Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 12
Luke 6: 43-49
“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 and that of the Gospel will save it.”
Jesus was a realist. He never pulled any punches, he never led anyone who followed him to believe following him would be a “rose garden.” Those words remind me of my days in the major seminary where we had a cleric master, Fr. Robert. He was a real gem. He would see us relaxing or taking it easy and immediately he would come up with something for us to do. And then he would walk away singing that old song, “I didn’t promise you a rose garden.” Jesus tells his followers in our Gospel for this Sunday that to follow him will mean carrying a cross of our own every now and then, denying our own preferences and being loyal to him and his values. The life we will lose in doing this is our natural selves with all it human desires, plans and fickleness. What we are giving up, sacrificing, is misery and trouble and in return we receive peace and joy. It all doesn’t sound too bad when we put it that way. It doesn’t always seem like a rose garden to us at times, but in reality, it is.
My online dictionary defines loyalty as being unswerving in allegiance, faithful to a person to whom fidelity is due. If ever a definition pointed to Christ, this is it. When we “leave everything and follow him,” we mean just that. We don’t look back at the “what might have beens.” We made our choice for Christ and we stick to it. That is loyalty. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way but that is what I really meant when I made the commitments that still rule my life: to follow Christ and his way, truth and life by being a Franciscan Friar. I have goofed plenty of times at being true and faithful to these commitments, but I have always perceived Jesus chasing after me when I left and have returned to him. We all know how forgiving he is toward all of us.
Today, let us take a little time to reflect on our own allegiance and commitment to Jesus. Am I being loyal to him in my daily life?
Jesus, give me, please, the strength to do what I am supposed to do and to be what I am supposed to be.
Monday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 14
Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross
“Behold the wood of the cross, on which has hung our Salvation: Come, let us adore!”
Today our Liturgy honors that Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed us. This idea of venerating the Cross began in the 4th century when St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, discovered the true Cross upon which Christ died while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This feast of the Exultation (bringing to light) has been celebrated on September 14 ever since.
The Cross is a powerful symbol of the Christian faith and appears in our lives and worship in many ways. Christians are in the habit of making the Sign of the Cross before beginning to pray. There is also the “little” Sign of the Cross before the reading of the Gospel when we sign our forehead, lips and heart. On Good Friday one of the major parts of the Liturgy involves the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful. We see the Cross in Catholic Churches, schools, hospitals and other places and it is worn around the neck of many to remind them constantly of Christ’s death for all of us.
The Prayer for today’s Liturgy reads: God our Father, in obedience to you your only Son accepted death of the cross for the salvation of humankind. We acknowledge the mystery of the cross on earth. May we receive the gift of redemption in heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 15
Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows
The Gospel for today’s Liturgy commemorating Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, may be taken from Luke 2: 33-35 where Mary and Joseph meet the old holy man, Simeon, as they bring the child Jesus to the Temple for the very first time. It was at that time that Simeon prophesied to Mary: “And you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Surely this prophesy was verified as Mary stood beneath the cross of her Son watching him die.
The whole Passion of Christ must have been a tremendous sorrow for Mary and she witnessed it all: the mockery and jeers of the crowd, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the nailing to the cross, his dying on the cross after three hours. I don’t think anyone who is not a mother who has suffered through the death of one of her children has any idea at all of the sorrow that this causes. I have witnessed this many times as a hospital chaplain and all I could do was stand there, maybe touch the mother, and weep with her. These were times of real sorrow for me also, but my sorrow didn’t come close to that of the mother.
Let us pray today for all mothers who have lost a child to Sister Death. May they find some consolation and peace in knowing that their child is in the loving arms of Jesus.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 16
Luke 7: 31-35
To follow Jesus or not to follow Jesus. This seems to be the question that comes from today’s Gospel reading. Some of the people who followed John the Baptist also became followers of Jesus and some who rejected John also rejected Jesus. In this latter group, Jesus mentions the Pharisees and the scholars of the Law. Lest we get the wrong idea, some of the Pharisees and scribes did follow John and Jesus. Others did not, and the final analogy in today’s Gospel concerning the children in the marketplace applies to them.
The children of Jesus’ time like the children today liked to play games. Two of the children’s games in Jesus’ time were “funeral” and “wedding.” One child would play dead and the others would cry and wail. Or two would play a newly married couple and the others would sing and dance. But, like all children, if some of them didn’t get their own way, they would stop playing the game. These were the ones who rejected Jesus; they acted like children.
Do I drift away from Jesus when his way differs from my way? Is life really all about me? Or am I able to give up my way for the way of Jesus?
Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 17
Luke 7: 36-50
Today our Gospel selection tells the story of Jesus pardoning the sinful woman. It is a story of forgiveness. St. Luke presents two different reactions to the ministry of Jesus. A Pharisee, suspecting Jesus to be a prophet, invites Jesus to a banquet at his house, but the self-righteousness of the Pharisee leads to little or no forgiveness by God and consequently leads to little love shown toward Jesus as evidenced by the total lack of hospitality. The sinful woman, on the other hand, shows a great faith in Jesus that has led her to seek forgiveness for her sins; and because much was forgiven her, she now literally overwhelms Jesus with her display of love as witnessed by her non-stop kissing of his feet and the anointing of his feet with precious oil.
Because the woman was forgiven much, she loved much. The motive for her great love was her being forgiven by Jesus. This whole story is a powerful lesson for all of us of the relation between forgiveness and love. I recall a time in my own life when I was forgiven much by the people of my parish to whom I owed a great deal of amends for so much harm done while I was an active alcoholic. I asked for and received their forgiveness for my atrocious behavior – and I loved them all the more for it.
Do you recall any similar happening in your own lives? The great love coming from forgiveness should be a motive for all of us to forgive readily and willingly those who have hurt us and to seek forgiveness from those we have harmed. Love still covers a multitude of sins.
Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 18
Luke 8: 1-3
In today’s Gospel, Luke shows the support given to Jesus and his ministry by several women disciples. Luke names three of them: Mary Magdelene, Joanna and Susanna. Luke refers to Mary Magdelene as one “from whom seven demons had gone out.” What is meant by this phrase is unclear. The other evangelists do not name the women until the time for the crucifixion. Luke does not name them then to avoid repeating himself.
This group of men and women who are recorded as having followed Jesus remain with him through the resurrection, but only the women and some of the men (Luke 23: 49) will stand at the cross. Are we able to remain with Jesus when we are asked to carry our crosses along with him?
Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 19
Luke 8: 4-15
Today’s Gospel presents us with the story of the Sower who went out to sow the seed. In this story we see the sown seed falling on different kinds of soil and producing different effects. My Commentary on the Scriptures points out that this is one of the easiest of all the parables to understand and interpret and, in view of this, wonders why it receives such a detailed explanation from Jesus in all the synoptic Gospels. The reason for this, it goes on to say, reflects the importance in the early Church to underline and make very clear the qualities of good disciples.
Obviously, this parable tells us that the good disciple is going to work hard at being “good soil” for the seed of the word of Jesus. He/she is going to welcome it with an open mind, with eyes that truly see and ears that truly hear.
We might reflect for a time today on how well and efficaciously we receive the word of God into our hearts.