Sunday of the 19th Week in Ordinary time

Our Gospel selected to be read on this Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time gives us three parables about various treasures signifying the reign of God. For our practical application of the parable, let us choose the third parable concerning the faithful steward who faithfully fulfills the responsibilities entrusted to him by his master. Our life here on earth is all about the business of preparing for the life to come in his Kingdom. Our responsibilities stem from different sources, all of which are ultimately God’s gifts to us. We neither earn these gifts or deserve them. They are gift; they are grace.

One of these gifts is our vocation or calling in life. Some are called to the married life, others to religious life or priesthood, and yet others are called to remain single and live in the world. Each of these vocations is a precious gift from God and each has its own responsibilities. Other gifts of God to us revolve around our individual charisms or graces and our talents. These are what make us unique as individuals and what make the world go around. They make it all happen and also have something to do with the say of life we choose.

After 50 years of priesthood, I feel quite comfortable that I made the right choice of vocation because my God-given gifts seem ideal for that calling. I feel as though I fit in the priesthood and my life is happy and fulfilled. I see myself making a difference at least some of the time and as being part of the solution rather than part of the so-called problems. And I hope that those of you in the married life and single life feel the same way, that your gifts and talents fit your calling and that you are happy, comfortable and fulfilled in your lives. In order to have it this way, we must use the gifts we have been given. My gifts are different than yours and each of us is called to help the other in the areas where we are not gifted.

I just bought a new computer and getting it up and running is beyond me. Left to myself, it would just not happen, I assure you. So I called someone that has the gift of computer knowledge and he had it up and running in no time. This is what it is all about. We help each other by doing for them what they cannot do and vice versa. In God’s plan, we are all winners.

Today, let us go over our gifts and talents given to us by God for fulfilling his purpose, his plan for creation. Am I using my gifts and talents? Am I using them for others? Where and how could this all be made better?

Lord, help us to be a responsible part of your plan.

Fr. Howard

Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time

This story of the obligation to pay the temple tax is only found in the Gospel from St. Matthew selected to be read today. After declaring the fact that they are exempt from the tax, Jesus tells his disciples to pay the tax (the money is miraculously supplied by a fish!) in order to avoid giving bad example and/or scandal. Jesus was very much aware of not giving bad example and scandal to others. We should try our very best to avoid this also. Sad to say, if I had a nickel for all the times I have probably given bad example to someone, I would be very rich.

People know we are Christians, Catholics, and they do watch how we respond to certain things: Do we join in when the group is speaking badly of someone? Do we go to church on Sundays? Do we use God’s name carelessly in conversation? Do we tell risque jokes and stories? Do we show prejudice toward people of other color or religion? Yes, people watch us and they know how we respond in these and other instances.

Lord, help me to truly be your disciple in all areas of life. Let others know I am you follower by my words and actions.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time 
Feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe

St. Maximillian Kolbe, whose feast the Church celebrates today, is one of our own Conventual Franciscan Friars. I feel rather close to him in the sense of having studied in the same Collegio in Rome where he studied. His room on the second floor of the Collegio has been preserved as a chapel. When we were practicing saying Mass (in Latin) before ordination in 1957, this chapel was where we practiced.

Maximillian was born in Poland in 1894 and joined the Franciscans as a teen-ager. He was rather frail and sickly, having contracted the disease of tuberculosis. He is rather famous in Rome for having founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Later he began a magazine “The Knight of the Immaculate” to promote this Movement. After his ordination to the priesthood, he went to Japan to minister where he built a monastery. Then he went to India where he furthered the Immaculata Movement. In 1936, he was forced to return home to Poland because of ill health.

The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and Maximillian was imprisoned and then released. In 1941 he was arrested again and this time he was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. In July of 1941, a prisoner escaped from the prison and in retaliation for this ten men were chosen by the Nazis to die. One of the chosen was a young man with a wife and young family. Max offered himself to die in place of this young man. His offer was accepted by the authorities and Maximillian died two weeks later of starvation, thirst and neglect. Maximillian was canonized a Saint by Pope John Paul II in 1981. His feast day is August 14.

St. Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of the Assumption

God, in his plan for our salvation, chose the simple. He chose simple things and simple people to bring this about. There is nothing terribly complicated about bread and wine, for example, or about Peter, Paul, Luke, Mark, or the other disciples or the inspired writers of Scripture. Just plain, ordinary people like you and like me. And so it is with Mary. She wasn’t anything outwardly outstanding. Just a simple Jewish girl chosen out of the blue to be the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Mary said “yes” to God’s request and changed the history of the world.

God has also included us in his plan for salvation. All we have to do is fulfill our purpose, be what God wants us to be and do what he wants us to do. We too are simple, ordinary people, but God chose us, called us, to be part of his plan. Let us, like Mary, say “yes” to God by using the gifts and talents he gave us to help each other, by listening to his word and acting upon it, by saying “yes” today and every day to God.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time

Our lives are lives of constant choices. We all have been given a free will by God and can use that will to do this or that. We do it all day long. I have to choose to eat or not to eat, to go to the store or not go to the store, to feed the dog or not feed the dog, to forgive someone or not to forgive them.

If we do not forgive someone for hurting us, we are resentful of that person. The word resentment comes from two Latin words, re and sentire, and means to feel it all over again. All we have to do is hear the name of the person that hurt us and we feel that same hurt all over again. Only by forgiving can we let it go and get rid of it.

One time at an AA a retreat I was handed a little card with some thoughts about resentments written on it. It was titled Resent Somebody and it goes like this: “The moment you begin resenting a person, you become his slave. He controls your dreams, absorbs your digestion, robs you of your peace of mind and good will, and takes away the pleasure of your work. He ruins your religion and nullifies your prayers. You cannot take a vacation without his going along. He destroys your freedom of mind and hounds you wherever you go. There is no way to escape the person you resent. He is with you when you are awake; he invades your privacy when you sleep. He is close beside you when you eat, when you drive your car, and when you are on the job. You can never have efficiency or happiness. He influences even the tone of your voice. He requires you to take medicine for indigestion, headaches, and loss of energy. He even steals your last moment of consciousness before you go to sleep. So, if you want to be a slave, harbor your resentments”.

I don’t believe any of us want all this! The obvious choice is: Choose Forgiveness.

Fr. Howard

Friday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Hardness of heart is why Moses permitted the divorce that Jesus is condemning in the Gospel passage selected for today. Jesus tells the Pharisees that from the beginning it was not this way. “In the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh….What God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Hardness of heart is a phrase used rather frequently in the Scriptures and in general it means an insensitivity or stubbornness. In particular, it can be the result of a lack of openness and pre-judgment. This is the old “I’m right and you are wrong, and that settles it” attitude. This is almost impossible to deal with. We have to be open to the ideas and opinions of others or all is lost. There can be no change if we are not open. Hardness of heart may also result from a lack of tenderness, kindness, or a negativity in looking at things. Such a person is unappreciative of the goodness that is there. Negativeness sees only the bad that is present. Making excuses for bad behavior also constitutes this hardness of heart. All of this presents a condition we can do without and one which probably enters into every divorce in some way or other. The same thing applies to priests leaving the priesthood and other seeming failings of vocations. More openness and honesty in our lives might prevent many of these tragedies.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time

“Let the children come to me ….. the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I once took care of a country parish church that had its own Catholic cemetery, It was “blessed ground.” There was a time in the Church when unbaptized babies or children could not be buried in “blessed ground.” Baptism was absolutely necessary for salvation. There was a corner in this cemetery that was not “blessed ground” and records showed that there were some unbaptized children, miscarriages, etc., that were buried in this section. No markers, no names — they were just buried there. Having found this out, we decided to erect a white fence around this section and put up a stone with the words of today’s Gospel quoted above written on it. This points out the dignity of this ground and will prevent any digging in this area in the future. It is hard to imagine today that this was a common belief at one time. It is hard to imagine the doctrine of limbo too, which has also gone by the way of time. Limbo was a possible solution to a dilemma and the originators of this idea encouraged others in the future to find good reason to do away with it. We have done so today.

The Scriptures in a number of places affirm over and over Jesus’ special love for children. So let’s let God be God and quit trying to figure out each and every little thing. In areas where we don’t know the answer, let’s just say so.

Fr. Howard

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