Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Reflections for the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – Simon and the Sinful Woman

Simon the Pharisee looks at the woman in disgust. What in the world is she doing in his house? How did she get in? Here he is trying to throw a dinner party for Jesus, this new teacher with the strange ideas, and now he has to cope with this woman falling at the teacher's feet and actually washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair, and kissing them. She's even stinking up the place with all that ointment she's using to anoint Him! It's positively outrageous! 

This man can't possible be the prophet everyone says He is, Simon thinks to himself. If He were, He would know what this woman had done. He would know all about her abominable sins, and He wouldn't even let her touch Him. Simon sniffs. The sooner this party is over the better, he decides.

Then he catches Jesus looking at him and finds himself feeling a bit warm around the ears. “Simon, I have something to say to you,” Jesus says. Simon gulps and replies, “Tell me, teacher.”

Jesus proceeds to recount a little parable about two debtors, one who owed fifty days' wages and one who owed five hundred days' wages. Their creditor decided to forgive both of them their debts. Jesus then asks Simon, “Which of them will love him more?”

Simon knows where this is going, but he has to answer: “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” Jesus nods in agreement. “You have judged rightly,” He responds.

Then He proceeds to make Simon very uncomfortable. Turning to the woman, Jesus tells Simon in no uncertain terms that she has treated Him with much greater love than Simon ever did. Simon squirms as Jesus points out that His host failed to provide any water to wash His feet or oil to anoint His head, or even the customary kiss of greeting. These are serious breaches in etiquette, and Simon gulps and turns red as Jesus continues by pointing out that the woman has more than made up for His host's neglect through her loving actions. She shows such great love, Jesus explains, because “her many sins have been forgiven.”

Finally, Simon, now wiping the sweat from his face, watches as Jesus turns to the woman and gently speaks the words she so longs to hear: “Your sins are forgiven....Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Simon hears his other guests mumbling, and he wonders along with them, as he longs to crawl under the table, “Who is this Who even forgives sins?”

Friday – Be Content

Are you content with what you have? Or do you always want something more? Do you share the money and possessions you have? Or do you grasp them tightly and hold them close?

St. Paul cautions us in today's first reading that “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.” Wealth can and often does corrupt. It turns our attention away from God and can even become a false idol, drawing our eyes to the world that is passing away and holding us to the ground when we should be soaring up to God and His kingdom.

St. Paul even goes so far to call the love of money “the root of all evils” and warns that some people have even wandered away from the faith in their striving after wealth. 

What should we pursue instead? St. Paul tells us: “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” These are true riches. These will last beyond this world. These help us rise upward and grasp the eternal life that God is holding out as His gift to us. 

Don't be content with what you have. Don't let the things of this world hold you captive. Strive for more, not more money or more possessions, but more of the things that remain and most of all, more of God. Grasp Him tightly and hold Him close.

Saturday – What Kind of Soil?

What kind of soil is in your heart? Jesus invites each of us to honestly answer that question in today's Gospel.

Does your heart lack soil? Is it merely a path wandering through the world? If so, be careful, for the enemy can easily swoop in, grasp the seed of God's Word, and carry it away. 

Is your heart packed with rocky soil? Does it lack depth? If so, be careful, for God's Word will not take root where the moisture of His love has been blocked by stone. Temptations and trials will arise, and rootless faith will wither quickly.

Is your heart clogged with thorns? Do cares of the world and desires for material things pull your focus away from God? If so, be careful, for God's Word may produce fruit in you, but distractions may choke it, stunt it, and even kill it.

Is your heart filled with good soil? Is your inner environment rich and moist and ready to accept the seed of God's Word? If so, God's Word will take firm root and bear fruit a hundredfold.

How can we prepare the soil of our hearts and create a place where God's Word can bloom? First, we must pray. Prayer draws us into intimacy with the only One Who can help us prepare our hearts to receive Him. The more we pray with sincerity and love, the richer the soil of our hearts will become. Second, we must fast. Self-denial, in whatever form that takes, helps remove our imperfections and distractions, the rocks and thorns that can prevent God's Word from taking root in us. Third, we must practice love in action. Acts of love for others deepen and moisten the good soil of our hearts so the seed of God's Word can bear even more fruit.

What kind of soil is in your heart? And what are you going to do about it?

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