Reflections for the 14th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 14th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 3, Matthew 11: 25-30
Verses 25-27 of our Gospel for today can be construed as being about the difference between knowing about God and about really knowing God. The difference is huge! I think the first 17 years of my priesthood I knew about God. Knowledge of God for me during that period was a head trip. That’s what it means to know about God. I didn’t really begin to know God, to know him in my heart, until I quit playing games with alcohol and settled down to really living the life of a priest and really coming to know God.
I believe all of us, each in his or her own way, go through the transition of knowing God with our head and then finally knowing him and loving him with our hearts. When we love him with our hearts, we believe what we know about him and try our best to put it into practice. That is when we begin to find happiness, joy and peace in our lives.
In verses 28-30 of our Gospel for today, Jesus invites us to come to him. He let’s us know that he is available to us whenever we need him, whenever we feel burdened. Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves and learn from him, and if we accept this invitation we will find rest from our burdens. God’s “yoke” is the study of and obedience to Torah (the way of the Lord, their duty to their God. See Jeremiah 5:5). The yoke of Jesus that we are invited to “take up” is not a rejection of the Torah, but Jesus’ fulfillment of it. Remember, Jesus came not to abolish the law (Torah) but to fulfill it.
Our taking up of Jesus’ yoke, then, is to study, learn, and be obedient to Jesus’ way, truth and life. And Jesus tells us his yoke is light, not heavy. This does not mean we are to interpret this to mean that his ways are easy ways. Rather, we are to observe his ways strictly as he says it. We are not to put words in Jesus’ mouth. The “rest” we will find in so doing will bring all of the created order in right relationship and we will rejoice in its goodness. In other words, it is in this “rest” that we discover the wisdom and prudence of God, which is the right way of doing things.
These have been rather difficult times in which we’ve been living. The financial crisis we have undergone has caused many to lose their jobs, their livelihood, their homes, their ability to care for their families. Burdensome, worrisome, indeed!! Jesus invites us to bring all of this to him. Let his way, truth and life help us. If we surrender our burdens to him, put it all in his hands, what do we have to worry about? This is what it means to surrender. If we haven’t as yet discovered this, let’s try it! It is really the 3rd Step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which asks us to make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. This is really where happiness, joy and peace come from.
Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 4, Independence Day
Today the people of our nation celebrate the National Holiday of Independence Day. Hopefully we will all pause in prayer sometime today and thank Almighty God for his many blessings for our nation, the United States of America. In many parishes Mass will be celebrated today using the prayers and readings from a special Liturgy put together for this Holiday. The Gospel of the Eight Beatitudes in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is a beautiful Gospel for us to reflect upon today in praying for our nation.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: Let us pray that our nation will surrender to the riches of God’s word and not to the riches of our materialistic world.
Blessed are they who mourn: Let our nation weep today for the violence and war and killing that are going on and for all the atrocities contrary to Jesus’ way, truth and life that are happening in our world.
Blessed are the meek: Let us pray today that our nation may make difficult decisions made gentle by love, concern and compassion for all concerned: Let love be our motive for all we do as a nation.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness: Let us strive to do away with all that keeps us from being a whole people, a complete people, a fulfilled people, a holy people, and carry the way of holiness to other people and nations by our example and actions. Let our wholeness, our holiness, reflect our reverence, awe and respect for Almighty God.
Blessed are the merciful: Let us pray that we may forgive the hurts inflicted by others, realizing that retaliation only encourages hatred and more fighting. Nothing good ever came from revenge and retaliation. Let us not be a nation of resentful people.
Blessed are the single-hearted: Let our nation reach for a priority important enough to cause us to strive for it always. Let us further pray that this priority will be to have peace, joy and love in our own hearts and that it will then spread to the hearts of all. Nothing is impossible for God if we sincerely ask him for it.
Blessed are the peacemakers: Let us all pray today for peace in our country and in the whole world. When I think of peace in the world, my mind goes to a simple phrase in the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ from the Christmas Martyrology. The full text of this Proclamation is available on-line in the various search-engines. I am only going to quote a few lines here:
In the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation
of the city of Rome;
the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
……was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Let us pray on this Independence Day that Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the cause for the whole world being at peace, may come to us again and again, that his way, truth and life – his peace – may rule the hearts of all. It is possible!!
Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 5, Mt. 9: 32-38
We have seen before in these daily homilies that one of the oldest or earliest images of Jesus is the image of the Shepherd. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd later on in the Gospels. We see this image in the early drawings on the walls of the catacombs, the burial grounds of the early Christians.
