On the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear in Mark’s Gospel as Jesus tell his disciples about his passion, death and resurrection to come in Jerusalem. Peter tries to prevent him from going there. Jesus rebukes him and tells the disciples and us that to be a disciple is to follow him, not trying to save one’s life, but by dying to ourselves and losing ourselves for his sake and that of the Gospel. That is the only path to real life.
We continue reading from Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. It begins this week with the great prayer for our leaders. He then says how bishops and deacons should behave. He urges Timothy to be especially caring for the youth. Paul warns Timothy of the troubles of riches. Finally, Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus praises the faith of the Roman centurion who understands Jesus’ power to heal. Jesus then raises from the dead the son of the widow of Nain. In response to constant criticism from religious authorities, Jesus compares the critics to children taunting their playmates. We read of the woman who entered a dinner Jesus was attending and wept over his feet, washing them with her tears, showing what real love is. Luke, who highlights the role of women in his Gospel, tells us of women who accompanied Jesus and his disciples. Finally, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation about how temptations and shallow roots can prevent the Word from growing in us or how “the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life” can choke the Word.
Who among us hasn’t wondered about how much is enough? How many times do we need to forgive? How much of the goods of this earth do I need to have? How generous am I able to be? The parables Jesus uses often shock our attention and give us a rich fruit for reflection.
These days, the news stories are centered on war and disasters, and on divisions and conflicts. We are not always aware of the scope of the human tragedy that goes on in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our world. Many people on the earth suffer in so many ways – from dire poverty, from years of wars, and from ecological policies that leave the earth in trouble and people worse off. We can see stories of pain and suffering on the other side of the world and we feel it here. We might be filled with horror and compassion and fear. Insecurity, powerlessness can bring us to our knees and to the Lord. This week’s readings help us with continuing reflection that can guide our integration of a confidence in God’s love and mercy.
One of the great things that any tragedy brings forward is examples of great heroism and generosity. We also know that the human spirit can be tempted to the worst things imaginable. But, when we see people sacrificing their own lives to help others or showing with their generosity and passionate care how deeply they value human life, it lifts our own spirits and helps us be more generous and free.
We could ask the Lord this week to help us assess what we really need. Do riches become a trouble for us? Do anxieties and the pleasures of life choke my reception of the Word? Can we ask for the desire to walk through our days with trust in Jesus’ power to heal, to bring what is dead to life? Each of us can make this daily desire request and reflection very concrete. And, as we prepare for the weekend, we can begin reflecting on how happy I am that God is merciful and generous, even toward those that I don’t think “deserve” it.
As we begin each day with a desire, we can end each day with gratitude for what we received.
Have a great week!