Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
 Luke 9: 18-24

In our Gospel for this Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Their answer came back: “John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets who has arisen.” Then Jesus asked the Apostles who they thought he was. And Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” Maybe some of the others would have given the same answer. We don’t know. But, in any event, how did Peter know the right answer? He certainly didn’t read it anywhere. There are many who believe that Peter simply took the time to look at his own life since he had been following Jesus. And when he saw the changes in that life, in his person, he knew a Divine Person had to be involved in those changes. He certainly didn’t do it alone. Peter had come to know Christ and what he was about and because of this his personality began to change. And as we follow Peter on through the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, we see him continuing to change right up to the time when he suffered a martyr’s death.

The same thing happens to us – to you and to me. How does change happen in our lives? Only by asking Jesus to help us change, that’s how. We don’t do it alone anymore than Peter did. I wasn’t aware of this until I began to follow the 12 Steps of Spirituality in AA. And even then it took some time to realize what Steps 6 and 7 were telling me: Jesus, my Higher Power, was the changer! We, as I have remarked many times before, are the changees. Step 6 says: We were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character. And Step 7 reads: We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot change ourselves in the major areas where we would like to change. In order to change, we must first of all have the desire, be willing, want to change. That’s our part in all of this. Then we must humbly ask God to change us. The original draft of Step 7 reads: Humbly on our knees asked him to remove our shortcomings.

We see Step 7 being carried out very literally in the early history of AA at the home of Dr. Bob Smith on Ardmore Ave. in Akron, Ohio. The drunk who came through the front door to join early AA was taken to the upstairs front bedroom, asked to kneel down, and surrender to their Higher Power asking Him/Her to remove their shortcomings. To do it this way even today is not a bad idea although the words “on our knees” were later removed from the Step.

The Steps refer to this change as the Spiritual Awakening, which is the result of following the other 11 Steps. This Spiritual Awakening is referred to as a personality change in the Big Book and this is what Peter noticed in himself after following the Lord for a while. How have we changed since we have seriously embraced the discipleship of the Lord Jesus? How do I wish to change further? Let’s ask our Lord for his help in this endeavor and watch the change come about.

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 
June 21, Memorial of St. Aloysius

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Aloysius Ganzaga. The name, Aloysius, has played a part in my own life. My Dad’s brother, Raymond, became a Conventual Franciscan Priest. He was almost certainly part of the reason for my suddenly wanting to become a priest when I was in the 8th grade. He was definitely responsible for my becoming a Conventual Franciscan when I went to the seminary in 1945. When I received the Sacrament of Confirmation as a youngster, I took the name Aloysius for my Confirmation name. In reading the life of St. Aloysius Ganzaga, I noticed some very interesting similarities between his life and the life of my uncle, Fr. Aloysius.

St. Aloysius was born in Italy in 1568. At a young age he wanted to enter the religious life and later on became a Jesuit priest. Bad health as a youth prevented him from having a full social life. He had a kidney disease that slowed him down greatly. When he was 18 he helped out in a hospital during the plague of 1587 and he died from the same plague in 1591 when he was 23 years old.

My uncle, Fr. Aloysius, also wanted to be a religious and joined the Conventual Franciscans at a young age as the result of a parish mission. He was also sick as a youth suffering from a kidney disease. Early in life he lost one kidney and later on the other one went bad also. He died at the very young age of 34. So, there are many similarities between his life and the life of St. Aloysius.

Lets ask both St. Aloysius and Fr. Aloysius to remember us to the Father they now see face to face.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 
Mt. 7: 6, 12-14

Today’s Gospel reading is made up of three ethical sayings for the consideration of the disciples of Jesus. In the first of them, Jesus tells the disciples, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and tear you to pieces.” This saying is rather mysterious when we look at what is to come in the Gospel about preaching the Gospel to all peoples. The saying is understood as an admonition not to preach about the Messiah or the reign of God to the Gentiles but to focus their mission and preaching on the people of Israel. As I said, a wee bit mysterious.

