Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
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Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
On the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Gospel flows from the readings this past week. When Jesus is challenged because his disciples don't follow the ritual washings, he defends them, quoting Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Jesus calls us to an inner cleanliness: “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Monday is the Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the church. Saturday is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with its own special readings.
Our first weekday reading for the next several weeks will be from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, offering a look at the struggles and joys of the early life of the Church in Corinth. Paul admits, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
This week we begin reading from Luke's Gospel, which brings us the vivid stories of Jesus' early public ministry. We will continue with Luke until Advent. Jesus teaches in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor,” he reads from Isaiah, but his listeners wanted only to see the miracles they had heard about him. He cleanses a man of an unclean spirit - a spirit who recognizes Jesus as the “Holy One of God” when those around Jesus did not. He cures Simon's mother-in-law and then tells the crowds he must leave to spread the good news to other towns. As Jesus comes upon Peter, James and John, he invites the weary fishermen to lower their empty nets one more time. When they bring up nets overflowing with fish, Peter says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” but Jesus reassures him not to be afraid and says Peter will be catching people now. He tells them, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. When he is criticized for allowing his disciples to pick grain to eat on the sabbath, Jesus is compassionate toward their hunger and defends them saying, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
On the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Isaiah offers comforting words: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” In Mark's Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf and mute man. The people are astonished and say of Jesus, “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Daily Prayer This Week
Among the many healing stories in this week's gospels is the story of the call of Peter. It is powerful for us because we see the very human moment of Peter's self-doubt: he realizes the power of Jesus, falls down in an awareness of his own sinfulness and wants Jesus to turn away from him because he is too sinful.
All of us can have moments of feeling we are unworthy - and the truth is that we can never be worthy of the unending love Jesus offers us. But how blessed we are if we realize that we are loved without limits even though we have done nothing to deserve that kind of love.
Knowing in a balanced humility that we are sinful is not a bad thing - but if we get stuck there, and are tempted to turn away from Jesus as Peter did, then we have become more focused on ourselves than on the love we are being offered. This week is a week to rejoice in that love and healing Jesus wants to give us. It is a prayer we can carry throughout our days.
Each morning as we awake, we can ask the Lord to open our hearts in gratitude for what we will be offered this day. We might pause to imagine ourselves being healed and touched by Jesus. For just a moment, we might see Jesus in front of us, his eyes filled with such love, reaching out to give our ears and tongue a healing touch; to lift us from an invalid's bed or to drive the unclean spirits from us.
Throughout the day we can remember that gentle touch from Jesus and ask him to continue drive out any of those unclean spirits we may be carrying today. What is Jesus calling me to? Who am I being invited to listen to and speak on behalf of today? Who will come across my path today that needs Jesus' healing through my own care and kind words?
Dearest Jesus, be with me in this day. I can feel how much I long for a deeper connection with you, and yet I am ashamed of my weaknesses. Touch my heart so that I might be open to your healing love.
Let me be open to all of those you put in my life today and let me be aware of their needs and care for them before I worry about my own. Give me an awareness of the love that is already there for me and a generosity of heart that allows me to share it with others.
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