Teach me Your ways, O Lord!


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TODAY’S READINGS

Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17a
Psalm 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Matthew 21:23-27

REFLECTION

Teach me Your ways, O Lord!

When we speak this verse, from today’s Responsorial Psalm, we are asking God to teach us. We are asking the Lord to instruct us in His ways.

But are we ready to learn?

Can we put ourselves into “learning mode” and really pay attention to God?

Perhaps the key to learning, especially for adults, is to be humble. We have experience in life, yes. But we still have much to learn!

That beautiful and essential quality of humility is brought out in the last verse of the psalm that we speak today:

“He guides the humble to justice,
He teaches the humble His way.”


Perhaps, as adults, we need to pray today:

Teach me Your ways, O Lord,
and give me humility so that I can learn them.

We all need to know that Jesus is the chosen one of God.


 

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In today’s Gospel, Jesus puts His disciples, and us, on the spot when He asks, “But who do you say that I am?” They, as we, when asked, might try to give a safe answer! But Jesus is asking!

‘You are the Messiah,‘ Simon Peter answered, ‘the Son of the living God!‘ Peter’s response was right, sincere, and a grace from God. However, Peter did not correctly understand what he had professed. Not long afterwards, Jesus even “turned on Peter and said, ‘Get out of my sight, you satan! You are trying to make Me trip and fall. You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s’ “.

We all need to know that Jesus is the chosen one of God, and that He died for us to give us eternal life. If we can admit that to Him and to all around us that we must be ready to do the same, we cannot be spectators! Jesus wants us to know Him and for others to see Him when they see us.

To do that, Jesus must not only be in our hearts but He must also be the purpose of our lives and actions! Thinking and acting cannot be disconnected when it comes to the path of eternal life.

The Psalm reminds us “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” I always love praying and singing this wise statement. The trying times of our life, while extremely painful to endure, are wonderful opportunities to open ourselves to God’s love.
As I contemplated the first reading, I could feel the sense of confusion and exhaustion in Moses and Aaron. We have all been driven to our knees in one sense or another. How can I remember in times of despair to give it all over to God trusting in his love and sanctity? I will be listening more carefully in the times when I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. When I hear God’s voice, I will not harden my heart.

When we pray, we too can “ignite” supernatural communication with God.


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We may be so familiar with today’s Gospel account of the transfiguration of Jesus that we miss something. Can you guess what?

Take a minute now, and read this part again:

“Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up a mountain to pray.
While He was praying His face changed in appearance
and His clothing became dazzling white.”

We can well imagine the dazzling white garment. We can picture Jesus’ face transfigured so brilliantly that only a divine power could transform it. But Jesus didn’t go up the mountain to put on a show. Jesus “went up a mountain to pray.” And furthermore, this fantastic transformation occurred “While he was praying.” Prayer, then, was the matrix for the Transfiguration. Prayer was the “takeoff” point of this supernatural event.

Every time Jesus prayed, something “ignited.” Not always so dramatically, but always His communication with His Father was powerful, like touching a lit match to gasoline.

When we pray, we too can “ignite” supernatural communication with God. It needn’t be dramatic. It may not even be verbal, or visible. It can be as quiet as a thought, as unnoticeable as the blink of an eye. But does God see us? Yes! Does God hear us? Definitely! Does God understand our hearts, as well as our words? Absolutely! And is it worth it? Totally!

Lord, help me to pray, right now, even if only for a moment. Lord, You have taught us how to pray in so many ways, with the help of the Holy Spirit, with the words of the “Our Father,” with our hearts and our hands, just to name a few.

We may not “go up a mountain” to pray. We may not have our clothing turn dazzling white. We may not even have our facial expressions change. But prayer always, always changes things.

Prayer changes us. It changes our hearts. It can change our circumstances, or the way we look at things. It can even change You, O Lord, so that You will turn to us and listen, and perhaps You will grant us what we desire.

Thank You, O Lord, for Your example of prayer.
Help me to pray to You often,
even if just for a moment.
Amen.

Let us center our reflection upon three letters, “A”, “S”, “K”: Asking, Seeking, and Knocking.


