Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 2 KGS 11:1-4, 9-18, 20
saw that her son was dead,
she began to kill off the whole royal family.
But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah,
took Joash, his son, and spirited him away, along with his nurse,
from the bedroom where the princes were about to be slain.
She concealed him from Athaliah, and so he did not die.
For six years he remained hidden in the temple of the LORD,
while Athaliah ruled the land.But in the seventh year,
Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carians
and of the guards.
He had them come to him in the temple of the LORD,
exacted from them a sworn commitment,
and then showed them the king’s son.The captains did just as Jehoiada the priest commanded.
Each one with his men, both those going on duty for the sabbath
and those going off duty that week,
came to Jehoiada the priest.
He gave the captains King David’s spears and shields,
which were in the temple of the LORD.
And the guards, with drawn weapons,
lined up from the southern to the northern limit of the enclosure,
surrounding the altar and the temple on the king’s behalf.
Then Jehoiada led out the king’s son
and put the crown and the insignia upon him.
They proclaimed him king and anointed him,
clapping their hands and shouting, “Long live the king!”
Athaliah heard the noise made by the people,
and appeared before them in the temple of the LORD.
When she saw the king standing by the pillar, as was the custom,
and the captains and trumpeters near him,
with all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets,
she tore her garments and cried out, “Treason, treason!”
Then Jehoiada the priest instructed the captains
in command of the force:
“Bring her outside through the ranks.
If anyone follows her,” he added, “let him die by the sword.”
He had given orders that she
should not be slain in the temple of the LORD.
She was led out forcibly to the horse gate of the royal palace,
where she was put to death.
Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD as one party
and the king and the people as the other,
by which they would be the LORD’s people;
and another covenant, between the king and the people.
Thereupon all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal
and demolished it.
They shattered its altars and images completely,
and slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars.
Jehoiada appointed a detachment for the temple of the LORD.
All the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet,
now that Athaliah had been slain with the sword
at the royal palace.
Responsorial Psalm PS 132:11, 12, 13-14, 17-18
The LORD swore to David
a firm promise from which he will not withdraw:
“Your own offspring
I will set upon your throne.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
“If your sons keep my covenant
and the decrees which I shall teach them,
Their sons, too, forever
shall sit upon your throne.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he prefers her for his dwelling.
“Zion is my resting place forever;
in her will I dwell, for I prefer her.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
“In her will I make a horn to sprout forth for David;
I will place a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but upon him my crown shall shine.”
R. The Lord has chosen Zion for his dwelling.
Alleluia MT 5:3
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 6:19-23
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.“The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”
Pacific ocean waves crash the rocky beach coast by the Pigeon Point lighthouse in California by the Cabrillo highway US 1. It is California’s most-photographed light house and the tallest one on the Pacific Coast
Commentary on Matthew 6:19-23 from Living Space
This short passage contains two related teachings.
The first may seen as a commentary on the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. It is a teaching about the things which are really valuable, which really count. We live in a highly materialistic world where a very large number of people seem to believe that material wealth is the solution to every problem. There is nothing that money cannot buy, no problem it cannot solve. This belief prevails even though every day it is shown to be false.
Jesus urges us to put our trust and our security in something less perishable, something more lasting. To ‘store up treasure in heaven’ is not just to pile up a whole lot of ‘good works’ which will be to our credit in the next life. That credit too can be very quickly lost. It is much more a question of growing more and more into the kind of person who is steeped in the values and the outlook of the Gospel. It is less a question of doing than of becoming. We also build treasure by what we give away, by sharing with others whatever gifts we have, especially those most in need. “As long as you do it the least of my brothers you do it to me.”
And, as Jesus so wisely says, ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Obviously, the question for me to ask today is: Where is my treasure? What do I value most in life? And how do I reveal that in the way I live?
And that brings us to the second part.
“The lamp of the body is the eye.” That is to say, what I see with my inner eye determines everything else about my life. “If your eye, that is, your vision is sound, your whole body, that is, your whole being will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness.”
