Weekday Gospel Reflection


Monday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 14:13-21 - World English Bible

13 Now when Jesus heard (about the death of the Baptist), he withdrew from there in a boat, to a deserted place apart. When the multitudes heard it, they followed him on foot from the cities.

14 Jesus went out, and he saw a great multitude. He had compassion on them, and healed their sick. 15 When evening had come, his disciples came to him, saying, “This place is deserted, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food.”

17 They told him, “We only have here five loaves and two fish.”

18 He said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass; and he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 20 They all ate, and were filled. They took up twelve baskets full of that which remained left over from the broken pieces. 21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

At times of stress, a person reveals his true character.

When Jesus heard of John's execution, he left to be alone (presumably to grieve), but the people followed him into the countryside. He turned from his loss to teach and feed them, despite the large number. His concern for those seeking the Kingdom outweighed his personal needs. And that concern led to fullness from meager means.

How have you responded in times of stress to the needs of others?

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Tuesday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14 - World English Bible

1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat bread.”

10 He summoned the multitude, and said to them, “Hear, and understand. 11 That which enters into the mouth doesn’t defile the man; but that which proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

12 Then the disciples came, and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying?”

13 But he answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father didn’t plant will be uprooted. 14 Leave them alone. They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Jesus introduced a principle into the interpretation of the Law that clearly drew a line between the early Church and Pharisaical Judaism. While the Pharisees took a holistic view of kosher, he laid down a principle that divided ritual kosher from moral kosher. In the case of food, what one consumed (ritual kosher) did not compare to the evil one spoke (moral kosher). Any sin of food did not stand up against gossip, slander, insult, etc. This makes sense to us, but, to the Pharisees, any violation of the Law, no matter how small, broke the entire Law. So, they were offended by the disciples who didn't wash their hands before a meal, to ritually rid themselves of the social “pollution” caused by interaction with Gentiles (whether such hand washing was an actual ruling from the Pharisees or was just a custom is open to scholarly debate).

Jesus harshly rebuked the Pharisees. If God didn't “plant” a particular rule of the Pharisees (it was not in the Law), it would be “uprooted” at the end of time; in other words, the ruling was not only worthless, divine will would reject it, along with its authors. Without the guidance of the divine “light,” the Pharisees could not see. If they, as leaders, were blind, so were their followers. Both would fall into a pit (a metaphor for damnation?). Implicitly, he encouraged his followers to look to God and not to their own knowledge and skill (like some of the Pharisees) for guidance.

Have you prayed to God today for moral guidance?

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Wednesday in The Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 15:21-28 - World English Bible

21 Jesus went out from there, and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Behold, a Canaanite woman came out from those borders, and cried, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David! My daughter is severely possessed by a demon!”

23 But he answered her not a word.

His disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away; for she cries after us.”

24 But he answered, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

26 But he answered, “It is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

27 But she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

What kind of a Messiah was Jesus? Was he just for the people of Israel or for everyone? While we find this question almost rhetorical (of course he was for everyone), the readers of Matthew's gospel had second thoughts. After all, in 10:5-6, he said, “Don’t go among the Gentiles, and don’t enter into any city of the Samaritans. Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In this gospel, he leaned toward exclusivity, only serving his own people.

Yet, Jesus traveled into Gentile territory and his reputation preceded him. There, a pagan woman confronted him, seeking relief for her daughter from a demon. Now, the question came into play: what sort of Messiah was he? He came for the lost sheep of Israel, but that caveat did not deter her. He even made a remark that could be seen as an insult; the bread from the table of God's children (the Israelites) should not be thrown to the dogs (the pagans). But even the sting of the remark did not stop her, for she flipped the term “dog” from a very derogatory slur to one of a pet, a favorite in the household who ate from the scraps of the table. She had great faith, even in the face of perceived prejudice. So, he granted her request.

How do you face insults, with anger or with faith?

