Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 6
Mark 7: 31-37
The scene of Jesus’ ministry now switches to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, to Decapolis, which is Gentile territory. This, of course, shows us a truth we are all familiar with today: Jesus is the Savior of us all. His ministry, his values, his way, truth and life are not for one people or group, but for all the world.
In our Gospel for this Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, the people bring to Jesus a man who was deaf and mute and who begged Jesus to cure him. Jesus took the man off away from the crowd and began to perform a series of ritual actions: “He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephatha!” – that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” This particular miracle of Jesus, it should be noted, is also a fulfillment of the prophetic words of Isaiah written so many years before: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” (Isaiah 35: 5-6). The point of this miracle applies to us all: Jesus came to open people up to the word of God.
With regard to our relationship with our God, we are all deaf and mute. Our deafness amounts to the fact that we do not open ourselves to God’s words. We hear only what we want to hear and do things our own way even if it is contrary to the way told to us by God. We make ourselves exceptions to God’s way. Openness to what God and other people want for us is a great virtue; to truly listen and weigh the opinions of others that are contrary to our own and when we are wrong to promptly admit it and try to change our ways. This is openness, to be open to the light of Jesus and of those around us. We too are the light of the world. Remember?
We are mute when we do not communicate with our God in prayer. Has that resolve we have all made at one time or another to take and make time every day for prayer gone astray? If so, let us remind ourselves again of the necessity of daily prayer, prayers of petition, prayers for the community in which we live and love, prayers of thanksgiving for all God has done for us. We must listen to God and talk to God every day. In doing so we are healed of our deafness and muteness. Jesus will help us if we ask him for this healing.
Labor Day, Sept. 7
Mt. 6: 31-34
The Gospel reading cited above for the Liturgical celebration of Labor Day is purely optional. There is no “official” Labor Day Liturgy. We kind of make it up as we go along from favorite or fitting Gospel passages. One I saw mentioned is the one noted above from the Gospel of St. Matthew. It kind of puts a different slant on things. The words I am referring to are: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
These particular words, I think, are rather relevant for this Labor Day of 2009. The financial crisis that has hit our country recently is the cause for many people to worry. And well they should! Many have lost their homes, their jobs, and many are on the verge of losing hope. This is the scene for this Labor Day. How can I not worry about a future that looks rather bleak to so many?
This present situation reminds me of a TV commercial message that I actually enjoy seeing. I hope you have all seen it. It is about a little dog who is worried and troubled about keeping his favorite bone from being stolen by another dog. First of all, he digs a hole in the ground and buries it for safekeeping. But then he spends all of his time watching the site where he buried it lest another dog come and dig it up. He is still worrying. Then he decides to carry it off to his local bank and put it in a safety deposit box. It is safe there but now he can’t have it when he wants to chew on it. All the time this is going on there is a song playing in the background with the words: Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble – worry, worry, worry, worry, since the day I was born. Finally, he goes to the bank, gets the bone and brings it home again and places it in the open beside his sleeping basket where it was in the first place. But now he doesn’t have to worry about it any longer for above the bone hangs a red umbrella of a popular insurance company. Security has finally come and ended his worrying.
I was thinking how relevant this is for our own times if we can substitute the hand of God for the red umbrella. As usual, our faith and surrender to God’s way is our salvation and security. This whole idea is summed up very nicely in the Third Step of the Twelve Steps: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. This is true security and freedom from worry in the worst of times.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 8
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Usually the Church celebrates the death-day of a Saint as the day for celebrating the Saint’s life, but not so with the Blessed Virgin. Along with her Divine Son and St. John the Baptist, we celebrate the birthday of Mary. All three births mentioned here were miraculous and therefore the birthday is celebrated as well. The Gospel read for this Feast (Mt. 1: 1-16, 18-23) begins with the human genealogy of Christ to show that our Divine Savior truly possessed a human nature. Then it ends with the story of how the human birth of Jesus came to happen.
As we said above, we read in Scripture where the birth of Mary was miraculous. She was conceived without the stain of sin as we know from the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. There is nothing in the Scriptures about the actual birth of the Blessed Virgin or her parentage, though St. Joseph’s lineage is given in today’s Gospel. The names of her parents, Joachim and Anna, come to us through the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, which dates from the 2nd century. According to tradition, Mary was born in Nazareth in the same house in which the Annunciation took place. In celebrating this feast of the Birth of Mary, we look forward to the birth of her Divine Son and give her honor as the Mother of our Savior.
Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 9
Luke 6: 20-26
“Blessed are you who are poor…..Blessed are you who are now hungry…..Blessed are you who are now weeping…..Blessed are you when people hate you and insult your and denounce you…..Behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
Our Gospel to be read on this day recounts for us the Beatitudes according to St. Luke’s Gospel in Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. As we have noted before in these homilies, the word “Blessed” means “happy.” Happy are the poor, the hungry, the weeping, people who are hated and insulted by others. Happy will these be both here and now in this life and in the ages to come.
In these Beatitudes poverty, hunger, weeping, insults, have nothing to do with money, food, grief or abuse. Poverty for Francis of Assisi had nothing to do with money but rather where we find our security. Fact is, it is possible to be rich and still be poor. And the same for food, grief and insults. I can have a refrigerator full of food and still be hungry. It is where we find our security in life that matters. Do we opt for the security we find in a big bank account, a refrigerator full of food, fun and games all the time, in people adoring and worshipping who we are and what we do? If so, we are missing the boat for being truly happy. The answer here is the same as found in Monday’s homily: Surrendering to God, turning our will and lives over to him as we understand Him, putting God in control of our lives. Then and only then will be have the optimum security that will bring us true happiness, joy and peace.
Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 10
Luke 6: 27-38
In our Gospel for today, St. Luke goes to great lengths to tell us how to love our enemies, to stop judging other people, and to forgive those who harm us in any way. Our human love is to progress as far as possible toward the Divine Love. We should try and match God’s love for all his people, even those who reject him. God never, for any reason, ceases to love his children. Nor should we. Easy to say, hard to accomplish. Fact is, it is impossible for us to even come close to this goal without God’s grace and help.
And the same goes for judging others. When we do this we are being self-righteous and I have remarked before how much I have come to dislike this facet of myself when I am tempted in this direction. I am no saint, that’s for sure. How then can I condemn and judge others for doing the same things I have done and still do occasionally? And resentments, harboring grudges and dislike for others is a rather natural thing. Who goes around naturally loving and forgiving those who hurt them? You avoid them, dummy! You don’t like them. That’s the natural way of doing things. But when was Jesus ever satisfied with our natural ways? We are to lift, raise ourselves with his grace and help to his way of doing things.
Lord, we need you to be happy and to do things the right way. Help us, please, to continually realize that you and you alone are the way, the truth and the life.
Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 11
Luke 6: 39-42
The Gospel reading for today’s Liturgy reminds me of two of the Twelve Steps of Spirituality from AA. Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. And Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. “How can you say to your brother (or sister), ‘Brother/Sister, let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ when you don’t even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?” Isn’t this about taking a personal inventory, to discover the wooden beams in my own eye?
Inventory is a spiritual principle. It appears in two of the Twelve Steps. It is important to our spiritual lives whether we are in AA or not. Inventory is not a history. It is an honest, open, and humble look at our own lives right now and I am looking for whatever it might be that is blocking my most important relationships in life: love of God and love of neighbor. What is it that is in my way from making these relationships better? I am substituting the word block here for the overused and misunderstood word sin,
Inventory, as a spiritual principle, is personal. It is not about the inventory of my brothers, the other Friars, my wife, husband, children or friends. What is it in my life that is preventing, blocking me from a better, closer relationship with my God and my neighbor? Admit it, change it, do something about it. This is what helps our spiritual lives to grow and mature.
Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 12
Luke 6: 43-49
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them.”
Jesus then tells the parable of the wise man who builds his new house on a rock foundation so when the flood came and the river burst against the house, it could not shake it because it had been well built. On the contrary is the man who built his house on the ground without a solid foundation. When the waters rose, the house was washed away. This parable, as we have remarked before, is an example of the virtue of prudence, the right way of doing things. Our homily yesterday about taking a personal inventory opens the door to our being prudent, to admitting that Jesus is the way, truth and the life and of living accordingly.
Lord, help us all to do it your way and thus avoid a lot of trouble and misery.