Reflections for the 26th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 26th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
September 25, Matthew 21: 28-32
“When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” (Ezekiel 18: 25-28)
The first son spoken of in today’s Gospel selection for this Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time was asked by his father to go out into the vineyard and work. He said “no” to his father’s request but afterwards he changed his mind and went into the vineyard and worked. Undoubtedly this son wasn’t ordinarily one who did what his father wanted him to do or asked him to do. He was really into doing his own thing. But lo and behold, a change came over him. He actually did what his father wanted him to do and went to work in the vineyard. We could actually clap our hands here for that son!
Our Gospel for this Sunday is about changing, about repenting. If we are off on the wrong track and do not repent, convert and make that U turn we have spoken of so often, we are not going to change. Repentance is necessary for change. This was the message of St. John the Baptist and it is the oft-repeated message of Jesus himself.
Believe it or not, change is possible. I am not saying that it is always going to be easy, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility. And that is really good news! There are some things I can change by myself. For example, I can walk over to the TV set and change the channel. I can change by myself the kind of cereal I eat for breakfast, the kind of car I am going to buy and many other things along these lines. But there are some things in life that I am powerless over and these I cannot change alone. For example, I am powerless over addictions such as alcoholism, gambling, smoking and overeating. I am powerless over some resentments, the illnesses I have and the fact that I must someday die and leave this world, as well as many other things. And when I am powerless over something, I cannot change it myself. I need God’s help. Then I must come to the realization that God is the Changer and I am the changee.
All of this is made as clear as a bell in Steps 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous. The First Step tells me I am powerless over alcohol or whatever and my life has become unmanageable. The Second Step says I came to believe that a Power Greater than myself can restore me to sanity or wholeness. Step Six says: We were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character, and Step 7 reads: We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. It doesn’t say anything in there at all about Howard removing his character defects or shortcomings. Rather, we ask God to change us.
It is good and necessary for us to follow these Steps when we are dealing with habits of sin or what I choose to call “blocks.” This is my new word instead of using the word sin all the time. What is it that is blocking me from a greater and better relationship with God? What is standing in the way? When we discover what these blocks are, we ask God to help us remove them and then it will happen. It does work! I tried for years to quit drinking alone and it only got worse. I humbly asked God to remove this defect and I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for 34 years. Wouldn’t you agree that someone is trying to tell me something?
It is our choice to change or not to change. Like Shakespeare says: To be or not to be. The prostitutes and tax collectors mentioned in today’s Gospel were among the most hated people in Biblical times. But as we read in the Gospel today, they chose to change, to listen to the Lord Jesus, and they entered the Kingdom of God.
What blocks do I find in my own life that I would like to have removed?
Monday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 26, Luke 9: 46-50
Today’s Gospel selection is reminiscent of the Gospel from St. Mark 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 those who do not upset us. This is certainly something for us to reflect on today.
Tuesday of the 26th Week of Ordinary Time
Sept. 27, Luke 9: 51-56
I came across the following anonymous writing about resentments not too long ago. I used to have one similar to it that I copied and gave to people who were resenting others. It goes like this:
When we resent our enemies, we give them power over us — power over our sleep, power over our health, power over our peace of mind. Our enemies would dance for joy if they knew how our hatred was killing us, but not hurting them in the least.
Resentments are our enemies and will eat us up if we persist in them. The word resentcomes from two Latin words, re = again, and sentire = to feel. So the word “resent” means to feel all over again. Someone hurt us, perhaps years ago, and all we have to do is hear their name and the whole thing, with all the bad feelings, starts all over again. We have never gotten around to forgiving them.
How should we handle these little devils? The best way I have found is to pray for the one you resent twice a day. Not just once, but twice a day. A good time to do this is when we rise in the morning and before we go to sleep at night. Mention them by name when you pray for them. It is very difficult to pray for someone twice a day and continue to resent them. Eventually, the resentment will end and forgiveness will come. If you have any resentments, try this. It works!
Wednesday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept 28, Luke 9: 57-62
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. 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 of Ordinary Time
Sept. 29, Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
Today’s Feast honors the three Archangels of God: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
The name Michael means “Who is like to God” and this was the cry of the good angels in the war in heaven against Satan and his followers. Scripture speaks of Michael as the leader of the powers of heaven in their triumph over Satan. I read where he is the patron saint of grocers, mariners, paratroopers, police and sickness. Please don’t ask me why. Our local parish in Prior Lake, Minnesota is named St. Michael’s. Let’s remember these parishioners and those in other churches of St. Michael in our prayers today. Here in Prior Lake, they say the prayer to St. Michael daily following the morning Mass in the parish.
The name Gabriel means “man of God” or “God has shown himself mighty.” He appears in the Bible first in the Book of Daniel, speaking to Daniel; and it is Gabriel who appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist and to Mary to tell her she would become the Mother of God. Gabriel is the patron of communication workers.
The name Raphael means “God heals.” Raphael is the patron saint of Guest House, where I went in 1974 for treatment for the disease of alcoholism. There is a beautiful shrine to Raphael in front of Guest House. He is the patron of the blind, nurses, physicians and travelers. These three, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, are the only archangels mentioned by name in the Scriptures.
Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, pray for us.
Friday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 30, Memorial of St. Jerome
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.
Saturday of the 26th Week of Ordinary Time
Oct. 1, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Much has been written about this young popular Saint and much of it can be found on-line under her name. Briefly, for our purposes here, she was born in Alencon, France, in 1873. She is called by different names: St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, and Therese of the Child Jesus. She died in 1879 when she was only 24 years old.
She lived as a cloistered Carmelite Nun for less than 10 years. She never went into the mission fields, never founded a religious congregation, never accomplished anything that could really be labeled great. She didn’t write any books; only a very brief journal called “Story of a Soul.” She lived a humble, simple life and did the ordinary things in an extraordinary way. Due to popular demand, she was canonized within 25 years of her death.
St. Therese, Little Flower, pray for us.