Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 30 
Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Today’s Gospel selection for this Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time covers just about the entire 7th chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel. Some verses are skipped, but for the most part the whole chapter is covered. This particular chapter is a discussion of what is sacred and what is profane, between what is clean and what is unclean. In the Jewish tradition there are clear boundaries for the sacred and the profane, between what is consecrated to God, set aside for God, and what is to be regarded as secular or “common.” That which is sacred or consecrated is that which is set aside for a holy purpose. That which is profane, secular or common, is not so set aside.

For example, the Jewish people saw themselves as consecrated to God. God told them in chapter 19 of Exodus, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” Anything which defiles this consecration of the human person to God is profane, secular or common – we call it sinful, that which “misses the mark” of being holy or set aside for God. A lot of these profane things appear at the very end of today’s Gospel: evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, adultery, greed and so on. These are what defile the human person and cause us to miss the mark of being holy and consecrated.

Verses 7 and 8 are worthy of our consideration for something practical about all of this in our daily lives. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human traditions.” Jesus then goes on to give the example of those who fail to honor their parents by withholding monetary support from them because the money was qorban or dedicated to God. Jesus is pointing out here that human relationships and the community in which we find them are what is truly sacred. And no religious formula or anything else can rationalize this sacredness away. All of us live in very special communion with other people and it is in these communities that we find our very special relationships. We have to thank God for them everyday because we cannot exist, cannot attain holiness, wholeness, completeness or fulfillment without them. They are sacred and we are to protect them at all costs.

Let us reflect on these ideas today. Do we regard the communities in which we live and the relationships that come from them as truly sacred and consecrated? Are these communities and relationships causing us to be a holy, whole, complete and fulfilled people? Am I doing my part to see that they cause this for all the members of the community? Or do we mess up what is holy and good by introducing the profane and common values of our worldly society into the picture that destroy that which is holy? A good reflection for all of us today.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Aug. 31 
Luke 4: 16-30

In our Gospel selection for today’s Liturgy, Jesus arrives in Nazareth, his hometown. Some of the people of Nazareth speak highly of Jesus while others are filled with resentment for him for daring to preach to them. Who was he, who did he think he was, one of them and from the same town, to tell them what they were to do? Jesus proceeded to tell them that by their resenting him and turning from him and his words that they were no better than their forefathers who had paid no attention at all to the prophets sent to them by God. These remarks only made them resent Jesus all the more.

None of this is new to human behavior. It has always been the way that some people react when someone tries to persuade them to change their ways. “Who are you to tell me what to do?” Few of us truly appreciate criticism, but if we hear the same thing over and over from a number of people it seems it would behoove us to listen to what they are saying. I was the same way, however, when people politely informed me that I was drinking too much at one point in my life. “Take the plank out of your own eye,” said I in return. Never a thought that maybe they were right.

How do I react to the words of Jesus in the Scriptures that might suggest I need to change something that is going on in my life? Do I listen and reflect on these words? Or do I simply shove them aside and go on my merry way?

Fr. Howard

 


Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 1 
Luke 4: 31-37

In the Gospel chosen to be read today, Jesus leaves Nazareth and goes to Capernaum. Capernaum lies along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and modern archeological evidence tells us that it was a very busy fishing village. Here Jesus is now going to perform a number of exorcisms, cures and healings. We have indicated before that the difference between sickness, disease and demonic possession was not very well defined in these early times and sometimes it all got jumbled together. Demons are not always the Devil, the Evil One. Also many of these cures, etc., took place on the Sabbath, another practice which we have said numerous times kindled the wrath of the Pharisees and Jewish people.

If we are wondering just what some of these “demons” might be, we could return to the list given in last Sunday’s Gospel from St. Mark. To refresh our minds, that list included evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly. For good measure we could also throw into the mixture the various addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, emotions, sex, gambling, gossip and on and on. We have remarked before many times about out own inability to get rid of these things if they are in our lives. But all things are possible for Jesus. He is only too willing to remove these “demons” from us. All we have to do is have the desire to be rid of them and seek his help.

Fr. Howard


Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 2 
Luke 4: 38-44

Our Gospel selection for today shows us once again the healing ministry of Jesus. “At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid hands on each of them and cured them.”

