SUNDAY of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
John the Baptist is, I dare say, one of the prominent figures in the New Testament. When Pope John XXIII began Vatican Council II in 1963, it was like opening the window and letting in a fresh breeze. John the Baptist was like a fresh breeze in his time. He challenged the status quo and paved the way for what was to come.
An angel appeared to Zechariah to announce John’s birth. From this fact alone it was obvious that John was to be someone special, set aside for a special purpose. He boldly preached to the people to turn away from their sinful ways, and to be baptized as a sign of their repentance.
Some people of that time admired John and listened to him; others did not. John spoke the truth no matter what. When King Herod married his brother’s wife, Herodias, John was quick to point out the King’s disregard of God’s law. Neither Herod nor Herodias took kindly to John’s words of criticism and Herodias had John killed in what has to be one of the top gross acts of history. But by this time, the Messiah had arrived on earth. His way had been prepared by John. John had done his job.
Some of the people at that time thought John was the Messiah. But John put the kibosh on this, saying that he was not even worthy to unbuckle Jesus’ sandals. John was a truly humble man. He had true self-knowledge. He knew who he was and what it was that he came to do.
When we truly appreciate the greatness of Jesus, our own self-importance, pride, and self-sufficiency will be deflated and we will be transformed into people of humble gratitude for all God has done for us, for his many gifts, and we will then have only a desire to please him and do his will.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
MONDAY of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus gives us some good advice in our Gospel selection for today, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” Judging others has become a great pastime. When we have nothing better to do, we talk about others and how they should change and improve.
The Gospel tells us not to be concerned about what is wrong with my brother/sister until I first figure out and correct what it is that is wrong with me, what I have to change to be a better person. Our brother/sister may have a splinter to get out of their eye, but we have planks if only we would look for them and try to do something about them. It is good to have a good self-image, or so I am told, but it is absolutely amazing what we justify sometimes in arriving at the good self-image. Sometimes, we just don’t get it!
Personally, I have oodles of planks to work on. If I focus on them and work at changing them as I should, I assure you I won’t have time to concern myself about the splinters in the eyes of my neighbors. The 4th Step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous urges us to make a thorough and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. We should do this often, keeping the accent on the words thorough and fearless. When we do this we can say with the old comic strip character, Pogo: We have found the enemy, and he is us!
TUESDAY of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus’ advice to us in this seventh chapter of Matthew continues. One of the suggestions today is that we do to others as we would have them do to us. This is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule. Most of us learned this when we were small children.
I certainly do not appreciate it when others are unfair with me, when they deny me my rights, when they do not treat me compassionately and in an understanding way, when they do not forgive me for what I did or said to them. I don’t like it at all when things work out this way. Why, then, should I dish stuff like this out to others?
I know and have filed away in my memory many axioms, clichés, sayings, rules, etc., and most of them are true. But knowing something and acting upon it are two different things. For example, I know it is true that I am responsible for how I feel today, that I should not let other people and other situations tell me how I feel. But knowing that and getting it into my life are two different things. I am constantly letting other people tell me how I feel.
Lord, help me to act according to what I know is true and not be so fickle.
WEDNESDAY of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
We are now approaching the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Tomorrow’s Gospel will bring it to a close. Our Gospel for today uses the metaphor of the false and true prophets. This metaphor was used in early Christianity to signify the direction in which one’s life was going. If you were following true prophets, life would be good. If you were following false prophets, life would be problematic. One could tell which one they were following by the fruits or results of the actions.
The fruits of following the true prophet, Christ, are listed in the Scriptures as being the fruits of the Spirit. And they are, as we saw a short while ago around the feast of Pentecost: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If my actions bring these out in people, then they are good. Sometimes I notice that my actions bring out the worst in people. They bring out just the opposite of what should be brought out by Christian behavior. When I see these opposites happening, it is obviously time for a change.
How easy it is to say, “It is time for a change.” Bringing that change to be is not so easy. Once again, I am reminded of that old short writing about the difficulty of changing called the Autobiography in Five Short Chapters. You have probably heard this before but just for a refresher I submit it again:
Chapter 1. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault! It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter 2. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter 3. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in….it’s habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter 4. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
Chapter 5. I walk down another street.
Silly, but, oh so true! How I dilly-dally around trying to change. And most of the time, it never happens. Why is it so difficult to “walk down another street?”
THURSDAY of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Irenaeus
St. Irenaeus, whose feast we celebrate today, is another of the early pillars of the Church. He was born probably in Smyrna (Asia Minor), in the first half of the 2nd century and died about 202. He knew St. Polycarp, a friend of St. John the Evangelist, and was very careful to preserve the teachings of the early Church.
Irenaeus was an invaluable help to the early Church in her defense against the inevitable heresies that arose at the beginning of her history. Irenaeus’ chief obstacle in this regard was Gnosticism. This heresy taught that men were saved not by any faith in Christ, but through some special knowledge that was a weird mixture of philosophy and magic that only a few could understand.
The name Irenaeus comes from the Greek word for “peace.” Irenaeus was truly a peacemaker for his time. He preferred to win people to Christianity by love rather than by fear. Maybe this is a lesson we can learn from him: to be peacemakers led by love.
Let us reflect on this by praying today St. Francis’ Peace Prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
FRIDAY of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, two giants in the early history of the Church whose legacy continues yet today in the many Churches and Parishes named after them.
I am thinking of one such Parish and Church in particular. It is the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul, located just outside of Gilbert, Iowa, about 5 or 6 miles north of Ames, Iowa. This parish sits literally in the middle of some Iowa cornfields and has been there since the 1860s. The beautiful and well-kept country church seats about 100 people comfortably. You could maybe cram 150 into it if you were to use the choir loft for seating. Two houses sit on the property; one is the former rectory, the other the former home of the sisters who then taught in the now non-existent school. Both are now rented out to families. There is one other building used for the religious education of the children. It is a vibrant, very much alive, modern parish. I had the privilege of administering this parish for four years and fell in love with it. I still have a picture on my desk of myself standing on the front steps of the church.
I think of this today as a very happy, personal memory. I will pray today for all the people of the parish and invite you to do the same for all parishes named after Saints Peter and Paul. Maybe take the time today also to remember a favorite church of your own and pray for the people there today. All of these small churches are part of our beautiful “big church” and make this big church all that it should be.
SATURDAY of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He (Jesus) said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion responded, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
Such is the exchange between Jesus and a centurion in today’s Gospel selection. As we know, Jesus cured the man’s servant without ever going to him at all. The centurion’s blind faith in Jesus produced this result.
Sometimes I think: If only I had faith like that! Why don’t I? I really can’t say. I pray for something and then wonder when and if it will happen, instead of praying and knowing it will happen. That seems to be the difference between my prayers and the prayer of the centurion. Jesus’ words: O you of little faith, surely apply to me.
Lord, I do believe. Please help my unbelief.
PS — Daily Homilies will take a vacation during the month of July. Hopefully, they will return on August 1, 2007.