SUNDAY of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
The Gospel selection for this Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time has Jesus teaching us about one of the basic virtues for our advancement in holiness: humility. It is a virtue that will do away with that extreme selfishness we seem to have been born with. My sojourn on this earth is not all about me.
Humility is a virtue that was outstanding in the life of Jesus. We read in the Letter to the Philippians about Jesus: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (2: 5-8). For Jesus, it was not all about me. Rather, it was all about the Father, and the people he came to redeem.
Some of us have a rather distorted idea or what humility is really all about. It is not self-hatred or self-belittlement. I am not a worm or some worthless creature. Humility, rather, is being aware of who we really are before God. In the eyes of God we are his beautiful, good creatures to whom he has given many gifts and talents to share with others. We are in constant need of God to remain in existence and depend on him for everything. And even though we are sinners and offend God often, he still loves us and forgives us. He is God. We are creatures. These thoughts that have just been stated give rise to a popular definition of humility as “true self-knowledge.”
True humility is centered on the attributes of God we read in Scripture: compassion, love for others, mercy, selflessness, tolerance for others no matter what, and forgiveness again and again and again. God is to be our focus. He is our all, our everything. He is the source of all our blessings. All of our gifts and talents are his gifts to us. We have done nothing to earn them or deserve them. Our only response to this all-good God is to love him and love those with whom we share this planet.
Humility is all about love, love of God and love of our neighbor. Humility is the virtue that activates in us and in our lives the Great Commandment.
Jesus, grant us this grace of humility. Help us to seek you in all things.
MONDAY of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Gregory the Great. This feast is an obligatory memorial and as such forbids Masses offered for other various needs or occasions. But exceptions prove the law, and today, Labor Day, we are permitted to celebrate liturgically the Mass for the Blessing of Human Labor. After Adam and Eve listened to the Tempter and ate the fruit from the tree of which God had forbidden them to eat, God said to them: “Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dirt, and to dirt you will return.” (Genesis 3: 17-19.)
Our work, then, appears to be a curse resulting from our disobedience to God’s command. And many people unfortunately do regard work as a curse and a necessary evil. But the Scriptures, in the book of Genesis, tell us that God himself worked to create our world and us in it. And at the end of creation, when his work was finished and God rested on the seventh day, Scripture says: “God saw everything he had made, and indeed it was very good.” God didn’t find work a misery; He enjoyed it! He created us to share in the joy of his work. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
With God’s help, out work need not be a curse, but a joy, the joy of making the world a better place in which to live. Today, as we celebrate the holiday of Labor Day, let us ask God to help us realize the goodness of our work and find joy and fulfillment in it and to thank him for the opportunity to share in his plan for creation.
TUESDAY of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm.”
Our Gospel selection for today tells the story of a man possessed by an unclean demon. Jesus cast out the demon and the man suffered no harm. Sometimes people fear that allowing the Lord to expel the evil from their lives will cause them inconvenience and possible harm. How am I going to enjoy living if I don’t do this or that? Will I have any friends left if I change that much? The Gospel assures us that no harm will come to us if we allow the Lord to remove evil from us. I suffered no harm at all when Jesus removed the disease of alcoholism from my life. On the contrary! I lost some so called “friends” but I soon realized that they weren’t really my friends at all and that was a blessing, not a harm. In the change we find out who our friends really are.
Lord, help me to realize that the consequences of allowing you to remove my character defects will all be good, not bad.
WEDNESDAY of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her.”
The disciples were learning! It didn’t take them too long to realize that Jesus was the one to whom they should take their troubles; if there was going to be a solution, it would be found in Jesus. Peter’s mother-in-law was ill. They didn’t rush her off to a doctor or try and help her themselves; they brought her to Jesus. Now, there is nothing wrong with going to your doctor when you are not feeling well. We all do that or should do that. But sometimes in the process of going to the doctor for help, we forget to pray, we forget to bring the difficulty to the Lord. And that is a mistake. The surgeon will perform the surgery but the Lord guides his or her hand. That’s how I see it.
Never underestimate the power of prayer. Whoever coined that phrase really knew what he was talking about!
THURSDAY of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
I have always had a special liking for the Gospel story selected for today. Jesus had approached his Apostles-to-be and asked them to follow him. As we have seen, they all dropped whatever it was they were doing and followed him immediately. This very fact alone has always amazed me. Not one of them said to Jesus: OK, I’ll follow you, but what’s in it for me? Peter finally did get around to asking that question later on, but not at the beginning of his relationship with Jesus. Jesus, however, answered that question without it being formally asked. Follow me and your nets will be full; you will have all you need and more for a good life. I come to bring you life and to give it abundantly. And that boatload of fish that materialized in today’s Gospel was nothing compared to what they would finally receive.
Jesus has called us to follow him, too, and when we accept, the rewards are more that we can imagine or dream of: happiness, peace, joy and fulfillment we never thought we would have in this life.
FRIDAY of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
The Scribes and Pharisees were good people, but they couldn’t see beyond their noses, as the saying goes. They knew their way of life, they knew the way things were, and couldn’t for the life of them even imagine that the status quo could and would change. When Jesus came with a bit of the “new,” they were not even able to listen to him, much less accept what he said. Their attitudes, their mental habits, were in the way and blocked any progress from being made. That’s human nature, I guess. And because it is human nature, that’s just the way many of us are even in this modern day and age. Sometimes we even see things changing right before our eyes and still cannot accept it.
Our attitudes are going to die twenty minutes after we do, as we have said many times before. A silly example of this had to do with my attitude toward computers back in the 90’s when just about everyone was getting a computer, the internet was blossoming and so forth. My attitude was: I have lived all these years without a computer and I can live a few more years without one. Then one day I suddenly realized that the world was passing me by and I had better get on board before I was left in the dust.
Let this Gospel today cause us to reflect for a time on whether or not we have any attitudes right now that are preventing us from seeing beyond our noses regarding people, things, the Church, or our following Christ.
SATURDAY of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
There is a beautiful hymn about the birth of Mary in the old Latin Breviary. The opening verse is:
Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from you has risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.
Today, September 8, we celebrate the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast has been celebrated yearly by the Church since the 8th century. There are only two actual birthdays celebrated by the Church as feast days: That of St. John the Baptist (June 24) and Mary, the Mother of God.
John the Baptist was sanctified before his birth as we read in the Gospel of Luke (1: 41). Elizabeth felt the child leap in her womb. For Mary, we have the special grace of the Immaculate Conception. She was conceived without sin and remained sinless throughout her life.
There is nothing in the Scriptures about Mary’s birth or her parents or childhood. The apocryphal Gospel of James tells us her parents were Anna and Joachim, who also were beyond their child-bearing years when they conceived Mary. Likewise, according to tradition, Mary was born in Nazareth in the same house where the Annunciation took place.
Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us.