Matthew 7:6, 12-14
In today’s gospel Our Lord advises we “enter through the narrow gate,” not the “wide one.” Both are unlocked, and each gives access to a way with its own destination. One has “Death” blazed across it and the way it opens up leads to a dead end: it gradually leads to death. The sign on the other says “Life,” and the way it opens leads to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Our Lord leaves it up to us to choose which one to enter.
2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18; Matthew 7:1-5
Do not judge, that you may not be judged. Is the Lord telling us to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, to be naive and undiscerning? Part of the prophetic role of the baptized is precisely that: to be prophetic, not to abstain from taking positions. Part of our being sent is to call evil what is evil and good what is good. But this does not necessarily mean that we have to set ourselves up as judges of others.
Jeremiah 20:10-13; Roman 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33
Jesus said to the Twelve:
"Fear no one. ...
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul ...
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ...
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father."
Isn't it wonderful that the first thing Jesus does, after calling his apostles to follow him, is to try to take away their fear? Jesus knows that fear is the enemy of generous, heroic service. If Jesus is to call others to follow in the path before him, he must first en-courage them. He gives courage to replace fear. The courage he gives comes from a confidence in his promises. Isn't this the dynamic that's operative in our lives, too? When I reflect on what keeps me from a greater and deeper commitment to service of others, the answer is always: because of some fear. Fear is complicated. If I open up the various "excuses" or "things that keep me from" a greater surrender of myself in love and service of others, somewhere underneath, I always discover some fear.
“When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.’ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”-Luke 2:48-51
It is fitting that this celebration of the heart of Mary should follow the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For most of us clinically minded moderns, it takes a bit of quiet reflection to get into the spirit of this heart-talk. Obviously, we are not celebrating cardiac muscles here, wonders of creation though they are. The heart has long been the symbol of the center or interior of the human person—especially as the seat of our deepest thoughts and desires. To speak of the human heart this way is to name what makes us most human. And to speak of the hearts of Mary and Jesus is to get to the heart of the mystery of the Incarnation itself.
This is one of our most powerful feasts, but it has not always been well served by the “artists” who make and sell religious objects. Jesus with blood dripping from his heart does not stimulate my devotion, anyway. Likewise, some of the prayers connected with devotion to the Sacred Heart strike me as putting the focus on ourselves—human sin and wrong-doing—rather than on God and the redeeming power of that love poured out in Jesus.
We are a sinful people, easily duped by the enemy, distracted by the false lights that move our lesser selves. There are so many ways that we can transgress on our path to the Lord, countless side trips that can divert us from our true calling, to be reunited with God. I think most of us realize we are sinful, most understand that we personally are not immune from stumbling. That is why when we stop to reflect on the love of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus, we are both humbled and chastened, and with the psalmist we can give thanks for the greatness of the Lord.
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
God loves a cheerful giver. I love this phrase from Corinthians, not just in its meaning for alms and good works. God doesn’t just mean that we smile when we write out a check or grin when we drop off clothes at Goodwill (thought I think that’s a good idea too.) When I think of God loves a cheerful giver, it reminds me of finding God in all things, in our day-to-day lives -- not only when we are in church or praying or performing service. I want to be a cheerful giver among my co-workers, my neighbors, the woman at the checkout line at the grocery store.
“. . . love your enemies . . .”.
Almost everyone is familiar with that command. And almost everybody thinks that, while perhaps an ideal, it is hopelessly unrealistic. Maybe. But maybe some context might help us understand how central this really is to being Christian.
What, after all, does it mean to be Christian? Not to save ourselves, as perhaps we once thought. God has done that for us. No, our job is to continue the work of Jesus – the Jesus who called people to change their priorities and submit to God’s gentle reign. Christians are a community of disciples, having disciple roles, and doing disciple work.
“Offer no resistance to injury . . . turn the other cheek.” These phrases are among the most famous and most difficult of any which the Gospels record as coming from the lips of Jesus. If we listen to them long enough to really hear them, before being frightened off by them, we usually hear in them an admonition to passivity in the face of conflict.
At the beginning of this year, after more than 28 years of my work in the parish of São Raimundo in Codó, I was transferred to the neighboring town of Timbiras, where on February 16th of this year the Mass was held, during which I was officially introduced to the new parish by the diocesan Bishop Dom Sebastião. I live here alone in a parish house and make my first steps in the new parish. The parish gave me a very warm welcome.
Timbiras is the Pallottine cradle of Maranhão. Here, exactly forty years ago, the Pallottine Sisters Mathilde, Rita and Christina began their missionary Pallottine work in the spirit of St. Vincent Pallotti, proclaiming and living the apostolate of all the baptized, building up countless groups and lay movements. To this day the parish is inspired by this spirit and the Pallottine Sisters continue to work tirelessly to awaken, promote and deepen the apostolic spirit of co-responsibility of all the baptized in the Church and in the world.