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Our readings today teach us wonderful lessons about prayer. They teach us to be bold and confident when we pray, like Abraham and like Jesus Himself.

God has heard complaints about the outrageous sins of the citizens of Sodom. As He and His angelic helpers stand beside Abraham, God confides to Abraham that, in His anger, He plans to destroy the entire city by fire. Abraham, fearful for his nephew Lot and his wife who live there, feels a sense of terror.
Thinking of the innocent residents, he begs God not to carry out His plans. He boldly bargains with God to spare the city if He finds just fifty, or forty-five, or forty people there. He succeeds in getting God to spare the city for even ten innocent people.

Can we follow Abraham’s example in being so bold and confident?

The Gospel is even more encouraging when Jesus invites His followers to use the very words that He Himself uses in the simple address of “Father” to the awesome Creator. He urges us to feel the warmth of the Father’s love and mercy, assuring us that our prayer will be heard according to the Father’s Will!
Thus shall we pray–often, anywhere, anytime–as sons and daughters of a God who really listens.

Let us center our reflection upon three letters, “A”, “S”, “K”: Asking, Seeking, and Knocking. The first asking is done by the apostles who would like Jesus to teach them to pray as John was teaching his followers. So Jesus gives them a five-part prayer in which there is imbedded some forms of asking. They and we are taught to acknowledge the holiness of God and then request something called “daily bread”. Now what do you believe he meant by that? Then we are to ask for our being forgiving and then freedom from the “final test” which, like any final exam, might make us worried.

Other than the opening recognition of God’s holiness, the whole prayer seems pretty centered on personal greed, self-centered peacefulness and life-long security. Jesus explains how we should keep asking, seeking, and knocking and we will eventually receive, find, and have doors of God and life opened.

The last verse is mysterious, yet so important to our understanding of this asking prayer. For all that we request, what we will receive, find, and have revealed to us is the result of the Holy Spirit’s working out our salvation history. What exactly are we going to receive? What will we find? What is inside the doors which will be opened to our knocking?

Jesus would be willing to change your weeds into wheat. This would both double your crop and get rid of your weeds, not by pulling but by changing them.


 

wheat and weeds

“When the crop began to mature and yield grain, the weeds made their appearance as well.” —Matthew 13:26

It’s a dry season here in Uganda, or better called summertime in the western world, and little weeding is done in the gardens around this time. But if you may still be doing some weeding, and you ask Jesus to help, you may be surprised when He says He doesn’t do weeding until harvest time (Mt 13:29-30).

‘Let both grow till the harvest.

What a beautifully consoling parable. What a wonderful exhortation to patience with ourselves and with others. Often, more aware of our faults than of the richness that lies within, we spend energy trying to root out faults, rather than letting our richness grow. And our awareness of others’ faults blocks our perception of the goodness in them.

Jesus tells of a farmer who takes a practical solution to a problem – how to deal with (what we would call today) sabotage from an enemy?

 The field workers recognize that harm could come from addressing this situation, and that it is not their responsibility, but that of the farmer, to decide what to do. The farmer realizes that trying to fix the problem at the wrong time could do more harm than good – better to wait until the right time and then separate the good from the bad.

Jesus would be willing to change your weeds into wheat. This would both double your crop and get rid of your weeds, not by pulling but by changing them.


It’s very easy to notice the many weeds in the Church. The doubt, hypocrisy, confusion, and gossip of the weeds make life miserable for the Church. Our work of evangelization is also hindered because the world is turned off to Jesus by the sinful behavior of the weeds. It seems best for everybody to pull the weeds. But the Lord knows that once they’re pulled, they’re dead. So He lets the weeds live and the wheat suffer for a while so that the weeds will have the maximum opportunity to repent and become wheat.
Rejoice when you suffer redemptively, for this means that there’s time for the weeds to change and for the harvest to double.

Cross off your list anything that leads you away from Jesus’ cross. Take up your cross.


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Chapter Ten in St. Matthew’s gospel relates the detailed instructions Christ gave His disciples as He sent them to continue His mission.

He warned them that His message could cause division within families. They were to travel light and to accept what was offered them along the way. He gives the conditions of discipleship and the rewards to those who receive them. It raises the question “How would He instruct us today?”

