Reflections for the 21st Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 21st Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16: 13-20
If you are interested in the Scriptures, and I certainly hope you are, it is almost a necessity to have a Concordance. A Concordance is a book containing all the words in the Bible as well as information on where and how often these words appear in the Bible. This makes it very easy to find the particular quotes we may be looking for. And sometimes the Concordance can indicate other important facets of the Scriptures to us. For example, my Concordance tells me that the word church appears 114 times in the Bible but only 2 times is it found in all four of the Gospels and both of these times are in Matthew’s Gospel: 16:18 and 18:17. The word church appears, then, 112 times in the other books of the New Testament, mainly in the Acts of the Apostles and the various Letters of Paul and others. From this information, we can deduct that Jesus never really founded the Church during his lifetime. Rather, it was the intention of Jesus to found a Church, but its actual coming happened after the resurrection of Jesus.
The Gospel passage assigned to be read on this Twenty-First Sunday of the year tells us much about this post-resurrection church of the Lord Jesus. First of all, it tells us that this Church is Christ’s Church. “On this rock I will build my Church.” It also tells us that Peter is the Rock upon which this Church is to be built, and this Church will be made up of a group of people who, like Peter, confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This Gospel also tells us that this Church of Jesus will last forever and that nothing will overcome it. So, our Gospel for this morning tells us that our Christian Church is founded by Christ; that he founded it upon the rock who is Peter and his successors, that this Church is the People of God, and that it will be with us for all time.
This Gospel, in just a few verses, is loaded with information about the Church. We often think of the Church as an institution, its hierarchy, power, wealth, etc. But the Church is more than an institution. The Church is all of us who follow the risen Christ and thus make his way, truth, life and values always present in the world. We are the “little rocks” of the Church today and as such we have a very important job to do. The Gospel for today suggests that we get to it.
Monday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Mt. 23: 13-22
Jesus is really after the scribes and Pharisees in our Gospel selected to be read today: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.”
Regarding religion, the Pharisees missed the boat and they were trying to have everyone else miss it too. Religion to them was a list of rules. St. Augustine, for one, had a different idea. He said something like: Love God at all times and then do whatever you want. Our love of God sets us free. God is not a God of hurt and terror and fear for us just waiting for us to break the rules. Our God is a God of love. And if we really, truly love him, we can do as we want. My obedience to his precept and commandments will happen and I will find the joy and happiness I am seeking.
Jesus, increase my love for you and for your word.
Tuesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Mt. 23: 23-26
Jesus hasn’t let up on the Pharisees since yesterday’s Gospel, but continues on in today’s Gospel. The people of Jesus’ time were accustomed to use a piece of cloth to strain out unwanted objects such as flies and other bugs from what they were going to drink. But then they would swallow, according to Jesus, a whole filthy camel in one bite. I believe these words of Jesus are meant to point out the inconsistency of the Pharisees. If they are going to strain flies and bugs out of their wine before they drink it, they should also properly clean and prepare camel meat before eating it. The Pharisees, it seems, paid close attention to the little things and ignored the more important things of life.
Are we sometimes inconsistent in our love of Jesus and of one another? Do I, for example, go to Mass religiously on Sunday and sometimes during the week and then treat my family or friends in a very uncharitable manner? Do I say the rosary umpteen times a day and then gossip about the lady that lives next door to me? Do I fervently pray the Lord’s Prayer while I am harboring a ton of resentments? These are just a few examples of inconsistency and they give us the idea of what we are looking for here. Is there any of this going on in my life? What are my inconsistencies?
Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 24, St. Bartholomew, Apostle
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Apostle Bartholomew. About all we know about him is that he was born in Cana and is one of the Twelve Apostles. The name Bartholomew means “son of Tolomai”. Scripture scholars believe he is the same as the Nathaniel mentioned in St. John’s Gospel for the feast where John tells us Nathaniel was from Cana and that Jesus referred to him as an “Israelite incapable of deceit.” Tradition tells us he preached in Armenia where he was flayed and beheaded. There is a rather gory statue of Bartholomew holding his skin in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls in Rome. The reported Gospel of Bartholomew is apocryphal.
The Gospel for today (John 1: 45-51) speaks of the great gifts given to Nathaniel or Bartholomew and hopefully the Apostle used them all well. Remember, we are the Apostles of our modern Church and we, too, have all been given tremendous and wonderful gifts by our heavenly Father. Today let us be aware of them and resolve to use them as best we can for love of God and our neighbor.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us.
Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
I read a little story that illustrates the Gospel for today that I’ll share with you. It is the story of some young and inexperienced devils who are about to leave hell for earth to practice tempting human beings. Their teacher asked each of them as they were leaving what method they were going to use to get the people to sin. The first said he planned to use the classical approach and tell the people “There is no God, so sin all you want.” The second said he was going to use the intellectual method and tell the people “There is no hell, so sin all you want.” And the third said he decided to use the subtle approach and tell them “There is no hurry, so sin all you want. You can always repent and be better later on.”
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel to stay awake always and do what he would have us do. Then we don’t have to worry at all about when he is going to come for us.
Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Mt. 25: 1-13
Today’s Gospel is a continuation and another application of what we learned in yesterday’s Gospel. Repetition is the mother of studies! If we practice prudence and wisdom and do things the right way, God’s way, things will work out well for us. If, on the other hand, we do not act prudently we will see things in our lives collapsing.
The five foolish maidens in our Gospel for today did not act prudently in not taking oil with them for their lamps. And while they were fooling around doing what they should have done before, they missed out on what was important to them. The same thing may well happen to us if we fail to act prudently. One indication that we are missing the boat is experiencing a great deal of frustration in our lives. Frustration is the result of imprudence.
Lord, help us to do things your way and get it right the first time.
Saturday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 27, Memorial of St. Monica
Every year at this time the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine. It is almost impossible for me to think of Monica without thinking of Augustine or vice versa.
Monica was born in Africa in the year 331. She married a man named Patricius and they had a number of children, including Augustine. One thing men will never understand, I believe, is the great and deep love of a mother for her children. From time to time, in trying to help an alcoholic situation in a family, I warn against enabling the alcoholic. But when I try to get a mother to stop enabling a child, I am, for the most part, whistling in the wind. They just don’t hear you!
Augustine went off on his own way and shunned the Lord Jesus Monica loved so very much. She prayed and prayed for years for him to regain his senses and finally her prayers were answered. Her son became a remarkable scholar and Saint whose works and writings are read widely yet today. Monica never gave up. Let this feast of St. Monica remind all of us of the undying love of our own mothers for each of us. I pulled some good ones in my lifetime going my own way into alcoholism and the whole nine yards. But I know my Mom’s fingers never stopped going around that rosary she always had in her hand with prayers for my wellbeing. I hope I can see high enough if I do get to the Kingdom to be able to see her in the place God reserves for all mothers.
St. Monica, pray for us.