Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 21
Mark 4: 35-41
Our Gospel selection for this Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time depicts Jesus exercising power over the wind and the sea. In the early Christian community this event is seen as a sign of Jesus’ saving presence amidst the persecutions that threatened their existence.
This idea of God having power over storms and the sea was not exactly something new to the Jewish people. They read the Psalms frequently and the idea of God controlling the raging seas appears in several places, e.g., in Psalm 89 where it says: “Lord, God of hosts, who is like you? You rule the raging sea; you still its swelling waves.” And in Psalm 107 we read: “The Lord hushed the storm to a murmur; the waves of the sea were stalled.” When Mark in today’s Gospel has them saying to one another, “Who is this whom the wind and sea obey,” the people already knew the answer. It was Jesus, the Teacher, who did care whether they perished or not.
In the homilies for the past two Sundays (Trinity Sunday and the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ) we spoke of the reverence and awe due to God and his Divine Son Jesus. In today’s Gospel we see this again in Mark’s words, “They were filled with great awe.” The Greek word here for awe can also mean one standing in awesome worship to God. Once again the actions of Jesus in the lives of the disciples caused them to worship him, to hold him in reverential fear. My on-line dictionary defines awe as an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, or extremely powerful.
I believe all of us could spend a little time on this Sunday, this day of prayer, thinking of instances in our own lives that left us with overwhelming feelings of reverential fear and wonder and worship of God. I don’t have to look too far in my own life for something to take me to these feelings. I find it in my recovery from alcoholism. I began to drink non-socially when I was 24 years old. Twenty years later it became obvious I had to stop it if I wanted to go on living. But by that time drinking had become a way of life for me and I couldn’t picture life without it much less stopping it. When I finally did resolve to stop, I couldn’t. It only got worse, which eventually led to feelings of hopelessness and giving up. Thanks to the Lord, I finally ended up in a treatment program where I learned I really had no control at all over my addiction – but God did! And when I humbly asked him to remove this burden from my life – it stopped – just like that! And 35 years later it is still stopped.
I had then, and still have today, a great reverential awe and feeling of worship for the Lord Jesus. He is there for us all. He does care. He will calm the raging seas of life. He will help if we humbly ask him. And I will stand in awe of his power in my life until the end of my days.
Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, June 22
Mt. 7: 1-5
On this Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, we again pick up the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s 7th chapter. In today’s Gospel Jesus said to his disciples (and again 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 23
Mt. 7: 6, 12-14
It is often pointed out that the notion of two ways was a common way of thinking for Judaism and one that carried over into early Christianity. This is clear in the Book of Deuteronomy 30: 15, which speaks of the choice before Israel. In fact, these verses in Deuteronomy tie right in with today’s Gospel: “Here, then, I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you that you will certainly perish,….. I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.” Note all the “two ways” in this quote.
In this Gospel Jesus tells us that his way is narrow and constricted. The way of the world is broad and wide, easy to follow. We are to choose the narrow way, the more difficult way. And Jesus tells us, “those who find it are few.” The road to destruction, our purely human way, is wide and easy to enter but it leads to destruction. The choice is ours. It is one way or the other. There is no middle way. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
What will our choice be today? Will we choose happiness or misery? Let us ask the Lord to help us choose life, happiness, blessing, prosperity, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments. There really doesn’t seem to be too much of a future in the wide and easy way, does there?
Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, June 24
Luke 1: 57-66, 80
The Nativity of John the Baptist is the fifth Solemnity to be celebrated in the past few weeks. This feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist is one of the oldest feasts of the Christian Church. It was listed by the Council of Agde in 506 as one of the principle feasts. We note that this feast on June 24 comes three months after the feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Christ (Dec. 25). The purpose of this is not to celebrate the exact date of these feasts but simply to show the connection between them. John is the only Saint besides Mary to have a feast day on their day of birth.
The Canticle of Zachariah (the father of John the Baptist) in Luke’s Gospel is found in 1: 67-80, and gives a perspective of John’s role in the history of salvation. He is the forerunner of Jesus, the one who is to “go before the Lord to prepare his ways,” who will “give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,” and “to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
When you stop to think about it, the role of John, then, as the forerunner of Christ is the same as our role yet today. The work of the Lord and of John the Baptist is not completed. That part is up to you and me and all those still to come in future ages.
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, June 25
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.
Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, June 26
Mt. 8: 1-4
Speaking of prudence, as we did yesterday, I would venture to say that the leper in today’s Gospel who approached Jesus, did him homage, and asked Jesus to make him clean, was indeed a prudent man. Smart too! He knew well that there was no known cure for the disease he had contracted; he knew there was nothing he could do about it. He knew he was powerless and so he did the only thing that possibly could have made any difference: He took his problem, his illness, to the Lord. “Lord,” he said, “if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him and said, “I will to do it. Be made clean.” The leper was cured immediately of his leprosy.
I wouldn’t dream any more of going to a doctor when I have some physical ailment without first taking the matter to Jesus in prayer. I learned my lesson a long time ago and I am not about to forget it now! How about you?
Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, June 27
Mt. 8: 5-17
With yesterday’s Gospel (Mt. 8: 1-4), we began the eighth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. In this chapter we see Jesus healing every kind of illness. Yesterday it was leprosy; today Jesus heals the paralyzed servant of a Roman centurion and Peter’s Mother-in-law who had a fever of some kind. Later in the evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons of one sort or another and he drove them out. He cured all the sick, the Gospel tells us, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the Prophet: He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.
Prudence, prudence, prudence – all over the place! Sounds like maybe we should all get on the proverbial bandwagon and take our illnesses to Jesus before going anywhere else.