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July 16, 2018: Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Reading Isaiah 1:10-17
Gospel Matthew 10:34—11:1

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

There is a big difference between a bribe and a gift. A bribe is something we give to another while demanding something in return. A gift is an expression of love with no strings attached. A gift-giver expects nothing in return, but merely gives the gift as a sign of love that already exists between the two.

This week the First Reading comes from the book of the prophet Isaiah. A prophet at roughly the same time as Hosea, whose prophecies we heard last week, Isaiah preached to the people of Judah, the southern half of the Kingdom. Isaiah was concerned with the sort of sacrifices that the people were offering to God. They viewed God as someone with a lot of power whom they could bribe.

The people of Judah had been influenced in this regard by their pagan neighbors. Jesus in the Gospel Reading, however, warns us that no one else should stand between ourselves and God. This seems very self-evident, but can in fact demand a lot of us as Catholics. Not even members of our family may be chosen above God.

This is a hard saying. It would seem that Jesus expects us to pit ourselves against our family in order to choose Him. But Jesus didn’t come to earth wanting to divide people, any more than He wanted to die on the cross for the sake of dying. He knew, though, that there are some who refuse to choose God in their lives, and that these people can only find peace in their own hearts when they come to God. Rather than look at Jesus’ words as pitting us against others, we realize that Jesus is telling us that if we want to draw others closer to God, we first of all have to firmly establish our own relationship with God. Out of that relationship with God, we can work at drawing others closer to God again.