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Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other shore. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I know this life is not the end, that I am just passing through on my way to my eternal home with you. Help me to always put you first in my life and never let anything come between us.
- Love Comes First: Matthew’s Gospel is the first book of the New Testament and, therefore, a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. It was written by a Jew, a former tax collector, to his fellow Jews, about the new Kingdom. Many modern readers dislike Matthew’s Gospel because of its hard sayings, like the one found in today’s reading. In this part of the Gospel, Jesus had not yet called apart his Twelve Apostles. Some newcomers had approached Jesus and Jesus had some harsh sayings for them. Following him wasn’t easy then, and it isn’t easy now. Our relationship with Jesus must be our highest priority in life—higher than even the good priorities that are part of caring for our human family. Of course we know that the burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy (Tobit 1:16-18); it honors the children of God who are temples of the Holy Spirit (CCC 2300). Yet, the pursuit of divine holiness trumps even the legitimate wishes of our human family. While this scenario may seem a bit extreme, and we are called to carefully discern God’s will, the point is clear: loving God always comes first. “Love…and do what you will,” said St. Augustine. If love is our modus operandi, God takes care of the details.
- Hard Teachings: Christ is Our Lord, and as Lord he demands the very best for his followers. Christ is a passionate lover and only demands what he knows we need. Flannery O’Connor once said: “To the hard of hearing, you must shout,” which is one reason why some of her writings are difficult to digest. Jesus, at times, seemed to shout into our world, but it was necessary because we are all somewhat deaf due to original sin. “Original sin entails captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil. Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors of education, politics, social action, and morals” (CCC 407). Yet, Christ’s demands are always signs that he loves us…even more than life itself.
- A Pure Heart: Many people in Jesus’ day misinterpreted obedience to the moral law as a performance, an external behavior, and they obeyed it to the letter. Yet Jesus as God demands more, not less, than the strict observances of the law. God wants our hearts—our pure hearts. God is a lover, not a slave driver. God wants all of us, our whole person, not just certain behaviors; he wants our whole selves. But the spiritual physics of giving him our all is that he gives it back to us and then some. God is always about the more. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, help me today to make sure that what I say and do always increases my love for you and for our Father. Please help me also to assist my neighbor to grow in his love for God.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will look carefully at how I spend my free time and schedule extra time in dialogue to listen to you.
For Further Reflection: Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church 222-227, on the implications of faith in one God.
Janet Scanlan is a lifelong Catholic, wife, mother, and grandmother, who is passionate about helping people know and live the love of Christ through marriage ministry, evangelization, writing, and work as a spiritual director.