Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 27
Mark 9: 38-43, 45,47,48
We find some rather graphic images toward the end of the Gospel chosen to be read on this Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off….
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Please do not take the Scriptures literally here. If we did, I am afraid we would all be minus some hands, feet and eyes. Jesus is teaching us here simply to get rid of whatever it is that is the cause of sin in our lives. “Cut it off,” “pluck it out,” means STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! Make a decision not to do whatever it is you are doing. The word “decision” comes from the Latin decidere which means “cut it out” or “cut it away.” We have all heard the phrase “occasion of sin” which means placing ourselves in a situation where we most probably will do just that. The computer, the TV, a person, a place or thing can be an occasion of sin if it is opening me to a wrong action. This occasion is what we are to get rid of or cut out of our lives. It is cause and effect. A lot of this becomes habit and that is when we have to ask the Lord to help us stop it.
Sin in the Scriptures is said to be “missing the mark.” The “mark” here is our purpose, our end, our reason for being here in the first place. The “mark” of God’s human creation is to love God and one another, our neighbor. This is what the Great Commandment tells us way back in the Book of Deuteronomy. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and your neighbor as yourself.” Anything that is contrary to that is “missing the mark” or what we call a sin. I am not loving and honoring and respecting God if I use his name as a swear word all day long. I am not loving my neighbor by gossiping about them to others and ruining their reputation and good name.
I am missing the mark of what it means to love when I do these things.
Here lately, I have begun to refer to sin as a “block.” What is it in my life that is “blocking” my love of God and neighbor? What is standing in my way of this? This is what is causing me to miss the mark and this is what I have to get rid of and make the decision to stop in my daily life. And as I said above, usually this is going to require God’s help. The 6th and 7thSteps of the Twelve Steps pick this idea up. The 6th Step says: We were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character. And the 7th Step says: We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. We see in the wording of these Steps that God is the Changer and we are the changees, if there is such a word and the spelling corrector on this computer tells me there is not with its red underline. Well, there is now.
So….our task for today is a bit of reflection on what it is in my life that is blocking my relationship with God and my neighbor. What is preventing me from loving them and respecting them as I should? And when I discover this and have the desire, am willing, to get rid of it, I simply ask God for his help in doing so.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and he will help us find this way, truth and life if we ask him. Guaranteed!
Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 28
Luke 9: 46-50
Today’s Gospel selection is reminiscent of the Gospel from St. Mark for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time where Jesus explained to the Twelve what it means to be great in the Kingdom of God. “For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” To demonstrate this, Jesus took a small child and placed it by his side and told them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Yet, the disciples are still measuring success and greatness by the world’s standards.
The child Jesus placed by his side was probably one of a group of children from the town who would beg and tag along with any group of strangers to see if they could get anything out of the people. Kids are great at this and if you have ever been to Rome and walked down the streets, you have experienced it. The kids walk along begging for whatever you give them. The children in the Gospel example were pests and to accept them was not easy. And this is exactly Jesus’ point to the disciples. It is not always easy to serve others, to accept them, and treat them with respect.
I think we all experience from time to time certain people who “bug” us, as we say. They may have annoying habits of speech or acting that drive us up a wall. Jesus is telling us that we are to serve, accept and respect them also. Does this ring any bells in your lives? It sure does in mine. But we must try and try hard to treat these people as we do with those who do not upset us. This is certainly something for us to reflect on today.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 29
The Archangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
If someone asked you the difference between an Archbishop and a Bishop, what would you answer? Or if they asked you the difference between an Archangel and an Angel, what would you answer? The same answer applies to both questions: There is no essential difference. Archangels and Archbishops are simply first among equals (primus inter pares). I’ll leave you to figure this out for yourselves.
The Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael seem to be the “biggies” from their specific mention in Sacred Scripture. Gabriel, of course, is the one who announces both the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. He is the one who appears to Mary and tells her she will be the Mother of God. We can read about this in the Gospel of St. Luke. Raphael is found only in the Book of Tobit. The Book of Tobit is a beautiful book of the Bible, named after its principle hero. It involves such people as Tobit, Tobiah (his son), Sarah, and Raphael, in disguise. It is a rather short book of 14 chapters. Take the time, perhaps today, to read it. You’ll love the story. Raphael, incidentally, is the Patron Saint of Guest House, treatment centers for alcoholic priests.
Finally, Michael appears as the head of the heavenly host of Angels and the conqueror of Satan in the battle of the endtime. You may read all about this in the Lturgy today from the Book of Revelation. We will see a bit more about these marvelous creatures of God we call Angels on October 2, when we celebrate the Feast of the Guardian Angels.
Holy Angels of God, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Sept. 30
Most Saints are remembered for their piety, prayer life, or surrender to God. Jerome, whose feast we celebrate today, is most remembered for his bad temper. Along with that, however, was a most intense love of God and Jesus and the truth. Augustine wrote of him: “What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known.”
Jerome was a scholar, above all a Scripture Scholar. He is most remembered for his translation of the Bible into Latin called the Vulgate (for the common people). The Council of Trent (1545), after a few corrections, declared this the official text of the Bible to be used in church. Jerome, needless to say, was a master of Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Chaldaic. He traveled extensively in Palestine and finally settled in Bethlehem, where he lived in a cave believed to have been the birthplace of Jesus. He died on September 30, 420, in Bethlehem. The remains of his body are buried in the Major Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.
St. Jerome, pray for us.
Thursday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 1
St. Therese of the Child Jesus
St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower, has been a popular and admired Saint for generations. She was born in France in Lisieux in 1873 and died in 1897 at the age of 24. By that time she had lived as a Carmelite nun for less than ten years. She never went to the missions, never founded a religious order, never did anything anyone would call “great.” Her only writing was a brief edited version of her daily journal called “Story of a Soul.” But she was canonized in 1925.
St. Therese’s way of life consisted in doing the little, ordinary things well. It has been called the “little way” of trusting Jesus. She is a Saint for all who feel as though they can do nothing great and shows that it is the little things that keep God’s Kingdom growing.
St. Therese, pray for us.
Friday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 2
The Guardian Angels
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Scripture itself gives rise to the belief that each of us has been given this special gift from God: a heavenly creature to watch over us. We also see this idea in the Book of Daniel (10: 13,21) where the angel Michael assists Daniel. We also see the angel Raphael helping Tobiah in the Book of Tobit. Here in Matthew, we get the idea of a Guardian Angel for each person. It makes sense to me. Scripture speaks often of God’s care for his people, so there is nothing outlandish about each of us having a Guardian Angel.
This Feast always takes me back to my eighth grade classroom where there was a beautiful picture of a huge angel hovering over two children picking flowers on a path in the mountains. The angel was watching over them to make sure they didn’t fall. The same picture, only smaller, is in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant where we Friars eat breakfast occasionally. I found this picture on Google, but not the artist’s name. I also found a quote from the Koran that reads: “He (God) sends forth guardians who watch over you and carry away your souls without fail when death overtakes you.” We also read in Psalm 91: 10-12: “There shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”
Guardian Angels, be there for us today.
Saturday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Oct. 3
Luke 10: 17-24
In today’s Gospel selection the Disciples are really thanking God for all the blessings as they go forth in his name. The disciples “rejoiced!” They were happy. Through the power given them by Jesus, they could deliver people from their demons. All of this was done in Jesus’ name.
Occasionally, it is good for us to stop and count the blessings and wonderful things God has given to each of us. We take others, including God, for granted far too often. Somewhere in the Scriptures, Peter reminded Jesus that they, the disciples, had left everything and followed him, and he wanted to know what was in it for the disciples. Jesus told Peter they would all be blessed a hundredfold. I feel that I have been greatly blessed by the Lord, particularly in his taking my weaknesses and giving me strength from them. Today I am happy and at peace and I know that all of this comes from my faith and trying to follow his values.
Let us all take a moment to pray today: Lord Jesus, thank you for all your goodness and many blessings in my life.