Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 8, Luke 12: 35-40
Our Gospel for this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time deals with the topic of vigilance or preparation for the end time or the end of the age (parousia) and the return of Jesus. Luke emphasizes for his readers the importance of our being faithful to the values and teachings of Jesus before the parousia. My Commentary on the New Testament points out here that this idea of preparation introduces a paradox in Luke’s Gospel. Today’s Gospel seemingly contradicts Luke 12: 22-31, the Parable of the Rich Fool. This parable seems to speak against preparation in telling us: “do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear …. Can worrying add a moment to your life-span? Even the smallest things are beyond your control, O you of little faith.” The paradox takes place in the fact that adequate preparation is the result of letting go of worldly concerns and values. “The prepared person will not be attached to the concerns of this life, even though they may be immersed in the midst of them.”
This sounds like the preventive maintenance that house-owners and pastors of parishes understand very well, or should understand. One doesn’t wait until the roof blows off the house or church before putting on a new roof – you do that five years before it blows off so it won’t blow off at all. It’s like Jesus says in the Gospel today: “If the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Just like the TV add for home protection from burglary or fires. You install all of this stuff before the burglary or fire so they can’t happen at all.
How do we make this preparation in our spiritual lives? It ain’t easy, Magee! We prepare by getting into our old friend we’ve talked so much about in these homilies, surrender. In the words of the 3rd Step of the 12 Spiritual Steps: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
This is how we prepare for the coming of the Lord. We let go of all our worries, anxieties, tensions, guilt, shame, people, friends, family members who are ill or whatever, and all the other things we are powerless over and we turn them all over to God. It took me about 15 years of trying to follow the 12 Steps before I stumbled into doing this and proving to myself that it really does work, that God will take control of things. And even now, when I know it works, I keep taking back what I have turned over to God and worry about it! I am still human, you see.
So, to sum it all up, to prepare for the coming of the Lord is to surrender our will and lives to him, put him in control and ask his help in doing what he wants us to do and in being what he wants us to be. This is how we prepare and remain happy and at peace while we are doing it.
Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 9, Mt. 17: 22-27
I am not quite sure I understand the whole meaning of the topic of the Temple Tax brought up in the Gospel for today’s Liturgy even after reading what it says in my Commentary. The issue is the payment of the yearly tax of a half-shekel that was obligatory for all Jewish males over the age of 20. A half-shekel would be about $5.00 in modern money. This tax served for the upkeep of the Temple. Jesus makes it clear in this Gospel that as children of God, whose house the Temple is, we are exempt from paying this tax. But, to avoid scandal, Jesus pays the money that is to be found in the mouth of a fish, of all places??!! This is the explanation given in my Commentary. Does this mean we don’t have to put anything in the Sunday collection in our parish churches? Ye gods, don’t tell that to your Pastor.
Our Sunday offering to our Parish is, of course, voluntary. There is no strict obligation to do so, although some people might well argue that there is. We have to pay for the upkeep of our churches and schools, etc., or no one will, and then they will fall apart, which none of us wants. Tithing has always been a part of church membership. So don’t let up on this at all and if you are not contributing to the upkeep of your parish, please begin to do so. Our Churches belong to us and we want to keep them as beautiful as we can for our worship and for respect for the God we worship.
Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 10, Feast of St. Lawrence
The Church today celebrates the Feast of St. Lawrence, one of the martyrs of the early Church. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons in Rome whose job it was to look after the poor and the needy. The Prefect of Rome, a greedy person, thought the Deacons were in charge of a fortune the Church had concealed somewhere and he ordered Lawrence to deliver this treasure to him in 3 days, during which time Lawrence gathered together all the poor people and the sick cared for by the Church. On the third day he presented all these people to the Prefect, saying, “This is the Church’s treasure.”
The Prefect didn’t much care for Lawrence’s sense of humor and condemned him to the slow death of being roasted over an open fire. As he died, Lawrence forgave the Prefect. His feast day is Aug. 10.
St. Lawrence, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 11, Feast of St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare was born in Assisi in 1193. She was eleven years younger than her paisano, St. Francis of Assisi, whom she later followed into a life of poverty. Clare also became the foundress of the Order of Nuns called the Poor Clares. Her sister, Agnes, soon followed her. The Clares wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house and observed silence most of the time. They were, and still are, an inspiration to all of us that you don’t have to have an abundance of material things in order to be happy.
