Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 12: 13-21
As some would say, there is some “good stuff” in this Gospel to be read on this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. When I looked this Gospel up in my Bible, I found a headline for verses 13-15 and another headline for verses 16-21. The first read: “Saying against Greed,” and the second “Parable of the Rich Fool.” There may be two headlines, but they are not separate and today’s Gospel includes them all as one. And they do go together. If you separate them, it leaves you wondering just what the rich man did that was wrong in the parable. It seems like plain common sense that if your harvest doesn’t fit in the barn you have, you build a new and bigger barn. But if you leave the two headlines together, you immediately see what the man did wrong in the parable: The rich man was greedy and thankless and selfish to the extreme. That’s what’s wrong! He had no thoughts of sharing his excess with the poor and he didn’t thank God for the bountiful harvest. It was all about me and my good fortune. Eat, drink and be merry, Old Buddy, you’ve got it made. Well, the parable makes it rather clear that he didn’t have it made.
This Gospel is quite similar to the Gospel of Divis, the rich man dressed in purple, and Lazarus, the poor beggar. Both parables are not so much about what was done, but what was not done. In neither case did the rich man think about the poor. Both are selfish all the way and, I might add, to the extreme. And this sort of behavior does not fly with Jesus.
My thoughts here jump immediately to St. Francis of Assisi and his love for Lady Poverty. Lady Poverty was Francis’ bride. Poverty for Francis did not exclude the necessities of life, but was concerned with the surplus, the excess, hoarding, greed, no such thing as enough.
I have been a Franciscan Friar for over 60 years and I hope I have a special love for Lady Poverty, too. But when I look around my room I see some things that might make others think otherwise. Some of the things I see: a lap top computer, a laser printer, a telephone, a cell-phone, a radio, a TV set, clothes, an oxygen concentrator, a bed, a chair, a number of books, pictures on the walls, a crucifix I bought in Cologne, Germany. And out in the garage there is a 2004 Ford Taurus I use to go from here to there. Sounds like a lot for Lady Poverty. But really, all of these things are modern necessities to do what a Friar is supposed to do to use his gifts and talents in the service of others. These things are not superfluous. Further, I do not own these things. I use them to try and be what God called me to be and do (I hope!). I do know the meaning of enough. I don’t want two computers, a Cadillac instead of a Ford, and so on. When I die, everything in this room that is not thrown away will be given to the poor or to other Friars who will be able to use them for their work. I have no money in the bank.
It might be good for all of us, including myself, to do another check to see if I am anything like the rich man in the parable today, building bigger barns for my possessions.
Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Mt. 14: 13-21
Today’s Gospel selection gives St. Matthew’s account of the Miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the only miracle of Jesus reported in all four of the Gospels. It is a miracle, like all the miracles of Jesus, that shows his pity and compassion for his flock. Jesus had withdrawn to a deserted place by himself to pray, but the crowd followed him. Jesus noticed the crowd who had brought their sick along with them and “his heart was moved with pity for them.” He cured their sick and when he noticed they had no food and were hungry, he provided miraculously for them from five loaves of bread and two fish. None went hungry; there were 12 baskets of fragments left over.
This miracle tells me that Jesus cared for his people in an abundant way. And, as he did for the people of his time, so he will do for us today. He always hears our prayers in one way or another. We are not alone, never abandoned; he is always there with us and for us.
Today, let us bring our needs, our ills, our anxieties and worries to Jesus. He is compassionately waiting for us to do so.
Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Mt. 14: 22-36
After he fed the crowd, Jesus dismissed the people, and finally took time for himself to go up the mountain and pray. The disciples had previously gotten into their boat and headed for the other side of the lake. Later, during the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went looking for them. The fourth watch of the night was the last lap of the night watches going from 3:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the morning, right before the dawn.
Presumably, the disciples had been trying to cross the lake all night long. It was just evening when they started out. A storm had come up and they had rowed to the point of exhaustion and still got nowhere. Why did Jesus wait so long to help them? For that matter, why does he sometimes seem to take forever to help us when we need him? Why does he make us struggle, why isn’t he Johnny on the spot?
Perhaps he allows us to struggle to humble us, to show us that by ourselves we will get nowhere. Struggling bolsters our faith, shows us the necessity of trusting our situation to the care of God. Maybe the struggling helps us to see that Jesus really is the Son of God. After the sea was calmed by Jesus, they exclaimed, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
In any event, we have all struggled and waited patiently or impatiently for the Lord to act. What have I learned about Jesus from these struggles?
Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 4, Memorial of St. John Vianney
Today the Church commemorates the Memorial of a priest, St. John Vianney, universally known as the “Cure of Ars.” He was ordained a priest in 1815 and later assigned as the parish priest of Ars, a little French town in the middle of nowhere. The diocese was trying to hide him because he lacked the “smarts.” He barely got through the seminary studies, even with the help of a special tutor. His superiors thought he was too dumb for mainstream service, As so often happens, he proved them wrong in many ways.
John acquired the reputation of a wonderworker. He became known throughout the Christian world as a wonderful confessor and spiritual director. He had a childlike simplicity that he never lost. He was indeed a priest in the likeness of Christ. He was known to hear confessions for 16 hours a day. His life was a life of charity and love. He died on August 4, 1859, and was canonized on May 31, 1925.
St. John Vianney, pray for us.
Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Mt. 16: 13-23
Today’s Gospel tells of the turning point in the life of the early Church and the disciples. As a result of Peter’s confession, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” the disciples had finally identified Jesus. Then the Gospel, in verse 21, tells us, “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Now, at last, they knew what Jesus was all about, they knew where they were headed.
In the following chapter (17) of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James and John (tomorrow’s Feast and Gospel) and begins to prepare them for what is to come, until in chapter 21 they enter Jerusalem.
Each of us, at some time in our Christian lives, came to realize what Jesus was all about and came to realize where we should be going, what we are supposed to be and do. We refer to this as our main time of conversion when we finally caught on. This happened to me in the treatment center for rehabilitation from the disease of alcoholism. From that time on, I caught on to what Jesus was all about in this world.
How about you? What was your main time of conversion? What did you learn from it about Jesus and about yourself?
Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 6, The Transfiguration of the Lord
Transfiguration is the very reason we follow Jesus. This is, I guess you could say, the reward for doing so. In the 12 Step Program it is referred to as a Spiritual Awakening and is defined as a personality change. It shows up in the 12th Step, which reads: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs”. One could easily say that the Transfiguration, that appears in all 3 of the synoptic Gospels, is the 12th Step of the Gospel. And it might well be paraphrased: “Having had a transfiguration as a result of following Jesus in the Gospels, we carried this message to others interested in following him, and continued ourselves to follow the Gospel message in all aspects of our lives”. It should also be noted that this Transfiguration or Spiritual Awakening is not a one time occurrence. Rather it grows and grows progressively as we continue to follow Jesus and ends only with our death.
God has given me the grace and gift of sobriety now for the past 36 years. He led me to the AA Program in 1974 and I have been slowly progressing ever since. I can say quite definitely I am not the same person now as when I began to follow the 12 Steps. I am a new person, a new personality, and will continue to grow, I hope and pray, until the time of my death.
How about you? I believe we all follow this same path to spirituality and knowledge of our God in one way or another. Today, apply what has been said above to yourself. Where do you find yourself in your own spiritual awakening? Can you determine when it began?
Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Mt. 17: 14-20
The child brought to Jesus in the Gospel for today most probably was suffering from epilepsy. The Gospel translation is once again “demon”, which we have seen before can mean a multitude of things. My Commentary says the Greek word used in today’s Gospel to describe the child’s condition is translated “moonstruck” or “one struck by the moon.” A full moon seems to have an effect on human beings sometimes. The word “lunatic” comes from the Latin word “luna”, which means moon. When I was a hospital chaplain and there was a full moon in progress, I remember we never knew what would be coming into the emergency room, but some weird things did happen.
Remember at the beginning of the Gospels, Jesus sent his disciples out on mission. He told them to travel lightly, to get a move on, and he gave them the power to cure diseases and drive out demons. We haven’t read yet in the Gospel of Matthew where they accomplished this. We do see it a lot later on in the Acts of the Apostles. And evidently they tried to help the man’s child in today’s Gospel, but were unable to bring about a cure. Why not? Jesus tells them it was because of their weak faith: “O faithless and perverse generation.”
Our faith, I am quite sure, is not what it should be. I have certain things I pray for that do not happen because of a lack of faith. Of this, I am sure. I would also like to do some things that I find it impossible to do because of a lack of faith and surrender in my life. I still want to do things my way and trust in myself. This is where the word “perverse” comes in as quoted above.
I suggest we all look at ourselves today and see what we would like to be that we are not or do what we cannot do because of our lack of faith.
Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief.
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