Today’s Gospel reminds us of the need to seek and to do God’s will. Jesus calls us to both listen to and act on the word of God. At times, however, discerning the will of God can seem like a challenge. It can seem as if God’s will is a divine mystery that we must skillfully solve.
However, Jesus has already revealed God’s will to us. God’s will is love and mercy itself. Therefore, when we find ourselves discerning what to do with our lives, discerning how to carry out God’s will, we must always ask how our decisions are both loving and merciful. If we let love and mercy govern our lives, we can rest assured that we are on the path to fulfilling the will of God. Of course, being loving and merciful is often more challenging than it sounds. So today we might ask for the grace to understand how we can act with more genuine love and mercy.
To appreciate Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, one must keep recall the context of the ancient world. Electricity was unknown, so all light came from either the sun or fire. Darkness often permeated public places, and especially homes. Light offered comfort, or at least an opportunity to see what was happening around oneself. Each of us has an inner light that is not conditioned by anyone or anything else. No matter how others impact your feelings, know that Christ resides in you and that your inner light burns brightly.
If you spend even a bit of time each day in contemplation, you will develop a wisdom which enkindles your inner light. You can build upon that wisdom and share it with those around you. Share it in a way that inspires others to do good. Goodness, like wisdom, does not require perfection…but only our best effort. Jesus does the rest.
—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. He is grateful to Brian Shircliff for his input on today’s reflection.
We should not let the words of Scripture remain mere words, but, as we would do with a letter from someone who loves us very much, we should let these words penetrate into our imagination to the point that we can “see,” “hear,” and “touch” the word of life (cf. 1 John 1:1-3). We must do so in obedience to the word which surpasses us, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Is 55:8).
Psalm 135:15-18 should warn us that, through our imagination, we can craft false gods—even ones that we might call “Jesus”—that can lead us astray. Let us let the Jesus of the Bible scandalize us when we realize that he is not the “god” that we would have imagined on our own. And let us let that Jesus, who reveals to us the one true God, be the Lord of our imagination rather than any other “Jesus” we would fashion for ourselves.
When we hear the parable of the sower in today’s Gospel, we know we want to be the good, rich soil. We want to be the person who, having heard the word of God, “embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” But we also know that there are times in life when we may be more like the other types of soil. Perhaps we are the seed sown on rocky ground when we don’t work to deepen our relationship with God through personal prayer. We might be the seed sown among thorns when we allow our desire for more money, or prestige, or power, to become more important than our desire to follow Christ. But just as seeds are resilient and do what is necessary to grow, the good news is that God is always giving the seeds of our faith more opportunities to bloom and flourish.
How can you allow your heart to be fertile soil for God’s word to be planted within you?
—The Jesuit Prayer team
This Gospel reads as the note of a traveler noting only essential words and people. Underneath this summary, moments of encounter unfold, but I feel I am left in the dark. The sparse report leaves me with an overwhelming sense of curiosity. Who are these women? What are their stories? How might I come to know them? The word “accompaniment” implies a relationship; how did they come to know Jesus, and Jesus them?
This Gospel invites me to turn inward and outward at once, to perceive my own curiosity and to look to others as a pathway to relationship with Jesus who is here now, with us in the friend, the stranger, the refugee, the child. Who are the people I journey with? Who is healing me? How can I keep them company on the road ahead?
—Claire Peterson works in the advancement and communications offices of the U.S. Central and Southern Province.
I have a print of Caravaggio’s painting “The Calling of St. Matthew” in my home. The painting depicts Jesus pointing at St. Matthew who has his head down as if he is thinking “you can’t really be calling me?” The onlookers in the painting have puzzled looks, as if they are thinking, “you really mean this guy?” and Peter is standing in front of Jesus as if he is ready to say “let’s get out of here!” The scribes and Pharisees must have been thinking the same thing in today’s Gospel, questioning why Jesus is spending time with those people (sinners and tax collectors).
Perhaps for our prayer today, we can close our eyes and imagine Jesus pointing to us and saying “Follow me.” Can we put our head in our hands and acknowledge that we are flawed (like Matthew) but still called by Jesus? Matthew looked up and permitted the gaze of Jesus to transform him. Can we also permit the mercy of Jesus to transform us?
—Mr. Dave Lawler is a Campus Minister at Creighton Prep.
How could anyone think that John the Baptist was possessed by a demon? Or that Jesus Christ was a drunkard and a glutton? It’s hard to admit, but I can remember times in my life when I felt uncomfortable or even annoyed by “holy people.” And I’m not alone. Reading this passage, I’m reminded of the preposterous things people said about St. Mother Teresa after her death. How could anyone feel anything but love for Mother Teresa?
The Spiritual Exercises may give us some insight. Sometimes our hearts can be so hardened by sin that when we’re presented with good, evil touches our spirit “sharply and with noise and disquiet, as when the drop of water falls on the stone.” But if we are on the road to holiness, good things fall like “water on a sponge.” Is your heart more like a stone or a sponge?
—Sam Mauck is the Director of Catholic Campus & Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Memphis, which is a member of the Charis Ministries Partner Program.
Jesus did not act in today’s Gospel because of any one person’s request. Rather, he encountered the burial procession by chance, then spoke and acted from personal desire. What must the mother have thought of Jesus strange admonition not to weep? Before she can even respond to Jesus for what probably sounded to hears as insensitive, she has the overwhelming experience of seeing her son rising out of his coffin.
Jesus’ example shows us that we do not need to wait to be asked to be of service, and that healing can come at any time if we are open to it. The world is full of injustice, natural disaster, and other pains. Opportunities abound and the initiative is ours to take. As each chance to serve in charity and work against injustice arrives, we pray to live with the conviction that Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, is still doing his work of healing around, within, and through us.
—Mike Tedone, SJ, is a Jesuit Scholastic of the West Province in First Studies at Loyola University Chicago.
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus beingdeliberatelykind to “the enemy.” Remember that Roman soldiers were an occupying force which terrorized Jewish lands. Centurions were viewed with disdain by the Jews. So why would Jesus bother to help this man? It is important to keep in mind that the centurion did nothing to earn Jesus’ healing power. Rather, he simply believed; he had faith in the healing power of Jesus.
The authors of Matthew’s Gospel are attempting to convey a truth which they deeply believed; namely, that faith in Jesus allows us be healed. We simply must remain open to the process. It is less about what we do, and more about the depth of our openness to Christ’s presence in our lives.
Like the centurion, we might ask ourselves, “What aspects of my household or my relationships need healing?” Then sit quietly and listen for Jesus’ inevitable response.
—Matt Kemper is the Director of Community Service at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.
Is there no end to the forgiveness which the Lord expects of us? “Seventy-seven times!” A lifetime of forgiveness is what we are called to share with others, but truthfully, this is quite a small price to pay.
We recall that Jesus has offered us an eternal outflowing of grace – witnessed most perfectly in the moment of His crucifixion. Facing his tormentors, He looked down on them with love and said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24)
Though we may never find ourselves in a situation as desolate as one’s own crucifixion, we are aware of people in our lives who have caused us injury – whether it be physical, mental or spiritual – and they may be looking to us for forgiveness. And so we contemplate…”Who in our lives needs our forgiveness now? How can I reach out to this person and begin the process of healing?”
—Mr. Rob Chesire is the director of Music Ministry and teaches Choir at Creighton Prep.