For the next few weeks, Fr. Howard will be recuperating from surgery on his leg to improve the blood flow to that leg. Part of the recovery protocol is for him to keep his leg elevated most of the time, which makes it difficult for him to write on his computer. While Fr. Howard is recovering from his surgery, we will reprise his homilies from past years. Some of these homilies are based on a different set of readings than the cycle we are currently using, but their insight and wisdom remains true.
Please keep Fr. Howard in your prayers–his surgery was postponed from July 14 to July 23–so he’s a bit anxious to have all of this behind him. He looks forward to resuming the homilies in a few weeks.
Bro. Bob Roddy, OFM Conv., Director
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 19
Last Sunday’s Gospel from St. Mark saw the disciples being sent forth for their first preaching assignment. In this Sunday’s Gospel they return to Jesus from their mission to report on what they “had heard and taught.”
In between the Gospels for last Sunday and this Sunday, Mark writes of the death of John the Baptist (5: 17-29). These verses are skipped over by the Liturgy but the death of John certainly had an effect on Jesus. In fact, Matthew reports in his Gospel that when Jesus heard about John’s death, he “withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” The crowds followed him and the miracle of the loaves and fishes is then reported by Matthew. In today’s Gospel from Mark, the disciples return to tell Jesus of their mission, as we saw above, and Jesus invites them to come away with him to a deserted place by themselves and rest a while. Then the first verse beginning the miracle of the loaves and fishes is read but the Gospel stops short of reporting the actual miracle today.
The emphasis in today’s Gospel seems to be in the closing words, “his heart was moved with pity for them (the crowd), for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” The emphasis here seems to be on Jesus as Teacher.
The word “disciple” comes from the Latin “discipulus” which means a pupil or a student. We are all disciples and so we are also all students of the Teacher, Jesus. The disciples refer to Jesus as Teacher some 25 times in the Gospels. Jesus on occasion refers to himself as Teacher (John 13: 14). It goes without saying that we are all “students” in our relationship with Christ. There will never come a time when we have nothing more to learn from him.
All of this is fine in theory but as disciples we cannot leave it there. We must make this practical in order to really be disciples. This requires the discipline in our lives to listen to the Teacher and to follow him faithfully. This whole idea is pretty much the same thing as loving God (Jesus) with our whole mind, heart, strength and being and our neighbor as ourselves. As we noted in an earlier homily, this involves listening attentively to the word of Jesus and then doing it, carrying out, what we have learned from listening to him. “Blessed is he/she who hears the word of God and observes it.” Only in this way will Jesus really be our Teacher.
Jesus, I am willing to go on learning from you for the rest of my life. Complacency is not to be found in the true disciple. Help me, Jesus, to be a good student of your teaching.
Monday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time, July 20
The disbelief and the conflict between the Scribes and Pharisees and Jesus continues and grows. Jesus urges them again to repent, convert, change, to make that U turn in their lives. But they persist in their attitudes about him and their disbelief.
I believe that most of us believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah,the One who came into the world for our salvation. Our faith carries us that far. My problem, and perhaps it is yours too, is getting my actions to correspond to my belief, saying I believe and then doing things contrary to my belief. This is the mystery. I fail in so many ways to love God with my whole heart and being and my neighbor as myself.
Jesus, may your saving words break through the stubbornness of my actions.
Tuesday, July 21,
St. Lawrence of Brindisi, OFM Cap., Confessor and Doctor of the Church
St. Lawrence was born in 1559 in the southern Italian city of Brindisi. He was a gifted preacher and writer. (He preached fluently in seven languages: Italian, French, Spanish, German, Greek, Hebrew and Latin.) He left fifteen volumes of writings, mostly sermons. He was something of a reconciler, having reconciled the Archduke Matthias of Germany with his brother, the emperor. It was on a mission to Lisbon, on behalf of the people of Naples, that St. Lawrence died on July 22, 1619.
Here is an excerpt from one of his many sermons:
“For the word of God is a light to the mind and a fire to the will. It enables us to know God and to love God. And for the interior person who lives by the Spirit of God through grace, it is bread and water, but a bread sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, a water better than wine and milk.”
St. Lawrence, pray for us!
Wednesday, July 22,
Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene
St. Mary Magdelene is called “the Penitent.” Though Jewish, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee. St. Luke tells us she was a notorious sinner and had seven demons removed from her. She was the first to see the Risen Lord following his resurrection from the dead. She was also present at the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
There is an interesting point in John’s Gospel on Mary’s feast that pertains to all of us. She went to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning and found Jesus missing. Then she sat down and began to weep. Two angels were there and asked her why she was weeping. Her reply is interesting: “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” Up to this point, it was all about Mary. Jesus was her Lord. She wept and felt sorry for herself that she could not find her Lord.
After Jesus (she thought he was the gardener) said her name, Mary, and she recognized him, then it was all about Jesus, and Mary was happy again. Same thing for us. Sometimes we get into those selfish times when it’s all about me. It is then that I lose sight of the Lord. Only when I realize it is all about Jesus does he reappear for me and I am happy.
Thursday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time, July 23
For many the word “parable” means the same thing as a story. The word “parable” is a Greek word meaning comparison. This in turn comes from the Hebrew word mashal which can mean anything from metaphors to riddles. The idea of the Gospel for today is that the stories used by Jesus in his teaching the people can become “parable” (confusing riddles) for anyone not open to Jesus’ words. To those who are open to Jesus, they are revelations of how it is in the kingdom of God.
The message here for all of us is that unless we are open to the truth, we are not really going to hear the words of Jesus. Let us pray that the words of Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel apply also to us: “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears because they hear. Amen, I say to you. many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Jesus, keep us always open to hear and follow your words.
Friday of the 16 Week in Ordinary Time, July 24
In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus builds on the fact that the disciples are open to listen to his words (as we saw yesterday) and offers them an explanation of the parable of the sower. Different ways of responding to the words of Jesus are set forth, leading from the undesirable to the desirable way of accepting Jesus’ words.
In reading the explanation given in the Gospel today, I would imagine we all see ourselves as rich soil who hear the word of Jesus and understand it, who bear fruit and yield a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. After all, who wants to be rocky ground or a thorn bush?
Jesus, help us all to be indeed the rich soil of which you speak.
Saturday, July 25,
Feast of St. James the Apostle
James and his brother John were called “Sons of Thunder” by our Lord, probably because of their fiery temperament typical of people from Galilee. In one place in the Scriptures, they sent their mother, Salome, to ask Jesus if in the kingdom they could sit one at his right and the other at his left. Jesus gently taught them the humility of service.
Peter, James and John were perhaps the closest of the Apostles to Jesus. They were the only witnesses to his Transfiguration. Nothing further is recorded of James after Pentecost, but presumably he preached in Palestine along with the other disciples. Reportedly, he was put to death by Herod around the year 42. There is a shrine to St. James at Compostella, Spain, that still attracts many pilgrims. His body was transferred to Compostella in the Middle Ages. There a church has been built in his name.
St. James, pray for us.