186) Thus, just as the world would be reborn through Noah’s offspring, the Church would be born through Jesus’s apostles. Ultimately, Peter, James, and John were given the tremendous gift of witnessing Jesus’s glory to strengthen their faith for their impending trials.
Jesus revealed his glory when his “face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” It must have been both dazzling and blinding to look at. Similarly, in Exodus, “the glory of the Lord was seen as a consuming fire on the top of [Mt. Sinai]” (Exodus 24:17). Both on Mt. Sinai and on Mt. Tabor, the glory of God is seen as a blinding light.
St. Luke asserts that the disciples overhear Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus about “his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” This account is slightly different from the other Gospel accounts since they do not include the details of what they spoke about (see Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8). St. Luke is going a step further than the other evangelists and directly connecting Moses and Jesus by identifying Christ as the prophet-like Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
The three persons of the blessed Trinity are revealed during the transfiguration. The Father speaks aloud, and the cloud of the Spirit overshadows them. Again, the cloud is reminiscent of Moses on Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 24:15-18). Here, Jesus both embodies the prophet-like Moses, and he far surpasses the Old Testament prophecy. For example, God tells Moses:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kindred and will put my words into the mouth of the prophet; the prophet shall tell them all that I command. Anyone who will not listen to my words which the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will hold accountable for it. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).
But Jesus is not merely the mouthpiece of God; he is the Word of God made man, and the Father commands us to “listen to him.”
When the Father revealed himself on the mountain, the disciples “fell silent.” In your prayer today, silently reflect on Jesus’s identity and on the goodness of the most holy Trinity in your life.
Wednesday Jul 26, 2023
Wednesday Jul 26, 2023
Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
The Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to three illustrations. Through the first two examples, he explains how precious the kingdom is. It is like a treasure buried in a field or like a pearl of great price that a merchant finds. Imagine what kind of rare objects you would drop everything and buy if you found them. Perhaps a signed rookie card of a great athlete, a remote lake house, or a Lamborghini Veneno in your favorite color. Or, perhaps more realistically, think of something so compelling you could not refuse to accept it: the perfect job, an amazing vacation, or seeing a beloved family member after a long time. Whatever it might be, imagine something of such great value that you jump at it without hesitation.
The kingdom is compared to things of great value and also ones that you would leave everything to possess. The man who finds a treasure in the field sells everything he owns to purchase the field. Likewise, the merchant sells all that he possesses to attain the pearl. These men do not wait to “get a good deal” upon finding the treasure. They find them, and they do whatever it takes to get them immediately.
If we want to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must follow the examples of the men in these stories. We will have to leave everything behind. We cannot be slaves to our phones, our finances, or our free time. Instead, we must abstain from unnecessary phone use, refrain from non-essential purchases, and offer up daily prayer time. If we truly want to be saints and to go to heaven, we boldly must live a generous life, giving every moment to the Lord. Once we understand the value of eternity with God in heaven, we will be compelled to give everything so that we can be united to God forever.
The third comparison in this Gospel reading explains the urgency of our decisions. The kingdom is like a dragnet that is thrown into the sea. This net would be pulled between two boats, or it would be thrown into the sea and pulled to shore by two ropes. This net indiscriminately gathers all the fish of the sea. The good fish are put into barrels, and the bad fish are cast back into the darkness. So it will be for us at the end of the age. We will all die; we will all be judged. The elect will experience the vision of God, and the damned will be cast into the fiery furnace. This is not a game we are playing. Our life has real rewards, and our actions have real repercussions.
Today offer some time in silent prayer. Meditate on the value and urgency of the kingdom of heaven using the three images Jesus used in today’s Gospel reading: a treasure in a field, a pearl of great price, and a net in the sea.
Wednesday Jul 19, 2023
Wednesday Jul 19, 2023
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “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. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The Great Harvest
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about the end of the age. When time comes to an end, the angels will come to separate the children of the kingdom from the children of the evil one. At the end of the age, the children of the evil one will be burnt in “the fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth,” but “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Commenting on this parable, Origen says, “The whole world, not only the Church of God, may be called a field. For as the Son of Man planted the good seed, the devil planted the weeds of evil words. Since these latter words have their origin in wickedness, they are sons of the evil one” (Matthew: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators, 273). This evil is represented in the parable as a poisonous weed called darnel. The only use for this weed is to burn it.
