For the vision still has its time,
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Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
On the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are in the second of five Sunday gospels from the 6th chapter of John's gospel and the Bread of Life readings. Jesus tells the crowd, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Monday is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, with its own special readings. Wednesday is the Memorial of Saint Dominic. Friday is the Feast of Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr, with special readings. Saturday is the Memorial of Saint Clare.
This week we complete our readings from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Friday and Saturday have the consoling readings from the Prophet Nahum and the Prophet Habakkuk, “the vision still has its time.”
In Matthew's Gospel this week we hear some marvelous words about faith and discipleship. Monday is Matthew's version of the Miracle of the loaves and fishes. On Tuesday there is the choice between two gospels: Jesus comes to his disciples across the water in a storm, and invites Peter to come to him, across the water; when Peter comes he takes his eyes off Jesus and goes down. In the other Gospel option, the Pharisee asks why Jesus' disciples don't follow the dietary laws and Jesus says, “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” In contrast to the lack of faith of the religious leaders, on Wednesday Jesus delights in the faith and trust of a non-Jew, a woman in the enemy Gentile territory to the north. Thursday Peter recognizes Jesus as the Son of Man and seems to doubt him at the same time. Jesus sums up our discipleship wonderfully: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” The disciples wonder why they could not drive out a demon from a boy, Jesus answers, “Because of your little faith.” Faith “the size of a mustard seed” is enough.
For this Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time we finish our third Sunday with the Bread of Life readings from the 6th chapter of John's Gospel, meditating on the words of Jesus who reveals that he is the bread of life. Some of his hearers grumble about these shocking words. Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Daily Prayer This Week
This week we can ask, in the variety of ways and situations each day that our eyes might be opened to see Jesus as he really is - glorified, with the Father, and ready to renew our faith and trust in him.
As we begin our day, and at brief times throughout our day, we can pull our consciousness together by letting the themes of this week's reading guide us. One day, we might ask to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we go through a day full of strong wind and waves. We can ask again and again, as things get tougher and more challenging.
Another day, we might focus on what comes out of our mouths. Is there cynicism, judgments, distortions of the truth, divisive and self-serving manipulation, yelling and hurtful put-downs? Do I practice using my voice to give praise to God by affirming others, forgiving them, by telling the truth, by defending the poor and the voiceless, by giving God thanks? Another day, I might be conscious of those I regard as “dogs,” those I disdain or think of as “the enemy.” I might ask for the grace to open my heart to whatever faith in God they have, however different from mine. I might ask for a sense of solidarity with them, not because it is my desire or inclination, but because it is God's desire for me.
How can I heal and reconcile, at least in my heart, what needs healing: racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, negative stereotypes towards Muslims and those I see as “foreigners.” How can I be relieved of my hostility against the poor or being judgmental about sinners. Later in the week, we can get in touch with the call of Jesus to deny ourselves. This is not self-denial for its own sake. This is the dying to self that comes from loving in the self-sacrificing way that Jesus did.
Who in my family, friends, relative, co-workers and members of my parish or congregation needs my self-denying love? How have I focused on “gaining the world” and lost some of my true self in the process? Is there some way this week that I can taste discovering my true self in giving some time, some compassion, some love, some special care to someone who needs this from me?
And throughout the week, perhaps at a special time of powerlessness or some time when I feel that I don't have the energy or gifts to do the “more,” to move a mountain, I can ask for faith the size of a mustard seed. And, each night I can give thanks to God for being generous to me all week, for this simple focus on our relationship every day.
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