SUNDAY of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus who would gladly have eaten the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”
The rich man in the parable is oftentimes given the name, “Dives,” which is the Latin word meaning, “the rich man.” As Dives is portrayed in the Gospel for this Sunday, he is not really a bad man. Rather, he comes across as a contented, self-satisfied, complacent man. He must have seen the beggar Lazarus lying on his door step and he did nothing. He doesn’t even offer him a piece of bread or invite him to eat the scraps from his own meal. He falls under the “woe” spoken of by Amos the Prophet in today’s first reading: “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”
Complacency is not a good thing in any sense of the word. As I look at the word, I see three Latin words: cum placere se. Put them together and they mean, to be pleased with oneself. And that is just what complacency is: self-satisfaction, contentment, smugness. Complacency falls under the general category of pride. How great I am just as I am! Complacency does not paint a pleasing picture.
Complacency is sitting still. Here I am and I am going to stay right here. If I feel complacent, there can be no growth. When I am complacent, I think I am perfect and where can one go from there? The truth of the matter is, we will never be perfect. And if I will never be perfect, then progress is always possible. And there you have it — life is always about progress, of making things, myself included, better.
As a priest, I hear the confessions of a lot of really holy people. They are far more holy that I will ever be. Nevertheless, I always remind them that they can still make progress. Don’t let the boat sit still in the water. Keep it moving forward. That is progress. If you let the boat sit still in the water, the current will push it backwards, the wind will blow it from side to side. You get nowhere. And that is complacency.
There is nothing wrong with money and possessions in themselves. There is nothing wrong with the fact that Dives was a rich man. The question is: how do we use the riches we have? We must realize the many blessings we have received (our gifts and talents too) must be shared with others. Then we are on the right path, the path to progress.
Lord, deliver us from all complacency.
MONDAY of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Therese died at the early age of 24, after living as a cloistered Carmelite nun for less than ten years. Yet, her brief life was rather complex, to put it mildly, and to summarize it in a few sentences is difficult despite the fact that she never went on missions, never founded a religious congregation, never did anything “great.” But she was canonized a saint only 28 years after her death.
St. Therese had her share of difficulties in joining the Carmelites and the difficulties continued even after she joined due to various forms of politics. All of these details may be read on-line and are too lengthy to go into here. In 1896, she began coughing up blood. She tried to conceal her sickness from the other nuns but soon everyone knew about it. She died on September 30, 1897, at age 24.
St. Therese is one of the patron saints of the missions. She never went to the missions herself but had a special love for the missions and missionaries and showed this with her many prayers and letters.
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.
TUESDAY of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of the Guardian Angels
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
These words from the Gospel of Matthew give rise to the beautiful devotion of many people to the Guardian Angels. Popular piety believes that we are all individually watched over and protected by a Guardian Angel.
Every time the Church calendar comes to this feast, I remember my eighth grade class room at St. Patrick’s school on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. I went through this school a couple of summers ago and it is still pretty much the same as when I attended it many years ago. I specifically remember a huge picture that hung above the black board that ran along the right side of the room. It was a picture of a huge angel with big white wings hovering over and protecting a little child as she picked flowers along a very narrow and precipitous mountain path.
Like all of us, I would imagine, I have had many “close calls” during my lifetime and continue to have them occasionally. Anyone who drives a car on our busy roads today is going to experience of few close calls. Maybe, just maybe, our Guardian Angels were looking over us and nothing terrible happened. I have no problem believing in this idea that we each have such a protector, a Guardian Angel. I need no further proof than what has already been given so many times.
Let’s try and remember to say a prayer of thanksgiving to our Guardian Angels today.
WEDNESDAY of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
One of the qualities of having an intimate relationship with Jesus is hanging in there, being committed to our relationship with him come hell or high water, as the old saying goes. No relationship is worth a hoot if we stay in it only when times are good, when all is going well. Friendships and relationships, if they are anything at all, have to be able to survive difficult times and circumstances. If I leave God every time sickness comes or some other crisis happens, I am not really in relationship with him.