It is that light which we need in order to have a clear vision of what is most valuable in our lives. The person who cannot see beyond money, status, power, or fame is truly in darkness. Life is not about getting these things. Life is about who we are; it is about love and relationships.
Let us pray today for vision and light and to be able to discern what are the real treasures, the most precious things of human living. Our Christian life is above all a vision of life.
Reflection• In today’s Gospel we continue our reflection on the Sermon on the Mountain. Two days ago and yesterday we have reflected on the practice of the three works of piety: alms giving (Mt 6, 1-4), prayer (Mt 6, 5-15) and fasting (Mt 6, 16-18). Today’s and tomorrow’s Gospel presentsfour recommendations on the relationship with material goods, explaining clearly how to live the poverty of the first Beatitude: (a) not to accumulate (Mt 6, 19-21); (b) to have a correct idea of material goods (Mt 6,22-23); (c) not serve two masters (Mt 6,24); (d) to abandon oneself to Divine Providence (Mt 6,25-34). Today’s Gospel presents the first two recommendations: not to accumulate goods 19-21) and not to look at the world with diseased eyes (6, 22-23).• Matthew 6, 19-21: Do not accumulate treasures on earth. If, for example today on TV it is announced that next month sugar and coffee will be lacking in the market, we all will buy the maximum possible of coffee and sugar. We accumulate because we lack trust. During the forty years in the desert, the people were tested to see if they were capable to observe God’s Law (Ex 16, 4).
The test consisted in this: to see if they were capable to gather only the necessary manna for a single day, and not accumulate for the following day. Jesus says: “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. What does it mean to store up treasures in heaven? It is a question of knowing where I place the basis of my existence.
If I place it on material goods of this earth, I always run the danger of losing what I have stored up. If I place the basis one God, nobody will be able to destroy it and I will have interior freedom to share with others what I possess. In order that this may be possible and feasible it is important to reach a community life together which will favour sharing and reciprocal help, and in which the greatest richness or the treasure is not material riches, but rather the richness or the treasure of fraternal living together born from the certainty brought by Jesus: God is Father and Mother of all. Because there where your treasure is, there is your heart.
• Matthew 6, 22-23: The light of your body is the eye. To understand what Jesus asks it is necessary to have new eyes. Jesus is demanding and asks very much; do not store up (6, 19-21), do not serve God and money together (6, 24), do not worry about what you are to eat or drink (6, 25-34). These demanding recommendations have something to do with that part of human life where persons are more anguished and worried. It also forms part of the Sermon on the Mountain, that it is more difficult to understand and to practice. And this is why Jesus says: “If your eye is diseased ….”.
Some translate this as diseased eye and healthy eye. Others translate asmean or poor eye and generous eye. It is the same, in reality, the worse sickness that one can imagine is a person closed up in herself and in her goods and who trusts only these. It is the sickness of being stingy! Anyone who looks at life with this eye lives in sadness and in darkness. The medicine to cure this sickness is conversion, the change of mentality and of ideology. To place the basis of life on God and in this way our look becomes generous and the whole life becomes luminous, because it makes sharing and fraternity emerge.
•Jesus wants a radical change. He wants the observance of the Law of the sabbatical year, where it is said that in the community of believers there cannot be poor (Dt 15,4). Human living together should be organized in such a way that a person should not have to worry about food and drink, about dress and house, about health and education (Mt 6, 25-34). But this is possible if we all seek the Kingdom of God and his justice first (Mt 6, 33).
The Kingdom of God means to permit God to reign: it is to imitate God (Mt 5, 48). The imitation of God leads to a just sharing of goods and of creative love, which brings about a true fraternity. Divine Providence should be mediated by the fraternal organization. It is only in this way that it will be possible to eliminate any worry or concern for tomorrow (Mt 6, 34).
• Jesus says: “There where your treasure is, your heart is also”. Where is my richness found: in money or in fraternity?
• Which is the light which I have in my eyes to look at life, at events?
