Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 11, Luke 10: 25-37
I just finished reading a book titled Bonhoeffer, written by Eric Metaxas. I recommend this book highly to all of you. It is a biography of a modern day saint named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Christian pastor, theoogian, scripture scholar, prophet, spy, and martyr. Every now and then we come across a human being who is high above the rest of us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of these people and one of my favorite spiritual authors. He is perhaps best known for his book The Cost of Discipleship.
I am reminded of him today on this 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time because of the Gospel chosen to be read on this Sunday. Our Gospel today contains the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan with which we are all familiar. This parable is, of course, all about the virtue of compassion and it is this that reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The word compassion literally means to suffer along with someone else. Their suffering becomes our suffering. The object of the virtue of compassion is any one at all that needs help. It is all about my neighbor, and my neighbor is anyone in need.
Bonhoeffer was born in Germany in the year 1906 and he died 39 years later in 1945, hanged by the Gestapo because of his great love for the Jewish People and his great dislike for Adolph Hitler. Dietrich was a visitor a number of times during his life to the United States and England. When things were really beginning to get bad for the German people because of Hitler, Dietrich was in England and he could have stayed there being assured of a good teaching job in a university. Instead he chose to return to Germany to do what he could to burst the bubble of Hitler and to be with the German people and help them as much as he could. Consequently he was hanged about two weeks before the end of the war. Greater love than this no one has than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends and neighbors.
Compassion does away with all hatred, violence, prejudice, criticism and belittling of others. We are all equal and all in the same boat and in the same storms of life. And if anyone at all needs help, I will be there for them. Quite a virtue!
What opportunities might I see today to be a compassionate person? Let’s all look for them – and then act.
Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 12, Mt. 10: 34 – 11: 1
General Douglas Macarthur is quoted as having once said: It’s the age old struggle – the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of the conscience on the other. This quote is brought to life in the Gospel chosen to be read today.
It is indeed possible, and probably happens more than I am aware of, where a parent or some other influential person or persons whom I love dearly will tell me or ask me to do something that I know is wrong. I hope this doesn’t happen too often because it puts us in a rather difficult position when it does. And if this does happen to us, we must follow our conscience and not the other person or group of persons. I read an episode of this happening not too long ago in the scriptures. I believe it was King Saul who commanded his son Jonathon to act against David because Saul was jealous of the popularity of David. Jonathan loved David and refused to do the wishes of his father. Situations like this do happen to us all occasionally, and when they do the rule is to let our conscience be our guide.
Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 13, Mt. 11: 20-24
Today’s Gospel from St. Matthew points out to us the consequences of rejecting Jesus’ message. His deeds and words should urge us on to action and to reform our lives.
It is hard for me to even imagine what life would be like morally or ethically if I didn’t have the values of Jesus in front of me all the time. Sometimes I come close to finding out when I disregard his values and choose to go my own way. Things get all bent out of shape and life becomes a mess. My life as a drinking alcoholic gave me this perspective. I thought I was having a great time but deep down inside I was miserable and knew I wasn’t happy and at peace with myself. I was just kidding myself, rationalizing doing things that in no way brought happiness to my life. Only when I saw the folly of my ways and returned to the ways of Jesus did I find what I truly wanted and valued in life.
So, at least we get a hint of what life without Jesus is like from our sinfulness. I don’t believe any of us like that at all. Let’s stop kidding ourselves and get back to seeing true joy and happiness through following Jesus’ way.
Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 14, Mt. 11: 25-27
Fifty-three years ago today, on July 14, 1957, in St. Mark’s Church on the Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy, I was ordained to the priesthood. I am extremely grateful to Almighty God for his call to serve him and his people as a priest.
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. I believe I have now found these things and I am very grateful to God for his many graces that led me on the right path. As I remarked a week or so ago, it has been a great ride. How about you?
Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 15, Memorial of St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio is one of the shining lights of the Franciscan Order. He was born in Bagnoregio, Italy, around the year 1218. He was eight years old in 1226 when St. Francis died. Later on he was to study Philosophy and Theology and become a Doctor of both. He was, I believe, the youngest man ever chosen to be the General of the Order of Friars Minor and was later chosen to be a Cardinal of the Church. He was an able teacher to many of the early Friars and the author of many books. He is still very influential in theological circles today. He died in 1274 while attending the Council of Lyons.
St. Bonaventure, pray for us.
Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 16, Mt. 12: 1-8
In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for allowing his disciples to pick some heads of wheat to eat while they were walking through a wheat field on the Sabbath. As we have remarked many times before, the Sabbath issue was one of the main things that persuaded the Pharisees to want to kill Jesus. The verses following today’s Gospel (9-14) tell of a cure that Jesus performed on the Sabbath. All of these things just added fuel to the fire of dislike they had for Jesus.
What we do or don’t do on the Sabbath Day (Sunday for us) doesn’t seem to matter now as it did in the past. But I still like to see Sunday treated as a special day of the week, a day perhaps when we pay more attention to doing things together as a family or community. It is the Lord’s Day – and that makes it special in itself. Our community of Friars join one another in going out to eat on Sunday evening. This is a good thing. We simply go out together and enjoy one another’s company. Sunday doesn’t feel like Sunday if something else comes up and gets in the way of going out together.
How do you spend the Lord’s Day? What makes it special for you?
Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 17, Mt. 12: 14-21
Today’s Gospel contains a quote from the Prophet Isaiah that shows the gentleness of Jesus, the suffering Servant. I read a little fable some time ago about gentleness. It was a short little story about the sun and the wind arguing with each other about which of them was the stronger. As they were arguing, they saw a man wearing a coat approaching them. They decided that whoever could make him take off the coat faster would be the stronger one. So the wind blew and blew as hard has he could but this just made the man button up the coat tighter. The sun went next and merely did his thing and shone. In no time, the man removed his coat. The moral of the fable: More can be achieved by gentleness than by force.
It is good for us to remember this. Sometimes we scream and holler to get someone to change where a gentle suggestion might work better. There is another saying I find very true in these situations: You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Try it and see how it works for you.