Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Luke 11: 1-13

“One disciple said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Our Gospel for this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time deals with the topic of prayer.

Prayer is a beautiful thing, one of the real joys of life. It is an amazing gift that Jesus gives us, to be able to converse with our God, to tell him of our love for him, to bring our needs before him, to tell him of my repentance for my offenses and to ask his forgiveness. Many people wonder about why we pray in the first place. God knows our needs and our attitudes, he knows when I regret offending him, he knows I am repenting, and so on. So why pray? There are a multitude of answers to this question. I’ll share some of the reasons I pray with you in this homily and I’m sure all of you have your own.

First of all, I think it is good for us to acknowledge our dependence on God, to admit openly and clearly that we can’t do it alone. Prayer is such an admission. Prayer is also a form of surrender and humility and we know the importance of these two things. Also, prayer keeps us honest. When I pray for repentance and seek forgiveness from God, I get honest with myself. I take the responsibility for my own actions and get rid of all my rationalizations, excuses, alibis and denial. I did what I did (the devil didn’t make me do it), I admit it, I own it, I regret it and I ask God’s forgiveness as well as for the strength not to do it again.

This last part is exemplified in the 5th Step of the 12 Steps. The 5th Step is sometimes referred to as the “confession step” and reads as follows: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Kind of strange wording. Why admit it to God? He knows everything, as I learned in the first grade. Why admit it to myself? I know what I did and did not do. We do this for the reasons just given above: to own what I have done and to honestly admit I did it.

When I was a kid, I was out in the backyard trying to master the art of dropkicking a football. Not an easy thing to do. One time, probably by accident, I did it just right and the football soared gracefully and true through the air – and right through the picture window in the dining room of our home. Talk about glass everywhere! Now my Mom knew who did it. No one else was kicking a football around in the backyard. But I think she wanted me to tell here I did it, to admit it, to own it with no excuses. Maybe, just maybe, God has the same expectation.

St. Luke in his Gospel for today also urges us to pray with persistence, to keep praying and not to let up. Prayer has become an important part of my life and I imaging that this is also true of all of you. My prayer is pretty much always about the same things. Maybe you can identify with that too. But that’s OK. In praying, I am walking humbly hand in hand with God.

Lord, teach us to pray, and to pray, and to pray and to pray.

Fr. Howard

                                                                                                                      Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time 
                                                                                                                                          July 26, Sts. Joachim & Anne

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, considered by tradition to be the parents of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. There is no historical evidence about them. Even their names come to us from legend and tradition. One thing is certain and that is the fact that Mary did have a mother and a father. This story of their having been Joachim and Anne comes from the apocryphal Gospel of St. James and that is all we have.

Regardless of who they were, the parents of Mary deserve our honor and remembrance. They gave us the gift of the person of Mary, Mother of God, close to God and surely one for us to imitate particularly in doing the will of God. Jesus’ parents probably raised him as they were raised. It was from them that he inherited his courage and strength and the values he taught and exemplified. The parents of Mary can certainly be modeled by any parents. About the death of Joachim and Anne, when and where, we know nothing.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time 
 Mt. 13: 36-43

“He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.”

Our Gospel for today is an explanation of the Parable of the Sower and gives us plenty of food for thought, to say the least. It tells us the good seed is the children of the Kingdom. It goes on to say that the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of the Father. A good meditation for us today would be to ask ourselves if we are among the righteous and why.

I would define the righteous as those who are trying their best to follow the revealed values and truths of Jesus. Am I being loving toward others, compassionate, forgiving, serving others, attentive to God’s way, truth and life, kind, gentle, a good listener, not greedy and satisfied with what God has given me – you get the idea. Am I looking to make progress in the areas where I fail to be righteous? If we can answer “yes” to just some of these things, we are on the right track and followers of Jesus.

Let us continue, then, to pray that we keep on persevering and striving to be better people.

Fr. Howard

                                                                                                               Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time 
                                                                                                                                                 Mt. 13: 44-46

Our Gospel chosen to be read today contains several parables that call us to a total commitment to the Kingdom of God. God has given us a gift worth more than all the treasures of gold and silver and precious gems that we could hope for. If something this valuable and meaningful has been given to us, how is it possible for us to turn our backs on it in rejection?

I have often wondered about this. All I seek from my heart, all I desire, is happiness, joy and peace. God has given all of us, free of charge, the means to attain these desires. His word, way, truth, and life are common sense roads to his Kingdom where there is wholeness, fulfillment and holiness. What more could I possibly want? And yet I walk blissfully away from all of this doing things my own way and creating chaos, anxiety, tension and evil in the process. Sometimes I don’t understand myself at all.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time 
July 29, Memorial of St Martha

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Martha. Martha and her sister, Mary, and brother, Lazarus, had a very special relationship with Jesus. The Gospel tells us “Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus.” He dined with them frequently and probably went to their home often just to relax a bit and enjoy their friendship.

Martha welcomed Jesus whenever he came with all the blessings of hospitality. We are all familiar with the story of Jesus and his friends coming to lunch where Martha got a little ticked at her sister Mary for not helping get the lunch ready and just sitting and listening to Jesus. Jesus then told Martha that Mary’s choice to just sit and listen to him was the right thing to do and it would not be taken from her.

All of us can identify with Martha. We all know that our relationship with God and Jesus is primary and yet we continue dozens of times every day to let other things distract us from this relationship. This story of Martha brings yesterday’s homily to the fore again.

St. Martha, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time 
Mt. 13: 54-58

There is an “old” saying that: Familiarity breeds contempt. There is probably some truth in this. I imagine somewhere along the line all of us have spent a lot of time with one person and after a while decide that enough is enough. So it seems to have happened in our Gospel for today. The people of Nazareth had grown up with Jesus and thought they knew him very well. Quite obviously, they didn’t know him as well as they thought they did and couldn’t understand how he could claim to be who he said he was.

There is another “old” saying: You can’t tell a book by its cover. Sometimes maybe our knowledge of others is too superficial and we don’t really know them. I suspect this is the case for many of us when we judge others. So if we have people we think should be more or less than they say they are, let’s not judge them till we really know them – and perhaps not even then.

Jesus didn’t judge people too often, he just loved them and accepted them. Let’s try to get turned around to Jesus’ way in our many relationships with others.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time 
July 31, St. Ignatius of Loyola

Today the Church commemorates the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He was born in Spain, the youngest of 13 children in his family. Later he became a soldier and fought against the French. A cannonball ended his military career. While recovering from his wounds, all he could find to read was a Life of the Saints and this led him to want to be a soldier for the Catholic Church. He experienced many visions, fears and scruples, all of which led him to write the famous Spiritual Exercises. He studied in Paris and many disapproved of his humble lifestyle. He attracted some followers and founded the Religious Order of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. He died at age 65.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

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