Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Aug. 31, 2008) Mt. 16: 21-27
The Gospel chosen for this Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time follows last week’s Gospel in Matthew. Peter had just answered Christ’s question, “Who do people say that I am,” with the response, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Now Jesus tells his disciples he is going to Jerusalem to suffer, be killed, and on third day be raised. This news was a bit more than Peter could take. Once again, his great love for Jesus just would not hear of such a thing. And again his great love got him into a bit of trouble with Jesus who rebuked him for saying no such thing would ever happen. Peter’s love prevented him from believing the plan God had for our salvation; that his Divine Son would die upon the cross for our sins.
Peter, when he heard Jesus speaking of suffering and dying, only focused on the suffering and death part. He was unaware that this suffering and death would lead to new life. This is what we refer to today as the Paschal Mystery. We don’t understand it yet today; why should Peter have understood it then? The Paschal Mystery is just that – a mystery.
It is also a mystery to us why suffering is part of discipleship. If we are truly disciples of Jesus we are going to suffer for his values, we are going to die to ourselves for the love and service of others, we are going to be counter-cultural signs of Christ in a culture that has gone crazy with materialism, hedonism, secularism and a lot of other “-isms.” In doing this we open ourselves to the free gift of God’s grace which nothing other than the new life that raises us above the ordinary human consciousness and gives us the happiness, peace and joy that we all desire deep in our hearts. It is a mystery to be sure why we must suffer, but when we see the results of happiness and joy, it seems to become less a mystery, if there is such a thing. The God of new life is so good to us! God’s ways, however, are not our ways. Thank heavens!
Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(September 1, 2008) Labor Day
Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in September in the U.S.A. since the 1880’s. Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894 and all fifty states have now declared it a state holiday. Originally there were street parades and speeches to demonstrate the strength of the labor unions. Today it is more often regarded as a day of rest with schools beginning a new school year the next day.
For myself I look at Labor Day as a day to reflect a bit on the work I am called to do in service of God and my neighbor. Humankind has many different needs: food, clothing, homes for shelter and family life, money as a means of exchange for needed goods, relaxation, vacations, relationships, churches for the worship of God, the need for fulfillment, and on and on. We have so many needs; it is hard to think of all of them. But any of the ones I can think of are acquired or satisfied through human work; physical, mental or spiritual labor. Work, therefore, is an absolute necessity in our so-called economy of salvation.
Each of us has been given gifts and talents by the Creator to enable us to contribute to the production of these needs of humankind. We are all different, all unique. What one can’t do, the other can. And it only stands to reason that the more and better we use our gifts for others, the more our needs are met. Have you ever noticed how things slow down and seem all out of kilter when people of a certain occupation go on strike? The whole is only as good as the sum of its individual parts.
On this Labor Day, let us thank God for his goodness in giving us our gifts and talents for our overall good and for rendering to Him our honor, glory, praise and worship.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(September 2, 2008) Luke 4: 31-37
Today’s Gospel tells the story of a man with the spirit of an unclean demon. Jesus said to the demon, “Be quiet! Come out of him. … Then the demon came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed.” We usually understand some kind of demonic possession when we read of “demons.” And maybe that isn’t too far off the truth. Some of the things that “possess” us do seem like “devils,” e.g., diabetes, cancer, heart disease, lung disease, alcoholism, over-eating, obesity, smoking, gambling, sexual disorders and many other addictions and illnesses. We can’t understand all these things even today with all our modern progress and can still refer to them as demons or devils.
Many of us recognize these or other problems in ourselves and want to get rid of them. The mistake we often if not always initially make is trying to get rid of them by ourselves. We do not realize that we cannot change ourselves from the things we are powerless over which include all the above in the last paragraph. We try and try and try and get nowhere. Things just get worse.
