Reflections for the 25th 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 25th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
September 18, Matthew 20: 1-16
There is probably a certain amount of comfort in the realization that our God is a God that we can’t figure out; a God who does some things that we will never really understand within our limited, human nature. Knowing this, I should quit banging my head against the wall trying to put God into my way of thinking and try to figure out why God does some of the things that he does.
I have, for instance, read the parable given for our consideration on this Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, hundreds of times and I must admit that every time I read it I come away with the feeling that someone is getting ripped off. If someone else works seven hours more than another, they should not both be paid the same. And that is the way human beings think. That is our sense of justice. But it isn’t God’s way. And I wonder if I will ever really understand God’s way while I am here on this earth.
According to today’s Gospel, God is compassionate and merciful to a degree we know not. Those who worked all day and received a full days’ pay for their work have no complaint if God chooses to be generous to others. There is a compassion here that is beyond our sense of compassion and consequently it is difficult for us to understand. We measure things out according to the number of hours worked and go from there with the payment. God is compassionate, generous, loving and forgiving to a degree that our measured-out sense of justice cannot comprehend. Quite simply, I think the point of this parable is that God’s ways are not our ways and we will never fully understand God’s ways while we are here on earth. And our attempts to do so are always going to fall short. I think that this is perhaps what St. Thomas Aquinas had in mind when, after finishing his Summa Theologica, one of the greatest theological works ever written, he made the remark that it was all grass and he was going to burn it.
We can also use this parable to understand that those who come late in life to the Kingdom of God are going to be received with the same love of God that many will have who have been so-called cradle Catholics. Maybe they were what we might call terrible sinners. That makes no difference to God. If they repent and come to the Lord, they will be received into the Kingdom just like one who has walked with the Lord all their life. And Christ invites us to rejoice with those and for those who have entered the Kingdom late in the day. We really shouldn’t get all bent out of shape and feel cheated because they don’t measure up to our standards and then judge them to be less worthy than ourselves.
My God, how great and mysterious you are!
Monday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept 19, Luke 8: 16-18
The Gospel given to us for our reflection today reminds me of another parable in the Gospel of Matthew 25: 14. Here we find the Parable of the Talents and you may recall that it is about a man who went on a journey and who called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one, he gave five talents; to another, two; and to a third, one – each received according to his ability. He expected them to take the talents and invest them, thus making a profit for him on his return. Two of them did invest the talents and doubled the amount given to them. The third, however, buried the talent in the ground for safe keeping and made nothing. Needless to say, he was not the apple of the man’s eye when he returned from his journey.
Today’s Gospel urges us to take what we have been given and use it to light up the world. Kind of like the old song: This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine. Everywhere I go, I’m gonna’ let it shine. Jesus gave it to me, I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Our gifts and talents don’t do anyone any good if we bury them or cover them up so they bring forth no light. A good reflection on this Gospel might be to make a list of our talents and ask ourselves if we are using them for the good of our neighbor, if we are letting them shine forth for all to see. We must remember that this is why they were given to us in the first place.
Tuesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 20, Luke 8: 19-21
In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us again that as human beings we are both physical and spiritual people and he also lets us know that the most important relationship with him is not the physical but the spiritual. He wants us to be constantly aware that we are a spiritual people and that we are to grow in this area just as we do physically. And he tells us that the way we grow spiritually is by listening to his word and putting it into practice.
Once again, as we have said many times before, head trips are not worth a whole lot. We are not to just hear his word but to understand it and put it into practice in our daily lives. Today let us all ask ourselves if our spiritual relationship with Jesus is what it really should be. Where and how can I make it better?
Wednesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 21, Feast of St. Matthew
Today, September 21, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Matthew, listed as one of the Twelve Apostles and the author of the first Gospel in the order given in the Bible. We know from Sacred Scripture that he was a son of Alphaeus and that he was a tax collector in Capernaum, a vibrant little fishing town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. In Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels, Matthew is called by the name of Levi.
Matthew’s Gospel was written both for believers and unbelievers. For the former, it was an encouragement to persevere in following Christ and not to fall back in Judaism. For the latter, it was written to convince them that Jesus was truly the Messiah. His Gospel was written in Aramaic probably between the years 42 and 70 AD when the Temple was destroyed. Matthew’s apostolic activity began in Palestine and there is a later tradition that he went to Persia. It is also uncertain whether he died a natural death or was martyred. We are all indebted to him for his beautiful Gospel.
St. Matthew, pray for us.
Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 22, Luke 9: 7-9
“Who is this about whom I hear such things?”
Herod kept hearing marvelous things about the person Jesus. The deaf were hearing, the lame walked, and the blind could see again. Who was it that caused these marvelous things to happen? Some were saying that it was John the Baptist, risen from the dead, or Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets who was responsible. Herod had already put John to death at his infamous birthday party. Now he feared whoever it was because along with the marvelous deeds they were performing they were drawing large crowds and leaders feared large crowds.
The Gospel doesn’t tell us whether or not Herod’s curiosity was satisfied. And people are still asking the same question he asked today: Who is it that does these marvelous things in our lives? Who is it who causes the blind to see, the lame to walk and the deaf to hear? Our faith tells us the answers to these questions. Let us go now and spread the good news to those who are still seeking the answer.
Friday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept 23, Luke 9: 18-22
Today’s Gospel, if we read ahead a few verses, brings to light one of the great Christian paradoxes: Gain is really loss and loss is really gain. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (v. 24). Jesus lost his life for us and we gained eternal life and resurrection with him.
Peter, in response to Jesus’ question about who the disciples thought he was, said: “The Christ of God.” Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the Messiah, and he tells us he came to bring a new age which encompasses new life for all who listen to his message and put it into practice. But that new life, a life of happiness, peace and joy, comes with a price tag: We must surrender our human ways to gain the divine.
As the last sentence indicates, loss is loss but sometimes it is really worth it. When I look at my own life now, I see that I lost my way and in so doing I found his way, and it was certainly worth it. There is no comparison between the two. Have you discovered this yet?
Saturday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 24, Luke 9: 43-45
In today’s very brief Gospel from St. Luke, Jesus predicts his Passion for the second time in Luke’s Gospel. Luke seemingly goes out of his way to emphasize the suffering he will undergo. The disciples preferred not to listen to such talk of suffering and dying. They preferred to talk about which one of them was the greatest. But the fact remains: There can be no resurrection – for Jesus or for ourselves – without suffering and death. Many of us do not like to hear this. For some this message is too “hard” – and we leave Jesus and reject his message.
How do I view suffering in my own life? Are there any instances where my suffering and pain brought new life, where I rose from where I was?