Reflections for the 19th 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 19th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
August 7, Matthew 14: 22-33
There can be little doubt after reading the Gospels that Peter loved Jesus very much. His triple confession of his love for Jesus surely has to be among the most moving passages in the Scriptures. In this passage (John 21) Jesus asked Peter three times: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?” And three times Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And three times Jesus then responded to Peter, “ Feed my lambs.” Peter was a very weak human being and had denied Jesus three times. But he did love Jesus greatly and because of this love Jesus placed this weak human being over his new community, soon to be called the Church.
Peter’s great love for Jesus was one thing; his faith in Jesus was another. If Peter’s level of faith had matched his level of love, he would, as they say, have been in business. But unfortunately, it did not. How often Jesus said to all the Apostles, including Peter, “O you of little faith,”? And this also includes all of us. It is not hard to love Jesus. He is a very loveable person. But it is hard, very hard, to really put our faith and trust in him. Isn’t that a bit strange? How can we love so much and have so little faith in the one we love?
I dare say, if Peter had as much faith in Jesus as he had love for him, he would never have denied him three times in the courtyard. I believe it was out of fear that Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus. On that passion night the Jews were in a particularly bad mood. They were obviously finally going to fulfill their desire to kill Jesus and Peter was afraid they would do the same thing to him if they found out that he “was one of them.” So he denied three times that he ever knew Jesus to save his own neck.
How many times have we done the same thing? To save ourselves from being humiliated or lessened in the eyes of others, we do things we would never do ordinarily because of our love of Jesus. We are all capable of denying Jesus because our faith is weak. If it were as strong as our love, we (or Peter) would never have to fear the consequences of our sticking up for the ways and truth of Jesus.
Jesus, we love you much. We also have faith and trust in you, but it needs strengthening. Like the man said in the Gospel when you cured his son, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief, help raise the weakness of my faith.
Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
August 8, Memorial of St. Dominic
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Dominic, Founder of the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans. St. Dominic (1170-1221) and St. Francis (1182-1226) were contemporaries and friends. St. Dominic was born in Calaruega, Spain, and studied at the University of Palencia where he was probably ordained around the year 1199. Dominic spent a great deal of time and effort preaching against the Albigensian heresy. It is almost impossible to condense all the tenets of this heresy in the short space we have here. It begins by asserting the co-existence of two mutually opposed principles, one good and the other bad, and it goes on to divide up the world and what is in it to one or the other of these principles. If you wish more details, they are available in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Dominic received Pope Honorius III’s approval for his Order of Preachers in 1216. He spent the remainder of his years organizing his new Order all over Italy, Spain and France. He died on August 8, 1221. He was canonized in 1234 and is the patron saint of astronomers. Why, I do not know.
St. Dominic, pray for us.
Tuesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
August 9, Mt. 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14
In the Gospel selected for today’s Liturgy, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a small child over, placed the child in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes like this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
If we want to be part of this Kingdom of heaven, let alone the greatest in it, we must “turn”; we must undergo conversion; make a U turn, and become like a little child. We all start out like little children because that is nature’s way. But we grow up, and in doing so we develop some ways and attitudes that we didn’t have when we were children and these ways and attitudes are not very conducive to the Kingdom of heaven. And so, we have to change, to turn, to convert back to the virtues of the child that we left behind in growing up.
We must learn to love again without prejudices or judgments that drive love away. We must learn to forgive those who happen to hurt us and not be resentful. We must have faith and trust in people and not in our own ways. We must be open and tolerant of others and of their ideas and opinions. We must be humble and willing to be happily in the lowest place.
I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot of changing to do according to the criterion of Jesus for being a member of the Kingdom of heaven.
Wednesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 10, Feast of St. Lawrence
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Lawrence, a Deacon and Saint of the very early Church, perhaps more recognized in Rome than in our country. St. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome who were in charge of giving help to the poor and needy. The Prefect of Rome put two and two together and got six in thinking that because Lawrence was in charge of the Church treasury, he had access to a great deal of money. He demanded that Lawrence turn the money from the treasury over to him. At a time set for doing this, Lawrence showed up with a large group of poor and sick people and said to the Prefect, “This is the Church’s treasure.”
The Prefect didn’t think this was too funny and condemned Lawrence to a martyr’s death in the year 238. Constantine the Great later built a Basilica dedicated to St. Lawrence and it is yet today one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome. It has been named St. Lawrence outside the Walls and is situated beside Campo Verono, Rome’s largest cemetery.
St. Lawrence, pray to us.
Thursday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 11, Feast of St. Clare of Assisi
Today, August 11, the Church celebrates the Feast of one of the major exemplars of the Franciscan life in the world. St. Clare of Assisi was a close friend of St. Francis of Assisi and the two helped one another to promote the Franciscan Charism that is so much a part of the spirituality of the Catholic Church today. It is impossible to do justice to this great saint’s life in this short amount of space.
St. Clare, when she was a young girl, heard Francis of Assisi preach and her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live the poor and humble life of the Gospel. One evening she ran away from home and gave herself to God. Francis cut her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear. Clare went on to become the Foundress of an Order of nuns now referred to as the “Poor Clares.” Her sister, St. Agnes, joined her as well as other young women from the surrounding area who wished to live the Gospel life. They lived without money, without property, wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and observed silence most of the time. They were truly Brides of Jesus and very happy people. Their life continues yet today in almost the identical way it did in the thirteenth century. There are many Poor Clare monasteries throughout the world and indeed they are paradoxes to the life of the world today showing us all where to find true joy, happiness and peace.
St. Clare of Assisi, pray for us.
Friday of the 19th 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 19th Week in Ordinary Time
August 13, Mt. 19: 13-15
It is quite obvious from reading the gospels, today’s gospel included, that Jesus had a warm spot in his heart for children. And if we are going to follow Jesus, we are going to have to be warm and complimentary to all people, especially to the children. So often we complain about children in a negative way. They have too much energy; they make too much noise; they don’t put things where they belong; they don’t do this or that. I admit I am like this at times and need a little help in changing this. This is not the way it should be.
Children, like all of us, need to be affirmed. We all need to hear the words : I love you – I am proud of you –You did a great job — Thank you very much.
I have to remind myself often to do this and not be so critical of the children.