Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
(August 17, 2008) Mt. 15: 21-28

The Gospel appointed to be read on this Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time is a Gospel that shows Jesus coming not to do away with the Old Law but rather to fulfill it with a new interpretation. The Pharisaic interpretation of the law was their holier-than-thou attitude that the Messiah had come for the Jewish people alone and not for the Gentiles. Jews referred to anyone who was not a Jew as “dogs or swine,” as we see in the remark made by Jesus in the Gospel, “It is not right to take the food of the children [the Jews] and throw it to the dogs [the Gentiles].”

Matthew had just finished narrating Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees as being blind people leading blind people with both falling into a pit (Mt. 15: 14). He follows this with today’s Gospel of the Canaanite woman’s faith in which faith alone was necessary for her to come to Christ. Her nationality made no difference. “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And Jesus healed this foreigner’s daughter.

There are many passages in Scripture that show Jesus’ rejection of this holier-than-thou attitude both then and now when it shows up in us. Take for example the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector in Luke 18: 9-14: “The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax-collector …… beat his breast and said, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former.”

God doesn’t think the way we do. We all have our bit of the holier-than-thou attitude. I pray more than he does – I help my neighbor more than she does – I go to Mass every morning and they don’t even go on Sunday…and on and on and on. And our prejudices based on race, religion, education, color of your hair, etc., are innumerable. When are we going to learn that we are all God’s children and none of the rest of this stuff we get ourselves into makes any difference to Jesus at all?

I found a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu which sums up this whole thing very well. I would like to quote it here: “Many years ago…we (blacks) were thought to be human, but not quite as human as white people, for we lacked what seemed indispensable to that humanity – a particular skin color. We have a wonderful country with truly magnificent people, if only we could be allowed to be human together.”

Let’s see what we can do by allowing each other, whoever or whatever we are, to be human together. Jesus, please help us in this effort.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time,
(August 18, 2008) Mt. 19: 16-22

Today’s Gospel selection invites us to check our priorities. A good way to do this is to ask myself the question: What was most important in my life yesterday? Yesterday happened just a few hours ago so it still should be fresh in our memories. What occupied most of my time during those 24 hours? Sleep occupied some of the time, of course, and that is a necessity. Let’s say at least 7 hours. Yesterday was Sunday, so I didn’t have to go to work which usually takes up about 8 hours of the day. So on a given weekday, 15 hours is taken up by sleep and work. That leaves 9 hours for other things. What was my priority in those 9 hours? How much time did I spend eating? How much watching TV? How much at recreation? How much time did I devote to the Lord in prayer and meditation or spiritual reading? How much family time was there?

This little inventory of our time and priorities should be done everyday. But all too often we don’t think about it at all. Much of our day is spontaneous and unplanned. We just live the day, as it was. The young man in today’s Gospel was obviously concerned with his many possessions and this in various ways probably took up most of his time. Personally, I would suggest that some time of prayer and meditation and family time should at least be on the list. For a truly happy life, they seem to be necessary on a daily basis.

Fr. Howard

 


Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, 
(August 19, 2008) Mt. 19: 23-30

Do you remember going to the movies when you were a kid? At the beginning of the movie the MGM lion would appear and roar and below the lion was written in Latin: ars gratia artis. We still see this same thing today. I don’t know how long it took me to find out what those Latin words meant or who it was that told me what they meant. But someone told me they meant: “Art for the sake of art.” I really didn’t quite agree with that saying then, nor do I now. Anything being done for the sake of itself sounds selfish to me. I can understand art for the sake of beauty, for the sake of pleasure, for the sake of making a living – but not art for the sake of art.

The words of today’s Gospel reminded me of the above discussion: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” I don’t believe riches in themselves are bad. Nor is being a rich person a bad thing in itself. But then I thought of the phrase: divitiae gratia divitiarum(riches for the sake of riches) and thought that this is what today’s Gospel is about. Anyone who would be rich for the sake of riches would be described as greedy. There is no such thing as enough.–always more, more, more. With this idea, I can understand how it would be difficult for such a person to enter the kingdom of heaven. But if it was a case of riches for the sake of the poor, for the sake of charity, for the sake of some good cause, then it wouldn’t be difficult at all for such a person to enter the kingdom. God gave us riches, as he did everything else, and as long as they are used according to his plan, they are good and not bad.

