What is it to say that we have faith? That we are faithful? That faith will lead us home? The first reading today reminds us that faith not only guides us but invites us to consider that our journey with Christ is guided by more than a rule, a policy, or a law. Through faith, and our belief in the presence and loving guidance of God in our lives, we continue our journey as his humble followers here on earth. He is always with us, and our faith confirms that blessing!
—Bernadette Gillick is a Marquette University alumna, and a former Clinical Instructor for Creighton University’s Institute for Latin American Concern. Her ministry continues as a clinical researcher discovering treatments for stroke during infancy.
In today’s Gospel, St. Luke reflects on the challenges of sharing a message. Jesus meets with outright resistance from some, and even friends who are distracted by the needs of the present world. We can all appreciate this struggle as we likely know from our own experience how hard it is to convince even close friends of a new idea. We also know how much easier it is to give in to immediate desires than to attend to long term goals. We may want the ideal, the “glorious splendor of the kingdom”, but we mere mortals are forever distracted by the latest bright, shiny object.
St. John recognizes what an honor it is to be chosen to serve a great mission. St. Luke tells of Jesus sending his disciples out to be like lambs among wolves – and we know many stories of this being literally true. What great courage it takes to face such a challenge. Lambs need a reliable sheepdog.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus chides the scholars of the law, and their response can only be described as mean-spirited; the text says “hostile … lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.” How often do we see this in the public sphere today? Someone speaks out about an issue, and news anchors or anonymous internet users overanalyze every aspect of the speaker’s life, questioning intentions, and seek to invalidate and dismiss the person. But at the start of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius enjoins the director of the retreatant to take on a “presupposition” of goodwill — namely that the director should be “more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.” This can be a model for our interaction with others, especially those we don’t like being around. How can you love your enemies today?
Whenever Jesus gets stern, I find myself paying close attention, as is true today when he scolds the prideful Pharisees and overbearing lawyers.
While we may not be tithing mint, rue and herbs, it’s still easy to get caught up in rules, and online giving or weekly envelopes. When we obsess over prerequisites to the Sacraments, or concentrate on our (or others’) unworthiness to be in relationship with God, we lose focus.
Jesus says his burden is light and easy, and promises rest for the weary (Mt 11:28-30). Our faith is not about how much we tithe, how many committees we lead, or how well we fit the ideal Christian mold. Rather, it’s about humbly learning to love and be loved. It’s about finding rest in Jesus, and helping others to do the same.
What are the unnecessary burdens I place on myself or others, hindering relationship with God?
—Amy Ketner is the Coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Ministry at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.
Jesus’ address to the Pharisee teaches us that exterior actions are crucial for interior transformation. He tells the Pharisee, “inside you are full of extortion and wickedness… But give for alms those things that are within; and, behold, everything is clean for you.” To counteract his sin of extortion, Jesus tells him to give alms. The root of the sin, greed for money, is counteracted by the very giving away of that attachment. In doing so, the Pharisee not only does justice to his neighbor but also works to remove his heart’s attachment.
As bodily creatures, interior transformation requires our whole person, both body and soul. If we are angry with someone, we can counteract it by considering the good in that person. If we are experiencing spiritual lethargy, we can add an extra Mass a week. Jesus carries out the work of transformation, but he does so in a way that calls us to put forth an effort.
Jesus’ words are harsh; is he talking to me? I am tempted to exclude myself, but I tend to seek signs, while ignoring the ones in plain sight. I condemn myself in my failure to recognize the One among us, the One who is greater than Jonah, or Solomon, the One who is in the destitute, the disenfranchised, who exists on the margins; the One I walk by every day, without truly seeing.
St. Ignatius asks “What more can I do for Christ?” It might start with me actually noticing him. I so often compartmentalize my commitment to seeing the One. I make my solidarity with the One a mental exercise, free of Incarnation. I ask for signs, but the signs are all around me.