One time, an army of rough soldiers invaded Assisi and targeted the Poor Clares’ convent for their robbing and sacking. Clare had the Blessed Sacrament placed where the enemy could see it and on her knees begged God to save her sisters. A sudden fear seemed to strike the attackers and they fled the scene as fast as they could. Today let us all pray that the Poor Clares will remember all of us in their prayers today on the feast of their Foundress.
St. Clare of Assisi, pray for us.
Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 12, Mt. 18: 21 – 19:1
“Lord, if my brother (sister) sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Not too long ago we spoke of the science of dealing with the interpretation of the numbers found in Sacred Scripture. I believe I said then that one could spend a lifetime studying this topic. When we check out the meaning of the number 7 in the Bible, we see it is one of the perfect numbers and signifies an endless number of times. How often, then, must I forgive my brother or sister that hurts me? An endless number of times, Jesus tells us. There is to be no limit to our forgiveness.
Some of us seem to follow the old saying; Three strikes and you’re out. Often times, how many times we forgive someone depends on our patience. How much am I willing to take? Over the years I have worked quite a bit with alcoholics and forgiving them can sometimes be a real chore. But I must remember that they do the things they do not because they want to but because they have to. That is the nature of any addiction. Sometimes, too, it is habit that causes the repetition. Again, we must remember that people are not bad. They are human, and this also accounts for the ignorance that can be the source of repetition.
Jesus reminds us in our Gospel today that in any event there are to be no limits set on how many times we forgive someone. How do I fare in this regard?
Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 13, Mt. 19: 3-12
The topic of today’s Gospel is divorce, a rather touchy subject to talk or write about and a topic that can be approached from many different angles. I am sure I am not going to settle this issue to the satisfaction of all in one short homily.
In this Gospel, Jesus argues that God’s intention is for man and woman to remain united in marriage. He argues from the Book of Genesis where we read that what God has joined together we are not to separate. His opponents retaliate with the argument that Moses allowed divorce in Deuteronomy 4: 1-4. We are told that Moses did this because the people were not able to achieve the ideal set down in Genesis.
We can probably assume from this Gospel that Jesus tolerates divorce, especially if the marriage in question is unlawful. Unlawful is the word used in the translation in my New American Bible. The Greek word for unlawful used in this text is porneia and unfortunately the meaning for this word is unclear. In different places it may be translated as fornication, adultery, incest, sexual immorality, idolatry, infidelity, prostitution, serious sexual offense.
In our Church and in society today divorce is accepted. I don’t think anyone enjoys seeing it happen. I certainly do not. I want to see people happily married for life, just as I want to see priests and religious persevere in their choice of vocation. But mistakes are made and ignorance is a part of life. Sometimes things are just not going to work out as originally planned and divorce happens.
As we ponder this Gospel for today, let us pray for all divorced people that they and their families may find happiness and peace in life. And let us pray for all married couples that they may cooperate with the many graces God gives them in their Sacrament.
Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 14, St. Maximillian Kolbe
Today the Church commemorates the Memorial of St. Maximillian Kolbe, a Conventual Franciscan Friar. He is, as they say, one of us! Fr. Max was born in Poland in 1894 and later in life became a Conventual Franciscan Friar. He studied theology at the Collegio Serafico on Via San Teodoro in Rome, the same Collegio I attended for the study of theology in 1954. Fr. Max’s room was on the second floor and was converted into a chapel during my time at the Collegio. The soon-to-be-ordained Friars used to practice saying Mass in this chapel.
After his own ordination, Fr. Max founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to our Lady. This movement soon spread throughout the world. Max traveled to Japan and India to promote the Immaculata. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the invasion of Poland by the Nazis in 1939, he was put in prison for a while and then released. In 1941 he was arrested again and put into the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
On July 31, 1941, a prisoner managed to escape from the camp and in retaliation for the escape 10 men were chosen to die. One of the chosen was a young husband and the father of a young child. Fr. Max offered to die in his place. He died after two weeks of starvation, thirst and neglect. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14.
St. Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us.