The harvest of the field may seem a distant and unrelatable event. But, as Matthew later recounts, “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:36-37). The harvest could come anytime—in ten minutes or in ten thousand years. Like the age of Noah, this harvest will be a cataclysmic age. Time itself will end. In the age of Noah, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). In response to this wickedness, God blotted out man and every beast. But this will not happen again (see Genesis 8:21-22). At the end of time, our hope will be completed, and the righteous will enter heaven.
In the second parable of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. The mustard seed is—proverbially speaking—the smallest seed. Given time, the seed grows into a great tree. And so it is with the kingdom of God; the Church started with the outpouring of the holy spirit on the apostles, and now every baptized Christian is a part of this Church. The third parable builds on the second. The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast mixed with three measures of flour. The three measures of flour represent the law, the prophets, and the Gospels. The yeast causes this large amount of flour to spread and grow. At the end of time, the kingdom will be like a tree or a large quantity of bread.
In your silent prayer today, meditate on the kingdom of God. Reflect on the areas of your life that the devil has sowed evil seeds. Reflect also on how the kingdom of God is growing in every age. Then, thank the Lord for his great love.
Thursday Jul 13, 2023
Thursday Jul 13, 2023
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
“Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Understanding the Word
There is a symmetry in today’s Gospel around the seeds that bear fruit and those that do not. Jesus describes three conditions in which the seeds will not bear any fruit—along the path, in rocky places, and in thorny places. He also describes three levels of fruitfulness in the rich soil: “A hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
The meaning of “along the path” may be obscured to us. Living in cities with modern roads, many men seldom see natural paths. As these natural paths are frequently traversed, they acquire a stone-like rigidity. When the seeds fall along the path, they fall onto packed dirt, and they cannot penetrate the earth. When the word of God reaches the soul of a man like this path, his heart has already been hardened—he is pre-resigned not to accept the word of God. Rather than experiencing joy, these souls will be eaten up by the birds. Those who do not allow the word of God to take root will be devoured.
The seeds that fall on the rocky ground take root. The soul who hears the word of God is filled with unearthly joy. But when tribulations come, the initial joy the soul experienced quickly dies. The soul burns in the hot sun.
The last condition of failure is the seeds that fall among thorns where “worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” The soul in this condition is verdant and fertile. When the word of God comes to this soul, it takes root and springs forth. However, not only the word of God but also vices take root. Like weeds, these unholy anxieties and perversions choke the word of God, and it bears no fruit.
These three fruitless souls well depict our understanding of hell. For their hard-heartedness, they are trampled and devoured. For their weak faith and failure to seek to understand God‘s word, they are burnt. For their vices, they are choked by a bed of thorns.
St. John Chrysostom gives a comforting explanation of the rich soil. He says, “Take note that even the person yielding thirtyfold is saved. The Lord said that to make the way of salvation easy. What that means is this: Are you incapable of practicing virginity? Then live a chaste married life. Are you incapable of giving up all your goods? Then give some of what you own. Are you incapable of carrying that burden? Divide your possessions with Christ” (Matthew: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators, 264).
In your prayer this Sunday, reflect on Jesus’ explanation of this parable. How will you respond to the word of God? Are you cultivating a life that leads you to understand his word? Ask the Lord to make your soul like the rich soil in the parable so that you can yield fruit a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Wednesday Jul 05, 2023
Wednesday Jul 05, 2023
At that time Jesus exclaimed: I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls a certain set of people to him—all those who labor and are burdened. Commenting on the phrase “labor and burdened,” St. Thomas Aquinas says that “labor” refers both to God’s law and commandments as well as our human fragility. Man’s labor is to follow the commandments of God in man’s weakened state. On the other hand, St. Thomas says that “burden” refers to the weight of sin.