The 12 Steps of AA answer this problem beautifully. The 6th Step says that we saw that we had become entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character. The 7th Step says we humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. They don’t say we were entirely ready to remove them ourselves or humbly ask ourselves to remove the shortcomings. We ask God for help and then we get someplace. God is the Changer. We are the change, if there is such a word.
What demons do we find in ourselves? Want to get rid of them? Be willing to have God’s help and then humbly ask him to remove whatever it is that is bothering you. Rest assured, help will be on the way.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(September 3, 2008) Luke 4: 38-44
Ditto yesterday’s homily. Just repeat what we said yesterday today. In today’s Gospel selection Jesus cures Simon’s mother-in-law and other people who are brought to him for the healing of various diseases and to bring demons out of many. “He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.”
Jesus then left and said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God.” What is this “good news” that Jesus came to proclaim? “Good news” is the meaning of the Greek and Latin word “evangelium” that we translate as: “Gospel.” We could translate it: Bible. The whole Bible is “good news.” Fr. Richard Rohr in his book Things Hidden tells us that he believes the central positive theme of this “good news” is the news that God comes to help his people simply because God is Love. This God will always be there for us no matter what. All we have to do is ask him.
Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(September 4, 2008) Luke 5: 1-11
“Master, we toiled all night and took nothing. But at your word I will let down the nets.”
Peter and his helpers had been fishing all night long and had caught nothing. Undoubtedly they were disappointed and frustrated. They had failed in their endeavors. This happens to all of us occasionally. We don’t always succeed in everything we try to do. There have been many times of failure and frustration in all our lives. I remember hearing the old saying quite often from my parents when I was young: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Better than that, whisper a little prayer and then try again.
I kind of believe this might have been what St. Paul was thinking when he told us to pray always. Paul suffered much failure and frustration in trying to carry the message of Christ to the Gentiles and I think I can also be sure that he prayed a lot for God’s help. And eventually he succeeded. I think of many times in my own life when I failed and was frustrated with the way things were going. I didn’t always think about praying and asking for God’s help. But when I did, I found out that prayer works. Sometimes I do not succeed right away even when I pray but it helps to know that I am not alone in my endeavors. Human beings need help, you know. Pray, listen, and try again.
Friday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(September 5, 2008) Luke 5: 33-39
St. Luke, in the 5th chapter of his Gospel, continues to describe Jesus’ new community. The scribes and Pharisees are having a tough time with Jesus’ new ways like his association with tax collectors, sinners, and other outcasts of society. In today’s Gospel they are asking Jesus why his disciples do not fast and act like other religious people. There is always going to be a problem, it seems, when the old meets the new.
This is still the case today. And the solution to this problem hinges a great deal on the virtue of openness. Easier said than done. Just consider our own so-called generation gap. Some of the practices, music, etc., of the new generation drive me up a tree. I constantly have to remind myself that my way is not the only way. I have to stay open. If you clench your fingers into a fist, there is no light inside your hand. You have to open the hand before the light can get in. And it is the same thing with our minds. Let us pray that we may at least be open to the new that is so different from the old ways we are accustomed to. Toleration is necessary for peaceful coexistence.
Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(September 6, 2008) Luke 6: 1-5.
In the Gospel selection for today’s Liturgy the idea of the old and new that we encountered yesterday continues. What is lawful and unlawful on the Sabbath Day? As we have said many times before, this issue of the Sabbath was huge with the Pharisees when they saw the new ways of Jesus changing their customs on this very special day of the week. Eventually it was the reason for their wanting to kill him. It infuriated them when Jesus told them that the Son of Man was lord of the Sabbath or that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. This was very holy ground that Jesus was treading upon! The close-mindedness and self-righteousness of the Pharisees pushed them to wanting to kill Jesus.
Let us ask ourselves again today after reading this Gospel whether or not there is any close-mindedness or self-righteousness in our own lives that is driving us to extreme dislike for others and their ways. If we find that there is, let us spend some time in prayer over the issues that are causing the problem and ask Jesus to bring the necessary change into our lives.