This healing ministry is still a huge part of the Church’s ministry. We can see this in the Sacrament of the Sick and in the hospital ministry of the Church. Let’s not forget this ministry or pass it by when the opportunity presents itself. One of the setbacks of the Sacrament of the Sick is that the minister of this Sacrament must be a priest. This is so most probably because this Sacrament has as one of its effects the absolution of the sick person from their sins. But don’t let this stop you from receiving it when you are ill.

If you contract some serious illness such as chest pains, angina, bronchitis, diabetes, lung disease, etc., don’t be afraid to go to the priest, perhaps following the morning parish Mass, and ask him to minister this Sacrament to you. Or the same thing if you know you are going to be entering the hospital for some form of treatment. People who go to hospitals are sick! Also if you are a patient in a hospital, don’t be hesitant to ask to receive the Eucharist or to have a visit from the Chaplain. The curing, helping, healing, caring ministry of the Church is still very much with us. Let’s not neglect it.

Fr. Howard

 


Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 3 
Luke 5: 1-11

St. Luke is the only Synoptic evangelist to tell this story of the miraculous catch of fish involving Simon Peter. John’s Gospel tells of a similar miracle following the resurrection of Jesus (John 21: 1-11). In this story Jesus speaks only to Peter despite the fact that early Christian art shows the boat to be full of people. Luke is preparing the readers for the leadership role Peter will later have in the Church and among the disciples.

This is indeed a fantastic story of a marvelous happening and it excites the people who witnessed it, including the disciples, with awe and wonder at the powers of Jesus. The one thing about this story, however, that catches my eye every time I read it are the closing words, “When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” This spontaneity of action on the disciples’ part is absolutely fantastic to me. When most of us are called upon by the Lord to do this or that charitable work today (Why don’t you go and visit so and so in the nursing home today?), it can take any number of days before it is finally accomplished. Kind of reminds me of the Italian word domani. Domani is translated as “tomorrow”, but practically it can mean anything from tomorrow to three weeks from now.

Lord, give me the strength today not to put you off when I hear your voice.

Fr. Howard

 


Friday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 4 
Luke 5: 33-39

My Commentary on the Scriptures tells me that the parable at the end of today’s Gospel about the new and old patches, cloaks, and wineskins has a twist to it. It says the lesson about the cloth and wineskins is easy for us all to follow and that it is based on good old common sense. You use old cloth to patch new, not the other way around; the fermentation process of new wine needs the elasticity of new wineskins, not the brittleness of old ones. Just common sense. But the final sentence, found only in the Gospel of St. Luke, is ironic: “And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

Jesus has just finished telling us the desirability of leaving the old for the new, but now admits that we often prefer the old to the challenges of the new (Ah!! The good old days). Particularly when we see nothing wrong or bad with the old. But, when we examine the metaphor, we see that perhaps there is something wrong about the old. Old threadbare clothing is of little use to anyone. And wineskins can be used only once, not over and over again. So – we must not let the comfort and security of the old blind us to the new blessings of Jesus’ Kingdom here on earth and in the hereafter. It’s a new day!!! Amen.

Fr. Howard

 


Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 5 
Luke 6: 1-5

Today’s Gospel choice centers on the Sabbath discussion and the prohibition of work on the Sabbath we encounter so often in the Gospels. We have remarked often that it is one of the major causes of Jesus being put to death by the Sanhedrin.

This law prohibiting work on the Sabbath goes all the way back to Exodus 16: 23-29. In these verses Moses tells the Israelites how they are to collect the manna the Lord has given them for their daily food. They are only to gather enough for the day at hand and no more. They are not to collect it for two days at one gathering. If they do, the extra they take will turn rotten and wormy. This restriction applies until the sixth day of the week when they are to gather it also for the Sabbath, on which day gathering or any work of any kind is prohibited.

In today’s Gospel Jesus cures, which is fine; but he cures on the Sabbath and that is regarded as work and is not OK. Jesus didn’t do this just to do it or to make the Jews angry. Remember, he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, to complete it. The fulfillment that he had in mind here is to let the people know the Sabbath represents the Lord’s Day or the eschatological Day of the Lord (the second coming) when suffering will cease and wholeness will be restored. To show this, Jesus restores the man’s withered hand on the Sabbath.

We might take a little time today to reflect on how we make the Day of the Lord special both for ourselves and for our families.

Fr. Howard

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