For Yahweh has chosen Zion,
he has desired it as a home.
‘Here shall I rest for evermore,
here shall I make my home as I have wished. (Ps 132,13-14)
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 19: 24
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Kg 11:1-4, 9-18, 20; Mt 6:19-23 ]
Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!” This warning of our Lord is indeed so true. The eye is the window of the soul and the body. What we see will determine how we think and what we think will be conceived in words and actions. Hence, if we see things both in the physical sense and in the intellectual sense wrongly, then our hearts will be skewed into desiring the wrong things. This will lead us to our ultimate destruction and even that of our loved ones. So if we were to ask why are we so shortsighted to seek the things of the world just to satisfy the flesh and allow our soul to die, then it is simply because we are blinded by pride, fear, prejudice, envy and greed!
This was the case of Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah. She was obsessed with power and even had her grandchildren, the children of Ahaziah, her son, killed so that she could grab power. Indeed, power and glory and perhaps fear of her enemies consumed her, so much so that anyone who was perceived to be a threat to her power was murdered. She was so blinded by her thirst for power and control that she would even kill her own loved ones. This is unthinkable, but that is the truth of obsession. As Jesus says in the gospel, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart also.” The prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)
This desire for power is so real, both within and without the Church. The thirst for power exists not only in the secular, corporate and political world. It is present very subtly even in religious life. Often, the Church is divided because priests, religious and the laity fight for power and control over their organizations. In the name of God, all kinds of sins are committed, such as, slander, distortion of facts, false accusations, manipulation and even the use of threats and coercion. Everyone is purportedly working for the good of the Church but in truth it is for their own glory and security. They desire power in their hearts but their eyes are so blinded that they cannot recognize their true desire. It is sad, but politicking is a reality in Church life and this is entirely against the gospel values where the Lord asks us to choose the lowest place and be a humble servant of all.
Perhaps we are not consumed by power and fear like Athaliah; but we could be consumed by material things and worldly pleasures. This is what Jesus warns us in the gospel, “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal.” We think that worldly pleasure is sufficient to keep us happy and satisfied. The truth is that nothing in this world can fill the vacuum and the desire of the human heart.
What is it that moths can destroy if not the beautiful clothes that we wear? When we buy and hoard all these beautiful fine silk clothes, moths will destroy them. They do not last. Such things cannot bring us lasting happiness. Clothes will get old and out of fashion and we will have to discard them. This is why we are never satisfied with material things. When we move into a big bungalow, we are happy for a few months, but soon we take it for granted and tire of it. It is true for those who buy big luxury cars as well. Initially they feel great driving it, but the happiness wears off after some time. Likewise, we get tired of our tech gadgets, TV, our mobile phones, etc. For this reason, we keep on changing them because they cannot satisfy us any longer.
What are those things that woodworms can destroy if not our food? Those who are obsessed with food and pleasure will left dulled once they reach satiation point. Food has a diminishing pleasure. The more we eat, even of the best foods, the less pleasurable it becomes. Indeed, the things of this world cannot sustain our pleasure for long. We go for better and newer foods. After some time, we get so sick of good and rich foods that we go back to the simple food of the ordinary folks, such as porridge and a bowl of noodles. This is true for sex and wine. There is a certain limit after which we lose our interest and our desire. When the climax or saturation point is reached, we quickly sink into the doldrums. This is what Jesus meant when He referred to the woodworms that eat up the corn and wheat in the barns. Indeed, those who are consumed by lust, gluttony and sloth are reduced to the level of animals.
