Reflections for the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time
September 4, Matthew 18: 15-20
One of the most important aspects of our human lives is our relationships with other people. We are a social people, we need others around us and close to us; we need to be in relationship for our very survival. In the Gospel selected to be read on this Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, our Lord Jesus deals with the process of reconciliation that is to be followed when a relationship goes awry for one reason or another. Jesus said to his disciples, “If your brother (or sister) sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Jesus in effect is asking us to be sincere in our relationships, to set aside our anger and pride and to do our best to heal the wounded relationship. We are not to just sit there and hope things will somehow heal themselves. We must remember that love is an action word. If we are going to truly love our neighbor, we will take action to do so.
I have written before about each of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous containing a spiritual principle. There are two Steps, 8 and 9, set aside for healing relationships and the spiritual principle contained in both of these steps is amends. As you can well imagine, someone addicted to alcohol or anything else is going to mess up relationships big time. Addictive behavior of any kind (overeating, gambling, sexual disorders, etc.) is going to hurt other people. Part of the recovery process, then, is going to have to involve the healing of these broken relationships. It takes time and effort to do this.
Step 8 reads: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” A list is to be made so none will be forgotten or passed over. And as always, I must have the desire; I must be willing, to make amends with these people.
Step 9 reads: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Amends are to be made personally, if at all possible, and with discretion to avoid any possible harm.
In making amends to other people, I was encouraged to avoid using the word “sorry.” Sorry, I was told, is a useless word along with a couple of other words, blame and fault. I have tried to stop using all three of them in any way. In making an amends I was told to use the word “regret.” I regret that I hurt you; will you forgive me? In this way, the ball is in the court of the person being asked for forgiveness. When I use the word sorry, the ball remains in my court where it doesn’t belong.
Let’s take the words of today’s Gospel to heart and reflect on whether or not we have some relationships that need repairing due to my indiscretions. If we do, let’s go and do it. In the words of the old cliché: “Do it, dammit.” Our relationships are far too precious to waste.
Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 5, Luke 6:6-11
There is an old story about Jesus appearing to an old monk and talking with him. While they are speaking, some poor people ring the bell at the monastery for something to eat. The monk left Jesus and went to tend to the people. When he finished, he found Jesus still there waiting to talk some more. And Jesus said to him, “If you had not gone to tend the poor, I would not have been here when you returned”.
In this story and the corresponding Gospel for today’s liturgy, we see a priority system being set up by Jesus. It is better to help the poor and needy than to take time to pray and talk to God. I think when we pay attention to others, we are also praying. In community with the needy we also communicate with God. Both priorities are taken care of at the same time.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 6, Luke 6:12-19
Today’s Gospel sets up another priority all of us should pay attention to. When starting or beginning some important task, pray first, asking for God’s help in doing it. Good advice, and advice given to us by Jesus often in the Gospels. You can always tell when something big is going to happen; Jesus goes off alone to pray. Today’s Gospel tells of two such important things: choosing the Twelve and the Sermon on the Plains.
I try to pause for a moment of prayer when I sit down to write these homilies, and I’m sure God hears me and speaks through me from time to time. I do the same before preaching. What are some rather usual but important things you do that would be good to begin with prayer?
Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 7, 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 you 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 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 we have the optimum security that will bring us true happiness, joy and peace.
Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 8, Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today the Church celebrates the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Gospel from Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus and my Commentary to the Scriptures indicates that this genealogy functions not as a historical record, but rather as a way to place Jesus in relation to the memorable characters in Jewish history. Among the various names are four women. Their stories prepare us for the extraordinary circumstances of Jesus’ birth also mentioned in Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and have a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us””. The Gospel opens with the words: “The Book of the genealogy” which is Greek = “Biblios Geneseos” = “account of birth” or “books of origins”. Jesus is CHRISTOS = “messiah”, = “anointed” of God.
The feast we celebrate today of the Birth of Mary has been celebrated since the 6th Century, where we find a hymn written for the feast by St. Romanos the Melodist. This ancient hymn begins with the following words: “Today the Virgin gives birth to Him who is above all being”. The refrain was “A new born Babe, the pre-eternal God.”
The source for this story of the Birth of Mary is found in an apocryphal Gospel by James written c.150. This also informs us that her parents were Joachim and Anna. There is also an apocryphal Gospel of the Nativity of Mary that gives the same details.
The date of this Feast is September 8, nine months after the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It is an important feast because it prepares the way for the birth of Christ.
Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 9, Luke 6:39-42
Today’s Gospel is still within the Sermon on the Plain and offers a multitude of reflections. This particular Gospel always reminds me of the often-heard Alcoholics Anonymous expression: Take you own inventory. The word “inventory” is found in the 4th and 10thSteps, which encourage us to take a searching and fearless moral look at ourselves, even asking: “What’s wrong with me!?” Not, “What’s wrong with my parents, brothers, sisters or friends?” The Gospel reminds us to look for and remove the plank or beam in my own eye before worrying about the speck or splinter in another’s eye.
Inventory is a spiritual principle. It is sometimes regarded to be an examen or examination of conscience. Doing this is good for finding out who I am, where I am, why I’m here and where I’m going. It helps to set up a direction for my life and goals. If you are not into this daily, try it. It makes for a nice time of prayer before retiring at night.
How was my day, what did I do well, what was wrong, how can I improve tomorrow? And, by the way, God, thanks for today.
Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 10, Luke 6:43-49
Today’s Gospel winds up the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke. Both the parable of the tree and its fruit and the story of the two houses, one built on sand and the other on solid rock, urge us to follow Jesus with care, determination and with full desire or willingness. Alcoholics Anonymous sums this same thing up with HOW: Honesty, Openness and Willingness. If we proceed thusly in our daily lives, we will be good disciples of the Lord and keep our noses to the proverbial grindstones. This is really what it means to build our house on rock on a solid foundation so that even the small whims of life are unable to wash it away.
We don’t have to remember too much to make Jesus Numero Uno in our lives, and it is worth it when we do.