Reflections for the 24th 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 24th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
September 11, Matthew 18: 21-35
“Lord, if my brother (sister) sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Not too long ago we spoke of the science of dealing with the interpretation of the numbers found in Sacred Scripture. I believe I said then that one could spend a lifetime studying this topic. When we check out the meaning of the number 7 in the Bible, we see it is one of the perfect numbers and signifies an endless number of times. How often, then, must I forgive my brother or sister that hurts me? An endless number of times, Jesus tells us. There is to be no limit to our forgiveness.
Some of us seem to follow the old saying; Three strikes and you’re out. Often times, how many times we forgive someone depends on our patience. How much am I willing to take? Over the years I have worked quite a bit with alcoholics and forgiving them can sometimes be a real chore. But I must remember that they do the things they do not because they want to but because they have to. That is the nature of any addiction. Sometimes, too, it is habit that causes the repetition. Again, we must remember that people are not bad. They are human, and this also accounts for the ignorance that can be the source of repetition.
Jesus reminds us in our Gospel today that in any event there are to be no limits set on how many times we forgive someone. How do I fare in this regard?
Monday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 12, Luke 7:1-10
In our Gospel for today’s Liturgy, Jesus cures the servant of a centurion who was ill and about to die. The centurion sent some Jewish elders to Jesus to ask him to come and save the life of the servant. It is interesting to note the errors made by the elders in asking Jesus for this favor. The Gospel reads: “They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him.”” The elders mistakenly believed, as do many of us, that the good we do makes us deserving and worthy of God’s favors. I hope we realize this is not so. We have said time after time that God’s grace is a freebie. We do not earn it, we do not deserve it. God gives it to all free of charge.
Once again, as in so many of Jesus’ healings, it is the faith of the person that gets Jesus’ attention, and in today’s Gospel Jesus didn’t even go to the servant to cure him.
Let us bring our needs before the Lord today. He will in some way make things better.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 13, Luke 7: 11-17
As we have said before, it may be a mystery as to why we have evil, sorrow and suffering in our lives, but the Gospel selection for today takes away any doubt or mystery as to how we should handle it when it happens in our lives. In our Gospel today, the only son of a widowed mother has died and is being carried to burial. The grieving mother is part of the procession. Now that is suffering! Jesus saw her and was moved with pity at seeing her tears and sorrow. He approached the mother, told her not to weep, touched the bier and raised the young man to life again and gave him to his mother. Wow! From deep grief and sorrow to great joy in the snap of a finger.
What are our troubles today? What are we sorrowing over? Whatever it is and whatever the cause of it might be, take it to Jesus. That’s the answer given in today’s Gospel. Step 2 of the 12 Steps says: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. Sanity here means wholeness, holiness. Sorrow and suffering wound us and break us. To be made whole again, we take it to Jesus. He invited us to do just this: Come to me all you who are burdened and I will refresh you.
Jesus, even though we do not know the reason for our sorrow and suffering, you do; and you have pity on us and will help us. We thank you for this.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 14, John 3:13-17
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Today the Church celebrates one of its main symbols: the cross. The cross is quite literally everywhere. And it is a powerful symbol. Remember, a symbol is a little more than a sign, even though they are sometimes used to mean the same thing. A sign does not cause what it signifies, e.g. smoke is a sign of fire, but does not cause the fire. A symbol, on the other hand, does cause what it symbolizes, e.g. the American flag is a symbol of patriotism and it causes patriotism in those who look upon it thoughtfully.
The cross is a reminder of the necessity of suffering in our lives and causes an acceptance and even joy in the face of our own human suffering. My sojourn into the disease of alcoholism for some 20 years was a source of great suffering in my life. But today that lapse brings me great joy because it is out of my alcoholism that I am what I am today – and that is good! The cross can also be a symbol of Christ in my life, a symbol of pride in being a Christian and a follower of Christ, a symbol of direction in my life, a symbol of the guiding value and ethical standards of my life. And on and on.
What does the cross symbolize to you?
Thursday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 15, John 19:25-27
Our Lady of Sorrows
Today the Church honors Mary, Mother of God, under the title of Sorrowful Mother. Devotion to the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin goes back to the early 14th century. The number and their names varied through history until they became standardized to the fixed number today. The seven sorrows are as follows: meeting Simeon in the Temple, the journey to Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the Temple, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion, taking Jesus down from the cross, and his burial. This feast was extended to the whole Latin Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727. Since 1913 it has been celebrated on September 15.
Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.
Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 16, Luke 8:1-3
When we celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin we read in part of the Gospel for the day, the genealogy of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. And in that genealogy there were the names of four women. This first shows the importance of women in the salvation history and the extraordinary manner of the coming of the Messiah. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us”.”
Today’s Gospel selection makes further mention of the women disciples who followed Jesus. Luke refers to Mary Magdalene as “one from whom seven demons had gone out”. What is meant by the “seven demons” is unclear. We do not know. There is no record in the Scriptures of Jesus having performed any exorcisms over her. The other evangelists do not name these women disciples until their telling about the death of Jesus on the cross. These women remained with Jesus through the time of his resurrection from the dead. These women were among the most loyal disciples, and so it remains today. I think we can place each of our mothers in this group of women disciples. Where would we be without moms’ discipleships? The answer to this question for me is: not very far!
Jesus, thank you for the influence of our mothers in our lives.
Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 17, Luke 8:4-15
Once again in today’s Gospel we have the parable of the Sinner. This parable seems to come up on the agenda rather often. The closing sentence of today’s Gospel is important for us to read often: “But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance”.
Let this remind us once again to listen closely to the word of God. Let us embrace it and try our very best to do it. Remember the words of Jesus: “Happy are they who hear the word of God and keep it”. If we are happy today, this is a pretty good sign we are doing it correctly.