The second admonition is what we call the “golden rule.” There are many different ways of saying the same thing in the Scriptures, e.g., love your enemy as yourself. This is the way the disciples are to live.

 The last saying referring to the “narrow gate” stresses the difficulty of choosing the way, truth and life of Jesus for our own. It is not easy to go against our nature of revenge, selfishness and having life be all about me. It takes work. Let these admonitions, along with the help of God, renew our efforts to be true disciples of the Lord.

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 
Mt. 7: 15-20

The theme of having the disciples of the Lord bear good fruit is a favorite theme in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew tells us that there are some pastors and teachers who lead others astray. I hope they are only a few among the many. A minister who bears good fruit would seem to be one who makes a difference among the flock they lead. If the people have the values of Jesus as their own such as compassion, forgiveness, love, caring, kindness, serving others, then it would seem safe to say these ministers are bearing good fruit, making a difference.

Let us pray daily that we may lead those we are responsible for in the right direction, toward the way, truth and life of Jesus.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 
Luke 1: 57-66, 80

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. Making today a Solemnity would indicate the regard the Church has for St. John the Baptist.

John’s whole purpose as the last of the prophets was to announce the coming of the Messiah. The Son of God himself was coming to live among us and raise us to a new way of life. John was excited about being part of this. We read in another place in the Scriptures that when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came to visit Elizabeth, pregnant with John, and the two mothers-to-be met, John leaped in his mother’s womb. We failed to find a real satisfactory explanation for this in a homily not too long ago. Maybe the reason is as simple as his being excited at the arrival of the Messiah. Later on, John was also excited to ascertain that Jesus was really present when he sent his disciples to make sure.

Perhaps celebrating this Solemnity today can also help rekindle the fires of our own excitement at preaching and making known the values of Jesus in our corner of the world as priest, mother, father, worker, student, parishioner – whatever we might be. Enthusiasm is an important virtue for us no matter who we are or what we are doing.

May the life-saving message of John keep us all excited in our ministry to one another.

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 
Mt. 8: 1-4

Today we begin the 8th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel and are met by three healings. The first one has Jesus healing a leper who approached him and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” The leper was immediately cured of his disease.

How many people come to us with the same plea: If you wish, you can help me? Are we willing to go out of our way to help them when we are capable of doing so? Or do we sometimes have something going on in our own agenda that we want to do and consequently do not help where we could. Remember the old saying about preferring people over things. And things here can mean work, time, a golf game, etc. Am I willing to sacrifice “my thing” to make time to help another? I certainly hope so.

Jesus, help me to want to help others as you did.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time 
 Mt. 8: 5-17

Today’s Gospel reading reinforces what we said yesterday about helping others and also includes the other two healings of Jesus at the beginning of chapter 8. In the first, we saw Jesus heal the leper. In the second, Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant because of the great faith of the Centurion. In the third and final healing at the beginning of chapter 8, Matthew tells of Jesus going to the home of Peter and there he finds Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. Jesus touched her hand and the fever left her.

In all of these instances Jesus shows us how much he cares about people. It’s as simple as that. And sometimes miracles happen that we don’t even recognize just because we cared. I recently read a story about a priest who wanted to be a missionary and wanted to learn Spanish. He was sent to an outpost of the mission where he would be surrounded with the language. Shortly after he arrived there, he was called upon to say Mass, preach, and then counsel people with problems they wanted to talk about. He messed up the whole assignment because he could not yet speak the language well enough. He felt terrible about his failure and was half tempted to give up what he had started to do. He was just sitting there all alone and thinking of the mess he had made, when an old man approached him and very graciously affirmed the priest’s presence among his people. He thanked him for coming. The priest had cared about these people and this was all that mattered.

Lord, help us truly care about our neighbors today.

Fr. Howard


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