Our week begins as we look to the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. We see a glimpse of the Prophet Jeremiah who understands the pain of following the Lord and decides not to speak the Lord’s name again, “but then it becomes like fire burning in my heart.” Paul’s letter to the Romans encourages those ancient Romans—and us—not to conform to this age but to discern the will of God. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus corrects his disciples’ resistance to his own Passion and death, telling them that if they try to save their lives, they’ll lose them. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians concludes on Tuesday. Wednesday, we begin a week of readings from the Letter to the Colossians, with its gracious salutation and encouragement. The readers are exhorted to see Christ as the “head of the body” noting that all is created “in and through him.”
We now move from Matthew to Luke’s Gospel, which we will read on weekdays from now until Advent begins. We will feel the special way the evangelist will highlight healing, mercy, the poor, women, prayer, the Spirit and a gospel for a new, all inclusive, Israel.
Jesus teaches in the synagogue and reads from Isaiah: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus heals a man with demons. He heals Simon’s mother-in-law, and all the sick they brought him. “I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” He calls out to three discouraged fishermen to lower their nets, to show them his power. Peter is overwhelmed and protests he is unworthy. “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” At Jesus’ persistence, Peter, James, and John leave their nets to follow Jesus. The week ends with Jesus’ tangling with the Pharisees who challenge the fasting of his disciples. “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” He deflects the criticism by telling them “no one pours new wine into old wineskins.” When his critics note that his disciples were “unlawful” by picking heads of grains to eat, he tells them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”
As we get into this pattern of letting the readings interact with the desires of our hearts, one week flows into the next. So, we begin this week continuing to reflect on the purpose of our lives. We can measure our resistance to self-denial for the sake of loving others more and ask for the Lord’s healing and grace.
Our pattern of finding intimacy with our Lord in the unique context of our busy, complicated days begins with a morning moment of focus, the earlier the better. Soon after we wake up, we can pause briefly to give a faith-filled shape to our day. While making coffee, starting a load of wash, taking a shower, getting dressed, we can begin our day with the Lord, begin our day in a relationship. At first, it may take practice to replace what usually goes on in our heads and hearts, with this kind of prayerful desiring. It can quickly become a very natural way to anticipate, plan, and prepare for our day.
Reading this guide over the weekend or early in the week helps, as does reading a daily reflection for the day. But these resources work best when they provide support for our inner conversation with the Lord as we go through the real experiences, relationships, conflicts and challenges of our day. Then the scriptures, the unique details of our lives, and the desires of our hearts simply come together in an ongoing dialogue with the Lord that takes place in the background of our days and shapes our choices and reveals deeper desires.
This week, we might ask Jesus to confront the demons that seem to dominate the upcoming week. We may have many mothers-in-law or friends that need healing that we can entrust to the Lord’s care. We might experience discouragement in our work, with our spouses or parents or in our jobs or ministries. We can take those discouragements and use them as an opportunity to ask the Lord to show us his power there. And, when we are tempted to feel unworthy or to be humbled by the task ahead, we can let Jesus call us again to follow him. Perhaps this week we will feel the call to a real renewal, to not just keep trying to pour new wine into our old wineskins, but to ask the Lord to make us new, and ready for the new calls, new graces he is offering us. With the smallest of efforts, we can find a few moments every evening to look back on these days of connecting with our Lord, and to express our gratitude for his presence and the new freedom and graces we are receiving.
By Saturday, we might find ourselves turning to Mary to ask for the graces we need from our Lord. “I thank God for your life, Mary. Please place me with your Son.”
Have a great week!