The readings for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time celebrate man’s noble calling to enlist the help of Jesus Christ in our battle against the flesh and against Satan.
The setting of the first reading is the Garden of Eden. God is looking for Adam and Eve, but they are hiding because they have sinned. God calls out to them to invite them to explain their behavior.
Adam admitted eating of the forbidden fruit but blamed God for giving him a woman who tempted him to eat it. When God asked Eve why she did it, she said, “The serpent tricked me into it so I ate it.”
God then addressed Satan in the form of a serpent, and He banned the serpent from all other animals. “On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life.”
Then God tells Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will shrike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” The battle between Satan and the woman’s offspring took place on Calvary when Jesus defeated Satan by dying on the cross to save mankind. The Gospel reading echoes the first reading.
In the second reading, Paul celebrates this life in the flesh, now immersed in the life of the Holy Spirit. He celebrates the hope that He who raised up Jesus will also raise up all who put their faith in Jesus and who live out His teachings.
The more abundantly God pours out His graces upon more people, the more abundantly will this cause “thanksgiving to overflow, for the glory of God.”
He says, “Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” As man’s body diminishes with age, his spirit is renewed day by day. “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen …”
These words are encouraging and hope-filled. Implicitly, Paul suggests that we keep our eyes fixed more on our spiritual welfare than on our bodily welfare. This puts into perspective the aging of our bodily life, because the thriving of our spiritual life offsets the natural deterioration of our body. Besides, spiritual joys are more powerful and long-lasting than bodily pleasures. We are constantly encouraged to focus on our life in God, rather than our life in the flesh.
In the Gospel, as Jesus returns to His hometown, He courageously faces several “bummers.” First of all, His relatives “set out to seize Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” In addition to that, the “scribes who came from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub,’ and ‘by the prince of demons He drives out demons.’”
That certainly does not sound like the homecoming of a hero but the homecoming of someone who is threatening their status quo. For a successful carpenter to abandon His livelihood and band together with a group of uneducated and questionable characters doesn’t seem to make any earthly sense.
However, Jesus takes on the battle with Satan, and the people don’t even know it. He points out to the scribes that, in saying that He is casting out devils because He is possessed by the devil, they are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This is an unforgivable sin. Unless they relent and repent of this sin, they cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus gets some relief when His mother and extended family members arrive. When the crowd around Him says, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you,” it gives Jesus the opportunity to say, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
St. Augustine tells us that Mary was more the mother of Jesus because she did the will of God, than she was by being His physical mother. She is the woman referred to in the first reading.
The entire purpose of our life on this earth is to do the will of the Father. To help us do that, we have Jesus, who teaches us the will of the Father, and we also have the Holy Spirit to help us embrace God’s word.
The Book of Hebrews tells us: “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
The daily habit of prayerfully reflecting on the Scriptures is so enlightening and so consoling. It nurtures our spirit with the truth. It constantly keeps before us God’s will for our lives, together with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to assist us in carrying out His will. It encourages us to reach out to others less fortunate and find that in doing so, we are discovering that those less fortunate are our common brothers and sisters and children of the same loving Father.
It encourages us to look out for the spiritual welfare of others. We are told that in helping save someone else’s soul, we are ensuring the salvation of our own soul. However, the greatest consolation of daily reflecting on the Scriptures is simply growing more deeply in friendship with God. When we grow in friendship with God, we discover ourselves doing what is pleasing to God as well as consoling to our own spirit.