What are those things that thieves can steal? People can steal our things, property and intellectual rights. But the most devious thieves are those who can rob us of our peace, joy and love. When we allow pride, anger and envy to consume us, we lose our peace because pride, revenge and envy will eat into us. There is no joy in our hearts but only bitterness. When we allow lust and greed to consume us, we lose our joy because we cannot love others or share our love with them. A man can lose many things in life, but when he loses himself, he has lost everything. That is what Jesus meant when He remarked, “what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mt 16:26)
The wisdom of St James’ advice is timely when he remarked that even those in the religious world can use spiritual powers for earthly gains, but to their own destruction. He wrote, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Tim 6:6-10)
So what treasure should we seek in life if not the treasure that is kept safe for us in heaven? When we seek heavenly things, we will never get tired of them and always hunger for more. When we seek heavenly things, we experience joy, peace, love, generosity, goodness and kindness in our hearts. (Cf Gal 5:22) Indeed, when we spend time basking in the love of God or our loved ones, we just want to be with that person forever. When we read something inspiring and uplifting, like the Word of God, we want to keep on reading because it nourishes our soul and keeps us hungering for more. When we are generous with the poor and serve unconditionally in love, the joy that we receive in touching the hearts of others is so much greater than what we can receive from our worldly success and the honours bestowed upon us by the world.
So let us store treasures not in our houses or in the banks but in our hearts. If we build ourselves up and have a good character, no one can steal from us. If we increase in knowledge, wisdom and understanding, no one can take them from us. They can rob us of material things but they cannot take what belongs to us. That is why cultivating a life of virtue, a life of wisdom, love and compassion is the best treasure that we can store in this life. Such treasures will also see themselves into the next life because these are the only things we can bring with us when we die. Only charity and its fruits that constitute the life of the “Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice and peace” will last. (GS 39) Let us therefore humble ourselves before the Lord and seek His wisdom and love by focusing our eyes on the Lord and seek guidance from Him, for as the psalmist says, “From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 119:104f)
Dark nights provoke deep questions
These seasons of confusion can be a scary experience, for laypeople and pastors alike. The fifteenth-century Christian writer John of the Cross described this experience; he called it la noche oscura, or dark night, that difficult invasion of God’s astringent grace that opens us to new realms of spiritual experience. However, it’s easy to miss this moment of grace, especially if we fail to ask deeper questions about what God might be up to.
Consider this scenario: a 38-year-old pastor called me for advice. His church wasn’t growing. His prayer lacked passion. His preaching seemed to fall on deaf ears. Previously helpful spiritual practices no longer delivered. And growing temptations to look at pornography or lose himself in Fantasy Football were worrying him and his wife. Feeling helpless and depressed, he wondered if he’d hit a ministry wall. I told him that I sensed an extraordinary moment of grace and growth. As I often do, I told him that he needed to talk to a psychologist to evaluate therapeutic issues and possibly the need for medication.
His story, and countless others like it, raises tough questions about how we should view the dark night. Is there a difference between depression and the dark night? What practical steps can we take to move through it and grow spiritually and emotionally?
Dark nights are both spiritual and psychological
St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila envisioned the dark night as a time of spiritual purging and illumination, but they also understood that psychological dynamics are often at play in a dark night experience. Though they lacked modern categories and definitions, they were some of the most adept psychological minds of their day. St. John taught that melancholia, or depression, would often accompany the dark night. For him, it wasn’t an either/or, but more often a both/and. The spiritual and psychological are interconnected.
Unfortunately, we’ve failed to learn this valuable lesson. Often psychologists see depression merely as a neurochemical problem that needs to be fixed. And too often pastors spiritualize psychological maladies that may require further expertise. On the other side, I find that many therapists (Christian therapists included) have little insight into employing spiritual disciplines, or challenging clients to avail themselves of the spiritual benefits of worship, the liturgy, and the sacraments. This divide would have been completely foreign to St. Teresa or St. John.
Dark nights provide opportunities for growth
One lesson we can learn from the ancient mystics is that dark nights are not problems, but opportunities. Grasping this reality moves us beyond “How do we fix this?” to “What might I learn in this?”
In our North American context, failure and struggle are often viewed as problems, jagged detours on what is supposed to be the smooth, straight road of life. It’s a distinctly Western phenomenon, but one that subtly impacts our Christian perceptions. Thus, many pastors feel as if depression, doubt, or distance from God amount to obstacles to ministry, rather than opportunities for it.