Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 8:18-22 - World English Bible

18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes around him, he gave the order to depart to the other side.

19 A scribe came, and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."

20 Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

21 Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father."

22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."

In Matthew 8, Jesus left Capernaum by boat. Then, a scribe asked to follow him. The Lord answered with a proverb; the Son of Man was constantly on the move, bringing the word of the Kingdom to the people, so he had no home. We're not sure if the proverb was meant to be a warning or a mere statement of fact, but it did have a challenging overtone.

A disciple approached Jesus about family obligations and delayed commitments. "Let me go and bury my father." This statement did not imply the man's father was dead and he had to take emergency leave to properly mourn for him. No, this disciple wanted to return home and tend family business until his father passed away (at an unknown time), then he could return and take up the role of disciple. Jesus presented the man with a challenge; evangelizing trumped family obligations.

The moral is clear: evangelization is not a matter of convenience, but one of priority.

How important is evangelization in your life?

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Tuesday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 8:23-27 - World English Bible

23 When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 Behold, a violent storm came up on the sea, so much that the boat was covered with the waves, but he was asleep. 25 They came to him, and woke him up, saying, "Save us, Lord! We are dying!"

26 He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then he got up, rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.

27 The men marveled, saying, "What kind of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

This scene picked up from Matthew 8:18 when Jesus ordered his disciples to depart to the other side of the lake. On the journey, he fell asleep and a wind storm that periodically blew over the Sea of Galilee whipped the fishing boat out of control. The disciples panicked and woke the Lord only to be chided by him for their lack of faith. With his mere word, he calmed the sea and caused marvel among those in the boat.

The early Church treasured stories like this for it read them allegorically. The boat represented the Church; the storm symbolized persecution; under these conditions, everyone panicked. Then, Jesus would "awake" and calm would return to the community as the persecution receded. In response, faith would grow.

Like the disciples in the boat, we, too, experience times of trial where we might be tempted to panic. The moral of the story is perseverance. Hold on; Jesus will soon "calm the waters."

When was the last time you felt like a disciple in the boat? What was the last storm you survived? How did Jesus calm the waters of your crisis?

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Wednesday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 8:28-34 - World English Bible

28 When Jesus came to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes, two people possessed by demons met him there, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that nobody could pass that way. 29 Behold, they cried out, saying, "What do we have to do with you, Jesus, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" 30 Now there was a herd of many pigs feeding far away from them. 31 The demons begged him, saying, "If you cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of pigs."

32 He said to them, "Go!"

They came out, and went into the herd of pigs: and behold, the whole herd of pigs rushed down the cliff into the sea, and died in the water. 33 Those who fed them fled, and went away into the city, and told everything, including what happened to those who were possessed with demons. 34 Behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus. When they saw him, they begged that he would depart from their borders.

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Gergesenes (also known as Gadarenes) was a site situated on a ridge that sloped gently to the east but was steep on three other sides. In the first century AD, the town on the site had military importance; it was a Roman outpost that defended the area against foreign intruders from the east. For a while, the town was part of the Roman designated Decapolis or "Ten Cities" region of Greek-Roman inhabitants. Hence, the region was a hodge-podge of ethnic enclaves, Jewish, Greek and Roman.

Matthew modified Mark's narrative of the exorcism (Mark 5:1-9; also see Luke 8:26-39) by doubling the possessed. By turning one demonic into two, the evangelist sought to emphasize the veracity of the account; Jewish law required two witnesses to testify in court on a matter (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Implicitly, Jesus visited a Gentile area and addressed foreigners who were possessed; the request of the demons to inhabit the non-kosher pigs gave us a clue. Notice that demons saw the Lord as an invading force into their domain (Gentile territory and pigs); exorcism meant violence against evil spirits. When the pigs committed suicide (another sign of possession), the city came out and asked him to leave, since the destroyed herd meant a financial loss that could grow larger with the presence of the holy man.

The presence of Jesus does cause change. Evil flees and give virtue a chance to take root. The question he asks us is: do you want me to stay (as painful as that might be) or do you want me to go?

What do you ask of Jesus today?

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Thursday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 9:1-8 - World English Bible

1 Jesus entered into a boat, and crossed over, and came into his own city. 2 Behold, they brought to him a man who was paralyzed, lying on a bed. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, "Son, cheer up! Your sins are forgiven you."

3 Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man blasphemes."

4 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven;' or to say, 'Get up, and walk?' 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." (then he said to the paralytic), "Get up, and take up your mat, and go to your house."

7 He arose and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Matthew presented a shortened version of the healed paralytic narrative found Mark 2:1-12 (Luke 5:17-26) Controversy arose when Jesus declared the bed-ridden man's sin's forgiven. In the minds of the Lord's critics, someone could heal with God's power, but not forgive in his Name; stepping over that line meant blasphemy. But, that was a distinction without a difference. If Jesus had the power to heal, certainly he had the power to forgive sin; both made one whole, which was the will of the Father for his creation. So, to prove he had God's power over sin, he healed the man.

If he can heal and forgive the paralytic, can't do the same for us?

Have you asked God for wholeness today?

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Friday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 9:9-13 - World English Bible

9 As Jesus passed by from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax collection office. He said to him, "Follow me." He got up and followed him. 10 As he sat in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

12 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. 13 But you go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Almost a third of the way into Matthew's gospel, Jesus called the famous tax collector. Why did it take so long to introduce the gospel's namesake? I believe the evangelist wanted to define the person and mission of the Messiah before he described the people the holy man served. Jesus, the Son of his Father Almighty, came to call sinners to repentance. He came to break the barriers of kosher quarantine to break bread with the less desirable in society. He came to fulfill Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." He came to give these lost souls the medicine of metanoia, the call to turn away from their sins and back to God.

How has God called you back to himself?

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Saturday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 9:14-17 - World English Bible

14 John's disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples don't fast?"

15 Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch would tear away from the garment, and a worse hole is made. 17 Neither do people put new wine into old wine skins, or else the skins would burst, and the wine be spilled, and the skins ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wine skins, and both are preserved."

The disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus about the spiritual practice of fasting. This exercise was popular at the time for different reasons. Pharisees fasted to atone for the past sins of the nation, the actions of its king and leaders that led to the Babylonian exile and the domination of the area by pagans. The disciples of the Baptist fasted as a sign of metanoia, turning one's life back to God in anticipation of the Kingdom. Jesus addressed the later reason with two parables that pointed to his presence. The images of the bridegroom and wine skin implied that the Kingdom was present IN HIM. He was the bridegroom; no one fasted at a wedding feast. His message about the Kingdom was the new wine being poured into the disciple (the new wineskin). One could not look to the past to find the Kingdom; no, he had to look to the Christ and his future in the Kingdom. To the disciple, fasting only made sense in that context.

Do you fast for spiritual reasons? When do you fast? Why do you fast?

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