Reflections for the 13th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 13th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 26, John 6: 51-58
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast began as the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) in 1246 in Liege, Belgium. In the Second Vatican Council the Feast of Corpus Christi was joined with the Feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the present Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. In my understanding, this is meant to be a feast of praise, gratitude and public celebration to God for the august gift of the Eucharist. It was and still is customary to celebrate this feast with great pomp and processions. It is, as I said, a celebration of our gratitude for the Eucharist.
When I think of the Feast of Corpus Christi, it always takes me back to the time I spent in Italy. I was in many a grand procession during that time celebrating this feast. The procession in Rome was unbelievable. They tried to get all the clerics and religious in the city into this procession in their proper order of precedence, an almost impossible undertaking, but they tried. The laity was also invited. It was big, but rather disorganized.
The best community cooperation for this Feast I saw and participated in was at Bolseno, Italy. In those days the Feast of Corpus Christi was always celebrated on the Thursday following Pentecost. On Tuesday in Bolseno they would start decorating the route the procession would follow on Thursday with the different colored buds of flowers (no stems). They would make designs with these flowers on the streets and it was the childrens’ job to keep all of this watered so they would stay fresh. During the actual procession, the Blessed Sacrament was carried on a large stand by four people with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance passing over the flower decorations on the street. It was a very beautiful community celebration.
I do not know how this Feast will be celebrated in your region, but I hope it is celebrated in some form. In any event, it is possible for all of us today to say a special prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of the Body and Blood of his Son in the Eucharist.
My God, how great Thou art!
Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
June 27, Mt. 8:18-22
When Jesus saw a crowd around him,
he gave orders to cross to the other shore.
A scribe approached and said to him,
“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
Another of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But Jesus answered him, “Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead.”
Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Irenaeus, bishop and martyr
June 28, Mt. 8:23-27
Our Gospel chosen to be read today tells the story of the disciples following Jesus aboard a boat to cross to the other side of the lake. While on the way a violent storm came up that threatened to swamp their boat. Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat, oblivious of the storm. The disciples woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Criticizing them for their lack of faith, Jesus calmed the storm.
The violent storm of this Gospel story is understood by the commentaries I have read to have been a great earthquake. This storm idea points ahead to the great difficulties the disciples would have later on at the passion and death of Jesus. And in the Gospel we see the initial enthusiasm of the disciples to follow Jesus dissolve at the thought and fear of losing their own lives. Sometimes in our own lives we are besieged by the “storms and earthquakes” of our times that threaten to dim our initial enthusiasm at following Jesus. The glitter of worldly wealth and practices can threaten our spiritual lives. When this happens, let us cry out to Jesus with the disciples, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” This beautiful prayer of faith in Jesus will bring instant good results, as it did for the Disciples.
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Iranaeus, one of the very early Fathers of the Church. The Fathers of the Church are a number of early Church Bishops, scholars and Saints who laid the foundation for Christian Theology and kept various errors from infiltrating the message of Jesus.
Iranaeus was probably born sometime around the year 125 and became a disciple of another early Father, St. Polycarp. Iranaeus is most remembered for his writings against the Gnostic heresy that was threatening the early Church. Gnosticism was an early heresy that maintained that matter is evil and that our emancipation from this evil comes from some esoteric knowledge of spiritual truth. St. Iranaeus pretty well eliminated it. Iranaeus died around the year 202.
St. Iranaeus, pray for us.
Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Wednesday, June 29, Mt. 16:13-19
We are all very familiar with Saints Peter and Paul, whose Solemnity we celebrate today. They are the “Babe Ruths” of Christianity. We all admire them for their great spiritual strength and leadership and at the same time we see just how human they were. Both of them erred and both of them were very holy men worthy of being followed by us. Both were writers. Paul wrote ten Letters which are part of the Scriptures. Peter wrote two. This Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is believed to have been instituted in the year 258 and this makes it a very old feast indeed. Peter and Paul were the two pillars of the early Christian Church and greatly responsible for its growth and success.
Peter was called by Jesus along with his brother Andrew and was later chosen by Christ to be his first Vicar on earth. Peter was bold and rash and yet he was one of the greatest lovers of Jesus. He swore up and down he would follow Jesus anywhere at any time. In fact, it was his great love that led him to follow Jesus into the courtyard during his passion which occasioned his triple denial of Jesus when questioned by the servant girl. St. Peter suffered martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Nero in 64 A.D. He was buried at the base of the Vatican Hill and recent archeological excavations show his tomb to be on the very site of the present St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Paul was also chosen personally by Christ to be part of the Apostolic College when Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, a story with which we are all very familiar. Paul started out using his energies to suppress the flock of Jesus, but ended up being converted to it himself. Paul traveled all over the then-known world spreading the Good News of Jesus. His calling was to bring Christ’s name to all peoples; Paul is regarded as the greatest missionary of all times, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He was beheaded at Tre Fontane (three fountains) on the Ostiense Road outside the city of Rome. A small chapel indicates the spot of his martyrdom and is located just a short distance from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls where St. Paul is buried.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
June 30, Mt. 9:1-8
The lesson taught in yesterday’s Gospel is followed up in today’s Gospel with a practical example of our not fearing illnesses and the other “demons” we are powerless over. And by the way, let’s not fall into that ancient belief that sin and illness are connected. Any sickness we may have is not due to our personal sin.
Jesus, in the Gospel, shows that God has the power to forgive sins as well as the power to cure the paralysis the man is powerless to do anything about. The point of this Gospel might well be to keep us from underestimating the power God has over situations and problems we may consider to be absolutely hopeless. Nothing is greater than the power of God, and as we see in the Gospel, it is always there for us. All we have to do is ask.
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Friday, July 1, Mt. 11:25-30
I found a short history of this feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on-line. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes all the way back to the 11th century, but it remained strictly a private devotion until the 16th century. The first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated in Rennes, France, on August 31, 1670, through the efforts of St. John Eudes (1602-1680). It took the later visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) to make the devotion a universal feast of the Church.
The “great apparition” or vision of St. Margaret Mary took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the feast of Corpus Christi in which vision Christ asked her to request that this feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi (remember that previously Corpus Christi was always celebrated on a Thursday), in reparation for the ingratitude of people for the sacrifice Christ made for them in reconciling them to the Father. In 1856, Pope Pius IX extended this feast to the universal Church.
We would all do well today, I believe, to be aware of our ingratitude to Jesus for all he has done and still is doing for all of us daily. Like most everything else in life, we human beings manage to arrive at a point where we take it for granted. Alchoholics Anonymous always urges the recovering alcoholics to develop an “attitude of gratitude” to their Higher Power for their gift of quality sobriety. Not a bad attitude for all of us to acquire toward our Lord Jesus whose gifts for us are beyond numbering.
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of The Blessed Virgin Mary
Saturday, July 2, Luke 2:41-51
Following the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Church calendar is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This devotion is based primarily upon what we read in the Scriptures. In the Gospel of St. Luke there are two references to the Heart of Mary. These are found in Luke 2: 34-35, and Luke 2: 51.
Luke 2: 34-35 reads: “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his Mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
And Luke 2: 51 reads: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
It was Pope Pius XII, in the midst of the Second World War, who put the whole world under the special protection of Jesus’ Mother Mary by consecrating the world to her Immaculate Heart. In 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This was really not a new devotion. In the 17th century, St. John Eudes preached it along with his preaching on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was Pius XII who instituted the feast for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944.)
Most Holy Mary, Mother of God, intercede for us sinners.