I want to believe Jesus is talking about those people, but I cannot assume this; he is talking to me, and it is Wisdom. May I be attentive.
—Tom Murray teaches Theology at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE.
Brené Brown suggests: It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful. We are not just to cultivate an “attitude-of-gratitude” or simply feel grateful, Brown says, but rather it is about inviting joy into our lives through creative, intentional, tangible practices of gratitude.
In the first reading (2 Kgs 5: 14-17), Naaman, a foreigner, insists on taking two mule-loads of Israelite dirt back to his homeland so he can continue praising the Lord. The psalmist sings new songs (Ps 98). And in the Gospel, only one of the ten lepers return to give Jesus glory and honor. Each of these figures finds intentional, tangible ways of practicing gratitude: concrete acts of praise, singing, and deliberate expressions of thanks. Their joy is palpable and leaps off the page. Their witness inspires us to consider how we might more creatively, intentionally, and tangibly practice gratitude, that our joy may be more complete.
At first glance, today’s Gospel might appear to have Jesus slighting his mother. In response to a woman acknowledging Jesus’ greatness by calling out blessings to the woman who gave birth to him and raised him, Jesus turns the blessing around. His reply, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it,” seems a bit jarring.
Throughout the Gospels, we see evidence of the profound love Jesus had for his mother. It is at her request that Jesus performs his first miracle at the wedding at Cana. One of his last acts before dying on the cross was to entrust Mary’s care to the disciple whom he loved.
Jesus’s response in today’s Gospel should not discount Mary’s role, but rather to focus on the future. We are not to look to our past to give us glory, but rather on how we live our lives going forward. Do we hear the word of God, take it to heart, and live it out in our daily lives?
—The Jesuit Prayer team
For a long time, I had a hard time reading this Gospel without picturing small cartoonish red demons chasing people around with pitchforks. Surely this wasn’t what Jesus was warning us about! But while I am happy to let go of this childish image, I recognize that I shouldn’t so quickly dismiss the idea of evil spirits among us. While recovering from a battle injury, St. Ignatius of Loyola began to recognize what he would later refer to as the movement of spirits. He acknowledged that there are both good and evil spirits acting in our lives. The evil spirits may manifest as those things that make us afraid, doubtful, proud, or jealous. They lead us away from the path that Jesus invites us to follow.
The Examen prayer tool offers us a way to help identify these evil spirits in our lives. As we reflect back on the day, we look for those times when we felt distant from God, or perceived a decrease in faith, hope, and love. Noticing these patterns can make it easier to discern where the Holy Spirit is inviting us.
How can you take note of the movement of the spirits in your life today? What is the good spirit leading you to do?
Personally, I don’t want a rash of unprepared neighbors beating on my door at midnight asking for something that could wait until morning. “Hey, sorry to bother you while you sleep, but I was wondering if I could borrow your lawn edger.” No. That’s a terrible idea, and I don’t think Jesus is advocating for that. In today’s Gospel, the unprepared neighbor has a little more at stake than my thoughtless neighbor doing lawn work at 1am. The neighbor in the Gospel is put into the position of living up to a strict code of hospitality. Unprepared to meet this societal obligation, he asks his friend for aid, likely ashamed because he knows it’s unreasonable, but persists because of the need’s importance. The friend in the parable is also understandable in his reluctance to open the door but still meets his obligation as devoted friend and one who respects the norms of the culture.
Jesus, as he often does to us, switches our lens on his proposition: what if we are not the awakened neighbor, but the one unexpectedly in need? Should we fear asking for something important or deeply desired? What if we’re not asking a fallible human neighbor but our infinitely merciful God for help? Can God be annoyed? Will God tell us to go away? Jesus assures us God would not. We absolutely should ask for what we desire. God may not answer us in the way we expect, but God will answer and likely with something much more appropriate. If we ask God for a lawn edger, we should be confident we will not be sent away with a monkey wrench. But we may need to be prepared for God to send us home with something even more useful.