Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(September 7, 2008) Mt. 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 AA 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.
P.S. Happy Grandparents Day to all you who are Grandparents.
Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(September 8, 2008) The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the oldest feasts dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It is mentioned by the Fathers of the Eastern Church as early as the first years of the 5thcentury. In the 7th century, it spread to Rome and from there became diffused throughout the Western Church. The date chosen for the celebration of this feast in the Liturgy, September 8, is the same day as the dedication of the Basilica in honor of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother in Jerusalem that was built by the Emperor Constantine.
There is nothing contained in Scripture about the birth of Mary nor is there anything about her parents. The names given to her parents, Joachim and Anna, appear in the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, a book dating from the 2nd century A.D. But Mary, like all the rest of us, had to have had a birthday. Today we honor her coming among us as the Mother of our Redeemer and we thank God for the wonderful gift of his Mother. How blessed we are to have her for our Mother too.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(September 9, 2008) Luke 6: 12-19
“Jesus departed to the mountains to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.”
Jesus had just finished one of his debates with the Pharisees over the observance of the Sabbath Day. Now he departed to the mountains to spend the night in prayer before he chose twelve of his disciples to be his Apostles on the next day. We notice a number of times in the Scriptures how Jesus always spent the night in prayer before undertaking anything of great importance in his ministry.
This awareness invites us to take this opportunity to reflect on our own practice of praying before performing an important task during our day. I don’t know about you, but I forget to do this most of the time. Old as I am becoming, I still don’t believe this has become a habit in my life as it should have by this time.
How many of us say a prayer on arriving at our place of work each day asking the Lord to bless our work and make it successful. It doesn’t have to be anything lengthy or elaborate. A “Please be with me and help me today, Lord,” would be just fine. If you find the time or opportunity for some private time with one of the children, wouldn’t a brief prayer for a quality conversation be in order? Or even before baking a cake or starting to prepare the evening meal or on arriving home after the day’s work? Sometimes when I sit down to write these homilies, I just sit there with nothing happening. It seems like the well has run dry. Then, if I have the inspiration to whisper a prayer for help, it seems to make things easier and ideas come.
Let us ask the Lord to jog our memories that we take a moment for prayer before acting on whatever.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(September 10, 2008) Luke 6: 20-26
The Gospel chosen for our consideration today gives us part of St. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. This, of course, is St. Luke’s counterpart to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. It is addressed to Jesus’ disciples and like the sermon in Matthew, it begins with the Beatitudes (20-22) and ends with the Parable of the Two Houses (46-49). Matthew wrote for the Jewish Christians and Luke wrote for the Gentiles and this is probably part of the reason why Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is the longer of the two.
Luke writes that those favored and blessed by the Lord are not the same as those the world considers favored and blessed. Rather, the Lord blesses the poor, the suffering, and the hungry; those hated and insulted by others. Once again, we see the standards and values of Jesus are different from the standards of the world for blessing and success. It goes without saying that we who are disciples of the Lord are to promote the way, truth and life of Jesus and flee the things of this world which carry us in the opposite direction. Let us pray today that we make walk humbly in the way of the Lord.
Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(September 11, 2008) Luke 6: 27-38
In last Sunday’s Gospel selection from Matthew 16: 21-27, Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We can see in the Gospel chosen to be read today an explanation of the Gospel for last Sunday. How do we carry the cross of Christ daily and how do we lose our life for his sake? We do this by following his admonitions to his first disciples in today’s Gospel.
We carry our cross by loving our enemies, treating them civilly, with respect, and praying for them. That’s not easy to do. We also carry our cross by turning the other cheek, but giving what people ask us to give, by truly living the Golden Rule of doing to others as I would have them do to me. And I certainly carry my cross by forgiving those who have injured me in any way, by not condemning them and by forgiving them from my heart. In all these ways and more we carry our cross as suggested by the Gospel. Guide me, Lord, along your everlasting way.
Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(September 12, 2008) Luke 6: 39-42
I have always marveled at the words of Jesus found in today’s Gospel: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own.” Don’t you wish you could have said that first? I do! Why is it so easy to see what the other person needs to change while thinking that I am just fine the way that I am with no change necessary? We just do not look at our own deficiencies at all but are so quick to pick up someone else’s. It’s kind of like my Mom who used to worry about what was happening to “those old people” down the street without seeming to realize she was 85 years old herself! How understanding we are of ourselves and how strict we are with others. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Lord, help me to look in a mirror today before judging my neighbor.
Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(September 13, 2008) St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom, whose Memorial we celebrate today, was one of the early Fathers of the Church. He was born in Antioch around the year 349. He was called Chrysostom (meaning Golden Mouth) because of his great preaching. John was ordained in 386 and made Bishop of Constantinople in 398 where he reformed the life of the clergy and the faithful alike as he explained Catholic doctrine and presented the ideal Christian life. He died on September 14, 407.
St. John Chrysostom was a good example of Christian living during his times. This is something for each of us to shoot for in our own time and place.