Sunday, September 27, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's reading, taken from chapter 9 of the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, "Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward."

A cup of water! What a simple, easy thing to give. And yet our Lord says that it will not go unrewarded. Pseudo-Chrysostom, an early Church writer says about this:
Every man must care for others, no one is too poor. Even the gift of a cup of cold water will obtain a reward; for it is not the value of the gift, but the dignity of those who receive it, and the feelings of the giver, which makes a work worthy of reward.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "Don't look for big things, just do small things with great love....The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love." May God help us in our daily lives to find our eternal reward through such simple acts of love!

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well,
Wall painting from the Church of St, Mary, Ethiopia (13th c.)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's Gospel, from Mark 9:30-37, the disciples are arguing about who among them is the greatest. It's pretty encouraging that even those closest to Jesus during his lifetime, those whom he taught, had their priorities upside down! Jesus responds by telling them, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Here's a commentary on this passage by St. Theophylact (1050-1107 AD), bishop of Ohrid in Bulgaria:

He came to Capernaum, and after the entering the house he questioned the disciples: “What were you arguing about on the way?” Now the disciples still saw things from a very human point of view, and they had been quarrelling amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest and the most esteemed by Christ. Yet the Lord did not restrain their desire for pre-eminent honor; indeed he wishes us to aspire to the most exalted rank. He does not however wish us to seize the first place, but rather to win the highest honor by humility.

He stood a child among them because he wants us to become childlike. A child has no desire for honor; it is not jealous, and it does not remember injuries. And he said: “If you become like that, you will receive a great reward, and if, moreover, for my sake, you honor others who are like that, you will receive the kingdom of heaven; for you will be receiving me, and in receiving me you receive the one who sent me.

You see then what great things humility, together with simplicity and guilelessness, can accomplish. It causes both the Son and the Father to dwell in us, and with them of course comes the Holy Spirit also.

Jesus washing Peter's feet by Ford Maddox Brown, detail (1852-6)




Sunday, September 13, 2015

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In today's Gospel, Our Lord tells his disciples that "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." Here is part St. Caesarius of Arles' beautiful commentary on this Gospel:

Vincenzo Catena
Christ bearing the Cross (c. 1520/30)
"As well as telling us to renounce ourselves, our Lord and Savior said that we must take up our cross and follow him. What does it mean to take up one’s cross? Bearing every annoyance patiently. That is following Christ. When someone begins to follow his way of life and his commandments, that person will meet resistance on every side. He or she will be opposed, mocked, even persecuted, and this not only by unbelievers but also by people who to all appearances belong to the body of Christ, though they are really excluded from it by their wickedness; people who, being Christians only in name, never stop persecuting true Christians.

If you want to follow Christ, then, take up his cross without delay. Endure injuries, do not be overcome by them. If we would fulfil the Lord’s command: If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me, we must strive with God’s help to do as the Apostle says: As long as we have food and clothing, let this content us.  Otherwise, if we seek more material goods than we need and desire to become rich, we may fall prey to temptation. The devil may trick us into wanting the many useless and harmful things that plunge people into ruin and destruction. May we be free from this temptation to the protection of our Lord, lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus has just healed the man born deaf and mute. The crowd says of Jesus, “He has done all things well. He has made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” St. Lawrence of Brindisi, the 16th century Capuchin and Doctor of the Church, comments:

Christ healing a Deaf-Mute, Bibliothèque national de France, 14th c.

"He has done all things well." The law says that all God did was good; the gospel says he has done all things well. Doing a good deed is not quite the same as doing it well. Many do good deeds but fail to do them well. The deeds of hypocrites, for example, are good, but they are done in the wrong spirit, with a perverse and defective intention.

Everything God does, however, is not only good but is also done well. "The Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his deeds." With wisdom you have done them all: that is to say, most wisely and well. So "he has done all things well," they say.

Now if God has done all his good works and done them well for our sake, knowing that we take pleasure in goodness, why I ask do we not endeavor to make all our works good and to do them well, knowing that such works are pleasing to God?

So even in this present life we shall be happy, this world will be an earthly paradise for us; with the Hebrews we shall feast on heavenly manna in the desert of this life, if only we follow Christ’s example by striving to do everything well, so that "he has done all things well" may be said of each one of us.