Reflections for the 12th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 12th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 19, John 3: 16-18
On this Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, one of the strict theological mysteries. It is impossible for us to determine how there can possibly be Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in One God. And yet, following the views of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we take this mystery and delve into what it could possibly mean for us in a practical way in our daily lives.
The first thing that came to my mind in considering this mystery was that everything that exists, exists in relation to something else. Nothing exists solely for itself or by itself. This is the way God created everything that exists – and I see it as fitting that God has the same makeup and exists accordingly. And God, even though he exists in relation as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is One God. Because God is One in relation, God is perfect. Each relationship is equal in every way.
Human beings always remain many in relationship and are never one, although that is what we strive to be. Husband and wife, in what is perhaps the closest of human relationships, are nonetheless divided and separate, even though Genesis speaks of them as being “two in one flesh.” Human nature strives for unity because it sees this as perfection. God is perfect. God is one. We are not. God is perfect because God is one. We will never be completely one and will always remain imperfect.
Do you ever just sit and let your mind doodle along thinking about something or other? I invite you to join my doodlings above about the Trinity. All of the doodling in the last paragraph is true, I believe. But is there anything practical there?
I see several practical things coming out of the doodling. First of all, humankind desires unity. We desire it but we will never have it completely, in toto. This is why we argue and try to convince others to think the way we are thinking and to do things the way we do things.
Secondly, because we see unity, oneness, as being good and perfect, it is wrong for us to be or act selfishly. We have seen before that being selfish is how we all start out in life as babies, but soon we realize we are in relation with others and then we realize the goodness of unity and begin to strive for it by doing away with personal selfishness, or at least trying to.
And thirdly, we get rid of our selfishness mainly by doing things for others and serving them. It is in serving others that we come closest to being one with them. Human beings strive to return to their Creator, or so I have read many times. And if God is three relationships in one, we will strive for unity in our relationships.
I hope this doodling makes some sense to you. Remember we are dealing with an unsolvable mystery. In any event, this is what comes to my mind this year as we celebrate the Feast of the Trinity.
Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
June 20, Matthew 7: 1-5 June 20, Matthew 7: 1-5
On this Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, we pick up the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s 7th chapter. In today’s Gospel Jesus said to his disciples (and this means you and me), “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out for you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?”
Sometimes in an AA meeting, if you can possibly imagine it, one of the participants will begin to judge someone who did this or that to them and it can grow into a real harangue. When this happens one of the other participants is sure to pipe up with the remark: Take your own inventory! And silence follows.
This is what Jesus is telling us in this part of the Sermon on the Mount: Take your own inventory. I love the hyperbole of the splinter and the wooden beam. It is so true! When I stop to think of some the things I have done in my own life, I shudder. And I wonder how I can be so surprised and judgmental of the faults and failings of others. The Lord knows I have more than enough faults and weaknesses in my own life and person to be concerned about those of others.
Lord, help me always to take only my own inventory!
Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
June 21, 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.
Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
June 22, 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.
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
June 23, Mt. 7: 21-29
I have always liked the parable of the wise man who built his house on rock that is in the Gospel selection for today. The image of ROCK is used for God himself in the Scriptures (Isaiah 17: 10), for Jesus in our present Gospel and for Peter in Mt. 16:18, where Jesus tells Peter he is the Rock on which he will build his Church.
This parable has always been a reminder to me of the virtue of prudence, the right way of doing things. It is certainly the right way of doing things when we build a building or home with a good, solid foundation and it is certainly the right way of doing things when we build our lives on the way, truth and life of Jesus. A lot of us, including myself, made the mistake of trying to build our lives on the “sand” of other gods, the idols of the world in which we live. And when we did this, all of us eventually had to pick up the pieces. Not so when we build on the values and ways of the Lord Jesus. Choosing that way just makes things get better every day.
Lord, help us all to choose the prudent way, the right way of doing things.
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist
June 24, 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.
Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
June 25, Mt. 8: 5-17
Today’s Gospel reading reinforces what we have said about helping others and includes three of the healings of Jesus. 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.