Fr. Howard

 


Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time,
(August 20, 2008) Memorial of St. Bernard

Today the Church commemorates the Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church. Bernard was born near Dijon, France, in 1090. He attended school in Chatillon where he studied theology and scripture. After his mother died, he entered the Cistercian Order. Seeing his many gifts, the Superior sent him in 1115 to found a new monastery which became known as the Abbey of Clairvaux. Pope Eugene III appointed Bernard to preach the Second Crusade. Later in life he was blessed with the gift of miracles. He died on August 20, 1153.

The Gospel chosen to be read today is taken from Mt. 20: 1-16, and tells the parable of the owner of the vineyard who went out five different times to hire workers to go into the vineyard and pick the grapes. Some entered the vineyard very late in the day. Nevertheless, when it came time for them to go home after the day’s work, the owner paid all the workers the same amount of money, even those who had only worked a couple of hours. They all received the same wage. When those who had come early and worked all day began to complain about this, the owner said to them, “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?”

Envy and jealousy are rather common feelings. They go on all the time. I believe these feelings are useless unless perhaps they push us on to use our own gifts and talents better. We are all deficient in many areas and very gifted in others. That’s the way the good Lord made us. We are all unique, all different. God gave us different gifts so we can use them for each other. I don’t know a gas filter from a coffee filter. When I need a new one on my car, I go to someone who knows about these things. We help each other. The solution for feeling envious or jealous of someone else is three little words: Thank you, God. We should pause and thank God for all the wonderful gifts he has given to me. And while we are at it, let’s thank God for the gifts he has given to those around us because they use them for my benefit as I use mine for them. This is what makes the world go around.

St. Bernard, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

 


Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, 
(August 21, 2008) Memorial of St. Pius X

St. Pius X, whose Memorial we celebrate today, was born near Venice in 1835. His calling in life called him to the priesthood and later on, because of his outstanding endeavors, he was ordained Bishop of Mantua and later named the Patriarch of Venice.

I have always personally associated St. Pius X with the beginning of the 20thcentury. He was elected Pope in 1903, the same year incidentally that my Mom and Dad were born. During his Pontificate (1903 – 1914), he was responsible for liturgical renewal, fought the evils of Modernism, and brought about the codification of the Canon Law of the Church. His liturgical reforms included his encouragement for the faithful to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist weekly if not daily. Prior to his Pontificate, it was customary for Catholics to receive Eucharist once or twice a year. Now, as we know, that has been extended to being able to receive Eucharist whenever we attend the Sacrifice of the Mass. St. Pius X died on August 20, 1914, and his body may still be seen, encased in wax, under a side altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. He was canonized in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. His feast day is August 21.

St. Pius X, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

 


Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, 
(August 22, 2008) Memorial of the Queenship of Mary

Today is the Octave of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, which we celebrated a week ago today on August 15. Pope Pius XII established this feast of the Queenship of Mary in 1954 to be celebrated on the Octave of the Assumption.

The title Queen is nothing new for Mary, the Mother of God. St. Ephrem called her “Queen,” already in the fourth century, and the many Fathers and Doctors of the Church continued to use this title in referring to Mary. Many hymns address Mary as Queen, e.g., Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above, that we still sing often today. The Queenship of Mary is one of the mysteries in the Dominican Rosary as well as the Franciscan Crown Rosary. In his encyclical, To the Queen of Heaven, Pope Pius XII says that Mary deserves the title, Queen, because she is Mother of God and closely associated as the New Eve with the redemptive work of Jesus.

Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

 


Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, 
(August 23, 2008) Mt. 23: 1-12

Inventory is a spiritual principle. In Catholic jargon, the Inventory is often referred to as an Examination of Conscience and is used mainly by Catholics before going to confession. The Inventory answers the question: What am I going to say to the confessor; what am I going to admit having done to him and through him to God?

The word Inventory is used twice in the 12 Spiritual Steps of AA. The fourth Step tells us it should be thorough and fearless in preparation for the 5th Step and the 10th Step tells us this Inventory should be taken on a regular basis outside even daily. The Inventory in the 12 Steps is used to discover what it is that is blocking my relationship with my Higher Power, God, who is absolutely necessary for my continuing quality sobriety. This same thing can be said to be the purpose of the Examen before confession regarding the absolute necessary relationship with God for my spiritual life.

Today’s Gospel can be considered as suggestions for the material of the Inventory. Do I preach what I do not practice to my children or to my neighbors in general? Do I expect others to do all the work while I watch or criticize? Am I helpful to those I work with? Do I do things solely to be seen and complimented by others? Is my whole life dedicated to my being numero uno? Lord, help me get rid of every vestige of hypocrisy and phoniness in my life.

Fr. Howard

 

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