Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6: 7-13

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls the Twelve Apostles together and sends them two by two on their first mission. They are, in effect, to imitate him by preaching repentance, driving out demons (those pesky problems people are powerless over), and curing the sick. They are to imitate Jesus in their simple lifestyle by getting rid of unnecessary possessions. They can take a walking stick with them but are to carry no food, no sack, no money. They were permitted to wear sandals but could not have two tunics. Kind of a simple lifestyle, eh what? When I go on an overnight I tend to take enough “stuff” for a month. Later the disciples will return and share their experiences and accomplishments with the Lord.

Jesus’ directions to his Apostles also apply to us as his followers today. It is good to remember that Jesus doesn’t ask his disciples (or us) to do anything he himself did not do. Jesus preached incessantly. The Scriptures tell of his preaching repentance (Mark 4: 17; Mark 1: 14-15).  Luke (4: 16-21) also tells of Jesus preaching and teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth where he amazed people with the words that came from his mouth.

There are numerous places in the Scriptures that speak of Jesus driving out demons. We have commented many times in these homilies about the various conditions that can be labeled “demons.” Lepers and paralytics came to Jesus asking to be cured, realizing their illnesses were beyond anything they themselves could do. As for caring for the sick, there are countless miracles in the Scriptures of Jesus’ many healings.

Jesus asks us to do the same things in our ministry as parents, single people, as religious men and women in the various dioceses, congregations and orders. All of us have a mission to accomplish as followers of Jesus.

We are to preach repentance by our words and by our example. We are to drive out the demons of violence, greed, lust, drugs, resentments, hatred and war by teaching and preaching the values of Jesus, particularly by surrendering our wills and lives to his care and urging others to do the same. We are to cure the sick by our care and compassion and prayers for our brothers and sisters who are ill. We are to take the accent and focus in our lives off of useless and unnecessary material possessions, realizing that all this only distracts us from the mission of Jesus in this world. Our task is not an easy one. It wouldn’t be very worthwhile if it was easy. But it is a service that is most rewarding in giving us the happiness, joy and peace we all desire.

Jesus, please help us to continue to do your work in our world.

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ord. Time
Mt. 10: 34 – 11:1

Our Gospel for today brings us to the end of Jesus’ instructions for all who are to follow him in proclaiming the “good news.” The tenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel ends with a number of unrelated sayings, some of which sound mighty strange to us. The words of his coming to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, or that we are to love Jesus more than we love our own families sound rather strange at first reading. We find ourselves saying to ourselves: Jesus doesn’t really mean all of this literally. There must be some other explanation. And, of course, there is.

All of the sayings in verses 37-39 underline the great attachment demanded of the followers of Jesus for Jesus. This reminds me of a little ejaculation we were reminded to say every day in grade school: All for thee, O Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is the surrender that we have spoken of so often. And surrender of my will and life to Jesus means I will love my father, mother, and all the other members of my family to the utmost. The love of Jesus includes the love of our family: Whatever we do for him, we also do for one another. A follower of Jesus who does not love his or her own family and who does not recognize God’s love in those near at hand, will not be able to share that love with others. Disciples, especially those called away from home on their mission, are to subordinate their love for the family and even their own life for the sake of Jesus and his will for them. The reward for all of this and the sacrifices we make for others is a rich life of happiness, joy and peace. This is the paradox of being a follower of Jesus and loving him above all things.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ord. Time, July 14
Memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Blessed Kateri (Katherine) Tekakwitha (she who pushes with her hands) was born along the banks of the Mohawk River in upstate New York in 1656. She was to live 24 years and died in 1680. When she was four years old, she contracted smallpox which left her almost blind and her face pock-marked. As her childhood passed, her eyesight improved and she became very skilled in Indian embroidery, beading and woodcarving.

She used to pray and talk with the Jesuit missionaries who worked among the Indians and when she was eighteen she announced she wanted to become a Christian. On Easter Sunday, 1676, she was baptized with the name Katherine. Her family was furious at all of this and they treated her very cruelly. She escaped across the St. Lawrence River to Canada where she received her First Holy Communion on Christmas Day, 1677. She carried water, cooked, sewed and attended daily Mass. She spent her time in the love and service of the Lord.

Her private penances and work often left her ill. She suffered greatly during the winter of 1680 and on April 17 of that year she died. She is called the “Lily of the Mohawks” and was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. She is the first Native American to be declared a Blessed by the Church. She is the patroness of the environment and ecology.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

(Note: Today is the 52nd anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Please pray for me.)

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ord. Time, July 15 
Memorial of St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure, known as the “Seraphic Doctor,” was born in Bagnorea, Tuscany, in 1221. At age 22, Bonaventure entered the Franciscan Order. Later he was sent to Paris to complete his studies under Alexander of Hales. There he became a close friend of St. Thomas Aquinas. Together they received the degree of Doctor of Theology.

At the age of 35 Bonaventure was chosen as General of the Franciscan Order and restored the peace and calm that had been disturbed by dissension. Bonaventure died while assisting at the Second Council of Lyons on July 15, 1274. He was 53 years old at the time of his death.

St. Bonaventure, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ord. Time
Mt. 11: 28-30

Today’s Gospel choice is very short – only three verses – but these are very gracious, gifted verses of Scripture. 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 study of and obedience to Torah (the way of the Lord, their duty to their God. See Jeremiah 5:5). Jesus’ yoke 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 his ways to mean 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 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, the prudence of God, that right way of doing things we talked about recently.

These are rather difficult times in which we are living. The financial crisis we are undergoing is causing 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 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.

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ord. Time
Mt. 12: 1-8

Today’s Gospel selection begins chapter 12 of Matthew’s Gospel and begins with one of the two controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees that ultimately result in their wanting to put Jesus to death.

In the first controversy Jesus defends his hungry disciples for plucking grains of wheat to eat as they walked through the grain fields on the Sabbath. Harvesting wheat was work, you know, work that was forbidden on the Sabbath. The second controversy involved Jesus curing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. This, too. was looked upon as work.

Today’s Gospel is concerned only with the first controversy. Here we see Jesus fulfilling the law, and he does so with an act of compassion to respond to a human need that he tells us must take precedence over ritual observances. It is the same as that mark of maturity and responsibility I have spoken of before: The mature, responsible person is to prefer people over things. Things here doesn’t always mean material things, but also “things” like our time, our career, games, rituals, etc. Here Jesus does not abolish the law regarding no work on the Sabbath, but we see how he fulfills it and completes it in his interpretation, which is his way, truth and life we are to follow.

Is there anything going on in my life where I am preferring things over people? If so, maturity demands we correct this.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ord. Time
Mt. 12: 14-21

Our Gospel for today passes over the second controversy we noted above of Jesus curing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath. Rather it picks up right after the second controversy where the Pharisees “went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.”

Matthew then gives a long quotation from the prophesy of Isaiah (42: 1-4) to show Jesus as the One chosen and approved by the Father, even as the human authorities reject him and seek to put him to death to get him out of their hair. Jesus, Isaiah tells us, will be meek and gentle through all of this, “a bruised reed he will not break.” Jesus has the Spirit of God.

In our being rejected and in the other difficult times of life, let us try to imitate the meek and gentle Jesus by turning our lives over to him as we spoke of on Friday.

Jesus, help us turn to you.

Fr. Howard

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