SUNDAY of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

When I first looked at the Gospel selection for this Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the year, I thought the liturgist who chose all the 32 verses that make up today’s Gospel was going just a bit too far. There are three beautiful parables in these many verses and the consideration of any one of them would have been quite sufficient. However, having all three of them together makes one ask the question: what do they all have in common? The answer: they are all parables dealing with something or someone lost.

In the first parable, the shepherd lost a sheep. He had a hundred sheep altogether and lost one. Then he left the ninety-nine to go and look for the one he had lost. The shepherd is likened here to God who does whatever is necessary to bring back to himself every lost soul.

The second parable is the parable of the lost coin. Here we must remember that the floors of the Jewish homes in Jesus’ time were not covered with fancy hardwood floors or carpeting. They were dirt. And when you dropped anything, particularly something as small as a coin, it would sink into the dust or dirt and be very difficult to uncover. But, again, every soul is so important to God that he will do whatever is necessary to find it and return it to the fold.

The third parable is called the parable of the prodigal son or the lost son. For a long time I have thought it would be better named the parable of the loving and forgiving Father. But for the sake of unanimity here, we’ll refer to it as the parable of the lost son. Here the Father is a model for all of us of the joy-filled reconciliation that Jesus calls us to seek in all relationships that are threatened and lost.

I believe the point of these three parables is that we cannot get away from, we cannot hide from God. He will seek us out, like we read in Thompson’s great work, The Hound of Heaven, and bring us back. Many of us have experienced this pursuit of God, who wouldn’t let us alone when we had left him, been lost to him. He came and came and came — until we finally surrendered to his love for us and returned to his loving arms.

With Jesus, the lost will be found unless it is possible for the human will in its freedom to absolutely turn him aside. It wasn’t in my case, thank God. In returning to his way, truth and life, I have found a happiness and serenity I never thought I would come close to having. What do you think?

Fr. Howard

MONDAY of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

These are the words of the Roman centurion as he approaches Jesus asking him to come and save the life of his slave. It is a prayer of humility and a prayer of surrender. He humbly submits himself and his slave to Jesus whom he believed had the power to cure his slave. He admitted he himself was powerless and surrendered to the healing powers of Jesus.

The way to Jesus is through humility and surrender. Bill Wilson, in writing the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, realized this truth. Steps 6 and 7 are what I choose to call “the conversion Steps.” When we want to change, when we want to be helped, cured of our character defects, we ask the Lord, realizing we cannot do it by ourselves. We are powerless. Step 6 reads: We were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character. And Step 7: Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings. As one can clearly see, these are Steps of humility and surrender. It is God who removes the character defects, not we ourselves.

When we pray to the Lord in any prayer of petition, let’s remember to approach him in humility and surrender to his power and will.

Fr. Howard

TUESDAY of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel selection we again see the compassionate Jesus responding to human need. The Gospel paints a very sorrowful picture. A widow’s son dies and is being carried out of the home, presumably for burial. The mother is weeping as she walks along in the procession. This sight was too much for Jesus to just pass by. He stopped the procession, told the young dead man to arise, and then gave him to his mother.

Sometimes we carry an almost unbearable sorrow around in our hearts. It beats us down, down, down until we just don’t know what to do or how to handle it. I run into this problem occasionally in the confessional. I have experienced it myself. There was a time when I thought that God would not forgive me my sins and that presented an unbearable burden and the sorrow and grief of hopelessness. Looking again at yesterday’s homily, it becomes apparent that Jesus can remove these burdens if we humbly turn to him, surrender to him and allow him to do it.

My Lord, how great and loving thou art!!

Fr. Howard

WEDNESDAY of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel selection states a principle that it takes a lot of us a long time to learn: You can’t change other people. That’s the way it really is, but, boy, do we try and do it. We nag and nag and jump up and down and criticize and rant and rave and nothing happens! Just like the Gospel says: “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge but you did not weep.” We can’t make other people do what we would have them do or act as we would like them to act. We can’t change other people. So let’s quit trying.

What can I do when I see someone behaving in an unacceptable way? We can pray for the person — and that is a lot! Never underestimate the power of prayer. Remember St. Monica, whose feast we celebrated not too long ago. She prayed for years for her son, St. Augustine, and finally it worked. Or we can express a feeling: When you act that way, I feel sad and uncomfortable. Period. Don’t continue on or the judgments will almost certainly follow. Another way to change someone else is to change ourselves. If we are constantly bickering with someone, stop it and tell them you love them, Hopefully, they will see the change in us and change too.

But, as the Gospel tells us today, I have learned that every time I play the accordion, not everyone is going to jump up and dance the polka!

Fr. Howard

THURSDAY of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and the Korean Martyrs

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and the Korean Martyrs. In the 17th century, a group of lay people began the evangelization process in Korea. They established a vital Christian community with lay leadership until finally missionaries arrived from the Parish Foreign Missionary Society. Then terrible persecutions began in 1839, 1866 and 1867. During these persecutions 103 members of this Christian community gave their lives as martyrs. Among hem was the first Korean priest and pastor, Fr. Andrew Kim Taegon. For the most part, the other martyrs were lay people of all ages. Their blood watered the soil for the growth of the Church in Korea. Pope John Paul II, during his trip to Korea, canonized these martyrs on May 6, 1984. Let us remember today, on this anniversary of the Korean Martyrs, to pray for the Church in Korea.

Holy Martyrs of Korea, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

FRIDAY of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Matthew

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles. Matthew is the author of the Gospel that appears first in the order of the Gospels in the New Testament. Scholars believe that it was Mark who wrote the first Gospel that was written.

The Scriptures tell us that Matthew was the son of Alpheus and was called to be an Apostle while sitting at his tax collectors booth at Capernaum. He is also called “Levi” in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. Matthew composed his Gospel in Aramaic, his native tongue. Soon afterward, about 42 AD, he left for other lands. There is some doubt, it appears, as to just when his Gospel was written. Another tradition ways it was written between 42 AD and 50 AD or even later. It was definitely written before 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the temple of Jerusalem. Nothing more is known about Matthew’s later life. It is also uncertain whether he died a natural death or suffered martyrdom.

St. Matthew, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

SATURDAY of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

Our Gospel for today is Luke’s rendition of the Parable of the Sower. The account of this parable is pretty much the same in all the synoptic Gospels. This is a particularly good parable for us to reflect on for self-seeing and self-understanding. Where do I fit in this parable? Am I like the path where the seed of God’s word is trampled upon? Or am I rocky ground, thorns, or good soil?

Step 4 of the 12 Steps asks the subject to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of him/herself. In making this inventory we are to open our eyes and see what is really there; we must search diligently for our character defects and shortcomings (gifts and talents are not excluded) that we will ask God to remove in Steps 6 and 7. We must be fearless, not compromising or rationalizing our inventory, but see it and tell it as it truly is.

Have you ever delved into yourself this way? It is a fantastic exercise of humility, of true self-knowledge, and opens us to change for the better. Inventory is a necessary spiritual principle.

Fr. Howard

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