Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

The Word of God deals with the subject of conversion in today’s readings.  Conversion is certainly not a one-sided process.  God does not simply wait patiently for us to repent one day of our sins.  The threats of the Old Testament prophets were delivered in order to provoke swifter conversion.  God “repents,” of the evil He threatened to commit when the people repent.  Fear issues from our conscience when we face the threat of punishment.  There are consequences for our actions, and God does not want to us to forget that the eternal consequences are far more important than the temporal ones.  Indeed, there are no discernable temporal consequences of a refusal to listen to God’s Word.  Conversion is certainly the free and willing change that takes place in the mind and heart of a sinner.  Conversion is more importantly a change of mind and heart about the Word of God.  This Word can come to us from unexpected places, it can catch us by surprise, it can challenge us and condemn us.  Most importantly, this Word can save us.  The goal of conversion is salvation, healing, liberation, and illumination: all of these take place in the heart of someone who believes in the Word of God. read more

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Faith is certainly demanding, but Jesus has come to make believing easier.  His miracles, His words, His presence – this closeness of God to us is unprecedented grace which ought to make us believe with great fervor.  What we see, however, is the contrary.  Caphernaum was the city most loved and cherished by Christ.  It was practically His headquarters, the place probably referred to in the scriptures by “his city.”  Some of the twelve were from there, He gave the discourse on the bread of life at the synagogue in that city.  He performed so many miracles there.  We should stop to consider what events and circumstances we have received as helps in our life of faith.  If we take them for granted and begin to become lukewarm, we are all the more to be condemned.  Jerusalem rejected its messiah although it had all the full revelation of God – its terrible lack of faith excuses the apparent depravity of Sodom.

Faith is faith, it is first the act of adhering to something I can’t understand or don’t fully understand.  If I wait for “something a little more convincing” before giving my full assent, I should expect to be roundly rebuked by Jesus instead of comforted and consoled for my lack of faith and trust.  If you see yourself hesitating to believe the Gospel, don’t trust your instincts – trust the only One who can save your soul for eternity.  You will understand what you need to understand when you need to understand it – prior to that the only path to understanding providence, grace, salvation, and love is faith.


It is essential to notice that the statement means that those who read it do not only need understanding but also faith; and not only faith but also understanding. Those of the circumcision who do not believe in the Christ of God, though even now they hear these words, do not have understanding of the subject of this prophecy because they do not hear with the mind. The only reason for their lack of understanding is their lack of faith, as the prophecy clearly reveals both about them and to them.


If you are not able to understand, believe, that you may understand. Faith goes before; understanding follows after; since the prophet says, “Unless you believe, you shall not understand. read more

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It seems like the closer God comes to us, the harder it is for us to receive Him with faith. God as an abstract idea which may or may not exist is something most people are willing to consider. God the distant Creator who set order, beauty, and perfection in the natural world is still fairly safe and edifying. The God who reveals by His words the same standards of justice and righteousness that we agree with is comforting. The God who openly rebukes and condemns wrongdoing by the mouth of His prophets arrives at an uncomfortable level of proximity however – especially when we ourselves are guilty. So long as a prophet is personally removed from the people to whom he addresses God’s Word, a comfortable level of anonymity can still be maintained. But when the prophet is God Himself, and the people He is sent to – preaching and teaching – were His equals and superiors throughout His childhood that is mind blowing. Any degree of separation between religion and human life is destroyed. Immediate religion is offensive – especially when we lack faith. It is offensive because the holiness of the invisible God seems to require some degree of separation between what we are and what God is. Immediate religion is even more offensive when we lack faith because it forces our conscience out of hiding and sets before it a Word or judgement whose authority we would like to reject but cannot do so comfortably.

If we have faith on the other hand, if we believe in the divine origin of this Word that penetrates to the core of our being, we can humbly welcome the messenger and discover that He also approaches us with humility and meekness. The prophet of the Gospel does not have a message of doom and judgement, but one of forgiveness and mercy. The prophet of the Gospel is a friend to all, especially to sinners. Faith in his message removes the separation and apparent distance between what it means to be human and what it means to be divine. If, by faith, I welcome the prophet who collides offensively with my real life, either because of where he’s from or what he says, my soul become a friend of God.


The divine voice commanded the prophet as he lay and bade him rise. But he could in no way have risen if the Spirit of the Almighty had not entered into him, because by the grace of almighty God we can indeed try to perform good works but cannot carry them through unless he who commands us helps us.


The right to tempt a man is granted to the devil … whether God or the devil initiates the plan or for the purpose of the judgment of a sinner, who is handed over to the devil as to an executioner. This was the case with Saul. “The spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled and stifled him.” Again, it may happen in order to humble a man, as St. Paul tells us that there was given to him a thorn, a messenger of Satan, to buffet him, and even this sort of thing is not permitted for the humiliation of holy men through torment of the flesh, unless it be done so that their power to resist may be perfected in weakness. The apostle himself handed Phigellus and Hermogenes over to Satan so that by being chastised they might not blaspheme. And so you see that, far from possessing power in his own right, the devil can more easily be granted it by the servants of God. read more