Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time: Aug. 23-29, 2020

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Alexander, Andy, S.J.
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"A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability." - Matthew 25
The Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time|Keys are central to readings for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time. The first reading from Isaiah offers the story of the faithful servant Eliakim, who will be given the keys for his master's palace. Paul's brief reading from the Letter to the Romans is a moving prayer filled with awe at the depth and unknowing ways of our Lord. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus asks his followers what people are saying about him. Then he asks the real question, "Who do you say I am?" Peter's direct answer, "You are the Christ" prompts Jesus' reply that Peter would be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven and would be the rock upon which his church would be built.|Monday is the Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle. Thursday is the Memorial of Saint Monica. Friday is the Memorial of Monica's son, Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church. Saturday is the Memorial of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist, with its own readings.|For the first reading we begin with a few selections from the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians and then we move to readings from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians for the next several weeks.|We continue to reflect on Jesus' words from Matthew's Gospel Jesus condemns the ways of the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, "blind guides" and "whitened tombs:" "on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing." In contrast to the ways of the hypocrites, Jesus tells his disciples to "Stay awake!" We are called to be faithful and prudent servants, stewards of what our Master has entrusted to us. If we are this kind of disciples, we will be blessed. Then he tells them the Parable of the talents. A master goes off on a journey, entrusting his wealth to three servants. Two invest the money and earn twice as much for their master. The third, out of fear and laziness, won't take any risks and buries his master's wealth, which was entrusted to him.|Our week ends as we look to the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. We see a glimpse of the Prophet Jeremiah who understands the pain of following the Lord and decides not to speak the Lord's name again, "but then it becomes like fire burning in my heart." Paul's letter to the Romans encourages those ancient Romans - and us - not to conform to this age but to discern the will of God. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus corrects his disciples' resistance to his own passion and death, telling them that if they try to save their lives, they'll lose them. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."
Daily Prayer This Week|Like physical exercises, which build strength and stamina, these exercises for finding intimacy with God in our everyday lives involve a practice regime. Nobody ever got good at soccer or baseball, running or dancing without careful practice that becomes a habit, a way of life. And, no one even attempts such a regimen without great desire. The same is true with getting good at having a relationship with our Lord. It takes great desire to sustain a routine of reflection and affective, intimate conversation. Such prayerful focus and connectedness takes discipline, but it quickly becomes natural. And, the rewards are phenomenal.|We can practice this week by asking ourselves some deep questions in the background of our life each day. Beginning each day by briefly expressing a desire to be more self-aware and transparent with our Lord, we can ask ourselves some probing questions.|In what ways am I a hypocrite? How do I use a double standard - harsher on others than I am on myself? How do I like to appear as a religious person, but actually lack mercy and deeds of charity? Am I a good steward of the gifts with which God has entrusted me?|As I grow in the ability to reflect throughout the day, I might try to recognize my inner spirit, my attitudes, the ways I respond. It is a way of staying alert and it places me with my Lord in conversation, in the background as I make decisions, as I experience my reactions to events and people. Sometimes, I might just be saying "Thank you, Lord," expressing gratitude for what I've been given. At other times, that will quickly turn to a reflection on how I will be a good steward of those gifts. Hearing the readings this week, I might want to monitor how my fears or my laziness might prevent me from being bold about using the gifts the Lord has given me to build up the Kingdom in my world.|Preparing for celebrating God's love on Sunday, I can focus on the readings for and wonder at how the fire burns in my own heart. I can ponder the question Jesus asks me: What good would it do to gain the whole world but lose my very self?|Help me Lord to hear your word to me, even when it challenges me. Open my heart and guide me to use my talents to serve you. Teach me to be generous, Lord.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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