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Thursday in the Eighteenth of Ordinary Time

Matthew 16:13-23 - World English Bible

13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

14 They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock † I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades‡ will not prevail against it. 19 I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” 20 Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.

22 Peter took him aside, and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.”

23 But he turned, and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”

Self identity is one of humanity's great mysteries. How do I know who I am? Post-modern philosophy answers that question in a social context. I know my place, my purpose, my sense of self in relationship to others. “I am” is a social construct.

Ancient societies measured the self in the same terms. “Who do you say I am?” was a question of social definition. Jesus asked it, in one sense, to find out what his band of disciples thought of him. The “Son of Man” was the spirit of the Baptist or one of the great prophets lived out among them. Or was he? Simon answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In other words, he was the Messiah. For Simon's answer, Jesus defined the head of the group with a new identity; he was “Peter,” the rock of the disciples' belief, for his faith in Jesus would be the cornerstone of the Church, his faith would open the way to the Kingdom of heaven for others.

Once Peter established the identity of the Jesus for the group (and the identity of the group itself as Church), the Lord could answer the question himself as the One who would suffer, die, then rise from the dead. But, Simon now Peter disputed that understanding. For his objection, Jesus threatened to eject him from the group. Simon Peter had no right to define the identity of the Messiah and, by extension, the self understanding of the disciples. Jesus connected the notion of the Christ to the cross; those who followed him would go to the cross, as well.

How do you define yourself as a Christian? Where is the cross in your self understanding as a disciple?

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Friday in the Eighteenth of Ordinary Time

Matthew 16:24-28 - World English Bible

24 Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will render to everyone according to his deeds. 28 Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

In Matthew 16:16, Simon Peter identified Jesus as the Christ. In these verses, the Lord responded in two ways, defining the role of the disciple and the immanence of the Second Coming.

Who was the disciple? For Jesus, the disciple imitated the Master. As he would go to Jerusalem to face the cross, so would the follower. The disciple would pick up his cross and lose his life for a greater life. After all, what does this life offer beyond temporal pleasure and pain? Besides, very soon, the Son of Man would come in the glory of the Father to judge everyone. According to 16:28, some would survive to see the end of time; this verse has vexed many scholars, conservatives reinterpreting it for modern times, liberals dismissing it outright. It is best to place 16:28 in context; life as a disciple, with its temporary suffering, would not find its reward delayed. Indeed, even in this life, following Jesus has many moments of grace.

How has the Lord rewarded you for your faithfulness?

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Saturday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 17:14-20 - World English Bible

14 When they came to the multitude, a man came to him, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is epileptic, and suffers grievously; for he often falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him.”

17 Jesus answered, “Faithless and perverse generation! How long will I be with you? How long will I bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked him, the demon went out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately, and said, “Why weren’t we able to cast it out?”

20 He said to them, “Because of your unbelief. For most certainly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 But this kind doesn’t go out except by prayer and fasting.”

How do we measure faith? Is it the strength of conviction and zealous behavior? Is it time in prayer and patience with others? While we can see faith spreads out in many dimensions, we can say faith is what we say and do, what we think and feel about our relationship with God.

How do we measure faith in the face of evil? These times of testing rock us to the core. How we react doesn't seem to be adequate, for evil stands strong. This was the dilemma the disciples faced with a demon possessed boy who behaved in a self destructive way. Jesus blamed the situation on a lack of faith, but whose shortcoming? The man believed the disciples could heal his son and the disciples had faith enough to attempt the cure. But that wasn't enough, so the Lord stepped in and cured the boy. Then he chided his followers for their lack of faith. Evil that strong required prayer and fasting, spiritual practices that prepared the person to face such malevolent power.

How do we measure faith? Maybe that's the wrong question to ask. Maybe we should ask: what are we doing to face the challenges of our day? Do we pray and fast and give to others, not just to combat evil, but to do good in our word?

What have you done today to make your world a little better?

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