Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6: 1-6

“Where did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him (Jesus). Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own house.”

Today’s Gospel selection for this Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time shows Jesus being rejected by the people of his hometown. Why should they do this? One commentary I read gives the answer that Jesus was too familiar to them for them to take him for what he really was. They thought they knew him through and through and they really didn’t know him at all.

The more I read this Gospel the more I get the feeling that the cause of their rejection was envy. Jesus was doing some pretty amazing things. He was, to say the least, not very conventional and these unconventional ways were challenging them to change. Jesus was reaching out to the “unclean,” he raised the position of women in society, he prescribed forgiveness rather than revenge and retaliation, he told them to turn the other cheek to insults, he was indifferent to some of their most sacred religious rules, even the demons and storms obeyed him. Where did he get all this? Why shouldn’t they be envious?

Evagrius Ponticus was an influential Egyptian monk in the early church who died in the year 399. He was greatly concerned with what we now call the capital sins. He referred to them as logismos and defined these as thoughts that befog the mind so that slowly, bit by bit, the person drifts into a world of self-destructive fantasy.

Envy is one of these capital sins, and for us in our modern times can be defined as a feeling of discontent with regard to another’s advantages, successes, possessions, etc. Understood this way, envy could have been the reason for Jesus’ rejection in his hometown.

Evagrius Ponticus, however, had a different idea of the meaning of envy that also could have been the cause of this rejection. For Evagrius, envy involves an obsession with the past, a haunting remembrance of the “good old days, the happy times” now gone and never to return. This is a kind of depression, a sitting around wallowing in fantasies of things being other than they are or as they were in past times. All of the Jewish conventional ways of doing things were being challenged by Jesus’ unconventional ways, as we saw above. For those who heard it, the good old days were gone forever and will not return! The people in Jesus’ village of Nazareth did not want to look ahead at the new but rather wanted to look back at the old. Hence, the teaching of Jesus about not being able to put new wine in old wine skins. They didn’t want to change.

This Gospel urges us to reflect on how we react to any newness in our world or Church as opposed to the 30’s, 40’s or 50’s, etc. Do I accept these changes? Why or why not? How is my possible rejection of them affecting my life?

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time 
Mt. 9: 18-26

Our Gospel story for today is the same as the Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, except it is from Matthew’s version rather than Mark’s. And now, as then, the message is one of faith and resurrection. On the Thirteenth Sunday we reflected in the homily on resurrection. Now on this weekday let us reflect a bit on faith.

Faith, as we have said many times, is letting go of the control of things and putting all my trust in God. Human beings operate a lot on the idea that “seeing is believing”, and sometimes I guess that is fine and dandy. But it can’t be true if we can’t see. Faith is believing that such and such is so or it is so because God says it is so even though I can’t see it with my two eyes. For example, I can’t see the place or condition or whatever we call heaven that God has prepared for those who love him. He tells us that what he has prepared has not even entered the human mind. It is our faith that tells us that this is so because God has said it is so. We have faith in many things outside of the spiritual things. I believe there is electricity flowing into my house in the wires provided, but I can’t see electricity. I believe there is such a place in the world called Siberia, but I have never seen it. Why do I have such difficulty believing what God tells us is true despite the fact that I cannot see it?

Lord, help my unbelief. Help my faith in you and your word grow and grow.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
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.

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
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.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Fourteenth Weed in Ordinary Time
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. I have seen some priests, for example, whose number one priority is cooking or something else they are good at doing. Hello! Is that what we are ordained for?

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?

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
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.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time,
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!

Fr. Howard

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