Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 29, Luke 14: 7-14
The first reading for today’s Liturgy from Sirach and the Gospel from St. Luke is about the virtue of humility. Humility is a difficult virtue for all of us to practice. It deals, as we have seen many times, with a true self-knowledge of ourselves, and that can be often difficult to come by and to accept. It is the opposite of false-pride. True pride, centered in the middle between the two extremes, is a good thing, a virtue. For example, it is OK to say: I am a good person. I can do this and this and this very well. God gave me these gifts to use for others. God is the giver, we are the recipient. We acknowledge this and there is no false-pride here at all. But to say: I am God. I’m always right, etc., is false pride, an extreme, and wrong.
We should also note that the world into which Jesus came as man was an honor-shame based society. The social sin of overstepping who or what we really were would have been a truly mortifying experience. To go to a banquet, sit down at a place at the table, and then to be told by the host to move to a lower place because someone more worthy had shown up, would have been a horrendous experience. Today’s Gospel is really about the position in which we place God in our lives. We are totally dependent on God for our very next breath. To think we can enter his kingdom all on our own and without any help from him is also a horrendous sin of pride. Humility tells us we are dependent on God’s grace, love and generosity for everything.
The first reading today from the Book of Sirach is too good to pass by. The Book of Sirach is the same as the Book of Ecclesiastes and it is one of the wisdom books of the Bible. Ecclesiastes comes from its being called “Liber Ecclesiasticus” ,which is the same as “Church Book”, because of its almost exclusive use by the Church in teaching morals to the faithful and to the catechumens. It was written between 200 and 175 B.C.
The passage included in today’s Liturgy urges us to conduct all our affairs with humility and then people will love us. It is hard for anyone to love a person who always has to be right, who knows it all and is full of grandiosity and pride. We see them coming and head the other way. Humility does away with all this stuff. It tells us that if we humble ourselves we will find favor with God. Favor here means benevolence, good will, kindness. God delights in us, takes pleasure in us, because we are giving him his due. Sirach also tells us to avoid the things beyond our strength. If you are not talented in cooking, let someone else who has this gift from God do the cooking. This follows the advice I was once given: Howard, why don’t you start worrying about who you are and what you can do and forget about who you are not and what you cannot do. This is good advice to all who are seeking to be humble.
So – let’s all take a few moments today to think about the importance of the virtue of humility in our lives. Let us be true to who we are and what we are. Let us use our gifts for others and acknowledge that these gifts come from God. I did not earn them nor do I deserve them. Let us try, with God’s strength and help, to be the way God made us and to be grateful to him. This is humility.
Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 30, Luke 4: 16-30
Today’s Gospel is another example of what happens in an honor-shame based society that we mentioned yesterday. Such a society loves to be praised and honored, but they do not like being shamed or put down. What Jesus said in today’s Gospel about Elijah avoiding the widows of Israel and going only to the widow in Zaraphath in the land of Sidon and Elisha, curing only Naaman the Syrian and ignoring the lepers in Israel, was all true. But his audience was critical and rejected him because he praised and honored the Gentiles in Sidon and Syria by his words and shamed the Jews. This would amount to a Democrat getting up and praising a Republican at the Democratic National Convention. You just don’t do that! But Jesus told it the way it was – always. He didn’t pull any punches, as they say.
Sometimes people find the truth disturbing and do not want any part of it. Let us check and see if we fall into this category. Or do I sometimes not stand up for the truth in order to gain the favor of others who do the same thing? Do I let my people-pleasing lead to my standing up for something I know is not right? This is a point worth considering.
Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Aug. 31, Luke 4: 31-37
When Jesus spoke, he spoke with authority. In this he was not like the other rabbis. Rabiis usually taught while walking up and down a street or road. A crowd would gather to see what he had to say and walk along with him. Jesus was no different. And our Gospel tells us that when he spoke, he spoke with authority. The other Rabbis had to provide the authority from which they spoke. Who else was it that believed and taught as they were about these things? In other words, they had to back up what they said. Jesus, however, was authority personified.
Do we look for others to back up Jesus before we take him seriously? Or do we listen to what he has to say with faith and trust in his words and then follow them obediently? How do we respond to the word of Jesus when we hear it? I think we should remind ourselves often that when Jesus speaks to us, that it is God speaking to us. There is no need to look anywhere else for a back-up.
Jesus, once again give me the faith to accept you and your word as the way, the truth and the life.
Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 1, Luke 4: 38-44
In the Gospel selected for today’s Liturgy, we see Jesus continuing his work and healing. First, he went to Simon’s house where Simon’s mother-in-law also lived. She was ill with a fever and Jesus healed her. The people continued to bring their sick to Jesus and he also cured them. Then it was time for Jesus to take care of his own needs. He left at daybreak and went to a deserted place where he prayed. We have remarked about this many times before to point out the balance in Jesus’ life. It wasn’t all about work.
How about us? Which is more important in our lives? Work or Prayer? Are we able to take the time to pray when it means walking away from the work we were doing? Can we say “no” to the demands of others when it is time to pray? I find in my life that all too often prayer gives way to work, I’ve just got to get this done. I can pray later – and then I forget all about it. This happened to me just yesterday. Does it happen to you too?
Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 2, Luke 5: 1-11
The Lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Lake of Galilee. I read recently that there is a sign posted on the shore of the Lake of Galilee quoting Peter’s words in today’s Gospel: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” Then the sign goes on to say: “The words and deeds of Jesus are not actions of the distant past. Jesus is still looking for men and women who are prepared to take risks at his word because they trust him utterly.”
What risks has Jesus urged us to take in our own lives? Did we take them?
Are there any risks I am being asked to take at the present time to further my spiritual life? What are they?
Jesus, help me to repeat the words of Peter when you ask me to do something: “At your command I will lower the nets.”
Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 3, Luke 5: 33-39
Down through the ages of time people have fasted for various reasons: to achieve better mental capacity, for courage, and in order to perform various actions easier and better. The Jews fasted to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom amongst them. In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees remind Jesus that John the Baptist’s disciples fasted often and the Pharisees do the same; but Jesus’ disciples eat and drink. Why? Jesus answers them that the reason for fasting has ended. God’s kingdom is here; the Messiah has arrived!
Jesus went on to say that the time will come when his disciples will fast again. Am I in the habit of fasting occasionally? Do I fast when the penitential seasons of the Church’s calendar suggest fasting (Lent and Advent)? Does fasting have any part at all in my spirituality? Why or why not?
Saturday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 4, Luke 6: 1-5
Once again the topic for discussion brought up in today’s Gospel is the controversy over working on the Sabbath. This, as we have seen, was a bone of contention in many places in Scripture between Jesus and the Pharisees and, it should be noted, also between the Jews and the Gentiles who followed Jesus. All of these regulations and laws were Jewish and the Gentiles didn’t follow them. So, these controversies regarding the Sabbath, clean and unclean, circumcision or not, etc., are not only between Jesus and the Pharisees but also among the various Christian people.
Sometimes controversies happen in Christianity today also. Catholics hold one thing, the Baptists, Presbyterians, etc., may say something different. Different practices abound. How do we handle these differences? With antagonism and judgments or with respect and understanding?