As St. John Chrysostom says, “Nothing so weighs upon the soul, and presses it down, as consciousness of sin; nothing so much gives it wings, and raises it on high, as the attainment of righteousness and virtue.” When Jesus promises to give rest to the laboring and the burdened, he is inviting them to a life of virtue—a life of freedom.
To accept this freedom, we must take Christ’s yoke upon us and learn from him: “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” This is a rather confusing teaching. Jesus is freeing us from labor and our burden by promising us his yoke and his burden. Christ’s burden seems heavier than the commandments of the Old Law, for he says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old: ‘you shall not kill’ . . . But I say to you, that everyone who is angry with his brother, shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21–22). But his burden is light because it changes us at our core—our hearts. While it is difficult for a man filled with hatred to avoid murder, it is easy for a man filled with God’s freeing love to avoid anger.
Jesus gives two reasons why we will find rest when we take his yoke and his burden. He has the path to freedom because he is “meek and humble of heart.” St. Thomas says, “[T]he whole new law consists in two things: in meekness and humility. By meekness a man is ordered with respect to neighbor . . . By humility, one is ordered with respect to himself and with respect to God . . . Hence humility makes a man receptive of God.” When we imitate Christ’s meekness and humility, we have a right ordering toward ourselves, toward others, and toward God.
Do not fear Christ’s yoke; do not back away from the yoke that lightens all things. Rather, place yourself under it with all haste, and then you will know the pleasure of Christ’s light yoke. For it will not bruise your neck; it will lead you along the narrow way, teaching you how to walk seemly, ordering your every action toward the Lord.
In your prayer, today, ask the Lord to give you freedom by yoking you to a virtuous life; pray for the strength to bear this yoke. Then, learn from Christ how to live in virtue—being meek and humble in heart.
Wednesday Jun 28, 2023
Wednesday Jun 28, 2023
Jesus said to his apostles: “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. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
Love and Reception
In the first part of today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of three loves that should not supersede the love of God. They are the love of father and mother, the love of son or daughter, and the love of self. Our love must be ordered in and to God.
It is right to love one’s mother and father. Parents are God’s instruments of life and teaching. Likewise, it is right to love son or daughter. As a father, it is your responsibility to provide for your children's education; this education includes showing your children how to love and to recognize that they are loved. Lastly, it is natural to love oneself in order to care for the needs of body and soul. Love of self is often a vice because it is very easy to love yourself in a disordered way.
All these loves must be directed toward a love for God. Parents are the instruments of God who brought you life and education. If you are a parent, God has entrusted the care of his little ones to you. And you yourself are a child of God. In rightly loving yourself, you are honoring the God who created you.
What does loving yourself virtuously look like? It entails knowing your true good and doing what is necessary to pursue it: Taking up your cross and following Christ. As a Christian, you are called to love yourself by leading a life of prayer and asceticism. As Paul says, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
In the second part of today’s Gospel Jesus talks about the rewards for receiving certain persons. In receiving a disciple, you receive Christ; in receiving Christ, you receive the one who sent Christ, the Father. Likewise, when you receive a prophet—on account of his prophecy—you receive a prophet’s reward, and when you receive a righteous man—on account of his righteousness—you receive a righteous man’s reward.
Saint Jerome offer’s an interpretation of the reception of prophets:
In every profession (of faith), there are weeds mixed in with the wheat. [Jesus] had previously said: “He who receives you, receives me, and he who receives me, receives him who sent me.” He had challenged the disciples to receive teachers. A concealed reply of the believers could have been: Should we then receive even false prophets and Judas the traitor, and supply their cost of living? The Lord, attending to this matter earlier, says that it is not the persons who are to be received, but the offices; and those who receive them will not lose their reward, even if the one who is received is unworthy.
In your prayer today, love Christ first. Then, ask him to show you how this love will manifest itself in your relations to self, others, and God.
