Isaiah 7:1-9; Matthew 11:20-24
Today’s readings seem harsh, and in a sense they are. In the first reading the town is in danger from formidable foes and the people are trembling like trees in the wind. The threat and the danger are real. They are concerned. But the Lord tells them not to fear, to stop trembling, to show no fear and to have faith. If they show no fear and stand fast, the armies’ mischief will come to nothing. The Lord says if their faith is firm, they will stand firm and their town will survive, but if they lose their faith they will be crushed; it will be like they never existed. If they are God’s city and put their trust in God, they will survive and persevere.
Isaiah 1:10-17; Matthew 10:34-11:1
Today’s reading from Matthew includes the very familiar warning from Jesus, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Having returned from a Holy Land pilgrimage about 3½ weeks ago, Jesus words have a new context to me. During the pilgrimage, our group made the Way of the Cross through the crowded and bustling passageways in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. Groups of six or seven of us took turns carrying a large wooden cross for a couple of the stations. Though the prayers we said were familiar, this was a whole different way of experiencing the Stations of the Cross. We passed by shops and street vendors, who probably witness this on a daily basis, but it was uniquely poignant and inspirational for those of us who were participating. Although, we did not carry the cross alone and it was not as big or heavy as the original one, there was an element of reality to it all. We ended the stations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus’ crucifixion and entombment are commemorated. Each time I pray the stations in the future, my memories of that experience will be rekindled and intensify the meaning of the prayers.
Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23
Lessons from Nature
“From the heavens…the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful.” (Isaiah 55:10)
After a dry spell, the rains fall like a blessing to soften the cracked earth. Seeds awaken to push down roots and the dour land springs up green overnight. The long sleep is over but no one complains. The trek to the harvest begins with water from heaven that brings life back to the earth.
Saint Benedict: the zealous work of evangelization.
While the century had grown old in vice, while Italy and all Europe seemed to be a wretched theater for the life and death struggle of nations, and even the monastic discipline was weakened with worldliness and was not up to the task of resisting ..., Benedict proved the perennial youth of the Church by his outstanding sanctity and work; he restored morality by his teaching and example; he protected the sanctuary of religious life with safer and holier laws. Nor was that all; he and his followers reclaimed the uncultured tribes from their wild life to civic and Christian culture; directing them to the practice of virtue, industry and the peaceful arts and literature, he united them in the bonds of fraternal affection and charity...
Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 10:16-23
Today’s readings are puzzling. On the one hand, Matthew confronts us with warnings that preaching the Christian gospel will put us at risk. On the other, the reading from Hosea invites repentance. At first glance, these readings appear to have little in common. Indeed, on one level, they are taken from contexts that are completely alien to each other. The selection from Hosea is set in the time of the exile and holds out the promise that God will forgive repentant Israel and bless her anew. The selection from Matthew reflects the early Christian community’s sense of being rejected by members of its own family, even being “flogged” in what had been recently their own communities.
Hosea 11:1-4, 8e-9; Matthew 10:7-15
Jesus’ instructions to his apostles as he sends them on the road are amazing. On the one hand, he sends them endowed with great power, able to drive out unclean spirits and to cure every disease and every illness, even to cleanse lepers and raise the dead. On the other hand, they are to go about this mission in a most vulnerable way: they are to take no money or backpack, to walk those rocky roads of Palestine without sandals (!) or walking stick. Food is not mentioned in Matthew’s version of the instruction, but since they are told to stay where people receive them, presumably they are to depend entirely on the hospitality (room and board) of those who take them in. Since they are told to combine their healing activity with the proclamation, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” the healing and the deliverance from evil spirits is apparently a demonstration of the presence of God’s end-time Reign present right there in their midst.
In today’s gospel, we see Jesus sending out his closest twelve disciples to spread his message: the Kingdom of God is at hand. He sends them to do the critical work of evangelizing and healing. Drive out unclean spirits and cure every disease. He gives them “authority” over unclean spirits.
Seriously? Did he check their resumes? These are not men who are powerful leaders.
I am sure Jesus the man must have been overwhelmed sometimes at the numbers of people who sought him out and at the extent of their suffering. Today’s Gospel tells us that his “heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned.” We all feel that way sometimes. Lost. Wandering. Vulnerable. And you can bet that if you feel that way, others do too. Jesus says there is a need for more laborers for the harvest. He can’t do it all. We all must play a part in the community that is our faith. We can’t just wait for someone else to do it.
Hosea 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22; Matthew 9:18-26
I find that the woman suffering hemorrhages for all those years often gets overlooked in this or that reflection, so here’s an attempt at offering one.
What might “hemorrhage” mean in our day and time, more than the medical diagnosis? What human experiences might it refer to?