Reflections for the 17th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 17th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time
July 24, Matthew 13: 44-52
The point of the Gospel chosen to be read on this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is that the greatest joy of all in this life is found in the discovery and acceptance of the way, truth and life of Jesus. And to have this gift in our lives, we must give everything we have.
Many things in life make us happy and joyful. I can remember as a child literally jumping up and down in joy on Christmas morning at home as the family gathered by the tree to open their gifts. And how happy I was on July 14, 1957, when I was ordained a Franciscan Priest at St. Mark’s Church in Rome with my Mom and Dad in attendance. How happy and joy-filled I used to be as I flew or drove home to visit my parents and brother from wherever I happened to be stationed at the time. How happy and joyous I was to discover the way to a sober life after the many years of pain that came from my alcoholism. These and many more things have caused a great deal of happiness and joy in my life. And I am sure you have a list of things in your life that did the same. We have all experienced many happy and joyful moments in our lives and it is a moment of further happiness and joy to recall them.
Our Gospel today, however, tells us, as we said above, that the greatest joy we will have in life will come from discovering the way of Jesus. This is the greatest because it lasts now and will continue to last for all eternity. Christmas Day came to an end at midnight. Now I think of my ordination day once a year. Those visits home are no longer possible as all of my family have gone to the Lord. My sober way of life continues on with God’s help and interestingly enough, it continues because it goes hand in hand with my discovery of Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. The joy that comes from the one leads to the other and therefore both are lasting.
Again, it is this way of the Lord that brings that greatest and lasting happiness we can find in this world. Love, compassion, caring, service, forgiveness, emptying of self, making life all about God and neighbor and not all about me — this is where we find our greatest happiness and joy in life. It took me years and years of selfishness, of doing things my way, of trying to do it all alone, being independent, doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it and many other stupidities before I finally discovered where true happiness and joy are really to be found. And somehow I imagine it has been the same for all of you who have arrived at this same discovery. And now that we have found the way, the Gospel tells us, we have to give our all to keep it. We have to be totally open, accepting and willing, and God will do the rest.
Jesus, in you is our strength, our happiness and our joy. Please stay with us always.
Monday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time
July 25, Feast of St. James, Apostle
Mt. 20: 20-28
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Tuesday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time, July 26
Memorial of St Joachim & St. Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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.
Wednesday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time
July 27, Mt. 13:44-46
Today’s Gospel selection presents another of the many parables in Scripture concerning the Kingdom of heaven: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” This parable parallels the Gospel for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time that was read just last Sunday. There I spoke about the memories that produced great happiness in my life and how these events were temporary in themselves even though some of their effects might be lasting. Once again, the point is the same for this parable as for the aforementioned Gospel: All of these happenings that brought happiness in my life are as nothing in comparison to the joy of being part of Jesus’ Kingdom, of acknowledging that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. And nothing else in our lives should interfere with our possession of and acting on this truth.
Once again, I am reminded of the words of Scripture that eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the minds of human beings, what God has prepared for those who love him, for those who make the choice to be part of his Kingdom.
Jesus, help us to choose you over all the other choices that come our way.
Thursday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time
July 28, Mt. 13: 47-53
It is the way of the Lord that brings the greatest and most lasting happiness we can find in this world. Love, compassion, caring, service, forgiveness, emptying of self, making life all about God and neighbor and not all about me — this is where we find our greatest happiness and joy in life.
It took me years and years of selfishness, of doing things my way, of trying to do it all alone, being independent, doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it and many other stupidities before I finally discovered where true happiness and joy are really to be found. And somehow I imagine it has been the same for all of you who have arrived at this same discovery.
And now that we have found the way, the Gospel tells us, we have to give our all to keep it. We have to be totally open, accepting and willing, and God will do the rest.
Friday of the 17th 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.
Saturday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time
July 30, Mt.14:1-12
Today’s Gospel recalls the death of St. John the Baptist. John, we remember, confronted King Herod about marrying his brother Philip’s wife. Herod did not take too kindly to the confrontation and inappropriately decided to kill John in a most grotesque way. Herod knew he was wrong as the Gospel indicates: “The King was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he had John beheaded in prison.” Herod didn’t have the courage to say, “Stop! I know I am wrong! Do not harm John.”
Our old friend’s denial and rationalization most probably had Herod in their grip. How often that happens to us, too. We know we are doing something wrong but stopping and admitting it will cause us humiliation and disgrace. And that takes courage we do not have. This is a frequent occurrence, far more frequent than many of us realize. If we find ourselves in this mess, let’s pray that God gives us the grace to admit we are acting wrongly and do something positive to correct the wrong.
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.