Reflections for the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time 2012**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

                                                                                                   Sunday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
S                                                                                                     September 30, 2012, 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.

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!

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, October 1
Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child of Jesus, doctor of the church

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.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
October 2, Memorial of the Guardian Angels 

Today the Church honors the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. This is a very popular belief among Christian peoples and would seem to have a basis in the Gospel of St. Matthew where we read: “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.” This belief in Guardian Angels has been around the Church for a long time. St. Basil the Great, who died in 378, taught that each member of the faithful has a Guardian Angel to protect and watch over them. I certainly have no difficulty believing this, as God to me is a loving, caring Father. I sometimes think my Guardian Angel is overworked trying to keep me on the right road.

Let us pray today the traditional prayer to the Guardian Angel:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this day/night be at my side
to light, to guard, to rule and guide. 

Fr. Howard


                                                                                            Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
                                                                                                                          October 3, 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.

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.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
October 4, Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi

Today Franciscans the world over and millions of the faithful pause to celebrate the Feast of Francis of Assisi, one of the best loved and best known of all the Saints. Instead of trying to cram the many happenings of his life into one brief homily, I am going to follow up previous homilies on surrender with the story of St. Francis’ surrender to God.

Up until around the year 1205, Francis’ life was all about Francis. One of his goals was to become a knight and to do this he had to prove himself in battle. He had already failed earlier in the skirmish between Assisi and Perugia and now he had another chance in a skirmish going on in Apulia. He joined his knight friend Gautier de Brienne and off he rode. He got as far as Spoleto when he became ill and decided to rest over night. As he slept, the Lord appeared to him in his sleep and asked him, “Who do you think can best reward you, the Master or the servant?” “The Master,” Francis answered. “Then why do you leave the Master for the servant, the rich Lord for the poor man?” said the Lord. Suddenly, in a great flash that illuminated his soul, Francis understood who it was that had spoken to him and then Francis asked, “O Lord, what do you wish me to do?” And Jesus responded, “Return to your own place and you will be told what to do.”

All of the sudden, it wasn’t about Francis anymore. Francis’ words, “What do you wish me to do,” were words of surrender. It was no longer all about me, but all about what Jesus wanted Francis to do. Francis’ surrender lasted for the rest of his life.

“O Lord, what do you wish me to do?” Can we make these words of Francis our own words?

Fr. Howard

                                                                                                 Friday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
                                                                                                                        October 5,  Luke 10: 13-16

In the Gospel selected to be read today, Jesus is speaking to the Seventy-two in a rather long discourse found in chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel. It is Luke’s accounting of Jesus telling his disciples that he is sending them like lambs among the wolves, to carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals and other details of how they are to travel from one place to another. Toward the end of this discourse, he tells them: “Whoever listens to you, listens to me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me.” 

We are to join in the mission of the Church and indeed we have an important part to play in carrying Jesus’ message to our little corner of the world. We have spoken of this many times before. Can the people we come into contact with everyday tell from our words and actions that we are followers and representatives of Jesus? For me, I am ashamed to say probably not all the time. I am not always as loving, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, serving as I should be. How about you?

Jesus, without you we can do nothing. Please continue to help us be you worthy disciples.

Fr. Howard


                                                                                                 Saturday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
                                                                                                                        October 6, 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.

Fr. Howard

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