Wednesday Jun 21, 2023
Wednesday Jun 21, 2023
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
Fear No One
In Psalm 27, David asks, “Whom shall I fear?”—quem timebo (Psalm 27:1). And in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus answers this question: “Fear no one.” He then deepens his response, saying that we should fear the one who can destroy our soul, but it is wrong to fear those who only threaten to harm our bodies.
Putting the soul first and striving for indifference about bodily matters forms a very important part of the writing Principle and Foundation of the Jesuit Order, founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola. In this reflection, Ignatius writes:
[I]t is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest.
This is no easy task. Have you ever met anyone who was so indifferent to created things that he did not prefer a long life to a short life? Sickness to health? Riches to poverty? Honor to dishonor? The spirit of the worldliness tells us that we must always desire the most dignified place. It says that this desire is purely natural. This spirit tells us that having more money is better than having less money. Saint Ignatius does not say that we should desire to be impoverished but that we should not prefer wealth over poverty. We should accept the state of life that the all-knowing God desires for us.
We ought not to fear sickness. Saint Ignatius was very familiar with infirmity as he was bedridden for several weeks recovering from a cannonball that hit his right leg in the Battle of Pamplona. Today our world is greatly afraid of sickness. We run from it, hiding from worldwide pandemics and the common cold. We are terrified of “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
We should not be afraid. We should not fear sickness rather than health or a short life rather than a long one. Why should we not be afraid? We should not be afraid because of… sparrows. God so loves his creation that not one sparrow falls from the sky without the Father’s knowledge. A man, made in the image and likeness of God, known by the Father since the moment of conception, and baptized into the death and resurrection of the Son, is certainly worth many sparrows.
Our bodies will die, and our bodies will rise on the last day. This is a fact. We live in a passing world and are made for the next world. We must not fear the trials of this life. Our only fear should be the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. But even here, we know that Christ has conquered death and Hades. Because Christ has been victorious, we must fear no one.
In your prayer today, do not be afraid. Thank the Lord for his loving care. Thank him for your wealth or poverty, your sickness or health, your long or short life, and your honors or dishonors. “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Wednesday Jun 14, 2023
Wednesday Jun 14, 2023
At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.
The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon from Cana, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
Recognizing God’s Voice
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is moved by pity. When he sees the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he says that they are “like sheep without a shepherd”. Through his Apostles, he speaks to the sheep and leads them to life.
Have you ever seen sheep without a shepherd? The shepherd protects the sheep from other animals and points the sheep toward verdant pastures. The shepherd knows what is best for the sheep, and he helps the sheep act to their advantage. Without a shepherd, the sheep will wander aimlessly for days on end. They will move from one perceived good to the next perceived good with no mind for prudence. This is the image Jesus chooses to describe the state of the nation: wandering like sheep without a shepherd.
To solve the pastoral privation, “he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.” At this point, he instructs the twelve only to preach to the Jewish nation; he will send them to preach to all nations later (see Matthew 28:18-20). When they preach, they are instructed to “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, [and] drive out demons.” These actions accompany the Apostle’s message to the Jews.
A good shepherd calls his sheep and the sheep follow him—“he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4). As shepherds, the Apostles are calling out to the Jewish nation saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They lead the sheep to the green pastures of repentance and sorrow for sins. The sheep will know this is God’s message to them by the actions accompanying the message: the sick are made well, the dead are brought to life, and the evil spirits are driven away.
We are still sheep, but we have a shepherd. In every age, the Apostles and their successors (the bishops) proclaim the message of God to us: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Through the sacraments, the three marks of God’s voice are still heard. Through baptism, the dead are brought to life—we are baptized into Christ’s death and raised in Christ’s resurrection (see Romans 6:3-5). In the anointing of the sick, our infirmities are healed. St. Thomas Aquinas says that this sacrament is “directed against bodily sickness as a result of sin, [and] against other consequences of sin—namely, proneness to evil and difficulty in respect of good (Contra Gentiles 4.73). Demons are still cast out in exorcisms. As the Catechism says, “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to the Church” (CCC, 1673).
In your silent prayer today, reflect on how the successors of the apostles are shepherds. Where do you hear the voice of God, and how do you recognize it?
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