The main virtue of the shepherd as we see it in the Scriptures is compassion. He truly cares for his sheep and will do everything he can to prevent any harm coming to them, even to the point of giving his life for the sheep. We have said before that every human being has in his or her heart the desire to be happy and free of suffering. Compassion is our response to that desire, to help this desire become a reality for those with whom we come in contact.
We meet many people every day, on the streets, at church, at work, in stores; people, people everywhere. What can I do in each instance to make the person I am meeting happy? This is compassion. Let us reflect a bit today on this virtue. Is it part of my daily thoughts? Am I trying to be compassionate to all those I meet?
Jesus, help me to imitate you, the Compassionate One.
Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 6, Mt. 10: 1-7
Today’s Gospel begins chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel, and we pass from Jesus’ preaching, teaching and healing ministries to Jesus’ passing on the work of his mission to his disciples. The number of the disciples is twelve, a symbolic number for the whole of the new Israel and recalling the twelve tribes of the covenant. Jesus first gives this commission to his Apostles. Later on it will also be passed on to his other disciples and finally to us.
We really do not know too much about those men named as the Twelve Apostles, but when they are listed the first named is always Simon Peter and the last named is always Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Jesus, the Gospel tells us, “gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.” This mission will be drawn out further as the Gospels develop. Let us pay close attention to the Scriptures and the message of Jesus because later on when Jesus tells his disciples to carry this message to the whole world, he is also speaking to us.
Jesus, give us all that we need to do and say to be your faithful and true disciples.
Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 7, Mt. 10: 7-15
In today’s Gospel selection Jesus gives instructions to his disciples as he sends them off on their first mission. All of these instructions – to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, to go without cost, to take no money, wallet, staff, sandals – are meant to keep them in focus as to what they are about. Distractions will indeed come, but they are to keep them to a minimum. All of this, as we have said many times before, also applies to us. We are all disciples of the Lord and are to follow the Gospel and encourage others to do the same. That is our focus as followers of Jesus.
The idea I want to express here is that we must keep our noses to the grindstone, as the saying goes. We can’t forget who we are, not even for a moment. Why did I become a priest? Why did I get married? What is our primary priority stemming from who and what we are? That is what we are to focus on most of the time.
Our reflection today should prompt us to keep in mind what we are all about, what God wants us to be and do. What is my primary commitment in life? Am I fulfilling it?
Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 8, Mt. 10: 16-23
Again today’s Gospel picks up on the thought in yesterday’s Gospel and homily. Today I am reminded of a cleric master, Fr. Robert, who was our overseer in the major seminary. Part of our time as seminarians at that time was spent in rebuilding the building we called home. We were very busy people. Classes all morning and work all afternoon. It wasn’t all work. There was ample time for play, too, but I guess we thought it was all work. During the work time, Fr. Robert used to walk around checking on how things were going and often he would stop within earshot and start singing the words of that old song: “I didn’t promise you a rose garden”. I kind of get the picture of Jesus singing us this tune in the Gospel today.
There are going to be times when we feel like chucking the whole thing, times when I would rather be anywhere but where I am and doing anything but what I am doing. At such times as these, and we all experience them every so often, it is hard to persevere or endure, as the Gospel calls it. Today’s Gospel also insures Jesus’ presence in our efforts, and if the “rose garden” gets a little much every now and then, let’s call on him for the strength we need to keep on going.
Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 9, Mt. 10: 24-33
Our Gospel for today reminds me of an old hymn that we sing often at our Retreat House sing-along on Wednesday or Saturday evening: “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”. It is not in our liturgical song books, but some of you may have heard it. It is a hymn of great faith.
The words to this song were written by Civilla Martin (1866-1948) in 1905. The music was written by a friend of hers, Charles Gabriel (1856-1932). There is a story about its composition. Early in 1905, Civilla Martin and her husband were traveling in Elmira, New York where they happened to meet a Mr. & Mrs, Doolittle and became good friends. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for 20 years and her husband was crippled and confined to a wheel chair. Despite their obvious problems and difficulties, the Doolittles lived very happy Christian lives and were an inspiration and comfort to all who met them. One day Civilla and her husband worked up the courage to ask them how they could be so happy with all their apparent afflictions. Mrs. Doolittle answered the question quite simply: “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” These beautiful words from the Scriptures inspired Civilla to write her beautiful hymn.
One may listen to this hymn on the web. Just type in “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and push go. Listening to this hymn could be a great reflection for today and give our faith and trust in God a big boost. Give it a listen!