Our Gospel for today is about priorities. This was also the theme of the Gospel on the Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the year, a little over a week ago. God, Jesus, must be numero uno in our lives, when he is numero uno, this does not take away from our other relationships; rather it enhances them and makes them better. If Jesus is number one in my priorities, I will be a better priest and serve God’s people better, not worse.
The Gospel asks us to follow Jesus unreservedly. Let’s ask him for the grace to be able to do just that.
THURSDAY of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
I entered the Minor Seminary of Mt. St. Francis when I was 14 years old, 63 years ago. And for all those years I have been hearing about and reading about St. Francis of Assisi whose feast the Church celebrates today. Francis, of course, was the founder of the Franciscan Order to which I have belonged for 57 years. It has been a joy!
What characteristic of Francis impresses me the most after all these years? I just asked myself that question and the answer popped right up rather quickly: his humility. He went from the heights of pride to the heights of humility in about 20 years. That’s quite a journey.
Francis was born in 1182, the son of a very rich father, Pietro Bernardone. Francis played the part of the rich son for many years. Life was all about Francis. He did what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. His main dream was to be a knight in shining armor on a big white horse. How great he would be! How everyone would admire him! In 1226, he died stretched out naked on the ground, the poverello, the little poor man of Assisi. But how rich he was in God’s grace! His words of surrender to the Lord, after the Lord spoke to him in 1209 were: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” And Jesus told him to return to Assisi and he would tell him what to do. From then on, Francis belonged to the Lord.
“This is the life of the Friars Minor, to observe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Francis did that so well that he received the holy Stigmata, the signs of the nail marks of Christ in his hands, feet and side. He humbly surrendered to Jesus and was richly rewarded. Francis humbly saw himself as God saw him. Francis’ image of Jesus was of a humble Lord. “Look at the humility of God,” he exclaimed in the Letter to the Entire Order. And that is the image he followed and modeled himself after.
The Franciscan Order today has expanded all over the world. The spirit of the Poverello continues on, hopefully, in the thousands of those who follow him; the spirit of humility and surrender, the spirit of poverty, the spirit of humanness found in Francis. My God and My All!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.
FRIDAY of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
“Whoever listens to you listens to me.”
Once again, the Scriptures point out the necessity of truly listening to the word of God. Many times we hear this word but pay little, if any, attention to it. It does not effect how we act. We continue to go our merry way, doing things our way.
In the story of Martha and Mary we see Mary setting at Jesus’ feet listening to every word he says. Jesus remarked to Martha that Mary had chosen the better way. Martha probably heard Jesus talking but was concerned with other things and wasn’t really listening to him.
Progress is in order for all of us, I believe, when it comes to really listening when God and other people are speaking to us. Are our shallow listening habits causing us to reject the words of Jesus?
SATURDAY of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
“Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
In today’s Gospel, the disciples are just returning from a mission they were sent on and they had been successful. Things worked out well for them; even the demons were subject to them. Jesus was happy things had gone well and told them he had seen Satan falling like lightening from the sky because of their efforts. But note, all of these things happened “because of Jesus’ name.” The disciples came to realize the power of the name of Jesus in driving out demons.
There are many demons in our world today. We call them by different names. I like to refer to them as “unfreedoms.” They are the things that happen to us, and in the process take away our freedom. A partial list of them might include such things as guilt (what I have done is not OK), shame (who I am is not OK), addictions to alcohol, food, gambling, etc., compulsions, obsessions, bad attitudes (mental habits that do us and others harm), resentments (being unforgiving for past hurts). All of these things are more powerful than our will power. We cannot will them away. But, they are not more powerful than Jesus. He can dispel them and we can help by invoking his name to help us. We too can rejoice in this and see these Satans falling from the sky and our freedom returned.
What demons do you have that you should turn over to the power and name of Jesus?