In the first reading at Mass today we hear about the calling of the Prophet Jeremiah. Speaking to Jeremiah, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5). God had a special plan for Jeremiah that existed since the beginning of time. God has had a special plan for each of us since the beginning, too. Providence is another name for this plan. At times we may not be sure of how God wants us to think or act in a particular situation, but we should never think that God doesn’t have a plan for us. Even in difficult moments God’s plan is for our happiness. My prayer today is that we may trust Divine Providence and that God’s plan may be more clearly revealed to each of us.
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St Mary Magdalene. St Mary teaches us that our future need not be bound to the sins of our past and that great love empowers us to accompany others in their suffering. This is why we shouldn’t look down on someone because of their past. God’s grace is a springboard that launches us past our faults so that we can love as God loves–unconditionally. St Mary Magdalene, pray for us!
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but not sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet” (Matthew 12:39). We should receive this saying as a rebuke to the way of thinking which says, “unless _____ happens, I will not believe,” or “if _____ happens, then I will commit myself to following the Lord.” Simply put, all Jesus asks of us is our love and our faith. True love doesn’t have preconditions. Faith is an ascent of the will; a choice to believe God’s revealed word as true. If we try to place preconditions or demands for signs in the way of our following of Jesus, then we will never have faith. Faith is not a quid pro quo with God, nor is it something bartered. Faith is a choice which is rooted in love. May we leave our preconditions and demands behind and approach Jesus with empty hands!
In the Responsorial Psalm this morning we sing: “Do not forget the poor, O Lord!” God has special love for the poor. We, ourselves, should manifest our love for the poor by what we say and what we do. Caring for and loving the poor is not optional. Our Lord says as much in Matthew 25:31-46 as does the Letter to the Hebrews 13:1-3. We have to be careful of making the mistake to think that the poor are only those with limited financial resources. Included in the poor is any person who is in a state of suffering. The poor and marginalized are often looked over because it is not usually convenient to be with someone in their suffering. We need to leave our comfort in order to show mercy and be in solidarity with our poor brothers and sisters. Lord, make us friends of the poor!
In the Gospel at daily Mass today we hear Jesus talk about the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8). I have two thoughts on the Sunday Rest which are only tangentially related to today’s Gospel. First, we need to stop working so that we can have the time to worship God at Mass. Second, after we’ve worshipped at Mass our recreation itself becomes a form of worship that further connects us to God. Think about it, God tells us to chill out at least once a week. Following God’s will gives him glory and honor. Thus our Sabbath recreation and refreshment is a form of worship. I am reminded of what my friend, Father Higman, says from time-to-time: “there is nothing wrong with a Sunday afternoon nap!”
In today’s Gospel we hear Our Lord’s comforting words to the wearisome: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Life can make us busy and anxious about many things. That’s why it is helpful for us to periodically step back, look at a crucifix, and remember that the hard work has already been done for us. Obviously, we should do what we can to the best of our ability. In the end, though, grace is more important than all our efforts. And thank God for that!
At daily Mass today we sing with the psalmist, “The Lord will not abandon his people” (Psalm 94:14). No matter how bad things appear or how big we mess up, we should take great solace from God’s promise that he will remain with us always, no matter what! We should do our best in respond in kind by being mindful of his presence in our lives.
In the Gospel at Mass today (Matthew 11:20-24) we hear Our Lord preach a fire and brimstone sermon–literally. Hearing Jesus preach in this way should give us some clarity about who he is. Many people have been paralyzed in their spiritual development because they were fed a false image of Our Lord that has no basis in Sacred Scripture. Pardon me if this sounds flippant, but the image of Jesus as a pacifist-hippie-flower-child has done no favors to the Christian religion and is not scriptural. Our Lord forcefully condemns the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because of their wickedness, unwillingness to accept his preaching (which was backed up by miracles) and refusal to repent. It is an error for us to think that Jesus does not require us to live uprightly according to his teaching. Unfortunately, on account of our hard hearts, we too can be obstinate and fail to properly respond to the Good News. May we always love Jesus and turn to him in repentance so that we can know his blessing and not his wrath.
There is quite the contrast in today’s Gospel. On one hand, Our Lord tells us that even our closest family relations have to be less important to us than our relationship to Himself. On the other, Jesus tells us that even the smallest act of kindness to one of His followers will merit a great reward. Love resolves the contrast. If we love Jesus first, then all of our other actions are taken up into that love. Put another way, we will love our family better and do good deeds for the kingdom.