Sunday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
(September 14, 2008) John 3: 13-17
This year the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time is usurped by the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The veneration of the cross of Christ originated in the 4th century beginning with the discovery of the true cross by St. Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, in 326. This Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14 has been celebrated ever since; an old feast indeed.
The word “exaltation” is from the Greek, meaning to “bring to light,” to make known, to show. The Cross of Christ is to be made known to all, its beauty and power “brought to light.” The Cross is the universal sign of the Christian religion. Devotion to the Cross comes in many forms in and outside of the Liturgy: the sign of the Cross is used at the beginning and end of public and private prayer times; the triple Sign of the Cross is used at the proclamation of the Gospel at Mass to invoke God’s blessings on our mind, lips and hearts; the Way of the Cross or the Stations of the Cross, are particularly popular during the season of Lent; and at the beautiful devotion of the Veneration of the Cross in the Liturgy of Good Friday, when the faithful approach the Cross and venerate it with a touch or with a kiss.
The cross often found at the top of the steeples on churches, or in the rooms of our homes, in hospitals, nursing homes and on the omnipresent chain around our necks. All of these practices are constant reminders of the presence of Jesus and that he is the way, the truth, and the life and that ultimately good will triumph over evil.
The Cross also reminds us of the admonition of Jesus to his disciples and all of us that we are to carry our cross daily. We do this, as we saw in a previous daily homily, by loving our enemies and praying for them and treating them with respect; by turning the other cheek when hurt instead of retaliating; by truly living the Golden Rule; and by forgiving our neighbor when we have been hurt by them in any way.
One of my favorite spiritual authors, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, particularly embraces this idea of forgiveness as the way for us to daily carry our cross. In his popular book, The Cost of Discipleship, he writes: “The law of Christ, which it is our duty to fulfill, is the bearing of the cross. My brother’s burden which I must bear is not only his outward lot, his natural characteristics and gifts, but quite literally his sin. And the only way to bear that sin is by forgiving it in the power of the cross which I now share. Thus the call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is the Christ-like suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear.”
Let us pray on this feast: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”
Monday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(September 15, 2008) Our Lady of Sorrows
Anytime you wish to drive yourself coo-coo for a few minutes, as they say, I would suggest you start wrestling with the whys and wherefores of the problem and mystery of evil and suffering in the world. It seems that no matter where you turn, what you think, how your try to solve it, what you say, it leads only to more and greater mystery. For example, some say that suffering and evil came into the world with the first sin of Adam and Eve. Sin is therefore the cause of the evil and suffering in the world. Well, maybe. But if that is the case, why did Mary, whose feast of sorrow and suffering we celebrate today, have to suffer? The various devotions and rosaries list seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yet, we teach in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception that she was free of all sin from the very moment of her conception. If sin is the cause of suffering and she had no sin, why should she have to suffer? More mystery! And we could go on and on, I assure you, but space here is limited. This is supposed to be a short homily, not a book.
To deal with this mystery personally, I take the suffering I have had and still have and try to make some sense out of it. For example, a lot of the sufferings, sorrows and evils in my life were caused by my alcoholism. Any of the addictions bring pain and sorrow big time. But looking back at all of this today, I can honestly say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for this gift of alcoholism in my life. Because of my recovery from this sorrow-producer with the 12 Steps, etc., I am what I am today. And I like that! If I had not had the disease of alcoholism, I don’t know where or what I would be today. Probably I would be dead and gone. So, suffering for me may be a mystery in the long run, but it is been a life-giving mystery for me and that is good. What are your thoughts on the sorrows and sufferings in your life? Reflect on this today if you find a little time to do so. We don’t know the answer but it is good to reflect on it even if it remains a mystery.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(September 16, 2008) Luke 7: 11-17
As we said in yesterday’s homily, 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 17, 2008) Luke 7: 31-35
The children at the time of Jesus were just like children now; they loved to play games. I can remember playing “Kick the Can” and “Red Rover Come Over,” by the hour when I was a young child. In Jesus’ time the kids would play “funeral,” or “wedding,” and would feign weeping and dancing in the streets. But, then as now, sometimes some of them wouldn’t want to play and they wouldn’t weep or dance. They wouldn’t budge.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus likens the crowds to not wanting to respond, not wanting to jump up and down with excitement, at hearing the preaching of John the Baptist and himself when they preached repentance and conversion from their old ways. They didn’t budge. How about us? Do we get excited and moving toward change when we hear something preached or said that we really need to hear? Or do we just sit there and do nothing. Someone once said: Hell consists in missed opportunities. I believe there is something to that.
Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(September 18, 2008) Luke 7: 36-50
The woman in today’s Gospel selection that bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and then anointed his feet with the ointment she was carrying, was probably a prostitute. The Pharisee with whom Jesus was dining when this happened witnessed this and wondered how Jesus could have allowed such a woman to touch him if he were a prophet.
The woman, however, believed Jesus was someone special, most probably the Messiah. And it didn’t mean a thing to Jesus, the Lord of Love, who or what she was. Jesus loves us all unconditionally and gives his grace to all equally. It doesn’t matter to Jesus whether we are sinners or not. We all receive the same gift of his grace of new life. We don’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. It is his gift to all of us. Jesus seems to always be the giver; we are the recipients. What is our part in this? To open ourselves to Jesus’ gift of grace and to follow him as the woman in the Gospel undoubtedly did. Let us remember that God is love and that he cannot not love us. My God, how great thou art and so far beyond our understanding!
Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(September 19, 2008) Luke 8: 1-3
Today’s Gospel selection speaks of Jesus and his twelve Apostles journeying from one town to another proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. A group of women followed along with them and served their needs from their resources.
This group of women were true disciples or followers of Jesus. They served him and the apostles. It is nice to know that Jesus needed other people to make his life comfortable and worry-free. I can imagine a number of ways this group willingly helped out. There must have been laundry to take care of even in those days and then like now the guys weren’t too good at doing it. The clothes they wore needed to be sewn and repaired, food had to be prepared, blankets and pillows had to be carried along and kept clean and the areas where they stopped to rest and sleep had to be cared for and kept clean. And on top of all this, I’ll bet they gave moral support to Jesus and the apostles and told them what a good job they were doing. We all need a little of that occasionally.
How are we disciples and followers of Jesus in our own families and workplaces, in our parishes, and with our friends? Help was necessary then and it is necessary now.
Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(September 20, 2008)
Saints Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, Korean Martyrs
The carrying of the Gospel to Korea began in the 17th century in the persons of a group of the laity. The Christian community they founded flourished and they were later joined by missionaries from the Foreign Mission Society in Paris, France. Terrible persecutions broke out in Korea in 1839, 1866 and 1867, during which 103 members of the Christian community suffered martyrdom. Among them were the first Korean priest, Andrew Kim Taegon and his lay Apostle, Paul Chong Hasang. Included among the other martyrs were bishops, priests and many lay people, men, women and children, old and young. As the old saying goes: their blood watered the soil of Korea for the Christians to come. Pope John Paul II, during a trip to Korea, canonized all of them martyr-saints on May 6, 1984. Their feast has been inserted into the calendar of Church feasts on September 20.
Holy Korean Martyrs, pray for us.