These same guidelines or mandates are appropriate today. Christ never said that the role of discipleship would be easy. We know there are many distractions and temptations along the way. We need to keep our eyes open to our mission, and our hearts open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. We do have the advantage of all those disciples who have gone before us. Most important, we recall that Christ would be with us always, until the end of time.

“He who will not take up his cross and come after Me is not worthy of Me.” —Matthew 10:38

 

We are Christians, disciples of Christ. We follow Jesus, Who saved us not through His power or wisdom, but through His ministry of suffering. Jesus came to earth to die on the cross to atone for our sins, pay the price for our salvation and reconcile us to God.

We must never spiritualize our faith and forget that Jesus suffered horribly in the flesh. We just can’t follow Jesus merely from the hope that He can do great things for us. That treats Jesus as a “sugar-daddy,” denying all that He is and the reason He came to earth. Jesus died a disgraceful death. He was publicly humiliated, scorned as a condemned criminal. He Who was holy and innocent bore a cross meant for a murderer.

We Christians imitate Jesus. That means we take up our cross each day, deny our very selves, and follow in His footsteps. This is impossible in our human nature. Through our baptism into Jesus’ cross and death, however, we become sharers in the divine nature. Now we can embrace the cross as Jesus embraced His cross. In the logic of the cross, by taking up our cross, we discover who we are.

If you falter carrying your cross, remember that Jesus understands. He fell several times carrying His cross. He knows the cross is heavy but He also wants you to experience the joy in sharing in His sufferings. So cross off your list anything that leads you away from Jesus’ cross. Take up your cross.

And who is it that Jesus calls today to spread his word? Each one of us


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In today’s gospel, we see Jesus sending out His closest twelve disciples to spread His message: the Kingdom of God is at hand. He sends them to do the critical work of evangelizing and healing. Drive out unclean spirits and cure every disease. He gives them “authority” over unclean spirits.

The Kingdom of Heaven is within our grasp, if we will just believe Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven starts here and now. It starts in our mortal lives and it continues into eternity. We attain heaven through the will of God by each choice we make that is in accord with His will and all that He taught us. Likewise, we will create Hell on Earth each time we choose our own way rather than His.

Now, Jesus sends out these men to evangelize and minister, but seriously, did He check their resumes? These are not men who are powerful leaders.
The group includes Peter, a man so afraid of getting into trouble that he eventually would lie about even knowing Jesus. James and John argued over which one of them would be remembered as the greatest of the disciples. Thomas simply could not believe that Jesus has risen from the dead until he saw it with his own eyes. Matthew was a despised tax collector. And Judas was a close friend whose name has come down through the ages as synonymous with traitor.

In our practical and logical minds we might be saying, “What was Jesus thinking? I wouldn’t have hired any of them!” They were losers and outcasts, poor and powerless.

St. Teresa of Avila taught that Jesus has no hands but ours, no feet but ours, no voices but ours, etc. How can Jesus and the Church be strongly present to people who don’t acknowledge Jesus’ presence, listen to Him, or go to Church?
You as Disciples of Christ are His “walking tabernacles.” You bring Jesus and His body, the Church, to those “without hope and without God in the world”. The essence of the Good News is that God is with us here and now. We have the ability to make that known to the whole world. We are the apostles and disciples of today. Let us choose to follow God and help Heaven come about on Earth.

Jesus sees us differently than we do. We see clearly our own flaws – and more clearly everyone else’s! All of us are stricken with terror and too often, that fear rules our lives. We let our egos get in the way and bicker about our importance and we doubt things we should believe. We judge those on the outside – like Matthew – and yet we are often on the outside ourselves.

And who is it that Jesus calls today to spread his word? Each one of us. He calls us through our fears and loves us when we are outcasts. He hears our doubts with his heart instead of logic and loves us all the more. Even Judas was cherished by Jesus.

So today we are sent. In all of our imperfections and in all of the ways we know we are inadequate. We are sent to heal those in our world who need healing. To forgive those who desperately need our forgiveness. To drive out the unclean spirits of jealousy, greed and anger.

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